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Monday, May 20, 2024

Embrace the cringe in your heart and join me in loving Neon White’s dialogue

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“Cringe” this, “based” that, I’m almost 30 years old and I don’t know if I should be using these words. What I do know is that Neon White’s dorky dialogue is fine, good even, and you all should find the grace in your hearts to let yourselves enjoy it.

Neon White is one of the best games of 2022, an FPS-puzzle-platformer that tasks you with Hotline Miami-ing your way through the pristine vaporwave halls of a heaven that knows no God. In between perfect little slices of platforming action, Neon White’s story is told through fully voiced 2D cutscenes that deliberately ape the style of an early-2000s anime dub, including bringing on legendary voice actor Steve Blum in an homage to his roles in Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and countless others.

“I can’t stand listening to anyone in this world talk,” my colleague, former PCG Features Editor Nat Clayton declared in an otherwise-positive review. “Neon White is a game for people who love early-2000s Toonami-core nonsense.” Well guess what, gamers? My body is 57% early-2000s Toonami-core nonsense by weight.

“The dialogue is cringe” esteemed colleagues and less esteemed commenters on Twitter insist. “The John Cena joke is goofy and dated,” they lie through their teeth at me. “I just skip through the dialogue and enjoy the levels,” they foolishly assert in some exercise in Calvinist self-denial.

Enough.

The John Cena joke is sublime.

Early on in Neon White, it’s revealed that the game’s angel quest givers actually appear differently to their beholders, with only Neons White and Red perceiving them as adorable little kitty cats floating on clouds. After this is established in a cutscene conversation, requisite Kuwabara “the big guy” character Neon Yellow barges in. “Oh hey, White! Isn’t it freaking crazy that John Cena is here in Heaven, giving us missions?!”

It’s a good bit!

I will admit, even my Christlike patience and love was tested by the character of Neon Violet. She’s Misa from Death Note, basically, and kinda just shows up to complain a lot, set you back some, have some weird sexual tension with White, things of that nature. Violet initiated the greatest test of my will in enjoying Neon White’s dialogue.

“Damn, I’m really working up a sweat,” White declares at the beginning of Episode 3, mission six, Driller. “Wahhh me too… You’re so lucky you don’t have big boobs, White. They get it the worst!!” Violet rejoins. 

“You think I don’t have… things… that sweat?” White cautiously responds.

I’ll spare you the rest. This was a pure aural agony, best not experienced if you have someone you love and respect in the same room as you. But through this suffering lies true enlightenment. You have to break through to the other side. We will never return to the early 2000s. Hot Topic, Toonami, Frutiger Aero, these things are denied to us (spiritually, not literally, just bear with me). As our fallen world continues to decline, we have to pursue ever more heightened sensations in search of nostalgic bliss, and the Unfortunate Neon White Boob Sweat Dialogue is like a perfectly condensed droplet of bad anime sexual tension circa 2002. Basically I’m saying it’s good—if you see it through the lens of some kind of lame internet nostalgia Cenobite.

OK, so maybe not all of Neon White’s dialogue is solid gold but I liked it overall. It does a great job sketching out this weird friend group you can’t think too hard about, a bunch of orphan goth assassins raised by a big daddy assassin who also still just kind of looks like Buff Raiden. It’s junk food. The overall arc of Neon White as an evocation of this Toonamicore vibe just really works for me, and I entreat you to open up your heart to the possibility of it working for you. It is Christmas, after all. [Editor’s note: please remove if not actually Christmas.]

If nothing else at least, that Machine Girl soundtrack really rips.

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