Root: Film – NS REVIEW

The rooftop of a skyscraper, the blood red sky, a young woman, ready to jump. This fateful night of 10 years ago will play a major role in the life of Max Yagumo (real name Rintaro Yagumo), up and coming movie director recently the winner of an Asian film contest. Max and other two directors have been invited to revive a movie project interrupted exactly 10 years ago due to tragic events. It’s up to Max and his assistant Aine Magari to solve the mystery behind this project, discover what happened 10 years ago and put an end to the curse that keeps taking lives to this day.

The death that, 10 years ago, changed and is changing many people’s lives.

These are the premises of Root: Film, new entry in the Root series, by the masters of interactive visual novels: Kadokawa Games. 
Sequel to the previous game Root: Letter, the only thing the two share are the name and the location: the prefecture of Shimane. The location is wildly represented in the game, through real pictures that have been touched up in order to give them an artistic water colour look. The game is visually stunning. The menu design is slick and stylish, very reminiscent of classics like the Persona series. The story introduces us to tens of characters, given life by Taro Minoboshi, who’s curated the fantastic art direction and character design. It’s not unusual to grow attached to many of them and some are definitely destined to leave a mark. 
Just as delightful is the music selection, comprising of remixes from the previous game and new pieces. The game is fully voiced (Japanese only) and the voice actors have done a masterful job giving life to memorable characters.

Yagumo’s assistant, Magari, is’nt always nice to him, but trust when we say she cares a big deal.

Root: film takes itself a lot less seriously, compared to the previous entry in the series. We are often catapulted into situations and scenarios that could easily fit in any bonkers anime we have watched in our life. This doesn’t mean the story is devoid of dramatic moments: I shed many a tear while playing, engrossed in the events on screen. 
I can’t say much about this game without spoiling its many beautiful plot twists, so forgive me if I’m being generic. 

The events can take a very emotional turn at times.

Root: Film is probably the most interactive of the visual novels I’ve ever played. It takes what the previous game did and streamlines it, taking away the most tedious aspects and refining them to give the player the most accessible and involving experience it can. My main criticism about Root: Letter was how linear and rote the whole experience felt, regardless of the multiple endings. Root: Film fixes that, by offering different locations branching our story in different directions. Every location gives multiple characters to talk to and progresses a different branch of the current storyline, every branch ultimately culminates in a final event that signs the end of the chapter in progress. This is a good approach to keep a linear path but still not patronising the player with the insult of being held by hand the whole time. I personally had lots of fun trying to guess where the story would go and felt extremely rewarded when I found myself right. Or surprised if I was wrong. 

The mysteries to solve will often cross path with gruesome and tragic deaths.

Our main objective is solving the mystery behind the many deaths Max Yagumo meets on his path. We can do so by collecting clues and testimonies from either our camera footage (always rolling) or witnesses and locations we explore, easily accessible on our map by holding the button A for a second. I found this extremely helpful: way too many times in other games of the genre have I mis-clicked something, having to read the same dialogues over and over again, this solution prevents that. 

We can gather clues by investigating interest points or interrogating people.

Our protagonist (protagonists? I’ve already said too much) is affected by a real life condition called synesthesia: those affected by it perceive the human senses on a totally different level. You could be hearing colours or tasting emotions, in example. In the case of Yagumo, he can see important information as words forming in front of his eyes. Whenever our synesthesia activates we can readily press X to record that particular clue. Once collected enough clues, we will confront the suspects, usually by inviting them all to our deposition (a method reminding of timeless classics from author Agatha Christie) where Yagumo will enter: Max Mode.

Our synesthesia will come in handy many a time.

This is the most interactive phase of the game: Yagumo will explain his logic and the suspects will try to disprove it. This is where our synesthesia kicks in again, showing us the clues we have collected. It’s up to the player to choose the correct ones to corner the suspect, in a not dissimilar fashion the Ace: Attorney saga does. Not a single time was I bored during a Max Mode, they can be extremely chaotic and always made me feel epic while cracking my opponent’s line of defence.

You will feel like a beast, using your synesthesia and your clues to uncover your opponent’s lies.

This is the true power of Root: Letter.
The quality of the story and its many plot twists are what makes it special. Countless times I shouted at the screen “WHAT?!” and was left shocked while blankly staring at the new truth revealed. It was a bitter moment when I reached the conclusion of this incredible adventure. I miss Max Yagumo, I miss his assistants Kanade and Magari, I miss Shimane. This is sign of a masterpiece that’s bound to leave countless memories in our life.
The only criticism I feel to move is the game’s text contains quite a lot of typos and grammar incongruences. I personally counted nearly 50 in my playtime alone and I’m sure more have escaped my attention. Nothing a patch can’t fix in the future, but it can ruin the immersion a fair amount.
If you’re a fan of the Interactive Visual Novel genre, I can’t recommend this game enough. I am looking forward to the future works Kadokawa Games is bound to bring on our screens

Root: Film review code was kindly provided by publisher Pqube. The game can be purchased physically or from the e-shop for £34.99, it’s currently discounted 20% at £27.99, until: 01/04/2021.

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