|Root Double -Before Crime * After- Days Extend Edition
|November 26, 2020 (Nintendo Switch)
|Nintendo Switch, Playstation Vita, PC
The visual novel genre often gets dismissed due to hurtful stereotypes and for not being “real games.” Root Double -Before Crime * After Days- Xtend Edition is not only a great entry in the genre, but an experience best had as a video game.
The game begins with a bang, putting you in the shoes of Watase Kasasagi, a rescue worker and squad captain who mysteriously loses his memory during a nuclear meltdown. The basic premise of Watase’s route already sounds chaotic and stressful, which really pulled me in. A modern Japanese story covering a nuclear reactor and the dangers of radiation is very heavy. The original release also followed the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear incident. It’s a sensitive subject for sure, but the entirety of the story tells a complex and mature tale.
Root Double‘s translation was crowdfunded through Kickstarter and the quality was well worth the money acquired. I’ve played my fair share of visual novels, especially on Switch, and sadly some typos seem common. If you’re curious whether or not this game will require a fan patch and fixed translation, you’ll be pleased to know that Root Double‘s translation is incredibly clean and accurate.
Contrary to the names of the two main stories, you’ll want to begin the After route first. It’s just the preferred route to start with by most fans. Either way, you’ll be doing repeat playthroughs across both routes to wrap your head around the entire story. The gameplay utilizes the typical VN trimmings; An auto mode, skip mode, tips, etc. My one minor gripe with how tips work is that the terms included in the Tips section aren’t highlighted in the text boxes and that a message that you got a tip appears on the screen on top of the CG. This sometimes took away from my immersion. It’s incredibly minor, but if you’re gripped by the story and presentation, this may annoy you.
The art and presentation I found good and acceptable. The whole package is prim, proper, and fundamentally pleasing. Personally, I found the character designs very plain and the art style pretty typical as far as “anime” aesthetics go. You’ll be staring at these characters, labs, and school life environments for the whole game. The package is inoffensive but I wish it was more ambitious. The OST is always fitting: featuring tracks that fit joyful student days, the haunting atmosphere of a breaking nuclear facility, life or death situations, and everything in between.
My biggest issue with the narrative is the pacing. That may seem like a common complaint thrown at anime and visual novels, but it’s apt for Root Double. Some chapters seem to drag, especially the final chapter. The first route takes place in a nuclear reactor with constant danger like fires and radiation. The second route has a slice-of-life approach and flip-flops between the past and present. The overall experience is strongly divided between those two halves tonally and in terms of atmosphere. While I enjoy stories with “slow burn,” slow starts, and even stories that change genres, Root Double‘s intended narrative flow has its highs and lows.
The most unique feature of the game is the Senses Sympathy System, or SSS system, which allows the player to set their feelings towards a specific character along a grid at certain points of the story. I found this system to be really cathartic and engaging. Your feelings towards each member of the cast will obviously change as you follow the events of the story and as you learn more about each character. When going for every ending, a lot of players may find doing these choices to be annoying, but it’s nonetheless satisfying to let your feelings guide the narrative-even if an ending isn’t canon. These decisions are often split-second and I was unsure how far I needed to move each slider for each character. It’s oftentimes cathartic and feels like hitting a button on a game show and exclaiming your answer. Other times it feels like responding to a teacher’s question when you don’t really know the answer.
Getting the best ending of either Root/story unlocks the ability to jump back to any scene with any SSS settings-which is invaluable if you’re going for 100% completion. Another thing that helps is that Root Double saves your last 100 auto-saves. This is a major quality of life feature I’d love to see in more VNs, which prevented me from cluttering my save list with a save for every major event or choice.
Root Double-Before Crime * After Days- Xtend Edition is both a mouthful and an intimidating game for newcomers to the genre. Its highs are dangerous and tense and its lows are moments that go on forever. The SSS system is emotionally fulfilling but also a chore on replays. It is nonetheless a very standout story among its peers and worth your time. Root Double-Before Crime * After Days- Xtend Edition is available on Playstation Vita, PC via Steam, and Nintendo Switch for $34.99. The version reviewed was on Nintendo Switch.
Review code provided by the publisher.