Root Letter Review

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Game Title: Root Letter
Developer: Kadokawa Games, PQube Games
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 1.3 GB
NA Availability: Retail | Digital Download
EU Availability: Retail | Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

Visual Novels are something a few words can definitely be said about. The first thing that comes to my mind is that they’re almost all story. What makes a good Visual Novel is a storyline, and a good one. With so many RPGs coming out in VN format, you gotta have a gripping story or the players won’t stay interested in sticking around for the entire game. Dialogue leading to a good ending won’t amount to much, but emotional twists and turns will keep a player attached to the story until the finale.

Another is the fact that the Western and Eastern gaming audiences have different perspectives on VNs. In Japan, over half of the Vita gaming library is made up of VNs. It’s VN paradise. In North America, VNs are still somewhat uncommong compared to everything else. So, in Japan, it’s like “Another VN, cool”. In the West? Fans are like “OMG sweet. A new VN!”

Today’s review is about a VN that has received ridicule in Japan, but has been doing well in the West. A game that tugged deeply at my heart, here is my review of Root Letter!

Story

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The story revolves around you, the Main Character with a customizeable name. In your high school days, you were penpals with a girl from another city in Japan, and you became very close, but the letters eventually stopped. 15 years later, you’re going through your things, moving to take a new job when you discover a final letter that you’d never seen before, mentioning that she had murdered someone. Worried, you rush to Matsue, her hometown, to find her.

Upon reaching the town, you find her nowhere to be seen with the whispers of ghosts and aliens in the air all around mention of her name. You then set out through the town for all of the friends she mentioned in her letters to you to find out what happened to her and where she is now.

The story of Root Letter is a mystery tale through and through. Every one of the friends you find will try their hardest to make sure you never find out the truth about your penpal, and that leads to a lot of digging, research, and interrogations. That starts one of the things I liked the most. The story has you constantly guessing and re-theorizing what’s actually happened to her throughout. By the time the finale came, I was shocked to find that none of my theories matched what actually happened.

The Main Character’s situation also reached out to me. Someone worried and seeking the penpal he fell in love with and being presented with obstacle after obstacle to make sure he never finds out really pulled at my heartstrings. From start to finish, I felt like I –was- the main character and experiencing all of these things through his eyes. It came through in such a strong way that it really pulled me into the entire experience.

Gameplay

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As stated above, Root Letter is a Visual Novel. It is a story being told in cutscene after cutscene. While there are a lot of scenes, there are some interesting interaction segments as well. You’ll have to do research by using items in your inventory and asking questions to get NPCs to say certain things to open up the next dialogue sequence. And you get to interrogate characters using Investigation Time, which I’ll touch on in a bit.

Main progression is basically through each chapter starting with you reading one of your penpal’s letters, hinting towards what part of the past you’ll be digging up in that chapter, or more specifically, who you’ll discover in that chapter. You then go out into the world, exploring various locations of the city to gain evidence needed to figure out who that friend really is and to try to get answers out of them.

Getting answers is where each chapter gets more interactive and intense, called Investigation Time. In this, you’ll have questions you can ask and inventory items to use which have to first prove the person you’re speaking to is who you think they are, and then, once you corner them in conversation, ask about your penpal’s whereabouts.

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This system I find reminescent of Ace Attorny because every time you choose the correct piece of evidence to showcase, it flies onto the screen in a very dramatic fashion, like when Ace yells Objection! in the AA games. These sequences are sometimes difficult and sometimes easy. There is a chance system too, where you can only get so many questions wrong before the person leaves and you get a Game Over.

That’s where the “Think” command comes in handy. At any point of the game, you can use the Think command to give you a hint on where you need to go next, or what piece of evidence you need to use in an Investigation. It’s really your guide, so to speak, and I’m a million times thankful it’s there, because without it, I’d still be mind-boggled at the Investigation Sequences.

Overall, the game comes together well with the Investigation System. My main complaint is story flow. Some chapters are short and you corner a character quickly, while others are long and drawn out. It feels very unbalanced in this way, and that’s really something that a good reader will find off-putting about the game. It’s a shame, too, as the finale and various endings you can get are chilling and brought me to tears more than once.

Speaking of endings, let’s talk length and replay value. Your first run through the game should take you around 10-12 hours for the normal ending. To get other endings, you’ll be spending about an hour a piece there. If you get into the story like I did, you will be emotionally distraught until you get that good ending, so expect at least 13-15 hours out of the game. Compared to some longer VNs this is short, but honestly, this is pretty good compared to other VNs in the west. Just look at the last VN I reviewed, Chase for the 3DS, which was only a couple hours long.

Controls

Controls are pretty simple. But before going into the simplicity, Root Letter is 100% compatible with the PlayStation TV. No special controls here, but you can go into the game, glad that you can buy it for the Vita and play it on the go and on the big screen.

The D-Pad is used for navigating menus and the X button is used for selecting options. Triangle can toggle how you want text to flow (Auto, Skip, etc), and circle can cancel an option in a menu. Finally, Square pulls up the story log and R2(R on the Vita) lets you skip text in a scene.

Pretty easy to use, overall. The only thing I’d worries about here was explanations for finding the save areas, and the game shows you exactly how to do that.

Presentation

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Visually, the game looks wonderful. Being a VN, it’s all about the artwork, and it excels. Even when stretched on the PSTV, everything looks flawless. It looks just like the PS4 version does, which is uncommon for multiplatform games like this.

Performance, not much to say. Load times are short, no lag, audio syncs well, and the voice-work for all the NPCs comes through nicely. Like I said above, imagine the PS4 version except not on PS4.

Summary

Root Letter is a game that I view as one of my favorite VNs of the year, if not ever. While story progression isn’t exactly balanced, this is something that reached out and touched my heart. Anyone that can get into love and mystery stores should definitely check this game out.

9/10

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