Adventure Review Visual Novel

Anonymous;Code – Review | Hack The Future

The Science Adventure series is visual novel royalty, spawning highly regarded entries like Chaos;Head and Chaos;Child, as well as the phenomenon that is Steins;Gate. With several years since the last mainline series release (even longer since the last one available in English), Science Adventure fans, myself included, have been eagerly awaiting ANONYMOUS;CODE. There’s plenty to dig into, and to please longtime fans I imagine, but ANONYMOUS;CODE also surprised me in the ways it felt different from my earlier Science Adventure experiences.


Anons With Bright Futures

ANONYMOUS;CODE follows the story of 16-year-old Pollon Takaoka of Nakano Symphonies, a self-proclaimed “group of anons with bright futures who can’t stand idly by when someone’s in need”. On their own after a disaster known as the Sad Morning ravaged Tokyo, Pollon and his pal Cross support themselves as hackers for hire. When a prank gone wrong leads to Pollon waiting to elope with his non-existent “fiance”, he’s shocked to find a girl actually shows up. But in the wake of this girl, who calls herself Momo, come heavily armed soldiers who aren’t there to mess around. What has Pollon gotten himself into? Still, when someone’s in need…

Pollon and Momo soon find themselves on the run from the law, and they do about as well as you’d expect from a pair of rash teenagers with no plan, at least at first. During the escape, Pollon discovers an app that allows him to “save” and “load” the world. With this new power, he can go back and try again, just like in a video game. But where did this strange ability come from, and who is Momo really? Pollon quickly finds himself swept up in a far-reaching mystery involving an anonymous superhacker who goes by Cicada 3301 and shadowy agents of the Vatican.

Technological Thrill Ride

Compared to earlier Science Adventure games like Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate that told character-driven stories, ANONYMOUS;CODE leans more heavily into adventure. You’re thrown immediately into a chase scene, and the action rarely lets up. You won’t want it to though, as ANONYMOUS;CODE has some of the hypest action sequences you’ll find in a visual novel. There’s tons of variety–from chases to fight scenes to racing against the clock to solve Cicada 3301’s “Quests”–and the pacing is excellent throughout, taking just enough time to build the tension before sending the roller coaster careening down the tracks. The presentation takes it all over the top, with climactic scenes unfolding panel by panel, manga style, backed by driving beats and dynamic visual effects.

For Pollon to make it through in one piece, he’ll have to use his ability, and that’s where you come in. Pressing the hacking trigger (ZL/ZR on Switch) at key moments prompts Pollon to load, pulling him out of a sticky situation and arming him with the knowledge of how, next time, he can change the future. I’m a sucker for mechanics that tie in with the story, so I found the hacking trigger delightfully immersive. There’s even a satisfying in-game explanation of both Pollon’s power and the player’s role in it. This mechanic was not simply tacked on for the cool factor. It’s clear a lot of thought went into making it a key part of the story.

The one downside of the hacking trigger is that, as is tradition for Science Adventure choice mechanics, it can be arcane. The exact window in which you need to prompt Pollon was sometimes hard to gauge, and I found myself either mashing ZR nonstop or else needing to reload after I realized I’d gone a frame or two too far. If you do mess up, the bad endings include hints about what you were supposed to do, which is a nice feature. However, there are a couple times near the end of the game where you have to do something wildly different than anything ANONYMOUS;CODE has asked you to do before to advance the story. I suspect that even with the hints, many players will struggle to figure these out on their own.

A Blur Of Faces

The Science Adventure games are known for their outstanding characters, and it’s here ANONYMOUS;CODE falls short. Pollon’s not the most interesting character concept–he’s your typical shounen protagonist–but at least he’s done well. You get a good view into his mind, and he has a clear arc where he has to learn to balance his rash idealism with the wisdom to know when to bide his time and listen to others, without losing the spark that makes him Pollon. Momo gets a lot of screen time too and has some strong moments but too often feels like she’s in Pollon’s shadow. Other characters, even key members of Pollon’s inner circle like his partner Cross and his friend Windy, exist more to do things than to be someone. One side character’s sole purpose is to name-drop famous scientists and infodump exposition.

Part of the issue is that ANONYMOUS;CODE has a huge cast and there isn’t enough time to do it justice. A few of the side characters like girl gadgeteer Hosho Nonoka and cybersecurity idol Kurashina Bambi stand out for the sheer energy they bring to their scenes. But with side characters primarily used to advance the action, any given character is apt to drop out of the story for long stretches and thus rarely gets the momentum to grow or evolve. Not every character needs to be deep of course. It’s fine to have some throwaways. But I’d have liked it if there were more substance here.

