In the sea of visual novels, it can be difficult to find the ones that are actually good. So when I get recommendations for games in the genre, I tend to take them a bit more seriously than normal. Root Double was recommended to me some time ago, so I figured it had to be worth it.
The game, most of which takes place in a research complex that’s become the victim of terrorists, is told from multiple perspectives. There are a total of five sections, however only four are required to get the whole story – the Xtend episode is extra for the re-release. Root Before and After set up the story, Root Current brings those two routes together, and Root Double provides the conclusion to the story.
Root After follows the rescue worker Watase and his comrades as they try to save everyone trapped in the facility. He’s come down with some form of amnesia, although it’s obvious from the get-go that there’s something more to that clichéd plot point. While they try their hardest to accomplish their goal they’re thwarted at what seems like every turn by sabotage and doubt.
Root Before focuses on the kids trapped in the complex, Natsuhiko and his friends, in the days leading up to the incident. The concept of telepathy and empathy, only touched on briefly in After, is expanded on and it’s revealed why the kids were there in the building to begin with.
After and Double in particular hit a lot of good points, while Before was by far the weakest of the bunch. The story was well realized, however there was too much fluff and filler for it to be really engrossing. There was an incredible amount of over explaining, to the point where there was an entire hour-long section that was nothing more than a lecture on how telepathy works. That amount of detail wasn’t needed, and such sections weren’t fun.
Yet in a game where everything was meticulously explained, that made for some glaring inconsistencies. While it was over-loaded with physics explanations and biology explanations, nobody seemed to know how amnesia works and one of the characters manages to survive for six hours without any medical help after one of his arteries is cut. Even with the explanation they put for that last one, it still would never happen, and had it not been for how much they pushed the science it would have been a lot easier to suspend my disbelief.
Memories play a very large part of the game, but most sequences involving memories are essentially useless since they recap what happens in the dialogue immediately after each of them. By the end of the game I was skipping most of them, since it was inconsequential. They could have easily been cut entirely and replaced with a few well-written lines of dialogue, which would have shaved literal hours off the game’s playtime.
Having said that, the foreshadowing planted throughout the game was well done and the character developments were subtle enough to feel natural. The plot unfolds in a satisfying way once you ignore the long-winded explanations and filler.
Typical of these multi-path games each route has spots where death is possible, though the death screen tells you what you should do to avoid the dead-end to avoid frustration, and they all answer some questions while bringing up more questions – with the exception of Root Double, since that’s where you get to the root of things. See what I did there?
The mechanic that sets this visual novel apart is the Senses Sympathy System: instead of simply choosing between two or three simple answers you answer each situation with how you feel toward the people in question. How you feel one way or the other affects the outcome. Hesitating too long by not trusting yourself can get yourself killed, while doubting other people in dire times can lead to a schism in the group.
The detail put into the characters and the backgrounds started out very nice, however the longer the game went on it became obvious that the majority of them were introduced all at once, creating a false sense of varied scenes and environments. LABO in particular, where the majority of the game is spent, only used a selection of about five or six backgrounds, making minor changes to them to give the illusion that there were more. They looked good, but staring at much of the same for forty-odd hours it got old.
The little things helped to bring my opinion of the game up a bit. There are four ways to skip things (auto, fast skip, scene skip, and a more controlled skip with the mouse’s scroll wheel). The pause screen, aside from bringing up the normal options, also displays the chapter and screen, and the musical track that’s currently playing.
On that note, the music is quite enjoyable. It added oomph to the action sequences, made the sad bits that much more depressing, and had the perfect ominous tones for the points where things were uncertain. I actually left the game running a few times while I did other things.
It is fully voice acted, memories and all, so it gets major props for that. So many visual novels don’t have the feature since it does add a fair bit of cost to the production, so that was a very good point, especially considering the massive amount of dialogue.
The characters were solid and well thought out and the plot was enjoyable for the most part. Telling the story from multiple perspectives and telling it fairly well is always something I love. Unfortunately, it being needlessly complicated far too often, such as a section where you read someone’s mind while they read someone else’s mind, and the length almost completely killed it for me.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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