Visual Novels can offer us a number of adventures, as due to the story-heavy nature of the genre, they can engage the player through narrative hooks and adventure game elements. They can also offer visually impressive experiences that suck you into the world of the game, making you treasure your journey across many playthroughs.
The visual novel Root Letter for the PS Vita and PS4 platforms honors the visual novel genre with impressive it’s impressive presentation, enjoyable writing and mystery-novel elements. But does the game complete it’s goal in offering a rewarding adventure?
The story follows our main character looking through his room and stumbling upon letters from a childhood pen pal Fumino Aya. He begins reading them and decides he wants to meet her. After traveling to Aya’s hometown, he beings unraveling the mystery surrounding her and learns the truth about who she really is. What makes the story of Root Letter enjoyable is a few different things.
One being the sharp writing that P-Qube translated for the NA and EU releases of the game. The localization team does a great job giving the games cast a lot of life and injecting a lot of heart into the main character. He is really funny, and I enjoyed his dead-pan reactions to what happens around him. Seeing the other characters interact with him is a lot of fun as well, due to the various personalities we encounter across the game.
But great writing only works if the core story is strong, and thankfully, the story is enjoyable. It sets up a very interesting mystery to solve and pulls you in a number of different directions. More so with the games five different endings. Overall, the plot is strong with enjoyable characters, great writing and a mystery you are invested in solving.
Gameplay & Design
The game is set up across eight/nine different chapters where you explore Aya’s home city and try to find various clues and connections that can lead you to finally meeting her. This involves a mixture of adventure game elements and visual novels, where you interact with the different locations you visit to get items, clues and an insight on the world around you.
Each chapter focuses on one of the letters you get and from finding clues throughout the game world, you find the person in that letter Aya refers to. This set up works out nicely, as by the Second Chapter, things ramp up with this gameplay structure.
Your has a few special abilities to help with your quest for answers, like Max Mode (which triggers at key points in the game) to share a powerful statement to a character by pressing X at the right moment and ‘Thinking’ which is this games ‘guide’ system if you get stuck. You can also present various items in your inventory to characters if needed as well.
Getting to the different locations is seamless thanks to a great fast-travel system and overall snappy menus to interact with. If you need to save or load a game, it is naturally integrated within the game world by accessing your Smart Phone (which you can save, load or access options). Everything about the games mechanics and systems feels embedded within the game world, adding to the overall atmosphere.
One of the games major mechanics is the Investigation Mode, where you interact with one of Aya’s friends and talk them down until they breakdown and give you the information you want. These aren’t very hard, as you can re-start if you mess up and can save within this mode of the game, but they are tense despite that fact. I really loved these sections of the game, as it lead to dynamic interactions with you and the character you are questioning. They even become supporting characters after you Investigate them, with you talking with them to further your search for answers, ensuring that they will still interact with you afterward.
You also can interact with each letter presented to you and the choices you make will have effects later in the game. Overall, the games core gameplay and design is very solid, working with the story rather than against it.
Fully completing Root Letter will take a long time, as the game has five different endings to unlock with each playthrough taking five to eight hours to complete. But each ending is quite different and completing the game once unlocks more options you can make, giving an incentive to continue playing through the game for another playthrough.
Root Letter is a really beautiful game, with a high level of polish embedded into every aspect of the games presentation. The HUD Designs are inviting, having great effects and being very easy to control. Character portraits are detailed, having very expressive designs. Locations are quite varied as well, covering a number of different places. It shows how you are on an adventure in some respects; exploring lively restaurants, crowded stores and mysterious forests.
The games music and sound design should be commended as well. Sound effects are audible and are quite nice to listen to when making choices or interacting with the game world. Musically, the game shines, as the main theme that plays throughout the game is really soothing and relaxing, matching your mindset as you are trying to unravel the games mystery.
With no slowdown issues and a very stable frame rate, the game looks and runs great on the PS Vita platform.
Story: 4 out of 5 / Gameplay & Design: 4 out of 5 / Lasting Appeal: 4.5 out of 5 / Presentation: 5 out of 5
Root Letter is a beautiful visual novel that does a lot right. Having an enjoyable story with a charming cast of characters to encounter, core gameplay systems that gives the title an adventure game-feel to the whole experience, long replay value with many endings to discover and some of the best hand-drawn visuals you will find on the PS Vita; Root Letter is a treat for any fan of adventure games or visual novels on either the PS Vita or PS4 platform.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
This game was reviewed on the PS Vita platform with a review copy provided by P-Qube Games. You can play this game on the PS4 as well, with the game being out now in both Europe and North America.