So, this thing exploded onto the Internet while I wasn’t paying attention, and finally a couple months ago probably, I decided to go see what all the hubbub was about, this “Mystic Messenger” thing.

I was not in the least bit expecting what I got. (And since I still haven’t finished my book, you get to hear me talk about this instead!)

I’m no stranger to the world of otome apps, or dating simulators. I’ve often said that my favorite pieces of a story are dialogue and character development, and that’s what these things do best. They take you, the innocent female in the middle of all this, and plop you down in front of any number of attractive men and say “okay, pick one!” and then you have a lovely romance. It’s light, fluffy, and doesn’t require me to think too terribly hard while I get to have all kinds of irrational flights of fantasy. Huzzah!

The interesting thing about MM is that there’s a lot more to these characters than I’d originally would have guessed. As I’ve mentioned before in talking about games like Undertale, I love stories where your choices make a large impact on the end of the game. And while this isn’t quite to the extreme as Undertale, there’s still a lot that can happen if you don’t think carefully about your answers. (For example: I’ve known very few games where you can actually get your first bad ending…in the prologue. No joke.)

But these are well-thought-out characters, with interesting backstories that all find ways to mesh with each other by the end…and there are some twists I did not quite see coming. It’s easy to fall in love with the characters: serious and reserved businessman Jumin, flirtatious and and a bit narcissistic actor Zen, devoted and innocent student Yoosung, wild yet mysterious hacker Seven, and hard-working and dedicated assistant Jaehee. (Poor lone female at the end there. She holds her own, though.) I–like probably several others, from what I’ve seen–landed myself on Zen’s path first; this didn’t surprise me, because the flirty actor is entirely what I’d initially be drawn to. But then again, as I got further into the story, the other characters began to stand out more and more to me. (I am unashamedly a huge Jaehee fanboy. No lies. I love that girl so much. She deserves all the happiness ever.) By the end, my favorite character is truly a toss-up between Jumin and Seven, so incredibly different at the surface but more similar at their cores than one might think. Zen and Jaehee sit right behind them, and Yoosung–meaning no ill wishes to the adorable gamer!–is at the bottom. (Someone has to be. I’M SORRY, YOOSUNG.)

Some of the stories are touching, others heartbreaking. By the very end, everything you expected of some characters is flipped on its head…and others are lost. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. And with this past holiday, they released a special Christmas update with brand new endings, fully voiced extra days, a handful of more pictures, and an epic boatload of more feels. (I’ve played through 4/5 of the main characters’ endings, and am shooting to see if I can wrangle a “bad” ending on this current playthrough. I’m not sure what some of them are.)

These are the types of characters I want to learn to write. These are the types of connections I want to try and cultivate with my own stories. I want people to sit in the dark, listening to the voice of a character sing you a lullaby to try and soothe you, and be unable to stop grinning. Listen to the cold-hearted man slowly warms, and you can hear it in his voice as he falls in love with the player. More than anything, that’s the kind of storytelling I want to do.

And it’s great to have this one on my phone. (Kudos especially for making the story line entirely plausible. Basic premise is that you’ve downloaded some app that looks like you’ll be able to talk to attractive men, but then been led to a strange. What you find in the app is the private server of a fundraising company…and maybe you’re already in too deep to get out. I love it.)

If this kind of thing is something you’d enjoy, I’d absolutely recommend picking it up. Even with all the vocals in Korean, you hear the emotion just fine. (Also, I can now say several phrases in Korean at least well enough for Google Translate to understand it. Yay!)


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