Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Murder mysteries have always been a genre that’s rather polarized many people. Is there enough information to solve the mystery yourself? Has the story been provided in a way that makes the deductions reasonable? Is the culprit someone you know, or is only introduced at the end? All of these can have a huge impact on the telling of a story. Root Film is a title that brings you a set of murder mysteries that are both well grounded yet may keep you on your toes all the same.
Root Film, the sequel to Root Letter (a title I sadly haven’t played), you get a dual protagonist feature, starring Rintaro Yagumo, an aspiring director, and Riho, an aspiring actress. They are both supposed to be working on a new movie, but a series of mysterious deaths are constantly happening. Is the movie really cursed like everyone says, or is there a more human evil lurking in the shadows? Rintaro has a ragtag crew of a former delinquent assistant, a cameraman that says little and you never see his face, and a really quirky actress who came along for location scouting. Riho has her manager and highschool friend to help her out.
The thing about Rintaro and Riho though is that they both have a form of synesthesia. If you were curious, synesthesia is the neurological condition where you perceive a stimulus using a different sense than the sense you would expect to, a good example being the ability to see music as colours. In this instance, both Rintaro and Riho perceive important words or phrases as floating letters in front of them. They can then memorize these phrases later when they need to use them. I have to say, while most games do something like this, I’m very happy to see someone finally justify WHY it happens. These keywords and phases can be gathered by talking with people or examining scenes. You will be building up these phrases by visiting locations on a map and interacting with the people or objects in each location you visit. Sometimes it may require talking to the same person multiple times to learn something new.
The key phrases will then be used in “Max Mode”, which is a sort of Cross examination where you have to select a phrase to prove your point. Both the main characters and their opponents have bars, and the more correct answers you get, the more the bar fills. Fill it up all the way and you “win” the interrogation. Answer too many wrong, however, and you fail the interrogation, resulting in you not revealing the truth of the situation. The bars will flip back and forth depending on who had the initiative last, but progress in the bar is not reset.
The storyline is split up into chapters, with each chapter split into parts. The parts of a chapter will follow the progression of the case you’re working on, giving you a prologue, some sections for finding clues and figuring out aspects of the case, a solution where you confront a target, and then an epilogue. Now, it should be noted that the solutions to the mysteries that you reveal during the Max Mode interrogation, are fairly well thought out. Occasionally you will have the odd fact or evidence piece that you either didn’t know or wasn’t revealed, but the selection for the Max Mode key phrase is framed in such a way that it isn’t too difficult to figure out what the phrase you require for the interrogation is. For example, the tutorial style Max Mode had a concept of filming technique that I was wholly unaware of, but it was still easy enough to figure out what phrase to use when the other options didn’t make sense.
I am glad to say that the location and character graphics are well drawn. Being a Japanese style Visual Novel type murder mystery, the characters are all drawn in an anime style with a sort of old school comic type focus. The backgrounds are also pretty to look at, and are full of cultural and historical points of interest, which is really neat to see. I definitely learned some things about both science and Japanese culture while playing through Root Film. The sound track for Root Film also amply enhances the mood and tone of the locations and situations the characters find themselves, providing for a more enjoyable experience.
If there is one glaring issue, it’s that the localization is a little…off, shall we say. There were plenty of occurrences where there were spelling mistakes, or a character would refer to another character in a way that was contradicted later on, or by a different character. This coupled with some of the more obtuse reasoning for some of the mysteries do put a bit of a damper on things, but is easily overlooked in lieu of the engaging story and characters, and fun Max Mode interrogations. The chapters themselves aren’t overly long either, meaning you won’t have to take a few days each one, and then forget where you left off. You can also save at almost any time, and there is an autosave feature whenever you leave a location, meaning if you fail an interrogation and get a game over, it’s easy enough to try again.