The Science Adventure series of visual novels by Chiyomaru Studio, MAGES. and Nitroplus are defining titles of the genre, and ANONYMOUS;CODE is among one of the best in this intriguing universe. In ANONYMOUS;CODE, players enter a futuristic and familiar world where VR and AR technologies define how people see the world. The setting is a stark contrast from last year’s CHAOS;HEAD NOAH / CHAOS;CHILD Double Pack. However, this game maintains the narrative elements, atmospheric soundtrack, brilliant characters, and the unique artwork that Science Adventure is known for.
Like the CHAOS;, ROBOTICS;, and STEINS; sub-series before it, ANONYMOUS;CODE beautifully blends the wonders of reality and science fiction. ANONYMOUS;CODE also combines its visual novel presentation with stunning pseudo-3D CGs and colorful panels reminiscent of comic books. Additionally, the western release by Spike Chunsoft brings stellar English dub that immerses players in the setting even further. The emotional and captivating tale of ANONYMOUS;CODE is one that I’ll remember for a very long time.
ANONYMOUS;CODE – Boy Meets Girl in A Doomed World
ANONYMOUS;CODE offers a compelling premise from the very start as players are quickly introduced to a bright young hacker of a protagonist: Pollon Takaoka. In November 2037, Pollon races through a VR-enhanced Nakano City as the authorities give chase. Pollon is accompanied by Momo Aizaki, a strange girl he just met who’s determined to save the world. Eventually, special forces soldier Graham Kingly catches up to them and demands that Pollon hands over Momo. Fortunately, Pollon is able to predict the future and quickly plan out his next move. He takes a big leap with Momo and receives aid from a man named Oz, who is also surprised to hear that Pollon somehow knows him already. As the group escapes, Pollon wonders why he’s even in this situation to begin with as the strong opening to ANONYMOUS;CODE concludes.
After the introductory sequence, I was left many questions about Pollon’s circumstances. Fortunately, ANONYMOUS;CODE knows how to answer some questions rather quickly as Pollon and his hacker companion, Cross Yumikawa, prepare for an assignment at a nearby VR maid café. Pollon and Cross work as Nakano Symphonies, a duo of anonymous hackers that help those in need and attempt to uproot certain injustices in Japan’s futuristic society. They’re aided by Wind Maki, a fellow teenager and hacker afficionado with a AI for a girlfriend. Shortly after completing the assignment and lying about having a girlfriend named Momo Aizaki, the actual girl with that same name suddenly appears in front of everyone and takes Pollon with her. Momo is determined to save the world by thwarts the Vatican’s plans in Japan, but the work of infamous hacker Cicada 3301 seemingly throws a wrench into everyone’s goals.
Hacking Overcomes the Odds
The “Trigger” mechanic from previous Science Adventure titles returns as the Hacking Trigger in ANONYMOUS;CODE. Pollon is able to use the Hacking Trigger to “Save” and “Load” certain instances in time. If Pollon makes a major mistake somewhere, he may pursue another outcome by loading and returning to a previous save point. However, the player must be careful since returning to a prior point in time may actually bring adverse effects, leading to one of the bad endings. Overall, this mechanic works quite well within the game’s narrative while keeping the player alert during intense situations. For those who played STEINS;GATE, Pollon’s antics should already sound very familiar. As the story progresses, Pollon will also make his own saves that the player is unable to change. These mandatory saves are a good way of tracking progress during Cicada’s quests.
Aside from the Hacking Trigger, Pollon is an incredibly skilled hacker who is supported by Cross and other allies in Nakano. The game’s major story arcs center around a specific “quest” sent out by Cicada 3301 involving hacks and exploits that seem impossible on the surface. The Hacking Trigger comes into play when Pollon is unable to reach a goal through normal hacking means. In many instances, a simple change after returning to a save point may be all that Pollon needs to progress further in the hacking quest. Hacking can achieve extraordinary feats in ANONYMOUS;CODE, and the game regularly highlights this as the narrative presents more questions.
Signature Science Adventure
Pollon and Momo’s relationship develops beautifully as the story of ANONYMOUS;CODE progresses. The cast of characters in ANONYMOUS:CODE is unique and notable, ranging from the hard-boiled and cynical Ozutani to the enthusiastic and law-abiding Cyber Force Dolls. ANONYMOUS;CODE presents an incredible story that kept me engaged and immersed while presenting themes and tough subjects that relate to the real world. Moreover, the game’s English dub is incredible with some of the most emotionally driven performances I’ve heard in quite a while. The soundtrack led by returning composer Takeshi Abo is brilliant, and the stunning main theme “GAME OVER” by Kanako Ito makes me reminisce about the many hours I spent catching up with Science Adventure series up to this point.
Additionally, the localization is a major improvement from CHAOS;HEAD NOAH / CHAOS;CHILD Double Pack last year, so I’m extremely pleased with the experience from start to finish. A few minor text issues appear to be present in the 1.0 release, but I didn’t encounter any that were noticeable during my playthrough on Nintendo Switch. The manga-like artwork and CGs look incredible in docked and handheld mode, too. In short, the Nintendo Switch version is in much better shape than CHAOS;HEAD NOAH / CHAOS;CHILD Double Pack was before launch.
ANONYMOUS;CODE is 2023’s Must-Buy Visual Novel
From start to finish, ANONYMOUS;CODE took roughly 25 hours or so to complete. This includes reaching some of the bad endings, the normal ending, and the true ending. The story does not have multiple dedicated routes like some of the prior entries in the series, but players are still required to make some precise choices in one of the last chapters in order to reach that true ending. Personally, I really appreciate the game’s approach toward reaching this ending because it fits the narrative perfectly. Once more, the game provides clues that will help Pollon reach the best conclusion.
Finally, ANONYMOUS;CODE is a fantastic visual novel with a well-written story that resonates profoundly, a wonderful cast of characters, and incredible artwork. This is a must-buy for Science Adventure fans needing their next visual novel, and I think newcomers will have a great time as well. The localization, presentation, lore, and music are on point, creating a complete and near-flawless package. I eagerly anticipated this title for nearly six years, and I can confidently say the wait was worth it. ANONYMOUS;CODE is one of the best games of the year, and I can’t recommend it enough. The developers, including MAGES. and Chiyomaru Studio, all wrote, composed, illustrated, and delivered a very special title.
ANONYMOUS;CODE launches on September 8 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam.
Disclaimer: Spike Chunsoft provided Final Weapon with a Nintendo Switch copy of ANONYMOUS;CODE for review purposes.