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A Veteran's Review of FIN

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  • A Veteran's Review of FIN

    Allow me to preface this review by saying that I have been playing the ND games for almost thirteen years. Over those years, I have probably played each game over twenty times--the older ones probably over fifty--and I do at least one full marathon of all 33 games (i.e., all 32 and SCK Remastered) annually. As I have gotten older, I have found myself ranking the games, characters, music, etc. in my spare time during marathons, and this year I thought I would write--and subsequently post--reviews of each game while I go through my 2018 marathon (I'm starting a month early). I have lost access to/forgotten about my previous accounts on here, including my very first one , so I made a new one solely for this purpose. That being said, I hope you enjoy my review.
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    Plot: Though the opening letter doesn't show much promise, the first scene of the game delivers all the excitement and adrenaline rushes a Nancy Drew fan could ask for! Within the first minute of the game, Nancy hears her friend, Maya, screaming for help and receives a threatening phone call from the kidnapper who just made her friend disappear into thin air. This incredibly strong beginning remains to be one of my absolute favorites, and the game keeps that momentum up until the final scene. One of the highlights of this time is the race against the clock; both Nancy and the player are painfully aware of how little time is left to save Maya from facing the wrecking ball. Although the time crunch is not truly felt by the player until the last "fifteen minutes" of the game--I'm not sure how much time is on the counter to the side, but I am certain it isn't fifteen minutes--Nancy only has seventy-two hours to find Maya before the curtain call. (Okay, I'll stop. ) Introducing time as a mechanism and obstacle for Nancy makes this plot feel significantly more realistic to me than many of the other games which appear to be solved in a day. Of course, there are some that measure days (e.g., Danger by Design and I think The Deadly Device does, too), but there is never a "limit" of how many days Nancy and the player can take before solving the mystery. I acknowledge that the time limit is artificial in this game, too, except for the last few minutes, but it adds some pressure that's internal to the game, which is refreshing.

    Even without the time component, this plot remains one of my favorites. I am obsessed with researching old, disused theaters--my favorite is Llandudno Pier Pavilion in Wales--and stage magic in the late 1800s/early 1900s, which probably has something to do with how much I adored this game as a young, impressionable child (and even if it isn't causally related, my love of the aforementioned has probably influenced my continued admiration of this game). Naturally, this game has all of those things, and the theater has countless secret passages and rooms that were intended for use by magicians (bonus points!). Throw in a kidnapping that happened as if by magic in a kind of "locked-room mystery" setting and voila! the recipe for a stellar game in my book.

    Setting: If you haven't already guessed, I am in love with The Royal Palladium. It's got a bit of a hodgepodge of architectural styles represented throughout--there's some art deco, art nouveau, and Greek revival for sure--but that doesn't keep it from being lovely in my eyes. Those of you who have read my other reviews know by now that I am "sensitive" to the color palettes of the games (i.e., I notice them), and this game receives no exception from my discerning eyes. Overall, the game is very, very red with some varying shades of red, tan, brown, and gold thrown into the mix. Normally, this would make me very sad, but I don't think that the limited color palette of this game is as disturbing to me as it is in Treasure in the Royal Tower. First of all, the predominant color is red, not gray/tan, which means the environment is at least not suffering from a nude palette. Secondly, the artwork, posters, and signs, etc., on the walls are not muted colors and offer some cool tones to change things up a bit. While I'm not saying these colors look great against an auburn backdrop, I can see that there was an attempt at variation. That being said, the color palette of this game also makes sense to me. When I imagine a theater, even a modern movie theater, auditorium, or concert hall, there are two or three colors that come to mind: red, gold, and a warm ivory. The Royal Palladium lacks that warm ivory, but the other two colors, in appropriately faded forms (the place is in disrepair), are present and, thus, give the space that "classic theater" vibe. Of course, there are a few rooms that aren't red--the women's dressing room has green and pink floral wallpaper and the men's dressing room has gold floral wallpaper--but pretty much everywhere else is red, brown, or gray.

    Characters: The characters in this game are pretty strong. First, we have the theater's caretaker, Joseph, who is probably my favorite character in the game (besides Nancy, who I'll get to at the end). While he clearly has more than a sufficient motive to kidnap Maya--he has spent his entire life taking care of The Royal Palladium and is about to be without work (and maybe even a place to live) in less than three days--no other character is as sympathetic or helpful to Nancy during her investigation. His quirky sayings (e.g., don't let the turkeys get you down!), useful advice, and chipper demeanor never fail to make me smile, but it becomes obvious as time progresses that the toll of this massive change in his life is weighing heavily on his spirits. It's honestly tragic.

