Also available on PlayStation Vita and Windows
I've got a soft spot for visual novels. Being a gamer concerned first and foremost with story and character development, this is a genre towards which I would naturally gravitate. Visual novels are, by their nature, entirely story and character development with very little actual "gameplay" outside of dialogue options and maybe investigating certain parts of the environment. Root Letter, however, takes the strengths of visual novels and turns them up to 11. I originally played this as just a "kill a couple days until the Nintendo Switch comes out" game, but I was sucked in within the first fifteen minutes, and that game never let go.
The story revolves around the main character - Max - and his search for a pen pal named Aya with whom he exchanged letters while in high school 15 years prior. When he decides that he wants to reconnect with her, all he has is her address, so he hops on a train and tries to find her only to discover that the house had burnt down, a fire which claimed a life. That life, however, was not Aya's but her mother's. Aya, as it turns out, had been dead for ten years before he and his pen pal started their correspondence. Who was his pen pal if Aya was dead? Where is she now? Why will no one talk about his pen pal? What on the surface looks like a pretty standard mystery story quickly develops into a truly god-tier visual novel experience.
There are ten chapters in the game, and each chapter revolves around Max's rereading a different letter from Aya and the search for her former classmates in hopes of finding clues as to her identity and whereabouts. The individual pieces of the puzzle aren't extraordinarily difficult to put together on your own, but there is a "Think" option in the action menu that will give you a hint if you get stuck. Sometimes the game requires you to use this option in order to proceed, and sometimes it's just helpful when you might have overlooked something obvious (admit it, we all do it from time to time), so don't be afraid to select that. The characters are all brilliantly developed throughout the story, and by the end, you really feel like you know their personalities as well as if they were real people.
Because I don't want to spoil this brilliant story, and there's not much to say about a visual novel aside from the story, this is going to stay brief, but I do want to comment on the visual style. The art design in this game is fantastic, adopting a psuedo-realistic design that keeps characters looking entertaining in a cartoonish fashion without losing the serious tone of the narrative. The landscapes are equally beautifully drawn, giving a gorgeous backdrop to the unfolding story. Speaking of the story, you don't get the whole story when you finish your first playthrough. There are, if memory serves, a total of five endings, each giving another piece of the story that wasn't revealed through the previous ending. What ending you get naturally depends on the dialogue choices that you make throughout the game, and each ending that you see unlocks additional dialogue choices to access yet more endings.
If you're a fan of visual novels or mystery stories, you absolutely have to play Root Letter. It's available on both Playstation 4 (the version I played) as well as Playstation Vita. The story's depth continuously increases, making you even more interested and hooked than you were in the previous chapter. If you don't live visual novels, then this probably won't entertain you, but if you are a fan of the genre or have been wanting to give it a try, then I definitely recommend this in the highest way possible.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.