Hey everyone. Thought I can do something a bit different to my usual Episode Featured story discussion threads on the Forum. Maybe it’s because my mind is maturing or addled with quarantine brain or a general feeling some recent stories are few of the best in a long time, but I don’t have much to say about each story individually. That is without my repeating myself on certain grievances that are common with the usual Episode story.
So then, I thought I would collectively talk about featured stories that were officially released in December here (though expect a few betas or stories you have no idea are out yet). This isn’t a ranking or numbered list, but I would mention which ones I generally like more than others. Expect a lot of streams of consciousness though.
Please do mind there are spoilers, so enjoy if you don’t feel like reading them or don’t if you want to. Also, by the time of me first writing this, I haven’t started reading all of them, so expect a lot of edits…
All I Want For Christmas
Firstly, let’s go over the Christmas story. The original is called I’ll Be Home For Christmas, which I don’t understand why Episode changed it (except maybe the author wanted it). The title is not bad, but there are just other options which are more catchy and suitable.
It is basically the plot of a typical Hallmark, Netflix or other Christmas movie found on cable television. The superstar returning to their hometown who happens to reconnect with their lost love. Everyone in said town being obsessed with Christmas. Even a Christmas birth. It may be because this story is Christmas-movie-like that I may be more lenient of the usual suspect of gem choices being pushed every few scenes. Yeah, they’re obnoxious, especially in the last few chapters, but at least I know Episode didn’t have to deal with rushing the plot since the story is already 10 chapters long.
It also helps that the MC Holly and LI Noel(le) are relatable and likeable characters. As I said, the gem choices tend to stifle some of their moments together as well as their characterization, but I can mostly understand Holly’s stress and hurt over her mother’s coffee shop becoming bankrupt and Noel(le) returning, not to mention how the latter knows they screwed up a lot in the past and actively tries to be and do better.
Compared to the original, I also liked how the directing in here is more polished, using a couple zooms here and there. Then again, I get uncomfortable when Episode zooms out in the Cafe BG and some characters are smack dab pressed onto a table despite the impression they are supposed to be near the counter. Also, as always the new outfits are mostly a hit with me, especially the hair clips that come with the first set of gem outfits. Plus, EPISODE FINALLY HAS HAIR AND LIP CC THROUGHOUT THE STORY.
Other nitpicks I have are the fact that Noel’s mom default lip colour stay the same (at least for the male LI branch) so the darker skinned you make Noel, the more likely his mom may look like a racist caricature. And at some point the best friend characters lock Holly and Noel(le) in their cabin just for them to confess their feelings, which is already a kinda uncomfortable romance trope altogether. Oh and I like that MC wants to direct, but I wish that had more prominence than a tidbit of flashback and a forced gem choice.
All in all, I can put this around a 7/10 mistletoe.
I first read the beta of this earlier this year - and I grew a liking to it even though there were only five chapters available at that time. I was first hesitant in the premise since there are a couple of trending stories with a similar premise of an Agent disguising themselves as a Uni student for XYZ purposes, but I found O:Q to be charming, especially since it had a more unique ‘horrible breakup’ backstory.
Reading the official version in December… well, I mostly still like it, the first five chapters I mean, but the latter brought my reading experience slightly down for me. One thing to note: my beta had a cliffhanger of MC’s best friend Tanner spying on her and the LI, so I thought it was a twist to imply he was working with the bad guys. Instead, it was a thing of MC’s boss wanting to keep an eye on her, because … he needed more updates than the regular meetings the two and Senator Cruz already have?
Anyways, like Noel, I like how sweet and playful Holden/Haley the LI is/are. The family background and the plot also makes me kinda understand some of his less desirable scenes - that doesn’t mean I have to like them. Time is a bit nebulous in the story, but at most, the LI knows MC for a couple of months so I don’t think it makes a lot of sense for him to be jealous of Tanner. Slightly suspicious sure, but not jealous to that degree. I think the original had three LIs, him, Tanner and his best friend Buck so I might understand the plot point, but it is kinda strange if a featured story would have one primary LI with two will-they-won’t-they characters when it is mostly clear MC would end up with the former either way. Likewise, I like that MC and LI actually ‘break up’ at some point, but the two get back together with no meaningful development other than they miss each other uWu.
What else? It’s odd to say this but this story had the best female LI outfits. They mostly jocky, exercise stuff, but she can pull off an awesome dress too. That being said, the female LI branch just screams Man with Boobs. I like that Episode didn’t just change her sport just because, but at the same time I would want some acknowledgement of, IDK, literally being the only girl in an all-guys football team. It’ll Be Our Secret did that right.
