“Cringe” this, “based” that, I’m almost 30 and I don’t know if I should use those words. What I do know is that Neon White’s silly dialogue is good, good even, and you all should find the grace in your hearts to let yourself enjoy it.
Neon White is one of the best games of 2022, an FPS-puzzle-platformer that tasks you from Hotline Miami to smash your way through the pristine vaporwave halls of a heaven that knows no God. Between perfect little slices of platforming action, Neon White’s story is told through fully-voiced 2D cutscenes that deliberately replicate the style of an early 2000s anime dub, including making use of to legendary voice actor Steve Blum in a tribute to his roles in Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and countless others.
“I can’t stand to listen to anyone in this world talk,” said my colleague, former PCG editor Nat Clayton, in an otherwise positive review. (opens in a new tab). “Neon White is a game for people who love early 2000s Toonami nonsense.” Well, guess what, gamers? My body is 57% Toonami-core nonsense from the early 2000s by weight.
“The dialogue is cringe-worthy,” esteemed colleagues and less-esteemed commenters insist on Twitter. “The John Cena joke is goofy and dated,” they lie to me through their teeth. “I just skip the dialogue and enjoy the levels,” they foolishly assert in an exercise in Calvinist self-denial.
John Cena’s joke is sublime.
At the start of Neon White, it is revealed that the game’s angel quest givers appear differently to their viewers, with only Neons White and Red perceiving them as adorable little cats floating on clouds. After this is established in a cutscene conversation, Kuwabara’s required character “the big guy” Neon Yellow bursts in. “Oh hey, White! Isn’t it crazy that John Cena is here in heaven, giving us missions?!”
It’s kinda good!
I have to admit that even my Christian patience and love was tested by the character of Neon Violet. She’s Misa from Death Note, basically, and shows up a bit to complain a lot, set you back a bit, have some weird sexual tension with White, things of that nature. Violet initiated the biggest test of my will by enjoying Neon White’s dialogue.
“Damn, I’m really sweating,” White says at the start of Episode 3, Mission Six, Driller. “Wahhh me too… You’re so lucky you don’t have big boobs, White. They have the worst!!” Violet joins.
“You think I don’t have…things…sweating?” White responds cautiously.
I’ll spare you the rest. It was pure auditory agony, best not experienced if you have someone you love and respect in the same room as you. But through that suffering lies true enlightenment. You have to go to the other side. We’ll never go back to the early 2000s. Hot Topic, Toonami, Frutiger Aero (opens in a new tab), these things are denied to us (spiritually, not literally, just bear with me). As our fallen world continues to decline, we must pursue ever-increasing 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 fine – if you see it through the lens of some sort of lame Cenobite internet nostalgia.
OK, so maybe not all of Neon White’s dialogue is solid gold, but I liked it overall. He does a great job sketching out that odd group of friends you can’t think of too much, a group of orphaned goth assassins raised by a big assassin daddy who still looks like Buff Raiden. It’s junk food. Neon White’s overall arc as an evocation of this Toonamicore atmosphere really works for me, and I beg you to open your heart to the possibility that it works for you. It’s Christmas, after all. [Editor’s note: please remove if not actually Christmas.]
If nothing else at least this Machine Girl (opens in a new tab) the soundtrack really rocks.