I’ll try to be a bit more direct this time, since on reflection my Episode 1 write-up was more of a regurgitation of the story with a few comments written in. Also it’s been a while, so my memory isn’t perfect.
Let’s quickly get this side-arc out of the way first. The developments between Shannon and George, and Kanon and Jessica, were nice to watch. They were interesting in being two very similar stories with different views and endings. Kanon is quite a walking tragedy. Hope it works out for him one day. Anyway, Beatrice is a bitch, that’s the main thing you get from that. It starts off nice but then she’s so willing and happy to tell you she set it up just because she would get to watch it fail. Moving on.
Since we’ve got the cast and world set up, it’s time to delve more deeply into the ‘game’ aspect in Umineko. This is the story continuing from the Tea Party, and Battler and Beatrice’s direct confrontation. This is fantastic.
The first thing I wanted to clarify for myself, through @Aspirety, was ‘who’ these characters are. Battler, I had assumed and was confirmed, was the Battler Ushiromiya of the First Game. Since, going off my theory from my ‘Legend’ write-up, this tea room was taking place in the Golden Land (or a corrupted shadow of it, now that it had been rejected), this piece of the story is an almost-direct continuation of the end of Legend. Beatrice, I at first assumed, was the same, however it seems to become clear that the Beatrice at the table and the Beatrice on the gameboard are one and the same. I guess Beatrice needs to directly take her role up in each game, whereas there will always be a Battler piece arriving on the island.
Anyway. I don’t have too much to say about the altered introduction sequences on a scene-by-scene basis. Overall, the addition of Beatrice as a guest to the mansion was a fascinating and exciting immediate change. I think doing something crazy like this on the Second Game was a really good decision from a writing standpoint; it stops the concerns of any new player coming into ‘Turn’ and having to worry about an extremely similar story with minor changes building up to a different ending, like multi-path visual novels do with their Common Routes. If nothing had changed up until the point of the First Twilight having different victims, I’d be rather put off the idea of continuing the story. “I just read this didn’t I? I don’t want to read it again!”. Having Beatrice, the grand mastermind villain appear on-stage so suddenly so quickly is enough for me to go “Oh shit this is a big deal this version of the story is gonna be crazy”, and I’m hooked again. With this done, I was more than willing to overlook what hadn’t changed, and even those parts were made more interesting due to the perspective of sitting outside the gameboard this time.
Skipping ahead to the First Twilight itself, the introduction of the Red Truth has a brilliant execution. Personally, while the Red Truth’s use continued to be expanded on and used more cleverly, this first scene with the Chapel Closed Room Mystery is my favourite use of the Red Truth in all of ‘Turn’. With the introduction of this concept, and the first real confrontation at the game table, it’s so exciting and fun and intense AND ON TOP OF THAT, FOR THIS SPECIFIC CASE AT LEAST, YOU WIN? It’s awesome. It’s such a strong stand-out from the entire episode and I love it to bits. It’s all this coming together at once and having the realization that the GAME IS ON.
I guess with that said, it’s actually appropriate that Beatrice plays so hard and utterly destroys both Battler and you as the player. With her present and with all the dramatic flair she puts into the scenes, it’s an extremely strong push for the Witch side of the game. Not only that, but Kanon, Shannon and Genji are magical too? Kinzo made them?? I’m supposed to believe that pieces on the HUMAN side are so tied into the Magic World??? Way to fuck me over, Furniture, what goddamn side are you on!? Don’t deny Beatrice from BEHIND A MAGIC SHIELD, SHANNON. THAT DOESN’T HELP ANYONE. Also Kanon the sword reveal is cool as fuck but I still wish you’d lower your damn arm.
Anyway, in review. The rooms are harder to solve in this game, moreso enforced not only by the result and situation but also by the fact that the game shows you (with the exception of the First Twilight) each murder as they happen with Beatrice present. However despite this, they have gone out of the way with the First Twilight to explicitly show you that you CAN win.
This game is also interesting in the fact that Battler loses so goddamn hard. Even with that knowledge that victory is possible, he completely breaks due to being consistantly made to have to suspect one of his family or friends. It’s entirely a mistake on his part, so it’s not something the player can really deal with while trying to solve the game. One of the pieces is just acting weird. The fact that he is so determined to reject the witch yet isn’t willing to blame anyone else is incredibly weak and childish, and it’s very appropriate even to me, the player, that Battler lost this match. He didn’t deserve to win the way he played this time. As @uppfinnarn and Beatrice herself mentioned, Battler is undeniably incompetant. Goddamn.
Anyway the ending piece of this game is a lost more interesting than the one in ‘Legend’. We have four believers and one non-believer, and due to the fact that the Witches are winning at this point we get to actually see the introduction to the Golden Land… except its fucked up and everyone gets wrecked by the goats. Also Bernkastel finally shows up in the story, right at the end, just to be blank and cool like she is and does basically nothing.
Overall, it’s odd. For the purposes of the Human side, there’s not a lot to go off after Battler cracks. The view we see of the game is already skewed to look more magical, without any effort from Battler it’s just blatant magic world. There’s obviously a lot of stuff you can still try to assume and solve, but as promised by the title screen narration, its hard.
Moving on. The Tea Parties. This time, I knew what they’d be doing as a sequel story, and going in without that surprise, and the content itself… I found these ones much weaker.
Beatrice’s torture of Rosa to get her to submit doesn’t really do anything for the player, it’s just more of Beatrice trying to get a human to change their stance. Rosa, for this episode, is listed specifically as a non-believer in the Game Record. It’s nothing notable. The only real content is Battler regaining his will to fight, which of course he does, we’re a quarter of the way through an 8 Episode Story right now.
The Ura Tea Party is better. We get to see more of Bernkastel and Beatrice, and we meet the before mentioned Lambdadelta. I’m not actually a big fan of her. She’s clearly only trying to fill a character archetype, but also needs to be the big deal we were told about last time, so she has a crazy on/off personality switch for being dangerous and scary… but Maria and Kinzo already do that, so it’s not that much of a standout. Unless she’s actually Maria from the future, existing in the world of witches and therefore living outside the confines of time (its clear from this episode’s intro that Beatrice really is training Maria in magic like she claimed), I don’t like the fact she’s a carbon copy of her character style. It does step up the stakes a bit, with Bernkastel now going from observer to active player, with Lamdadelta joining the Witch side and allying with Beatrice. It’s unclear what will actually result from this decision at this point, but it’s interesting enough in the meta-narrative.
Also, as again mentioned by Upp, Bernkastel is presumably Rika Furude from Higurashi. As someone who hasn’t beaten that, I’m fascinated. She could be lying - she’s clearly actually a fan of a game called Higurashi When They Cry, which we know from Battler is a video game that exists in this universe. But regardless, that topic and train of thought doesn’t really belong here. Honestly I kind of hope she isn’t, Bernkastel is a really interesting character and doesn’t actually parallel Rika at all.
Anyway, that’s my piece. That covers everything I had in mind from this game.