Root Film is the latest visual novel set in the Root Letters universe. It’s not a direct sequel though, so it stands alone as its own experience. In Root Film, the player attempts to solve a series of mysteries as one of two characters. The essential story is that a film director Rintaro Yagumo is asked to direct a previously shelved TV show called “Shimane Mystery Drama Project.” Seeing the show as his big break, Yagumo begins scouting locations only to have a murder derail his plans. As the player, it’s your job to figure out who the murderer is.
Root Film is typical for the visual novel format in that there isn’t so much game play as story reveal. In Root Film, that seems even more true since the player isn’t given dialog options and instead is given location options, which as the story unfolds includes a pretty busy map, and how you chose to navigate it and who you chose to talk to reveals the killer.
Some chapters of the story are better than others. For my taste, the chapters led by Riho, an actress hoping that “Shimane Mystery Drama Project” will be her big break, are the better ones. But I think that’s because I find Riho to be a more appealing person that Rintaro, which says a lot about the characterizations in Root Film. The characters are fully developed and solve their parts of the mystery in different ways, so it really feels like you’re with a different character when you switch.
The game isn’t perfect though. There is no English dub, so a lot of screen reading is required if you don’t speak Japanese. I watch a fair amount of anime, so that doesn’t bother me, but it’s something to know going in.
My biggest complaint is actually with the controls, moving around the map is jerky with the joystick. The D-pad is a better option, but I kept forgetting to use it because I’m accustomed to navigating with the joystick, so I had to keep correcting which got annoying. My other complaint is that there is no indicator of when you are done speaking to a character so I felt like I went through a lot of pointless repetition just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. The music is a good indicator of tone but it’s repetitive and made even more so by the lack of an indicator of being finished with a scene.
That said, if you’re a fan of visual novels, Root Film is a great addition to the genre. The artwork is lovely, the characters are fully developed, and the mystery is intriguing. Check it out and let us know what you think.
Root Film earns an excellent 4 out of 5 GiN Gems.