Root Letter Review
Root Letter, or √Letter, is another visual novel game centralized around a crime that the player needs to solve. These visual novels keep pouring out and it starts to almost all blend together but this one still stood out from the others that I’ve reviewed in the past as it involved quite a bit of psychological play on trying to find the truth from characters in-game. You play as a 30 something year old male named Takayuki who seeks out Aya Fumino, an old pen-pal to discover the meaning behind an ominous letter written to him 15 years ago about having murdered someone. This game did keep up my interest but at the same time put me off at certain points.
Thrilling story dictated by actions: Although the majority of the decisions that change the outcome of Root Letter happen between chapters, the endings all have their own twists and turns. It was well-told if the player can ignore some of the more zany characters that don’t compliment the serious characters throughout the plot [more on this later]. The way Aya describes her friend circle through the letters, to best help Takayuki gets to find people to question, is hilarious as old pen pals would have not bothered with names but rather pseudonyms like “bitch” and “four-eyes”. Best part about the game is that your main character isn’t just a charmer who convinces everyone easily to give information like other VNs, but instead detested by people for being so investigative and pushy.
Colorful artwork and real-life landmarks: The game follows a serious crime case but at the same time has beautiful artwork in the background of real-life places. Many colorfully drawn horizons and scenarios look amazing and detailed with Minoboshi Tarou’s involvement from Konami; not to mention that the characters have unique looks about them, as well. Cities and towns in Japan are represented well in-game, even including maps and little tidbits that help the player understand more about the lay of the land. Playing games like this can help the player gain a deeper appreciation for Japan and what they should visit if they ever do end up going there.
Mini-games to play: There are some word mini-games placed into the game to add a change of pace to the typical visual novel reading. This includes scenarios where you need to yell out the correct shout to someone after breaking through their “wall” protecting the truth in a kind of investigation mode. You collect items throughout the game, as well, to assist in being able to break down their walls in order to find the truth faster. The developers did well with the navigation aspect of getting around, as hints are provided when the player is really stuck; this, of course, isn’t necessarily needed often as the natural flow of the plot points you in the right direction but it is still nice to include.
Odd choice of character personalities: Throughout the game you encounter many people that use to go to high school with Aya that seem very mature and have a serious tone, which completely matches the overall mystery genre. Unfortunately, what Steins;Gate does well by having a mix of crazy and serious characters that blend well isn’t done properly in Root Letter. In fact, a lot of the characters just look plain psychotic and it stands out so much to anyone experienced with anime or Japanese media that it’s forcibly placed in there to get laughs out of the audience but instead it just breaks the tension of a great story.
Poor localization: While the translators at PQube did a well-enough job at localizing the dialogue there are still many editing mistakes found throughout the game. This includes spelling mistakes and usually awkward phrasing of certain sentences that would most likely make sense in the Japanese language but unfortunately not when directly translated. It’s difficult to emulate some of the humor that only applies to those from Japan and also who’re older and more mature there, which is another fault the game has.
For visual novel fanatics out there I’d recommend Root Letter as it has an interesting story that includes mystery and a bit of the paranormal in it. If you can get by some of the bad localization and forced humor when it comes to the funny character placements and just plain weird shouting then the game is educational in terms of teaching you about the Shimane Prefecture in Japan, delivering a heart-felt and interesting story with a twist as well as giving the player a good run around to reach truths and find clues.
Root Letter was developed by Kadokawa Games and published by PQube. It was released for the PlayStation 4 [reviewed] and PlayStation Vita on June 16th, 2016 in Japan, October 28th in Europe, and November 10th in North America. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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