Root Letter (PS Vita) Review

By Drew Hurley 11.11.2016

Review for Root Letter on PS Vita

For the protagonist of Root Letter, life is going great. He's got a new job to go to and is packing up his things ready to move on, when he stumbles upon the letters of his pen pal from 15 years ago. As he reads through them once again, he stumbles on one he had never seen before… The letter mentions how his pen pal - a 17-year-old girl named Aya Fumino - killed someone… and so had to disappear. The nameless protagonist treks to her hometown to find out the truth of what happened to Aya, but what he finds is nothing like he expects. There is plenty more to this story than it seems.

The nameless protagonist arrives in Aya's town of Matsue, a picturesque and charming place, with just the letters from Aya and a photo of her in her school uniform. It's not a lot to begin an investigation with, so he figures he should track down the people mentioned in the letters and hope they can shed some light on what really happened and help him find where Aya is now. The only problem is none of the people are named… just mentioned by their nicknames: "Fatty," "Snappy," "Bitch," and so on. Not only that, but her address is now just a vacant lot; her house being lost to a fire back when the letters stopped.

With this being a mystery, it's difficult to touch on the story without spoiling major plot points. The game is split up into seven chapters, each dedicated to a different letter from Aya and one of her friends from school. Suffice it to say, none of the classmates are particularly forthcoming about their past, each telling a different story and none wanting the truth to be uncovered. Aya's classmates are fantastic - each is individual and memorable, with some great lines and character quirks that really make up for what turns out to be a thoroughly disappointing story.

Screenshot for Root Letter on PS Vita

A visual novel thrives on the strength of its story and while the premise here is certainly an intriguing one, the story is… mediocre. As the chapters go on and the story develops, it feels like it loses its way. Plenty of different possible explanations are teased for this mystery - perhaps the whole town was in on it? Was it a curse? Ghosts? UFOs? There are five endings to collect and none deliver a conclusion that is particularly satisfying. It's not just how the story progresses, either, as it's also the mechanics and fundamentals. One of the most glaring is the writing. This is appallingly bad at times, with the protagonist delivering insipid lines of exposition like "This is the used book store. They sell used books." The best visual novels make it feel like progression through the story is somewhat natural, yet Root Letter instead pokes and prods the user into the responses it wants, even going so far as to lock down menu options.

The gameplay also seems to involve some extra aspects than just those of a visual novel, with some adventure style elements and some Danganronpa or Phoenix Wright-style verbal showdowns. Each chapter has investigations where items and clues discovered over the course of the chapter have to be used in a familiar fashion, throwing the past into the face of those trying to forget it or using proof to catch them out in lies. These investigations are sadly pale imitations of what has come before, with very simple and obvious solutions. It is fun, at least, and generates some of the best moments, whereas the adventure aspects feel almost completely pointless. They consist of a "Check" ability, which can be used to investigate environments and their contents, but very rarely will this have any sort of an impact on the adventure itself, instead it just giving yet more badly written commentary on the environment.

Everything looks gorgeous, at least, with a beautiful town and characters filled with charm, all from the mind of Love+ artist, Minoboshi Taro. The audio work, however, leaves a lot to be desired, with only a handful or annoying tunes on constant repeat. These aren't annoying at first, but after hours and hours…

Screenshot for Root Letter on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Root Letter was on the radar of every visual novel fan out there when it was announced to be getting a release in the West, but it does not live up to the hype. The story starts strong and then peters out into a mess and the writing is simply awful, the fun characters being the only real saving grace. The gameplay mechanics feel like shallow approximations of better titles, and, ultimately, this quickly becomes a considerable let-down.

Developer

Kadokawa Shoten

Publisher

PQube

Genre

Visual Novel

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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