Developer: Regista & Sekai Games
Publisher: Sekai Games
Platforms: Switch, PC (Switch Reviewed)
Code Provided: Yes
Visual Novels are an interesting genre of game, heck many people wouldn’t even consider them games. They are however an extremely important genre in my eyes and Root Double: Before Crime * After Days Xtend Edition is an excellent example of one of the best in the genre being one of my personal favorite visual novels already.
So needless to say when I saw it was coming to Switch I jumped at the opportunity to have a look at how the port would pan out, eager to see if Sekai Games had been able to bring the experience to Nintendo Switch with care and I am pleased to report that they absolutely have. If you’re someone who prefers reading Visual Novels on portable devices and you haven’t read Root Double yet then this is the perfect time to do so.
Now before I continue I would like to put up a quick spoiler warning, not for any major spoilers but if you want to go into this completely blind then it might be best to just pick the game up now and read it. However for everyone else, lets quickly go over a bit of the story.
The Premise and Story of Root Double revolves around telling the stories of two groups of characters, each from their own perspectives and at different points in the overall story timeline. You start off with the After route, looking through the eyes of Watase Kasasagi, a member of a special rescue team sent into the scientific research facility called LABO which is currently in the midst of a nuclear meltdown. Only problem is, Watase can’t remember anything about who he is and LABO is currently in full lockdown so nobody can actually get out.
The After route is one of the highlights of Root Double and kicks things off with a bang, throwing you right into the action and just not slowing down. Route After is an incredibly good story hook with a great pace and lots of bad endings so you’re constantly kept on your toes while reading as Watase and the rest of the group explore the LABO facilities trying to find a way to get out.
Speaking of these bad endings, one of Root Double’s unique mechanics is how it handles its choice system. Instead of using a traditional choice system, Root Double uses something called the Senses Sympathy System. Essentially this lets you choose how much you relate to or trust each character in a particular scene at any given time and this directly influences the choices that Watase will take.
It takes a bit of getting used to but the game thankfully provides a simple tutorial for new readers and once you’ve done a few yourself you’ll be zipping through like a pro. It’s a unique system but it’s absolutely one of the games stronger points.
The second route, Route Before, takes place before the incidents in the LABO facility and mostly takes place outside of said facility through the eyes of Natsuhiko Tenkawa, a high school student at the local school.
In stark contrast to Route After, Route Before is a significantly slower burn and does end up feeling a bit whiplashy after the constant pedal to the metal that Route After had, something I know which has made people drop the game before. On the flip side of this however, Route Before is where Takumi Nakazawa’s excellent character writing takes centre stage, helping build up the cast extremely well, with a personal favourite character of mine being Louise, an exchange student to Natsuhiko’s school who has a lot of trouble with emotions and goes through a particular character arc throughout the course of the story which I personally as someone on the autism spectrum could really relate to.
Route Before also has an incredible plot twist hidden in at the end which still stands as one of my favourite plot twists in fiction to this day, a real testament to the sheer quality of the writing. While it might start slow, Route Before’s payoff is most certainly worth it if you can stick it out.
There is two more routes unlocked after completing Routes A and B but because I don’t want this review to be incredibly spoilery I’ll be avoiding talking about those outside of saying that they contain some of the highlights of the game in terms of its writing and pacing and make for an experience you absolutely will not want to put down.
On the topic of the actual port to Nintendo Switch, it’s very good. I have to give extra props to Sekai Games for going out of the way to implement touchscreen support into the game so that you can advance text just by tapping on the touchscreen. I’ve seen many Switch ports which tend to just not even bother with touchscreen support so it’s always nice to see it added.
The game performs excellently as you’d expect and it looks super crisp running in handheld mode due to the assets of the original PC version of Root Double being in 720p which matches the resolution of the Switch’s screen. If you’re super keen on having your visual novels in a form that can be read while out and about then this Switch port of Root Double is absolutely the way to go.
On the topic of art and presentation, Root Double’s art is quite nice, with distinct backgrounds and unique and memorable character designs with good character art to match, which also happens to be fully lipsynced with the full Japanese voice track. The Soundtrack however, while serviceable, isn’t exactly anything to write home about, although the second opening theme is by far the standout for me.
Also worth praise is the extremely high quality translation from the team as Lemnisca which is one of the best translations and localizations I have seen in a while and makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable.
Overall, if you’re somebody who even remotely considers yourself a fan of Visual Novels and you haven’t read Root Double yet then you absolutely should do yourself a favour and pick it up, either on Nintendo Switch or on Steam if you prefer to read it on PC. No matter which platform you choose though you’ll be getting an incredible Sci-Fi Mystery Thriller romp featuring some of the best character writing I’ve seen in a visual novel that will keep you glued to the screen for the 50 hour run time. You really can’t go wrong with this one.