AI: The Somnium Files: nirvanA Initiative (PlayStation 4) Review

By Steven Mattern 24.06.2022 2

Review for AI: The Somnium Files: nirvanA Initiative  on PlayStation 4

In 2019, the Zero Escape Team and Spike Chunsoft released AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES, a new IP for the visual novel team. It brought many creative ideas and great characters to the forefront and had a great English localization. The story and writing of the first game were a clear standout but the dream-like somniums were rough around the edges. AI: The Somnium Files: nirvanA Initiative is up to the task to continue what the original excelled at as well as improve on the original's shortcomings and does so to great effect.

The air of mystery is the backbone of AI: The Somnium Files: nirvanA Initiative. This time around, Mizuki takes the stage as a lead protagonist with Aiba to assist her, as well as newcomer Ryuki, a psyncer at ABIS with his own AI-Ball named Tama. Ryuki and Tama take lead seats alongside Mizuki and Aiba really well and Date doesn't feel missed too much as a result. The game also begins with a very creative check to see if players have completed the first game in some way by asking a couple questions about the first game. Our reviewer did play the first game, and he noticed many times in his playthrough where characters had no issue discussing and referencing events from the first title, despite the two cases being very separate from each other. It seems that some can play nirvanA Initiative cold, but some of the cut lines and backstory of returning characters may feel sorely missed and the script does take less time to establish characters and some terminology outside of tutorials and the Files (glossary) menu.

The story is told in two halves, each from their perspective. Structurally, this game is preferred over the first, due to the flowchart being narrower and more linear. Having two differing perspectives of the ongoing mystery really helps the pace. This results in a more narrow and streamlined story, as opposed to the many branches of the first title. While there are still somniums that diverge paths, they are as often as necessary to allow events to line up more seamlessly. Without going into character and story specifics, the overarching story of nirvanA Initiative puts too much weight on one major subject outside of the core mystery known as the Half-Body (HB) case, where either left or right halves of bodies begin to appear in bizarre ways. This other plot tries to weave itself into the HB case, but has a hard time staying interesting as the HB case reaches its climax. The murder mystery itself is enthralling and keeps players invested in the cast of characters as a result, but a certain element of the story doesn't grab attention as much due to most of the characters not being directly included in that separate plot line. The cast of side characters is still great, but some new characters take some time to get accustomed to due to how they act when beginning their arc.

Screenshot for AI: The Somnium Files: nirvanA Initiative  on PlayStation 4

The somniums this time around are a great mix of variety both in visual style and puzzle difficulty. These dream sections of the game look great, and have less clutter than before with interact-able objects. They largely do away with including so many objects that serve no purpose or are only there for comedic effect. This allows for a smoother experience and less time crunch which the first game struggled with at times. The environments are much easier to parse as a result and the puzzles themselves are more creative and thematic as well. Pyncs have several quality of life improvements in nirvanA Initiative. For one, starting a new game presents difficulty settings for somniums, allowing for interactions with objects and general time depletion to be slower. It is nice to see the option here and would be great to see in future games in the series. Aside from a simplified UI, interacting with objects now awards Keys; partial or full sentence hints that can clue players in on how to progress. Aspects like Keys and Timies, items that can be used to reduce time costs, make Somniums more manageable than the first game and present the ideal amount of challenge.

Screenshot for AI: The Somnium Files: nirvanA Initiative  on PlayStation 4

A new element to the game is Virtual Reality sequences, whereby Mizuki and Ryuki observe and reenact crime scenes with the help of their AI-Balls. Each is a nice change of pace, and acts as a great way to observe and learn how scenes play out well after the events took place. Objects are observed in a similar fashion to Somniums, but there is no time limit associated with Virtual Reality sections, allowing for a more dialogue heavy scene to chew through as opposed to Somniums which are focused more on solving evolving puzzles. After getting familiar with the scene, the Truth Reenactment phase begins, where Mizuki or Ryuki reenact the actions of the culprit or other key character. These are a nice reward with comedic flair to balance the seriousness of events.

Playing the PlayStation 4 version of the game on a PlayStation 5 console, the performance is rather solid with a couple notable caveats. While the frame rate holds rather steady, changing viewing style (Normal, X-Ray, and Thermal modes) in Virtual Reality or moving the camera too fast can cause brief bits of slowdown. Mizuki's hair can also glitch and become deformed in the middle of conversations in two key areas later in the game, but it is never consistent enough to be much of an issue.

Screenshot for AI: The Somnium Files: nirvanA Initiative  on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

All told, AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES: nirvanA Initiative is a worthy sequel to the 2019 original. While some elements of the story don't always fit with the cast of characters, the core of the narrative keeps players invested throughout. The new somniums are very well designed in both pace and aesthetic, making them each feel unique. The additional hints and difficulty options are welcome, too, for those who want them. Virtual Reality sequences do well to add to the gameplay outside of somniums themselves, providing some great variety. This science fiction mystery thriller is certainly worth a look for fans of Zero Escape and visual novels in general.

Developer

Spike Chunsoft

Publisher

Spike Chunsoft

Genre

Visual Novel

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 08.07.2022   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date 08.07.2022   

Comments

I can't wait to dive into this one! I know the original had some mixed reviews, but I quite enjoyed, so it's great to see the sequel's turned out so well.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Really wanted to like the first one, had some great writing at points, but other parts were sooo stupid, like mizukis super strength or fighting all the machine gun guys took me out of it.

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