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The Final Scene: My 2016+ Reviews

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  • The Final Scene: My 2016+ Reviews

    The Final Scene: My 2016+ Reviews

    Hi there! I'm disneygirl12, and I welcome you to my fifth 2016+ review! Today I'll be taking a look at the fifth game in the Nancy Drew series, The Final Scene. In these reviews, I break up the game into categories and discuss my thoughts on each one. I also evaluate them using one of the star ratings shown below (or something in between):
    « = Not So Great
    «« = Okay
    ««« = Good!
    «««« = Great!
    ««««« = Excellent!

    That is to say, the first several categories come with a star rating. The last few don't; I simply discuss them. Each category will be taken into consideration when determining the game's final score, so let's begin!

    Plot: «««««
    Nancy is heading to St. Louis in order to visit Maya Nguyen, a friend of hers from high school. The two have tickets to the premiere of the new film "Vanishing Destiny" at the Royal Palladium Theater, and it is to be the final screening at this theater since the building will be demolished in just a few days. Maya is set to interview Brady Armstrong, the main star of the film, prior to the show for her university's newspaper, but just moments after setting foot into the dressing room, she screams, crying out for Nancy's help. Once Nancy is inside, Maya is nowhere to be found. Realizing that she must be being kept somewhere in the building, you step into Nancy's shoes to save Maya, and perhaps the theater as well, before it is too late.

    Simply put, this is a phenomenal plot. The opening letter does an excellent job of setting up the story and informing the player of necessary background information. Once Maya goes missing, you instantly recognize the danger that she's in. It's well explained why Maya must be in the building and therefore why it's essential to find her soon, but it becomes apparent that that may not be an easy task. The plot easily earns five stars. :D

    Story: ««««½
    I'd say the main strength to the game's story is the objective. Your ultimate goal is always clear -- save Maya in time -- but it isn't obvious what route you need to take. In this respect, it really feels like you're working alongside Nancy. You must discover these possible routes with her, as she doesn't just know them right away. One of the first things you do in the game is alert the police, but in another well-explained way, they cannot simply come and investigate, meaning that you must look into other potential solutions. The more obvious one is exploring the theater in the hopes that you might come across Maya or a clue about where she is. The other revolves around the ownership of the theater and seeing if there is a way to halt the demolition, and it requires you to really understand the information you learn through your investigation and conversations with the characters. There aren't many other games in the series I can think of with this kind of setup, where you're trying different approaches to solve the case. What stands out is how they're balanced; they both get a lot of focus and feel like genuine solutions to the problem.

    The game takes place over the course of three days, allowing it to feel realistic compared to games that seem to conclude in just one day. It also emphasizes the urgency of finding Maya since, of course, the building is being demolished on that third day. So when a new day comes, you realize that time is running out. The events that take place throughout the game are spaced well and give each day some identity. For example, the first day is more or less learning your way around and finding out possible avenues to take in solving the mystery, while the third day is you getting to the bottom of things once and for all.

    Overall, FIN has a very well-rounded story. It has a unique setup and is paced very well, helped out by the use of the three-day time frame.

    Setting: ««««
    This setting category does not just consider where the game is geographically located, but also the places we can visit in the game, how elaborate they are, how relevant they are to the story, and the game's overall atmosphere. :)

    Let's talk about the theater first, since it's the game's central location. All of your investigating takes place here, and there's quite a bit to find. There are many hallways and rooms to search, with more being unlocked each day in the game. Part of the fun is just figuring out the layout (pardon the rhyme ) as you find new places to search! Each area of the theater is of some use to Nancy in the game, and they clearly fit in a theater setting (i.e. the dressing rooms, stage, etc.), helping it to feel like a realistic location.

    The building itself has quite a history, and there's a nice atmosphere to the game which reflects it. It's stated that famous magicians performed in the theater during the 1920's, and the room designs and music help give that feeling. Some rooms tend to carry this kind of upbeat feel, and sometimes the music adds this extra feeling of magic and enchantment. Others have a more serious tone, giving a sense of danger. The contrast is great; it shows off the grand, spirited nature of the theater when it was in its prime, but it remembers to maintain a more suspenseful feel at other times to reflect the mystery.

