Monday, December 14, 2020

Root Double -Before Crime * After Days Xtend Edition (Switch) Review

Early in the morning, explosions rip through the lower levels of a research facility.   The safety measures fail to activate, leaving people stranded.  A special rescue squad is mobilized to get those people out.   However, the rescue leader has a different goal, and heads off to execute it.   He is soon struck with amnesia-like symptoms, leaving him, and us, to discover the truth of the incident.

In Root Double, first the player is presented with two story choices, "Before" the incident and "After".   Now you know where the game's subtitle comes from. Each choice has a separate main character, but all the important characters are shared between these two points of view.   Everyone's name was set, with no ability to change it.  The way the story is told is unique for a visual novel, and more importantly, interesting.

I decided to start with the "After" story, since it had more endings to achieve, and I had a feeling the "Before" story might spoil something important.  It took about six hours to complete, with some of that time devoted to replaying parts to get the "good" ending.  The story was compelling.  This route doesn't "end" per se, but was interesting enough to keep me engaged for the next ones.  Hints were given, and mysteries remained to be solved.

Upon completing the "Before" chapter, I was glad I played "After" first.  There are some revelations that would definitely change how I perceived certain events. Supposedly, there are changes to "After" if played after completing "Before".  Reaching the good ending for both stories unlocked a third route. Completing that route unlocked the final route, which brought the story to its conclusion.  While this is a more linear approach than most visual novels, it was a refreshing take with a longer and more involved story.  It's also good that the story logically permits different points of view for important scenes.  It's really well done. Most of the twists are logical and fit in the world presented.  The only weakness was that the latter half, namely the final two routes, can be very exposition heavy.  There's a lot of stuff to explain.  For better or worse, those explanations can't be done any earlier, either.

Another difference in features that Root Double showcased was the Senses Sympathy System.  Instead of making choices in various places, a circular chart appeared in the upper right part of the screen.  Clicking it would bring the chart up front and center.  It would then display any applicable characters, along with how positively the main character felt about them.  There was even a value for the main characters, so you know how much they trust themselves.  Changing these values determined the direction the dialogue and actions went.  There are three colors: blue, yellow and red.  Blue usually won't drastically change what is goes on, but seemed to have minor dialogue differences.  Yellow was more serious, and can either lead to, or avoid red scenarios.  Red was the most serious, most rare, and could easily lead to a "Game Over" if you don't have the right amount of trust in the right people.  Sense levels could be changed as much as you wanted each time, but only once each time it appears, and only for the relevant characters.

The system was kind of confusing at first, since the wheel appears much more often than I initially thought it would.  I liked that it could change some dialogue, but it ultimately functions like a "choice" system with a few key differences.  One, most times the levels can be set in advance, not always right when necessary.  Two, I wasn't forced to change the levels any time the chart appeared.  If you keep on reading, the story moves on with the current sense levels.  If you don't like it, reaching the good ending for a route unlocks "answer mode" which functions more like a tradition visual novel system, which is a nice option to have.

"Game Over", usually referred to as a "bad end" in visual novels, felt easy to hit in Root Double.  This was good for completion, if nothing else.  Each also gave a tip on how to avoid it.  Most were pretty obvious, as it just needed a change in the sense levels of the involved characters.  Although the tip for getting the "After" normal ending felt generic enough to not be helpful in avoiding it without significant backtracking.  Thankfully there are plenty of save slots, so use as many as you think you may need.  There wasn't a route map or anything like that, but the story layout and direction don't really need it.  Plus the skip function is really fast.

Overall, Root Double is another good visual novel that fans will enjoy.  The story is compelling, and the way it is told is unique.  I'm always a fan of multiple perspective stories.  A normal playthrough for all good endings easily runs over twelve hours and is worth doing.  I would definitely recommend the game to visual novel fans.

The Good:
Interesting story and presentation.

The Bad:
Routes are not self contained, latter half is exposition heavy.

The SaHD:
While coincidental, it's funny that the racist villains are referred to as "Q".

(Root Double -Before Crime * After Days Xtend Edition review code provided by the publisher)