Welcome back to Mystic Messenger Trash, a game diary in which I chronicle playing Mystic Messenger for the first time. (Did you miss me?) The following contains spoilers of Seven’s route, Good Ending, and After Ending. Although there will be some discussion of Secret Endings 1 and 2 as it relates to Seven’s character—it’s very difficult to talk about Seven’s story without at least some reference to them—there will be a piece covering those endings. Content note for physical and emotional abuse.
Buckle up, because this summary is a long one. Seven’s route begins as he’s trying to balance keeping you, the player, safe from whoever is trying to hack into the RFA. You learn that he is, indeed, a secret agent, and his colleague Vanderwood, acting as his maid, watches over him. (Side note: Up until now and even through Seven’s route, Seven uses female pronouns for Vanderwood, but he’s actually a man. Why… did they misgender him? Is having a male maid so weird? On another note, why is Vanderwood cleaning up after Seven at all??) But Seven can’t focus because he’s never had a crush before, and soon finds himself coming to Rika’s apartment to protect you in person. This pisses off both Vanderwood and their spy agency, causing them to plan their retaliation to get rid of Seven.
Seven walks into the apartment right as you’re being kidnapped by none other than Saeran, Seven’s twin brother. During the route, you learn that years ago, Seven left Saeran with their alcoholic and abusive mother in order to become a secret agent, a plan V suggested. In return, V and Rika were supposed to look after Saeran and make sure he was safe. (To be clear, the “Unknown” character who leads you to Rika’s apartment in the first place and the hacker from the other routes has always been Saeran.)
Stunned, Seven decides to work to reinforce the apartment security system while pushing you and the rest of the RFA away, saying that he’s too dangerous to have anyone in his life. He goes so far as to say that he’s going to leave the RFA and disappear forever after the security is fixed, but somehow, your persistence and love makes him change his mind(?). Instead, Seven decides to bring you along as you figure out what Saeran is up to—and uncover that Rika, V, and Saeran are/were involved in some sort of religious cult called Mint Eye. As a result, Seven’s trust in V is broken, and V leaves the RFA without an explanation. The route ends with Vanderwood mistaking Saeran for Seven and kidnapping him, and you and Seven missing the RFA party to go after them. (By this point, Seven has told you his real name, Saeyoung, and asks that you refer to him as that, but for the sake of this series, I’ll continue to call him Seven.)
You know how I said Jaehee’s route is the least problematic out of all of them? I take it back; Seven’s route (minus the secret endings) is the least problematic. He’s not possessive. He’s not jealous. The closest is when he asks whether you tell others that you want to stay by them (in other words “Seven, I want to stay with you!” “Do you say that to other people?”), and that’s because he says people are dangerous—which, as a secret agent, of course he believes. In his After Ending, he begs you to let him be selfish, which I assume means having sex with him(?), because he’s not sure he’ll be alive after all of this. Hell, he apparently convinces you to marry him after only a month together (something I lambasted in Jumin’s route)—only for you to find out, at the end, that the proposal and marriage was a dream.
So, let me take a deep breath and announce to the world my feelings about Seven…
I LOVE HIM I LOVE HIM I LOVE HIM. I love him. I LOVE HIM!!! If I’d played his route before Zen’s, then maybe he would have come up on top. (I have a thing for firsts. It’s okay though, Zen, you’re still my Second Husband.) Ahem. Anyway, it’s because Cheritz put more time and effort into Seven’s route/story than any of the others that I have such strong feelings for him now, feelings I didn’t have before. Whereas in other routes, Seven was the silly, ridiculous, crossdressing, probably queer weirdo who hacked things and hid his serious side, his route shows him to have much more depth than that. Fully learning Seven’s backstory—hinted at in other routes—puts his story in a tragic but also hopeful light, also enriching the larger world in Mystic Messenger. I also am a sucker for sibling stories, especially when one sibling is fighting to save the other, so Seven’s route gave me all the sibling angst I could want. (Then the Secret Endings happened. Woof, I’ve got feelings on those, too.)
Because Seven’s route lacks the problematic aspect of the others (leading me to wonder what Cheritz was doing, if they knew how to avoid those…), I want to actually discuss the story.
Seven’s route is a fascinating exploration in game narrative design. You could play it and skip all the others if you want to get the meat of the story. Yes, the story is richer if you understand each character’s backstory, their desires and fears, but the background plot of Mystic Messenger—that a random person led you to the RFA and is now trying to hack into the organization’s information, possibly putting you in danger—isn’t resolved until you go through Seven’s route and the secret endings. I don’t know if Cheritz intentionally wrote the game so that Seven really is the canonical ending you’re supposed to aim for, but it’s something the fandom commonly says.
So, why do this? Why not only focus on Seven? For one, that would no longer make Mystic Messenger a dating sim—it would just be a visual novel with a cool but strange chat element. Cheritz’s other two games, Dandelion and Nameless, are also dating sims/visual novels, and Cheritz brands itself as a game developer for women (they could just say otome game developer, but whatever).
It’s clear that Cheritz has talented writers on its team. Each character in Mystic Messenger has a backstory that is at least somewhat explored in their routes. What’s different about Seven’s route is the depth of his backstory and its impact on the game as a whole. I deeply wish we’d seen such interconnectedness in the other routes, which would make them feel relevant instead of a way to bolster (at best) this final one.
There are plenty of tropes deployed in Seven’s route—the “I must protect everyone by shouldering this burden” trope, the “I’m a dangerous person so stay away for your own good” trope, the alcoholic/abusive parent trope, and the evil twin trope. (TV Tropes has a huge list of everything that comes up during the game, but it’s chock full o’ spoilers.) For the most part, these are pretty straightforward, but the latter—the evil twin trope—is turned on its head in the second Secret Ending. (I’ll talk more about that in the next piece on the Secret Endings.) Suffice it to say that Seven’s route relies on tropes that it plays into, but this use surprisingly doesn’t detract from the story. Perhaps I feel this way because these tropes are ones I haven’t seen explored in other otome games that I’ve played. The ones used here serve to deepen the story and make it all the sadder. And the thing that broke my heart the most? Everything Seven tries to do for Saeran blows up in his face, leaving him searching for the brother he left behind to save. (No, I don’t have sibling issues, what are you talking about.)
Seven’s route is the most thoughtfully designed in the game so far. I wish that depth had been put into each route—if it had, then Seven wouldn’t feel like the “true” ending of Mystic Messenger. As it is, I understand why Seven is a fan favorite—he’s got a goofy and sweet personality to hide the troubled and traumatized interior; his genius is matched only by his loyalty and compassion; the rampant cross-dressing and borderline flirting with the other members screams queer to me; and so on. Seven’s character, and his arc, is so well-rounded that it leaves me to wonder why Cheritz even bothered giving the other characters routes if they weren’t going to dive as deeply.
Sidequest’s former managing editor Naseem Jamnia used to do sciencey things, but they now slam their keyboard and call it art. By night, they play a lot of video games. And regardless of the time, they spend way too much of it on Twitter, @jamsternazzy. Also, their debut novella, THE BRUISING OF QILWA, comes out in August 2022!