Overview – developed by Yeti and Regista with publishing covered by Sekai Games, Root Double -Before Crime * After Days- Xtend Edition is a visual novel where player choice is handled through feeling. Experience the narrative before and after a catastrophic event, with multiple endings to discover and branching paths to explore. This experience is available for Nintendo Switch and Steam Service, if you want to check this out for yourself, links to the game will be available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Root Double -Before Crime * After Days- Xtend Edition used for this coverage. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story. I will be calling this title Root Double for brevity and most story details are taken from the Nintendo eShop to prevent significant spoilers.
Story – The year is 2030. Business is as usual in the isolated research city of Rokumei that is until several explosions suddenly go off in the nuclear research facility known as “LABO.” The city sends in “Sirius,” an elite rescue squad, to deal with the situation. But the situation only gets worse when LABO’s nuclear reactor melts down, with members of Sirius and survivors still trapped inside.
With radiation leaking everywhere and not enough anti-radiation medication to last until lockdown lifts, the survivors of the catastrophe make more grin discoveries in a deathtrap full of fire and radiation. In their struggle for survival, they learn that doubt is their greatest enemy, and trust their greatest asset if they want to make it out of LABO alive.
Gameplay – Root Double follows the traditional visual novel structure for the most part, with the story delivered through dialogue and images for key points of the narrative. In this release, there are two storylines that can be chosen from at the beginning of the game. The two stories have multiple endings to unlock, with additional extras that can be obtained during play.
The story of Root double features two protagonists, with their stories taking place at opposite points of the LABO disaster. The first is Watase Kasasagi, protagonist of Root After and captain of the Sirius rescue squad who is suffering from amnesia in the hours after the incident. Second is Natsuhiko Tenkawa, the lead of Root Before and a student collecting clues in the days before the disaster occurs.
In Root Double, the way the story progresses is with a unique system called the Senses Sympathy System, a feature that alters the direction of the narrative through emotions. Using the SSS mechanic, the player can decide how they feel about the characters (including yourself) by increasing or decreasing a meter attached to their name. shaping the way that events unfold at key points during the experience.
There are three types of SSS events that occur at set points during the game, these moments are called Divergence Points (also known as branches) and can have a major influence on the story. The events are the only way that you can alter your senses, with a symbol called an Enneagram that will appear on screen. However, the symbol won’t last long so time can be a crucial factor at these points.
The three types of Divergence Points are denoted by color and are as follows;
- Blue – this is an event where the player may be able to influence that target character, altering the overall impression they have. A blue branch is generally of lower importance and may not impact the narrative to a great extent, however neglecting these branches may cause dire consequences.
- Yellow – here the player has a higher chance to influence their target, altering their impression to a greater degree. A yellow branch is more important than a blue branch in general, having a greater impact on the progression of the story. These points signal a big change that doesn’t pose an immediate risk to the player, but can imply a much more dangerous situation is approaching.
- Red – this color signifies grave danger and is the most important branch that occurs. If a poor choice is made during these branches, death will occur and cause a game over for the player leading to a bad ending. Pay attention to the other branch colors as they can lead to a red branch and potential death if great care isn’t taken during the story.
The choices taken will influence the ending that they player will achieve, with multiple endings spread across the two storylines the decisions that are made have the potential to lead to different outcomes.
Now I feel that I have covered the gameplay to an extent that prevents spoilers, so I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – the controls are very simple, using the A button and touch screen to advance the plot. The menus are easy to navigate and the SSS/Enneagram is fairly streamlined, using the left side of the controller to modify the sense meters. The game handles well using both the Joy-Cons and pro controller, but I will say that the best way to enjoy the experience is via touch screen where possible.
Presentation – the visual style of Root Double is stunning, with pleasing character designs and beautiful artwork for key scenes. The overall look and appearance of the experience works well, with character designs and backdrops that effectively pull the player into the story. The text is readable with good clarity in both docked and handheld mode, providing an enjoyable read however you want to experience it.
The soundtrack and overall sound design is immersive, adding to the way that the story plays out. The game features a variety of music tracks that fit the overall tone of each scene, with tense compositions that contrast with the laid back melodies present. The voiced dialogue is entirely in Japanese, with outstanding performances from Megumi Toyoguchi (Kingdom Hearts) and Kei Shindo (My Hero Academia).
Final Thoughts – I have enjoyed visual novels in the past, with each story following the traditional narrative structure where the direction is dictated through simple choices. The experience of Root Double was a refreshing change of pace, giving the feeling that I had more of an impact on the way that the story unfolded. The SSS system is intuitive and has greater immersion than most other VN releases.
The content on offer from this title, along with the quality of the storytelling makes it easy for me to recommend Root Double to fans of the visual novel genre. I found that the story was paced well with a good balance between action and suspense. I have nothing negative to say about the experience from a personal position, however I feel that the slow build of the story may be off-putting for some.
In the end, I give Root Double -Before Crime * After Days- Xtend Edition a final score of 4.5/5. This is a well-crafted story that blends action and suspense in a balanced way, featuring beautiful artwork and a unique branch system that offers more immersive control of the story to the player. If you want to check this title out for yourself, links to the game will be available below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to Steam version (HERE)