Developer – Regista
Translator – Lemnisca Translations & Sekai Project
Length – >50 Hours
[Review copy kindly provided by Sekai Project]
[Sekai Project has had no input into the content of this review]
It’s been a long time but I’m finally back in action with a review for one of the largest official translations we’ve seen for a while. Root Double is a massive visual novel written with the aid of the minds behind the critically acclaimed Ever17 which, to be honest, I didn’t like all that much. Despite a slow start that threatened to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, Root Double eventually matures to become a thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing tale featuring a plethora of twists and turns that regularly force you to reconsider earlier events and keep you on your toes…if not quite the edge of your seat.
Rokumei City is a very special place. In the year 2030 it is a haven put aside for the world’s newest scientific phenomenon: Communicators, people with the ability to transmit their thoughts while reading those of others. Naturally, such an advanced city is home to more than just the investigation of the previously paranormal, also playing host to LABO, an extensive underground nuclear research facility. And it is here that both the amnesic rescue worker Watase Kasasagi and communicator schoolboy Natsuhiko Tenkawa find themselves in over their heads. For people will always fear what they cannot understand, and what better target to destroy a community of mind-reading monsters than its very own nuclear reactor?
I was a little worried when I started reading Root Double. As I mentioned earlier I wasn’t a massive fan of Ever17 and at the outset it’s easy to draw a lot of parallels between to two novels (kids stuck in a nuclear reactor versus kids stuck in an underwater amusement park, for one). Thankfully this time around the story undergoes three or four major changes in tone and content during its course which were handled with great care and succeeded in making each portion of the novel more enjoyable than the last, which impressed me considering how jarring such transitions have turned out to be in other titles. That said, I can’t ignore the fact the Root Double takes a very long time to hit its stride, becoming good over average at about the 15 hour mark (for reference, I finished the full story minus extra endings at ~35 hours) and shifting into something great some time before its conclusion.
So where does Root Double hit the right notes? For me it was the puzzle-piece-like structure of plot developments. After the mid-point it seemed like every few scenes I was provided with a new answer to a question I had previously been compelled to ask, or an answer to a question I hadn’t even realised needed to be posed (and that second type of answer was great, because it forced me to re-examine my memory of what I had read to appreciate the implications of each revelation). That said, none of those twists reach the same magnitude as those that have “made” other visual novels for me (Sharin no Kuni, Symphonic Rain), and some were relatively underwhelming, but all of them together work to keep things interesting throughout the second half of the story and succeed in doing so effortlessly. It’s also worth noting that the pseudoscience behind communicators and their abilities is explored in detail at points throughout the novel. My basic background in physics couldn’t pick any holes in the theories presented and for the most part I found them to be interesting asides that weren’t too overbearing.
The characters are another of Root Double’s major assets. Maybe the 35 hours of play resulted in a Stockholm-Syndrome effect but I found each of the individuals portrayed easy to like or at the very least easy to become interested in. Given the amount of time events within the story span (it’s no spoiler to say you’ll see things from multiple different points of view) it’s difficult to foster real character development so Root Double makes up for this by giving you the opportunity to gradually uncover each character’s past and motivations. This is essentially done via flashbacks, but instead of feeling that they had taken me away from the action I was interested in (as in Grisaia no Kajitsu), I found they bolstered my ability to form connections with the characters in question because they continued to contribute new plot-relevant material. However, there weren’t any real standout personalities to leave a deep impression on readers and that’s another of the reasons Root Double doesn’t quite manage to be more than just “good”.
Other than the length of time taken to reach the “good bits” and the unmemorable characters, there are a couple of other aspects to Root Double that hold it back from being truly amazing. While the translation is reasonably well done (only a few unnatural lines) the writing style itself was lacklustre and failed to contribute to the excitement of the scenes it described. The choice system consists of placing characters on a scale of 0-8, though it’s never quite clear what the scale refers to – Is it whether you trust that person? Whether you care about them? Whether you want to pair up with them to go somewhere? – and the more straightforward answer system you unlock after a playthrough would suggest that only two of the numbers on that scale matter for any one choice. While it’s integrated with the story in an interesting way the system isn’t intuitive and doesn’t add to the experience (perhaps even detracting from it…I used a guide, so I’m not sure how difficult it is to reach endings without one).
The visual production value of Root Double is top-notch. Sprites, CGs and backgrounds all look great and visual effects are put to good use frequently, which I don’t see all that often in the novels I review. My one complaint is that one or two of the CGs are of a noticably lower quality than others, though there are enough of them to see that it’s a minor flaw. With the exception of one or two more exciting tracks the BGM isn’t particularly noteworthy, though I can’t deny that it gets the job done.
Summary: While Root Double has some flaws in terms of pacing and writing style, it is overall a very enjoyable visual novel and one that I am glad to have had the opportunity to read (and watch, because the art is fantastic). Very few productions feature the number of intriguing mysteries and revelations hidden within its depths, and though it does take a while to get to them I found the time input well worth it.
Score: 8/10 – Good