Finished the game a couple of days ago and needed some time to gather my thoughts. Okay...
I absolutely loved it.
I was hoping I would love it but I never expected it all getting to me so much as it did.
For years I was never that much excited for the series to ever be continued by Ron, mostly because of the now infamous article where he said he would ignore everything after 2. I never liked that. I really love every game in the series and the fact that it is one continuous story (despite some small continuity hiccups in Escape) and wasn't looking forward to Zelda-like alternate timeline/version/whatever shenanigans being added to the series.
I also liked Guybrush and Elaine being together. I completely understand that wasn't Ron's original intention, especially after how their relationship is in LeChuck's Revenge, but again, for me the games after that cemented the relationship. Tales was about them having issues and working on them to come out of it better by the end. Undoing all of that would feel weird (and perhaps slightly spiteful?) to me.
So imagine my face when the camera pans to the right, revealing daddy Guybrush sitting on the bench and it all hit me at once. Not only did Ron and Dave respect the relationship, they doubled down on it. And tying it together with Revenge's ending is just genius. By doing this framing device, suddenly every weird thing in the series, every inconsistency, everything can be explained. And it gives it all sooo much heart. Honestly, the tears came hard when everything clicked in my mind, after a simple camera pan to the right. Ugh.
Then the game itself. I don't have much to say next to I loved it all. The structure being somewhat of a mashup of 1 and 2 (but with details and puzzels dialed up to 11; 4 map pieces? 6 keys!) worked really well with the themes of nostalgia and growing up.
Like many of you, my first reaction after the ending was "what?!" but after letting it all sink in a bit more, I love it so much, it's perfect. Like @Jake said earlier, there's a very clear theme going on of Guybrush and LeChuck going through the same motions, over and over again. I think there are many ways to interpret the ending but the main thing for me is; Guybrush chooses to let go of his obsession because he sees what it does to others. Not only in LeChuck vs the new Pirate Leaders, but also in his own actions after that talk with Elaine in the Monkey Island jungle. Granted, it's not a realization of Guybrush that is talked about aloud but still, that scene is there for a reason, and it's right before he letting go.
I think the way story ends is foreshadowed throughout the entire game, especially with the whole Chums-story puzzle. Guybrush learns to change his story so it would make a better and exciting story (like mentioned before in this thread, see Pan's Labyrinth and Big Fish). And it worked! Because we'll probably talk about what's real and what isn't for a long time, just like the ending of Revenge before this one.
- It's funny how ideas and themes from both Escape and Tales are also in this game. Escape: classic piracy being outdated and making way for something new and hip. Tales: the theme of going through the motions and Guybrush' getting confronted with him being kind of an asshole, destroying lives in his way.
- Widey Bones is an interesting character because we know almost nothing about her and the fact that a lot of her dialogue at the beginning hints at the ending makes it all the more theory-fueling.
- Was it just me or did Herman Toothrot's ending getting stuck in the cave and Guybrush saying it's another tale a way of linking it to Ron's The Cave?
- Loved we got nods to Escape (sorry, I recently played it and still love it a lot) in Carla and Otis' dialogue. Slightly sad we didn't get a more direct nod to the Toothrot-Marley thing.
- The plaque at the end saying "original secret" says it all I think. It's good that stories change as we get older. Nothing has to stay or be exactly the same as it was in the past, that's the whole point of this game. Guybrush loving things like Stan's old place or being on Monkey Island while he hated it before perfectly captures the nostalgia theme.
- Did we ever see Madison die? This was the only part that felt weird/rushed to me, as it builds up both a teamup and a betrayal but then shows very little of it. Madison being the final one going up against LeChuck instead of Lila would have been more logical I think? Unless I'm missing something...
- Murray being in the game so much was great. Love the short reprise of his theme from Tales when he appeared.
- Speaking of the music; I want this soundtrack asap.
- Loved LeChuck's crew and the diversity in characters. Also that there was just another demon there like it wasn't anything strange or weird, he's just there.
- @Dmnkly I can't say enough good things about your work in the game (or the entire series). Amazing work as always! Hope we get to enjoy your Guybrush for many more games to hopefully come (but if not, this was a perfect ending)
- Random Ron story from years ago when he visited Amsterdam and he hung out with a bunch of fans. I remember asking him what he thought about the Toothrot twist in Escape and he said he didn't know what I was talking about. I asked him to spoil it to which he said yes so I told him. I still remember his reaction being a very blank stare and then just ".....huh". Best poker face ever.
I probably have more to say but that's it for now.