Root Letter PlayStation 4 Review

Root Letter most certainly deserves your attention if you’re looking for a strong focus on thrills, head-scratchers, and visual style experience.

By RON, Posted 08 Dec 2016

Although visual novels, or Japanese adventure games, are more of a niche genre, they have a demonstrably relevant fan base. Capcom’s Ace Attorney series is one of the major proofs of that, but there are quite several examples of other titles that have captivated fans, both eastern and western. To that extent, Root Letter has found its fan base since its release, despite mixed reviews in some cases and, in others, even unfavourable ones. If you’re looking for a relaxed and lengthy experience with a strong focus on thrills, head-scratchers, and visual style, then Root Letter most certainly deserves your attention.

Root Letter,PlayStation 4,PS Vita,PS4,Review,PQube,Kadokawa Corporation,Screenshot,Gameplay

The game lets you control Takayuki, a young man in his early thirties that goes by the nickname Max. While packing his stuff in order to move out of his house, he discovers an unopened and unmarked letter in his belongings. We learn that Max used to have a pen-pal by the name of Aya Fumino, with whom he exchanged 10 letters before she suddenly stopped writing. This forgotten letter would be Aya’s 11th one, but, instead of the warm and kind-hearted words Max was used to receive from her high school pen-pal, he reads a rather ominous message, a confession of a crime, a murder, and a wish for atonement. Moved and shocked by the 15-year-old letter, Max decides to pause his life so he can discover what happened to his old friend. Upon arrival to the Fumino residence, the young protagonist learns that the house burned down 15 years ago, and that the person he was writing to may not even be who he thought she was. Max now embarks on his own adventure; fuelled by curiosity and intrigue, he starts looking for answers through Aya’s school friends, whose names he doesn’t even know. All he is aware of is their description and their nicknames, oddly and poorly chosen, by the way.

That sets the tone for the plot of this peculiar title. Whilst most games in the genre rely heavily on a romantic arc or romantic themes, or go as far as to include elements of horror and comedy in farfetched scenarios, this games feels down to earth and familiar. To its credit, the visual styling is one of its strongest assets, along with the soundtrack. Even though visual novels make use of static images more than animation itself, the way the Shimane prefecture is depicted, especially the city of Matsue, deserves praise. The thrilling mystery atmosphere combines with the art style and delivers a realistic sense of familiarity. You are not only playing a game, but you are visiting the surroundings of the city and getting to know its people. However, that may be the only true meaningful element in the game. Despite the strong opening and hooking premise, the plot and big reveals feel underwhelming, Not only does it not hold up to initial expectations, but it makes you wonder if all your work was actually worth it.

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Gameplay wise, Root Letter does not propose anything new to the genre, and feels like a weird and cringe-worthy hybrid between a visual novel (or a flash game to that matter) and a basic point-and-click game, not the very good ones either, but the ones that would trap you forever on a screen should you make a minor mistake. Along with that is the fact that the game sins of being too forgiving. There is no real penalty in terms of gameplay or story with making judgement mistakes or asking the wrong questions, neither for being so clumsy that you made your witness walk out on you the third time; they always come back and you must start the sequence from the very beginning. Also, included in that is the mini-game max time, a time-based challenge that urges you to choose the best response to shake your counterpart and make him speak, which feels superficial and kind of pointless, because it also lets you start over if mistakes are made.

With five different endings depending on which option you choose to “recall” from the responses you gave Aya in the letters, other variables during gameplay, and a single playthrough surrounding the 10-hour mark, this is not a game for the impatient. It is possible you will not feel compelled to go through the same ordeal for 50 hours or so just to unlock the “true” ending, even with the inclusion of the convenient chapter skip function. Perhaps if the gameplay were stronger or the plot increasingly alluring instead of bleak and fading, one could go through the full experience trying to solve the mystery, but the actual progression of one as a player is exhausting and feels severely unrewarding.

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Nevertheless, the game does offer something for Nipponophiles and fans of the genre. People used to this kind of pacing might find refreshing a story like this one, one that feels even mature compared to similar games, and that invites the player within the plot so they can be part of the mystery solving process. It may feel, at times, as if you were reading a book very slowly, and that might just be how some people like it. As it always has been, to everyone his own. Maybe the narrative elements within the game are alluring to some people, while others might find the story fascinating and satisfying, and that may be reason enough not to let this one pass. However, if you are not that patient or just don’t feel like this game belongs in your collection, you might want to skip and keep looking for that feel somewhere else.

Sarwar Ron, NoobFeed
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General Information

Root Letter


Platform(s): PS4, Vita
Publisher(s): PQube, Kadokawa Corporation
Developer(s): Kadokawa Corporation
Genres: Puzzle
Themes: Visual Novel, Adventure
Release Date: 2016-11-08

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