Kotaro Uchikoshi’s reputation precedes him. You generally know if he’s involved with a game, it is going to be a thoughtful experience with twists and turns. From the Zero Escape series to Punch Line, his work will surprise you. AI: The Somnium Files proved it was no different, with its Cyclops Serial Killings storyline, AIs that replace a person’s actual eye, and dreamscape explorations. Now AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative is here with another baffling case. And this time, players are seeing the investigation from two sides.
When Mizuki Date was 12 years old, she and Ryuki Kurato both were participating in a quiz show. At one point, the lights when out. When they came back on, the body of Jin Furue, a well known tech CEO, was there with a sign that included a QR code linking to a strange video and a “Fray to Free!” message on it. However, only half of his body appeared. Six years later, 18-year-old Mizuki is recruited to ABIS due to her potential as a Psyncer. Someone lures her to a stadium via text messages. There, the other half of Furue’s body appears. Yet even though it appeared six years later, that body’s time of death is apparently nine hours ago. The key to working out what’s going on is to work with Ryuki. However, the past investigation left him a broken drunk. Mizuki must investigate the Half Body killings in the present to find the Tearer, while also learning what the mentally broken Ryuki learned from his investigations in the past.
First off, I will say is that context is important in AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative. In the introduction, it makes it clear that you can play the game without going through AI the Somnium Files. This is very true. However, as someone who played both, I feel it relies so heavily on knowing who these characters are that it is to the player’s detriment if they didn’t experience the original. (Also, the first game is incredible and should be experienced.) I feel like it really helped to have that background with Mizuki, Kaname, and Aiba.
But yes, without that context you will still have a good time. AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative is the sort of game that can be serious and silly. It is well-written and localized, with characterizations that make Mizuki, Ryuki, Aiba, and Tama charming and personable. The various technological concepts are fascinating. As are the more otherworldly experiences exploring somniums. There are times when it can feel delightfully supernatural, even though you know there’s a technological foundation for elements like the AI-Balls replacing folks’ eyeballs. Not to mention some twists might genuinely surprise you, and the visual novel elements mean picking answers or even supplying “information” you learned in another route to move forward.
While AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative is an adventure game, gameplay differs depending on where characters are. You might be questioning people around you to learn more about the case. Some segments involve reenacting a crime to better understand what happened. A Psync sends you into a somnium. While there, Aiba or Tama will explore a space and need to overcome Mental Locks. However, you get only six minutes, and each action takes up some of your time. The difficulty settings let you determine how challenging the investigation QTEs and somnium portions will be, allowing for things like more forgiving time limits.
As before, I think the somnium portions are some of AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative’s most entertaining. As these are essentially dream worlds, normal logic doesn’t apply. For example, overcoming one early Mental Lock means dealing with some fire. Rather than exhaling to blow it out, inhaling is the answer. I loved seeing the cause and effect portions here. Not that the investigations, which can involve things like zooming in on areas or using X-ray vision, aren’t also involved. There’s just a degree of thought and complexity here I appreciate more.
While I value what’s being done, in some ways I feel like AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative is slightly less ambitious than the original. This is a great game. It is 100% worth your time. Uchikoshi fans will be pleased. Seeing Mizuki and Ryuki’s sides is enlightening. But it isn’t as open as the original and there won’t be as many possible paths to wander. The execution and twists are fascinating. It could just be that I’m spoiled and the original handled things so well.
AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative, like AI: The Somnium Files, is simply a fantastic adventure. Its plot is fascinating, and I love how it handles its investigations. It is absolutely a worthy successor, though I very much recommend people play both games.
AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative will come to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on June 24, 2022 in North America and July 8, 2022 in Europe.
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