    Brady (ch)Armstrong is overall a pretty irritating, unlikable character. While Rick Arlen is pretty smooth in my opinion--maybe it's just the voice acting--Brady is not even remotely charming, despite what Nick Falcone calls him. He is somewhat helpful to Nancy during the case, but he obstructs her more often than not. One thing is obvious when it comes to interactions with him: he dumps his morality like last month's edition of Vogue when moral actions could damage his image (such faulty logic!). Simone is not much better--an unfortunate portrayal of a rare POC character as selfish and sociopathic--but, by the end of the game, it becomes clear that she isn't solely responsible for the distractions away from Maya's kidnapping via "Hero Brady." She may have created the monster, but she doesn't deserve all the credit. Honestly, the two deserve each other.

    Nick Falcone, the radical/activist character with a painful accent (is he supposed to be from New Jersey?) and worse 90s lingo, has grown on me over the years, even though I still don't approve of all of his HAD IT tactics. Nonetheless, his heart seems to be in the right place, and he is helpful to Nancy. I always thought the subplot involving his grandmother and proving who had legal ownership of the theater was pretty interesting. The nicest thing about these characters is that all of them have truly sufficient motive, and I never felt, even during my first playthrough as a ten-year-old, that any one of them seemed less likely to be guilty than another.

    The all-time best character in this game, though, is Nancy. I have heard a lot of people say they don't like her much in this game, but I think her attitude and seriousness is completely appropriate. Hardly anyone believes her claims about Maya's kidnapping, and she is trying to beat the clock in a desperate situation. I think anyone, even chipper Nancy Drew, has the right to be angry and sassy under these circumstances. Her sass level goes up by 1000%, and she offers some real zingers in her dialogue options--some are great, some are horrible, and some are so horrible that they're great ("Don't 'Hey you' me, X, you rotten fraud!" Pure gold. ). Maybe it's just me, but I could have taken several games with sassy, angry Nancy at the helm.

    Music: The soundtrack from this game is my favorite from the first five games! I don't even know if I can properly put into words why I love it so much, but I'll try. Firstly, the instrumentation is spot on for the environment. There's clearly some big band and jazz influence, which is perfect given the time period during which the theater was built. Kevin Manthei's piano choice sounds like an old ragtime piano (without the ragtime, of course, I guess it's slightly detuned again), which enhances the feeling that this place has a long history that you just stepped into. Some of the compositions have this truly magical quality to them, either from what must surely be a calliope or the triangle/chimes. Put it all together, and it's like the entire history and evolution of this place is unfolding and being told through music. Pure genius! (My favorite track is the one titled "Lobby" by the way.)

    Puzzles: There are a couple more puzzles in this game than its predecessor, and they are pretty well distributed without being too heavy in certain parts of the game. Some of them are pretty simple and straightforward, but a few require some serious thought or memorization (e.g., my favorite is the one where you bring down the cages, which took me forever to figure out as a kid). All of them have complete relevance to the game--there are no chores to be found in this game!--and even the more simplistic, reused ones have some little detail that suits the environment (the puzzle in the safe from SCK uses the design of a pretty famous art nouveau painting).

    Graphics: Yet again, the 3D environment graphics are beautiful, and the character animations are stronger too. None of the characters have 90s Barbie waistlines anymore, and their shoulders and arms look less terrifying, which is a plus!

    Ending: As a child, I don't think any ending or culprit shocked me as much as this one. I was completely blindsided, which is great! The ending is completely terrifying and stressful, as there is not only a time limit, but the situation Nancy finds Maya in still makes sirens go off in my head today. What on EARTH was that kind of thing/place doing in a theater?! The fact that we can't break through it only adds to the trauma! The music is also spot-on during the ending scenes. It builds extreme tension with the sounds of a wrecking ball moving into place, radio static, and a ticking clock. Every minute that song plays, I find my palms sweating with anxiety. The culprit reveal is also absolutely terrifying, even as an adult. Never has a culprit made me so uneasy, and there's not even a hint of melodrama or cheese. Everything the culprit says makes me want to call a therapist (for them and myself, let's be real here). Okay, perhaps I'm being dramatic, but honestly, the way the culprit reveal is done is legitimately terrifying for reasons both psychological and logical. SO WELL DONE!

    Other points of interest: The voice acting in this game is pretty solid; I don't really have much to say about it except that Nick Falcone's accent kills me a little (...a lot). This game also has a few typographical errors, but not nearly as many as Treasure in the Royal Tower. Still, they are there and make me sad.