    Being set in St. Louis doesn't have a huge impact on the game, but it doesn't need to because the story and the theater itself are strong enough to stand on their own. The city setting is not a major factor, although it does justify why one particular "solution" to the mystery that comes up can't work.

    In the end, the setting is very strong. Our main location is elaborate and fun to explore, with more being uncovered as you play. There's a strong historical connection with the theater, giving it some character and enhancing the story as well. And speaking of character...

    Characters: «««½
    Before going any further, let's get to know our characters. I'll start by briefly describing their personalities and roles in the game.
    Maya Nguyen is Nancy's high school friend who goes missing inside the theater. Your goal throughout the game is to find her and save her from the demolition.

    Brady Armstrong is the main star of the film "Vanishing Destiny," which is premiering at the theater. He makes efforts to help Maya, although he could just be in it for the publicity as opposed to being genuinely concerned. He's fairly friendly and does help Nancy by answering many of her questions.

    Simone Mueller is Brady's agent. She sees Maya's kidnapping as a way to raise publicity, and as such, she tries to make Brady come across as a hero. She isn't friendly to Nancy and shows little real concern for Maya, but she will answer questions.

    Nicholas "Nick" Falcone is the founder of H.A.D.I.T., an organization against the destruction of illustrious theaters. He's here in hopes of preventing the Royal Palladium from being demolished. He's fun to talk to and helps Nancy out during her investigation.

    Joseph Hughes is the caretaker of the theater. He has a strong connection to the building, having worked there for so long. He too is very friendly and is a great help to Nancy, also offering advice on how to go about solving the mystery.

    As is often the case for these older games, this is a pretty good cast of characters. They have differing personalities, and you're able to see how they relate to each other by having conversations with them. We don't get to see them directly interact with one another (with perhaps one exception), but you're able to get a good idea of whether or not they get along with the others.

    I'd say that most, if not all of them, have reasonable motives, and each character does have a secret or two to hide. The "reveals" to these secrets are placed well throughout the game and keep the story interesting and flowing. Unfortunately, I do have a few gripes, the first being that when one of the character's "secrets" is revealed, conversation with them afterwards is very limited. It's a little distracting when some of the others get to converse with Nancy much more often. My other gripe refers to general character interaction, which is where I was going with that last point. Two of the characters don't get a lot of interaction compared to the others. To be fair though, it's nice being able to get such time with those other characters at all, and those who we don't talk to as much still have enough time to feel like potential suspects with developed personalities.

    This cast overall is fairly strong, with everyone having interesting personalities and/or understandable motives. I'm awarding this category three and a half stars, though making some of the characters more relevant throughout the story would have raised this score. :) Now let's get into some of the more technical aspects of the game.

    Puzzles: ««
    The way I see it, puzzles should move the story along and add a special layer of character and challenge to the game. The strongest puzzles relate to the setting and the story, and there are some ND games that master this. There doesn't need to be a LOT of puzzles, nor do they need to be super elaborate, in order for this to happen. There just needs to be a balance.

    By this point in the series, puzzles were starting to become a main element in the games. However, they weren't quite as strong as they are in some of the later installments. FIN's puzzles are pretty straightforward, for the most part. None of them are particularly difficult, so most players should be able to get through them with little problem. There are a couple, though, whose solutions aren't so obvious. They require you to make specific observations, and not everyone may catch them right away. I know I didn't. It's great that a few puzzles require some clever thinking. The others are just fine, though they don't add a whole lot of extra challenge to the game.

    Puzzles come up at good points in the story, meaning that you don't suddenly have one puzzle after another nor do you have a long break between them. They come naturally, often times when you discover or are about to discover a new location. In addition, they all fit the setting in some way. They are either part of the building or pertain to the fact that it's a theater, like the stage puzzle.

    While these puzzles aren't the most challenging, they do add some character to the game and fit the setting, not to mention that they are evenly distributed over the three days. :)

    Graphics: «««½
    The improved graphics from Treasure in the Royal Tower carry over to this game. As always, the location graphics are at their best. The theater looks just beautiful. One of my favorite aspects is just the size of the place. The stage room is fairly large, full of seats, balconies (which you can explore a little bit), and a huge screen. Imagine how tall that ceiling is! So much work must have went into designing the place, from the big picture to the fine details. The curtains, the lighting, the hangings on the wall -- they all look realistic, which is a pleasant surprise with these early installments.