As great as the action is, I do wonder if ANONYMOUS;CODE might have benefited from slowing down a little every now and then to give the characters space to reflect on their actions, relationships, and shared journey. Long stretches of slice of life would kill the momentum that makes ANONYMOUS;CODE so exciting so I’m not suggesting that, just a quick breather every now and again. As it is, characters seem unfazed by things like their friends almost dying, and there’s just enough time for everyone to toss out a one-liner before it’s on to the next piece of the action.


Straight To The Heart

ANONYMOUS;CODE feels younger and less mature than earlier Science Adventure entries. From the themes, to the characters, to the resolutions, everything is simpler and more straightforward. Pollon has a bit of teenage cringe (his reaction to anything surprising is either “Damn!” or Holy Shit!”), but he’s a good guy and cool hero who’s easy to root for, compared to the flawed leads in Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate. Characters solve problems, including some with potentially complex philosophical implications, using straightforward ideas like believing in their ideals and not giving up.

It also doesn’t help that ANONYMOUS;CODE is stuffed to the brim with anime clichés. Child geniuses, policewomen who moonlight as idols, Christian mythological mumbo-jumbo, those, and more, are all here. It gives things that vibe that you only really get from anime and adjacent media, but it can also be slightly ridiculous. This is particularly true later in the story when progressively wilder events strain the sometimes eyebrow-raising explanations of a series that aims to be “99% science and 1% fantasy”, but in the end ANONYMOUS;CODE manages to hold it all together.

Despite what I just wrote, there are moments when ANONYMOUS;CODE is surprisingly thoughtful about the implications of Pollon’s powers and choices. Particularly in the final chapter, the story becomes more introspective, posing questions that both I and Pollon had swept aside while we were caught up in the thrills. On one hand, I kind of wished ANONYMOUS;CODE could have ended on a big blowout action sequence since it does those so well. But on the other hand, the way things are written adds some much needed weight to Pollon’s journey and provides what might otherwise be an underwhelming true ending with some emotional impact.


Highlight Reel

While I’ve focused on ANONYMOUS;CODE’s narrative thus far, I don’t want to shortchange the presentation because it’s outstanding across the board. The character designs are vibrant and detailed, infusing even the lowliest of side characters with visual flair. To add to the energy, ANONYMOUS;CODE is constantly in motion. The manga-style scenes are the highlight, as I mentioned, but you’ll also see shifts to a dynamic first person view when Pollon rides his graper (futuristic moped), and animated sprites throughout the entirety of the experience. There’s none of that marionette-like awkwardness you sometimes see in other animated visual novels either. It’s a smooth, technically polished experience and the closest I’ve seen a visual novel come to feeling like interactive anime.

ANONYMOUS;CODE is novel in providing both Japanese and English voice acting. I split my playtime about 50/50 and honestly enjoyed both. I imagine the Japanese voicing will be an easy choice for many visual novel veterans, but the English cast does a solid job. In particular, I thought Max Mittelman’s performance as Pollon brought the right mix of youthful energy, cockiness, and insecurity to the character. The soundtrack hits too, mixing driving numbers to up the intensity of the action scenes with ethereal soundscapes to set the backdrop for mysterious machinations, all drawn from a palette heavy on electronica that nicely complements ANONYMOUS;CODE’s cyberpunk vibe and setting.

There’s an impressive suite of customization choices and extras, including individual sliders for every source of sound and the option to have the text scrawl match the pace of the voicing. The in-game menu features a TIPS list that serves as an encyclopedia of terms and jargon, as well as a cellular automaton simulator called “Life Game”. After clearing one of the main endings, the Library becomes accessible from the title screen, allowing you to view CGs and movies and listen to the soundtrack.

ANONYMOUS;CODE - AR Projection Puzzle


ANONYMOUS;CODE lacks the depth and maturity of earlier Science Adventure games but makes up for it with thrilling action and top-notch presentation. While it may not hit the highest of highs, I expect this is one most visual novel fans will enjoy.


Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4

Want to check out more of the Science Adventure series? Maybe Robotics;Notes Elite? If you are looking for another visual novel, you may enjoy Clover Day’s Plus. We have also covered a wide variety of visual novels both original to English and localized from Japanese, which you can check out here.

Thank you to Spike Chunsoft for providing a Nintendo Switch review code for ANONYMOUS;CODE.

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