cumuluscastle: (sparkly)
[personal profile] cumuluscastle
So, I am going to try this out. I can't make any promises about completing it the way I've thought of it, but my plan is to do a series of posts exploring the female characters in speculative fiction that catch my attention or stick with me. By fiction, I mean to include video games, books, and anime - maybe an occasional movie. I also plan to add to this with a series of paintings/drawings, since lately my interest has been with this type of fan art.

Each entry will start with a pretty spoiler-free section and then I'll discuss spoilers behind a cut.

Heartbreaker by cirruscastle on DeviantArt

Let's get started.

Transistor by Supergiant Games

Red is a famed lounge singer, who lives in the futuristic city, Cloudbank. At the beginning of the game she has lost her voice. She was attacked following a performance, and her unnamed male companion intercepted an attack from a strange looking sword. At the beginning of the game, Red pulls the sword, called The Transistor, from the body of her friend. The sword speaks with the voice of Red's male companion and is capable of downloading Functions, which allow it to perform different types of defensive and attacking actions.

As the two begin to traverse the city, they are attacked by The Process, a collection of robot-like enemies in palettes of white, black and red, who attack on sight. Although they look like robots, all of the language discussing them is framed as if they are computer programs.

A mysterious group called the Camerata seem to be behind both the attacks on Red and her unnamed male friend and The Process itself.

Game Style
The game is beautiful. It is clearly inspired by the "Golden Phase" of Gustave Klimt, with its gold leaf, and rhythmic patterns.

The music is beautiful. The vocal tracks are instrumental to understanding Red's motivations and thoughts, since she cannot speak in the game. With her brilliant red hair, I wonder if there's any link to Ariel and Disney's Little Mermaid.

Red is such an amazing character. To me she is not just a cliché. Red is a lounge singer, and a celebrity in Cloudbank. It would seem that it is unconventional for citizens of Cloudbank to undertake creative endeavors. The songs she sings throughout the game also show that she has a revolutionary bent even before the beginning of the game.

She is beautiful and practical. She traverses the game in the costume she was wearing to perform the night was was attacked, with the gold mermaid skirt torn short so she can move around more freely and her male companion's black jacket on her back. She is feminine and tough. She pursues her goals relentlessly. She is defiant even though the city is crumbling around her.

I hope this sparks your interest in the game!

Behind the cut, there will be spoilers

Relationship between Red and the Nameless Male Companion
I am a sucker for the fairy tale trope of the woman who rescues the man from peril. Some people may be disappointed by the prominence of the love between Red and the voice trapped in The Transistor. I really enjoyed this part of the story, however.

Firstly, the unnamed male character speaking from The Transistor wants Red to leave the city right away. He directs her to a motorcycle and tells her not to turn left and to just get out of the city. As Red drives the motorcycle in a cut-scene, he says, "you turned left" and expresses concern that The Camerata will get a hold of him. Red consistently refuses to 'escape' with her life and leave her companion trapped inside of the sword.

When The Transistor is in the presence of The Spine, a huge Process that attacks Red throughout Bracket Towers, The Spine disrupts The Transistor's power and he begins to lose conciousness. His voice becomes distorted; he glows red and emits red sparks; he seems to think slowly and have difficulty perceiving what is happening. This part really tugged at my heartstrings, particularly when he starts to say things like, 'you still there, Red?'

Throughout the game, Red encountered OVC Terminals, basically computer terminals with polls and news about Cloudbank. This is the only time she actually gets a chance to 'voice' her thoughts in typed commentary. It's interesting, because she seems to often edit them very swiftly, deleting whole phrases and re-writing them before finally 'posting' them (it's uncertain whether there are even any citizens left to read her comments at this point).

While The Transistor is in this state, Red takes the opportunity to type out her thoughts to him. The player may not immediately 'get it,' but The Transistor responds out loud to what she types, which makes it clear. This scene really touched me.

> Hey. It's me. It's me. Are you still there? Answer me.

"Red, I...what...?

> Look we're going to get ourselves out of this OK?


> Hold on you just try to hold on all right?

"I'm trying...I'm trying..."

> Hold on, you have to hold on, I'm going to.........

(Red deletes this comment)

"Go get 'em..."

> I'm going to find the thing that's doing this and I'm going to break its heart.

