It’s not too often we get visual novels that try to break out of the mold with unique ways of storytelling or gameplay mechanics. I mean, the storytelling is the biggest aspect in any visual novel, but when visual novel developers also try to find different ways of using gameplay mechanics with the story — it’s very much appreciated. Root Double -Before Crime * After Days- Xtend Edition does achieve that by bringing different, unconventional methods into the medium with its Senses Sympathy System and intertwining story chapters. And there are a lot of those chapters!
Great Premise and Story, but…
On the surface, Root Double -Before Crime * After Days looks like a very straight-forward game, but in actuality, it is not. The story seems simple at the beginning with the core story being centered around the characters and how they are all related to the nuclear research facility known as “LABO.” The way the story chapters intertwine with the facility and characters is quite exhilarating because they all have a story and secret behind them — and when the story pieces them together, it’s pretty remarkable. Sadly it is ultimately set back by inconsistent story pacing and unnecessary long story sequences.
A key component as to how the story achieves this is by sectioning off different chapters from different points of view. You are given the option of starting off with root A or root B. The first from the eyes of protagonist Watase Kasasagi — the rescue squad captain suffering from amnesia with a clear goal of saving the trapped victims inside the facility and the second from the eyes of the other protagonist Natsuhiko Tenkawa — a regular high school student that is just trying to lead a normal and peaceful life, but is then pulled into chaos due to unforeseen circumstances. As you progress through the story, everything is slowly starting to piece together by how these characters intertwine and connect — and it does tell the story in a pretty interesting way, but a major problem of the game is how the story hastily changes in tone and storytelling for all its other chapters.
Different Intertwining Chapters
Watase Kasasagi’s route, or otherwise known as root A — which is the route I experienced first — starts off exhilarating and offers a heart-pumping mysterious adventure that it keeps up throughout. This segment of the chapter, I thoroughly enjoyed. The story constantly builds up suspense and keeps you on your feet throughout. This made me want to keep on playing and see through the end, but once you finish that story chapter and continue with root B, Natsuhiko Tenkawa route — the stories tone and structure changes dramatically to a very slow, long, and mundane chapter riddled with unnecessary slice-of-life sequences and constant backtracking.
Now, keep in mind that Tenkawa’s chapter is a very important part of the story that slowly introduces everything that is happening in the world and how everything suddenly came to be. That isn’t to say that the way the story integrates everything and builds the backstory is impressive. It was with its storytelling, but that’s only if you can power through its unnecessarily long classroom story sections filled with technical science jargon and slice-of-life school sections. They feel like they take up almost half of root B’s story alone. As I was powering through this, I felt like the story could have gotten to the point in so many ways, saving a lot of time for the player. When you start feeling like you just want to get over the story, you know the story is dragging on for way too long — which root B does a lot.
Something that you have to keep in mind also is that the whole game is long — very long. Just when you think you are done, the game throws in even more root chapters which also suffers from unnecessary long story structures. During these other chapters, there are great sequences which I thought were exciting. They make use of the world and how everything ties together by introducing new problems, mysteries, and uncertainty with what’s going on. That said, they still suffer from the same problem of dragging on for way too long.
The Heavily Advertised Feature — Senses Sympathy System
Another big component of the game that needs to be brought up is its Senses Sympathy System. The game actually heavily advertises this feature, trying to break away from the conventional “pick your choice” mechanic. It’s ingrained heavily in this game. The senses sympathy is a pretty interesting mechanic I should say. The way it works is you pick based on how you are feeling towards a certain character. Essentially, if you slide the bar towards the left, it means you are not feeling great towards the person, but if you slide it right, you are impressed or feeling great.
As you make these choices, it determines how the story will turn out. You will either face death or come out with an ideal situation in the end. For an unconventional mechanic, it fits quite well into the game with how it also intertwines with the story. Unfortunately, I feel it doesn’t always work well. During some story sequences, you have to make a choice about how you feel, but when you think it’s the correct feeling, you may ultimately be faced with death. It slowly starts turning less into making choices based on how you feel and more of just going back to your saves and choosing the right choice in order to progress. The mechanic has a great vision and it’s a really interesting idea — it’s just poorly executed.
This doesn’t mean all of this makes Root Double -Before Crime * After Days a bad game, there were many great story moments I had throughout the game and enjoyed while unraveling the mystery. The biggest problem it faces is it hastily changes the tone and storytelling is all over the place. It’s filled with unnecessary long story sequences instead of a straight-forward, suspenseful and thrilling story which is what on the surface Root Double -Before Crime * After Days makes out to be. If you are someone who doesn’t want to deal with a super long visual novel that introduces slow science-fiction storytelling into the mix to build its world and characters, then I would not recommend this game at all. On the other hand, if you are someone who enjoys this type of visual novels, I’d say to buy the game and enjoy it for what it is.
ROOT DOUBLE -BEFORE CRIME * AFTER DAYS- XTEND EDITION IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks goes to Sekai Project for a Nintendo Switch review code.
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Ryan only has one goal in mind — to spread the joy of video games. He also loves a variety of games, especially those that have major plot twists. Ryan loves rice and can cook a killer scrambled egg.
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