I have a lot of questions about the story, in a good way, but the most pressing one is that how long it would be? At first I assumed it would be the usual recent 15 chapters but no the latest update suggest there are more chapters after 15. I’m surprised Episode is willing to push out longer Episode stories, considering years past, but I’m not sure if it would be for the best.
Despite me airing out a lot of crap, I still enjoyed most of the story. So this is a sliding scale of 7-8/10.
Edit: turns out the story is 15 chapters long, I Guess Episode must have misclicked.
Please note that these sections would/may be shorter, due to them being released later and me just reading a little bit or just stumbling on it by the time of this post’s first publishing.
Love at First Bite
Anyways, I already mock it solely based on the fact this originally came from the mature app and Episode not being bothered to change the description to minutely disguise it. Turns out that this story was originally an Ink story called In My Blood: Sucker for Pain. So I’m both intrigued this is the return of Ink-turned-LL featured story and relieved Episode didn’t use the original title lol. The story so far … not so much I like.
@XxAlphaBetaxX actually posted about this story recently, specifically about one point that sledgehammers you when first reading it. There is a LOT of possessive and aggressive behaviour, and that’s coming from the MC’s family the Sullivans. The schtick is that they are dangerous mostly male vampires, so they get Uber-overprotective on the only daughter, gasp, having fun in college. The mom is also the stereotypical emotional ‘badass’ pregnant mom, who would not let the other family members forbid everything under the sun for MC, which is nice, but you know, pregnant stereotype.
Admittedly, with a lot of Featured stories I usually have a high bar for LIs, especially since the LI is supposed to be a bad bae/mafia leader/CEO type, so I usually get disappointed and even a little bit disgusted. And the LI Leo is no exception. I like the premise of MC and LI being in a little competition on who would be the most popular student in their college, but that got cut down due to MC legit wanting to read Leo’s mind without his consent, when they seemed troubled by family issues in their first introduction in chapter two, and Leo, well, being the typical bad bae. With the story’s previous residency in IVY, the grossness seems to be amplified with the more direct-ish mentions and implications of sex they had to almost the whole female population of the college.
Side-note: I usually get frustrated when schools in stories don’t have names, especially since they are a huge part of a story’s premise. Similarly, MC in (the very very short) Chapter 1 first wanted to be independent of her family, but the very next chapter, she name-dropped her family name to gain dominance over one of the LI’s flings. Granted, the fling is super elitist, but I can’t imagine throwing out a core aspect just for something relatively petty.
So … I may at least gleam over the first five chapters of both LI gender paths, just to see how they go. I doubt I would enjoy it much, but I’m mostly intrigued on how dirty Episode could make it for Episode standards.
Edit: Barely, just some icky (imo) innuendos. The ending is so fucking abrupt too, especially since the directing is half-finished. Also, the story does this thing when the characters’ eyes are supposed to turn red, instead of having Preview commands to change them in and out, Episode just made clones of those characters. I could tell, since Episode didn’t bother to change the display names of the clones. This is extremely telling from the Plus Sized MC, whose display name is always RainPS2.
Beating the Bad Boy
I wanna keep this light, not only because the description sounds like a mash-up of some of the author’s other stories but the beta chapter was a chore and a mess. I believe it may mostly be due to the chapter pushing in so much exposition, but at most the whole plot so far could have been split up into two chapters or the first half not having so much focus since the second shone slightly better.
The plot? It involves MC being competitive with the bad boy LI, underaged drinking, a student-coach hook-up (not MC though), and some unfulfilled drama between the LI’s and MC’s moms. Literally the only unique thing is the mom thing, which I am behind, since their only interaction so far is very more amusing than it should be.
If this eventually gets released, I would want to get a feel of things. One of the more ‘interesting’ bits though it technically shouldn’t be is that the LI is a default Black character. Thing is … you know in Living with My Crush, the MC is default Black, so the mom would be seen wearing a Cornrows bun even if she is whiter than snow? There is a similar, but less dismal, thing that the LI’s mom is plus-sized and has big lips, which MC’s mom disses her on as being surgically done.
As usual, I get jealous over the tons of new assets, my favourite being the animation found in my pfp. The rest of the story, not so much. In fact, out of these stories, published as it is, it is not proofread at all. Some characters respond to things not said at all, a character says something another should say.
Yeah, I haven’t read it yet, but to me what’s more intriguing is this is the second time Episode adapted a ‘sequel/spinoff’ of a story they previously featured which they also approached it by changing character designs and names so they don’t resemble the predecessor. And … Mafia, so when I eventually look into it, I would be harsh as usual.