There is some screen scratching, but Lux-Pain is really a visual novel. As a genre, visual novels are way less interactive than action games and RPGs. What visual novels do best is immerse readers with elements books don’t offer like music, sound effects, graphics, and branching plots. Most importantly, a good visual novel needs to pick the right words to describe events since you’re passively reading about them.
Lux-Pain stumbles badly in this department. One disadvantage Lux-Pain has is it’s a Japanese game that had to be adapted for the west. It feels like Marvelous directly translated the game from Japanese to English and as a result the story telling suffered. This is a case where a localized product would have been superior. I’m not saying Marvelous needs to change the setting to New York and rename the main character to John Everyman. However, the localization staff should have taken steps to ensure Lux-Pain’s text didn’t sound awkward.
Here’s a line from one of Atsuki’s dream sequences as an example — “In a pitch black room my sister is dead, laying on the floor. The floor is a sea of blood and nothing at all is the same as it was.”
Does this sound like a story you want to keep reading? The voice actors tried address this by improving lines with what they felt fit rather than reading them verbatim. However, this adds another layer of confusion to Lux-Pain. It’s like the game is presenting two visions at the same time: the creator’s in text and an interpretation during voiceovers.
The localization problem may have partially been technical. In Japanese you only need a few characters to create a vivid image. In English you need words made of multiple letters. Games tend to treat characters (which represent an idea) and letters (which represent part of an idea) the same way. It’s a problem many developers solve by reprogramming games with custom fonts and text limits.
Small bits of centered text that pop up throughout the game indicate Marvelous didn’t bother reprogramming Lux-Pain to make room for more characters. These scenes have huge borders surrounding the text so there is plenty of physical space they could have utilized by expanding text boxes. Instead of reading an eloquent translation the localization team diced the story up and crammed it back in the accommodate text limits. Don’t believe me? They use “&” to represent the word “and” many times.
If the interview with Takeo Higashino wasn’t clear Lux-Pain’s story is dark. Often, it feels like Lux-Pain is trying to get a rise out of players by only showing humanity’s deplorable side. Animal torture, suicide, and despair are some of the joyful topics Lux-Pain covers. Not every game needs a happy ending, but Lux-Pain’s daily dose of depression is off the charts.