    The character graphics, though not quite as strong, are good nonetheless. They have good designs which fit their voices and personalities pretty well. Their hand gestures, like before, are okay. They fit alright with what they're saying, though they do repeat the same basic motions.

    There are a couple of scenes where bigger animation is used, like when one character is shown walking down a hall for a brief moment. It doesn't look bad by any means, but presumably because of the older technology, the animation does lag so it doesn't match up with the audio. Fortunately these are just a few seconds long, so they don't have a big impact on the game. Overall, I'd say that the graphics are well done.

    Soundtrack: «««½
    You might not think the background music is super important to a game, but just like puzzles, it adds a certain layer of character to the game. Its most important function is to help convey the tone that a certain place or scene should have, whether it be happy, dangerous, or mysterious. It also helps if the music fits the location and/or theme of the game. In fact, the soundtrack is pretty much every component of the game's setting I mentioned earlier, summarized in musical form. How cool is that?

    As I mentioned earlier, the theater manages to feel grand and enchanting at some times and suspenseful in others. This is partly influenced by the soundtrack, leading to a great contrast. Like I said, you're able to get a feel for what the theater is like in the present moment and what it was when it was popular in the 1920's. The tracks themselves are pleasant to listen and sleuth to. Some can seem a tad creepy from the use of the piano playing low notes. The piano is mostly used in the danger tracks, which are AMAZING pieces. They definitely let you know that something is going down and the stakes are high.

    Perhaps the most memorable of the "grand and enchanting" songs is the victory song. It's very uplifting and manages to bring a smile to my face whenever I hear it. You'll hear it when you win one of the mini-games, and it helps you feel like you really achieved something great. It's just nice to have a victory track in these games, especially one so happy.

    All of the songs come together very well to form this soundtrack. The proper songs play in the proper locations or scenes throughout the game, conveying just the right tone. One of them gets special attention in the scene we're just about to discuss.

    Ending: ««««½
    This category considers not only the actual climax, but also the build-up to that climax, the choice of culprit, and the game's resolution (which is usually conveyed through a closing letter). And don't worry, this section is spoiler-free.

    Well, isn't that fitting! It just so happens that the final scene of The Final Scene is one of the greatest the series has to offer. :D Where do we even begin? Well, I guess we go chronologically. Let's start by discussing the build-up to the climax. Believe it or not, this is the one aspect of the ending that I have a slight problem with. Don't get me wrong, the build-up is excellent -- there's quite a bit of drama that may even get your heart pounding. The problem is that one particular "discovery" is optional. I played this game for years without ever making this discovery, and if you don't, you can still complete the game, but something that comes up in the closing letter won't make sense. Perhaps that would be my fault for overlooking it, but I'd argue that it's kind of vital information to have. It would be a simple fix to make it non-optional, too. I wouldn't say it's a huge problem, though, especially when EVERYTHING else about the ending is spectacular.

    Once the climax truly begins, you immediately feel the pressure. The clock is literally ticking down, and you're still not entirely sure what's going to happen next. There are feelings of victory, surprise, and perhaps some nervousness for those like me who get a little uneasy as time runs out. The game even allows for a few "optional" things in this final climax. They are minor enough so that if you don't do these, it doesn't hinder the resolution, but it does add some replay value.

    Also, that ending song must be mentioned. You don't hear this particular track until the end, so it feels like the game was saving it for something special, and it most certainly does. It enhances this scene by capturing just how urgent the situation is, and it sounds fantastic. Without a doubt, it's one of the greatest climax songs in the series.

    The choice of culprit is certainly an interesting one, and what's great is that they don't have quite the traditional culprit reveal that you might expect. I won't go into any more detail, but it is kind of refreshing to see. The culprit is also somewhat threatening since there are a few moments when they are a clear obstacle for you, which only adds to the urgency.