"I believe you..."

While I was reading comments about the game, some players felt disappointed in the relationship and didn't think it felt genuine. I don't really understand this response. The Transistor constantly reminds Red that he loves her and wistfully wishes to be able to see her face to face again, even though it seems pretty obvious that he never will again.

The Music
Let's look at the song lyrics in the game. They're one of the primary means which Red still has to communicate with the player.

In Circles
I hear you buzzing, a fly on the wall
In through the window and up through the hall
Flying in circles just trying to land
I see you hurting, I do what I can

But I won't save you
I won't save you

Maybe you're looking for someone to blame
Fighting for air while you circle the drain
Never be sorry for your little time
It's not when you get there, it's always the climb

But I won't save you
I won't save you

I won't save you
I won't save you

There's a deep fatalism in the game and I see it exemplified here. I think Red always knows she won't really be able to save Cloudbank. The Process destroys it too thoroughly, not only murdering its citizens (occasionally leaving a blue floating cube of data that can become a new Function for The Transistor), but also eliminating the very structure of the city, leaving behind a strange white fungus-like growth, and more Process robots. The Process bleaches the city of colour ultimately, and only leaves behind disjointed cubes.

Check out the other songs too. In fact, even if you didn't want to play the game, I could still highly recommend purchasing the soundtrack.

The Ending
Again, there are commenters who are deeply disappointed in the ending. I did feel a little disappointment that Red 'gives up' in the end, using The Transistor on herself and being absorbed into it.

Upon reflecting about it though, I don't agree that it is disappointing. It's not like when Celes attempts to commit suicide in Final Fantasy 6 out of despair, a scene that still disturbs me. It's not just a Romeo and Juliet style death, with a motive of 'better not to live at all than to live without you.' At least, I don't see it as being that simple.

The game is deeply fatalistic. See above where I discuss the songs in the game. Red does all she can to end the corruption of the Camerata. She loves Cloudbank enough to despise The Camerata's and Royce's plan to remake the world in his own image. I think she just realizes that despite her hopes for restoring her lover and the city that ultimately it's not possible. She has done everything she can to try to beat The Process, but it hasn't been enough and it's time to take a new journey.

Upon defeating Royce, Red receives the ability to control The Process, giving her the ultimate power over the future of Cloudbank.

The Transistor is able to restore the unnamed lover's body from the raw materials left by The Process, but it cannot bring him back to life. Red could restore the whole city as it was or rebuild it to her own tastes, but to what end? She knows it would be empty. By the end of the game, accessing an OVC Terminal reveals that less than 1% of the population remains in Cloudbank. She knows the score. After happily eating a meal in her apartment, Red doesn't bother to keep her key. I think although she still has hopes at that point, even then she knows she isn't coming back or even escaping in a conventional sense.

Further, being absorbed into The Transistor clearly isn't the same as dying. She has material proof, since she can still converse with her lover even though she has seen his lifeless body.

Finally, the last scene of the game is Red and her unnamed lover standing in front of a glorious blue sky piled with meringue cloud peaks in a field of wheat with a farm house in the background. Throughout the game 'The Country' is referred to as if it's some kind of afterlife.

The game also leaves you with questions. Was any of Cloudbank ever even real? Was everyone actually just part of The Process all along? I love plots that are not afraid to leave some ambiguity intact. It leaves me food for thought. I've been mulling the game over since I finished playing it last night and I enjoyed considering it while I went for a run this morning and listened to the glorious soundtrack. But I know some people hate an ambiguous story. If you're one of those people, then the game may not be for you.

P.S. The game is on sale on Steam right now for $5.49 CAD and the soundtrack for $2.74 CAD.

The Transistor Wiki was a huge help to me in writing this little piece.

Date: 2016-02-08 05:54 pm (UTC)
crankyoldman: Oh Jean. [X-Men] (phoenix)
From: [personal profile] crankyoldman
I love that game so much.

And I always thought it was a very transhumanist type of game; where the only real thing is the human consciousness.

I cried my eyes out at the end, but I really don't think its about death as much as transcendence. Who knows if that was even their actual bodies in Cloudbank? Maybe the Transistor frees them from a kind of Matrix thing and lets their consciousness go free?

Anyway, it's lovely.

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