    The Takeaway: I tend to go back and forth on my ranking of this game, especially compared to the splendid Treasure in the Royal Tower. Honestly, I think the two could be tied, as each has strengths and weaknesses in the same areas, except for the endings. They both have strong historical elements, moderate long-term puzzle difficulties, great characters (though Hotchkiss alone makes TRT win in that category), and superb plots, but suffer from unvaried color palettes (FIN is better about this than TRT), hideous accents, and some cheesy dialogue. If I had to make a decision based solely on the endings, which is really the only significant weak point of Treasure in the Royal Tower, The Final Scene would outrank it, but truly I think this is one where I will have to call it a tie in terms of overall enjoyment. That being said, if I had to rank The Final Scene on a ten star basis, I would give it an eight out of ten star rating.

    So the final question is obviously whether I think you should play this game. IT'S A 100% DEFINITE MUST-PLAY GAME. It is clearly a classic among the older games, and it is great for anyone wanting an intense plot and moderate difficulty/length. It wasn't the very first one I played--I got the 75th Anniversary Edition of the first five games for Christmas in 2005 and booted up Message in a Haunted Mansion first, until I got stuck, opened the rest, and got stuck on them too all in the same day--but it was one of the first, so it holds a special place in my heart. If you are new to Nancy Drew games and want more of a challenge and a longer, even more perfect game, then I would recommend the legendary fan favorites (also in my top ten): Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, and Secret of Shadow Ranch. If a new(er) game is more your speed, and especially if you have already played the aforementioned titles, then I highly recommend Shadow at the Water's Edge, The Deadly Device, Ghost of Thornton Hall, and The Silent Spy (again, all in my top ten).

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    Thank you for reading my review! I hope that my perspectives and ramblings inspire someone to play this game, replay this game, look at it through fresh eyes, or try it for the first time. I should be posting a review of Secret of the Scarlet Hand sometime over the next day or so, and I will continue to post them as I complete my 2018 Nancy Drew Marathon...and it's no secret I'm enjoying these.

    Previous Review: Treasure in the Royal Tower
    Next Review: Secret of the Scarlet Hand

    Other reviews: SCK STFD MHM DOG CAR DDI SHA CUR CLK TRN DAN CRE ICE CRY VEN HAU RAN WAC TOT SCK2 SAW CAP ASH TMB DED


    *If any of my posts are ever missing, they are under moderation from me adding links to other reviews.*
    Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; December 12, 2019, 02:22 AM.

  • #2
    Great review! I love FIN. It’s a classic, and the first ND game I ever played. The music and the atmosphere are astounding and to this day still make me feel uneasy when I’m playing.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have to admit that I was super excited to read this particular review, and as usual I was not disappointed! Great job!! My favorite thing about this game is that it's just so DIFFERENT from other games in the series, in such a good way. We had a LOT of the same thoughts about this game, and I agree with pretty much everything you had to say about it, but the following two points most of all:

      Her sass level goes up by 1000%, and she offers some real zingers in her dialogue options--some are great, some are horrible, and some are so horrible that they're great ("Don't 'Hey you' me, X, you rotten fraud!" Pure gold.). Maybe it's just me, but I could have taken several games with sassy, angry Nancy at the helm.
      I ALSO LOVE SASSY NANCY!! I thought Nancy was AWESOME in this entry. While I don't dislike Nancy in other games, I've always felt like she was rather flat and boring - which is fine because she's the narrator, and therefore the have to be careful not to have her personality be so strong that it intrudes on different people's playstyles. But it was really refreshing and realistic to get such a great performance out of her in this game!! That is 100% how she should be acting considering the situation. My only gripe with her in this game is that she is WAYYYY too trusting - she repeatedly lets people check on packages and talk to the police for her, all while she GOES TO BED. Not only would she not be that trusting in reality, but I highly doubt she'd be sleeping when she could be looking for Maya considering her friend's life is in danger.

      As a child, I don't think any ending or culprit shocked me as much as this one. I was completely blindsided, which is great! The ending is completely terrifying and stressful, as there is not only a time limit, but the situation Nancy finds Maya in still makes sirens go off in my head today. The culprit reveal is also absolutely terrifying, even as an adult. Never has a culprit made me so uneasy, and there's not even a hint of melodrama or cheese. Everything the culprit says makes me want to call a therapist (for them and myself, let's be real here). Okay, perhaps I'm being dramatic, but honestly, the way the culprit reveal is done is legitimately terrifying for reasons both psychological and logical. SO WELL DONE!
      100% agree, my reaction was almost identical to yours. I believe I described the culprit reveal as "chilling", and I stand by that. That conversation was so unnerving and you are most certainly not being dramatic lol. I was frightened for Nancy in that moment - and yet I still felt bad for the culprit somehow despite all he or she had done. The situation with Maya is still one of the most frightening and stressful endgame situations I've encountered, and I love that the obvious solution doesn't work and we're forced to focus and find another way.

      Fantastic review, as usual!! I'm looking forward to reading the next one, considering how much I DESPISE that game lol.