    The resolution is also fantastic. It's satisfying to see what becomes of each character and how the whole game wraps up. Truly, FIN's final scene is nearly flawless, and it still stands as one of the very best!

    Other: Nancy Herself
    While this was something I never paid much attention to at first, I do notice it in replays -- Nancy's attitude. Nancy takes the situation very seriously, and it's understandable since Maya is a friend of hers and she has to be found before the demolition takes place. This is both a strength and a bit of a problem. The strength is seeing just how focused and determined Nancy is to solve the case, and she stresses how urgent it is to save Maya. The problem though is that she can come across as rude at times. She isn't nearly as chipper as she is in the previous games; she's meant to have a more serious tone but can sound stressed and/or annoyed when talking to the characters. Again, given the situation, her acting this way may be justified, but some fans feel it's still a little out of character for her. It's just something you might want to keep in mind before playing. :)

    The Sense of Mystery: Great
    This is something that is lightly talked about in the plot and story categories, but for some games it just needs to be explicitly stated how much it feels like there's a mystery. Do you just know there's a mystery because the game's music, plot and setting suggest it, or are you forced into believing there's a mystery? Are there common qualities of a mystery present, like snooping or exploring? If not, what other qualities add to the game and make it feel like something's up?

    When it comes to helping us feel like there's a mystery to solve, this game hits all the right notes. You immediately recognize what your objective is once Maya disappears. The music helps the setting come to life and also maintains a suspenseful feel throughout the game, especially in some of the more tense scenes. And like many of these older installments, there are plenty of opportunities to explore. With the theater as expansive as it is, it makes sense that Nancy should want to search as much of it as she can in the hopes of finding Maya. There is also a little bit of snooping, though it's not as major as the exploring that takes place. It all comes together to form a brilliant mystery that's sure to keep your interest.

    The Game's Overall Persona: A Definite Classic & Some Memorable Education
    This category is admittedly more subjective, but it's something I never talked about in my old reviews, nor do I see it explicitly talked about very often in other reviews. Here's where I talk about what this game feels like to me and what it feels like compared to other games in the series.

    What really make this game feel like a classic are simply its plot and story. This mystery is one of the very few kidnapping investigations in the series, which instantly helps it to stand out as one of the "darker" and more serious games. The story flows very well, thanks to the well-spread out events and that three-day time period, with the latter making this one of the surprisingly few games with a specific duration of time. It keeps the story in check by balancing what you do on each day, giving each one an identity. Of course, the characters and setting are also great, making the story as wonderful as it is. Ultimately, it's the combination of all of these factors which secures this game as one of the greats, with its strong premise making it all possible. :D

    I failed to explicitly mention the education in this game elsewhere in the review, so let's discuss that now! While FIN doesn't utilize education as much as the previous and next installments, there is some to be found. Players will get some insight on magicians of the 1920's and, more specifically, some of their well-known magic tricks. Out of the magicians, Harry Houdini is the one you learn the most about, but it really is up to you on how much you care to know. There are posters on the walls throughout the theater and other items that you can choose to look at which give more information. Even if you don't read up on everything, Houdini is directly related to one of the particular "solutions" you look into in solving the mystery, meaning that he will come up throughout your investigation. It never feels like the education is forced due to the great pacing of the game and how well it ties it into its story, so even if you don't remember any of the specifics, the name at least is sure to stick with you.

    Overall Score
    This is where I use the above categories to determine the game's final score out of five stars. I take the average of the star categories from before, and then use the last three non-star categories to adjust that score to what I feel is fair. :)

    And finally, the moment we've all been waiting for! It's time to see what FIN's overall score is:
    Final Score: «««¾ = 3.75 out of 5 = Very Good!

    The Final Scene absolutely shines in some respects, and many other aspects of the game are done very well. There is a lot of value to be found here, making it one that I'd easily recommend to Nancy Drew fans and those mystery adventure fans who are interested in a suspenseful, yet charming game. :)

    A huge thank you for reading this review! Please feel free to comment, as comments are always welcome.

    Previous Review: Treasure in the Royal Tower
    ......Next Review: Secret of the Scarlet Hand
    Last edited by disneygirl12; March 24, 2018, 06:46 PM. Reason: Added link to next review
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