Visual novels are a genre that loves time travelling.
Let's put that statement aside for now and discuss a more abstract and distracting topic. When does a good story finale begin? Where does it come from, and why is it good?
A good ending takes its roots from the very first paragraph of the script. Contrary to what audiences and some writers think, the ending should always be a little predictable. Moreover, not just predictable, but expected! The sequence of events in the story will always lead to a logical result, and like in a mathematical formula, there will only be one result, no matter how you rearrange the summands.
The audience can always trace the development of the story formula and draw conclusions about the finale. And, when those conclusions coincide with the actual ending, that same audience can tweet, "Ugh, what predictability, the creators have absolutely nothing to surprise us with!" But deep down, the audience will feel satisfaction. Events have led to the expected outcome. The world works the way it's supposed to. No glitches in the Matrix.
You can think of examples on your own. Of course, the boy who survived ended up alive again, how could it be otherwise? Of course, Bilbo Baggins went Back and Forth and ended up right where he started - in his cozy living room. Of course, Bran the Broken has the best story, and that's why he should be the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms!
If that last example confused you, you know what we're talking about. Bran Stark, one of the characters of Game of Thrones, is not entitled to the throne. Because we haven't been shown a sequence of events that has only one possible and logical outcome - that very throne. We were shown the solution to a problem, but the process of solving it remained hidden. What's more, it is not just hidden, but instead it is a mishmash.
The initial chain of events always leads to a certain ending. Yes, you can think up a dozen different endings for any story, but only one ending will be really interesting, logical, and satisfying.
And this contradicts the essence of visual novels - the multiplicity of endings.
This is why visual novels love time travelling. It's much easier to completely reboot The Matrix, to restart the plot on new terms to arrive at a new logical ending than to try to grow something different out of the tree of choices.
Well, you could just pick a new girl and come to the bed scene with her. Note that the ending here, too, is logical and predictable.
The second, more traditional option is the so-called True Ending. It is "true" not because it is what the creators designated it. It really is the only true, correct, plot-driven ending. That's why it's good - because there should be no other ending to the story shown. But many different endings are required by the genre. Those are the rules.
In Athanasy, to my displeasure, there are multiple endings. And that had to be resolved somehow.
During the development of the game, there was the idea of a "Matrix reboot"; but a reboot not by time travel, but by literally rewriting the past - depending on the ending, the backstory of events changed retroactively as well. I think such a Multiverse would be hard for a player.
That's why a more traditional option was chosen: one of the endings can be highlighted and called "true". But for me personally, there are no "true endings" among the game's endings. As a good parent, I try to love all my ugly children equally. The same amount of effort was put into all of them.
But the real ending of Athanasy does exist. That finale is the whole picture of the world that is supposed to form in the players' heads after the entire game has been played. Pieces of information scattered throughout the various routines and endings will form into a definite result. The result, I hope, is terrifying and impressive enough.
If this coherent picture of events comes together in the mind of at least one player, then my work is done and I can sleep easy. Otherwise, I'll have to go back in time and rewrite the script all over again.