      Comment


      • #4
        Thank you so much! I actually reread your FIN review yesterday, and I loved it so much. I was actually going to comment on it again, but then I realized that my comment from a year ago basically said everything I wanted to say. Anyway, I was struck, again, by how similar our opinions have been and the things we appreciate most or notice are often identical, even if not included in the original review. It’s so cool!

        I ALSO LOVE SASSY NANCY!! I thought Nancy was AWESOME in this entry. While I don't dislike Nancy in other games, I've always felt like she was rather flat and boring - which is fine because she's the narrator, and therefore the have to be careful not to have her personality be so strong that it intrudes on different people's playstyles. But it was really refreshing and realistic to get such a great performance out of her in this game!! That is 100% how she should be acting considering the situation. My only gripe with her in this game is that she is WAYYYY too trusting - she repeatedly lets people check on packages and talk to the police for her, all while she GOES TO BED. Not only would she not be that trusting in reality, but I highly doubt she'd be sleeping when she could be looking for Maya considering her friend's life is in danger.
        She really is exceptional in this game! I think the closest we get to this Nancy is how she acts in SPY. I agree that, while not a bad character at all, she really doesn’t have a strong personality in the games (or at least in most). As you said, it’s fine and actually smart because it allows the player to dictate Nancy’s personality through their own choices and dialogue, which is better for immersion. However, seeing Nancy take on more agency and really act as a character rather than a vehicle for us to drive around is incredibly refreshing, and I hope we can see that again in the future.

        YES! I mean...I have anxiety, so I can’t really imagine being able to sleep at all in that situation. Even if I wasn’t even THERE solving the mystery, I would be frantic with worry and wouldn’t want to waste time sleeping. Given that the police are largely unhelpful and no one believes Nancy in the first place, it’s not even like she can rest knowing that someone else is doing their job. It’s like how the police tell worried family members to go home and rest because they are looking and searching, but no one wants to rest. At least someone is doing something then, but in this case, every MINUTE that Nancy spends away from that place is a minute closer to Maya’s possible death. I’ve stayed awake and functioned for nearly two days on multiple occasions when I was in college, so I think her sleeping as much as she does is wild. I would sleep at the theatre if I desperately needed rest.

        Another incredibly valid point. I know Nancy can be trusting in the games, sometimes foolishly, but in this case, it seems quite out of character for her. She knows all of them are suspects and is trusting them with incredibly important items to solve the case, all while facing a time limit and under extreme pressure. Aka there is no way.

        100% agree, my reaction was almost identical to yours. I believe I described the culprit reveal as "chilling", and I stand by that. That conversation was so unnerving and you are most certainly not being dramatic lol. I was frightened for Nancy in that moment - and yet I still felt bad for the culprit somehow despite all he or she had done. The situation with Maya is still one of the most frightening and stressful endgame situations I've encountered, and I love that the obvious solution doesn't work and we're forced to focus and find another way.
        It really is unnerving. I can’t really recall another culprit conversation that disturbed me quite as much. Same here. I feel such sympathy for them every single time. It’s really quite sad. I’m still legitimately amazed that the endgame Maya situation didn’t give the game a higher rating. Then again, I have played old PC games with more troubling content that were also not rated as highly as I would have expected. The fact that we can’t get her out in any expected way, despite multiple attempts, is so stressful. I don’t even know what that IS or why it’s there, which makes me even more alarmed to this day.

        Comment


        • #5
          I was struck, again, by how similar our opinions have been and the things we appreciate most or notice are often identical, even if not included in the original review. It’s so cool!
          I know, I've been noticing the same thing reading through all of your reviews lol. I think that a lot of these earlier games are pretty straightforward without a ton of room for differing opinions - I mean, EVERYBODY loves Hotchkiss, for example - so maybe we'll have some more contrasting opinions about some of the later games in the series. I know for a fact I have a few unpopular opinions to share in the near future at least

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jett View Post

            I know, I've been noticing the same thing reading through all of your reviews lol. I think that a lot of these earlier games are pretty straightforward without a ton of room for differing opinions - I mean, EVERYBODY loves Hotchkiss, for example - so maybe we'll have some more contrasting opinions about some of the later games in the series. I know for a fact I have a few unpopular opinions to share in the near future at least
            You’re definitely right on that one, though I have actually seen one person on tumblr who actually doesn’t like Hotchkiss. (Don’t ask me how this is possible.) As the games get more complex, there will be a lot more room for differences in opinion, and I’ll look forward to reading your perspective on the more controversial or polarizing games in the series. Perhaps we will get to engage in friendly discourse about certain areas of disagreement! I’m particularly interested in your thoughts on VEN and HAU, as I think several aspects of those games hit wayyy different as an adult player.

            Comment

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