Putting together clues and solving a mystery is always a good feeling and doing that in a visual novel has become something of a rarity outside of a few certain series. Kadokawa Games looked to remedy that situation a bit with their Kadokawa Mystery Games series that started in 2016 with Root Letter and now Root Film, the second game in the series, has been released in the West. Serving as a completely separate entity, outside of being located in the same prefecture, is this mystery visual novel worth diving into?
Players will find themselves taking on the role of two seperate protagonists, Rintaro Yagumo who goes by a pen name of Max Yagumo after winning a film competition years prior, and an up and coming actress simply known by her stage name, Riho. Max has been struggling to find his next big break when he is given the chance to take part in the revived Shimane Mystery Drama Project that was cancelled over a decade ago where three directors compete to prove who can create the best mystery film within this region of Japan.
Unfortunately for Max and the rest of the Yagumo film crew, the project itself is thought to be cursed due to mysterious deaths that occurred during the project’s previous filming attempt. This revival attempt only seems to prove the curse is real as things quickly take a turn for the worse as the crew encounters more murders while attempting to create a film of their very own. As for Riho, this young actress comes across similar incidents of murder in her line of work and through a power that both protagonists possess, synesthesia, the two believe that they are the only ones capable of finding the truth behind these murders.
While Root Film may feature two protagonists, in reality the game mostly focuses entirely on Yagumo’s story as he is given five particularly lengthy chapters while Riho is only given two total. A lot of attention has also been given to making sure that, while every chapter focuses on solving a different case, that nearly every aspect of these cases ties together in some way or another in the end. While we cannot go into detail to avoid spoilers, we can mention that sometimes even the smallest details can play the biggest role and can carry all the way through multiple chapters only to play a key role in the end.
Thanks to this quality of writing the team is capable of developing some amazing twists and tricks to shock players as they progress through the story and make for an incredibly interesting set of mysteries to solve. That being said, there are more than a few moments that the pacing does feel a little off as players will likely figure out certain twists long before they are actually able to complete the chapter. It also doesn’t help that progress often involves examining a number of locations that, while interesting in their own right, have no actual relevance to the story though this does feel a bit intentional.
Due to the game being set in the real Shimane prefecture players will be able to travel to actual locations in the area and more often than not the game is more than willing to give players history lessons about why these specific locations have special significance, are great places for tourism, feature great food, and more. This does help give the world a more realistic feel to it as, well… it is a real location but it can feel like a bit too much fluff at times.
With great mysteries to solve and some solid worldbuilding Root Film already offers a great storyline but it also helps that the game features a sizable cast of widely varied characters. The core cast of characters features some great personalities and bounce off one another well while the numerous side-characters that players will meet and interact with also are well-written, most of the time for good reason as they rarely appear as one chapter characters and often play a later role, making sure to keep players engaged with almost every aspect of the story by trying to tie everything together as much as possible.
As a visual novel players will be expected to do plenty of reading in Root Film though there is a bit of an investigative element as well. Players can travel to various locations that are available to them on the map and, if possible, interact with any characters or items at these locations. It is worth noting that although there are no alternative endings or special routes for players to unlock, there’s extra world building and little quizzes hidden across the locations if players travel to them when they don’t have to.
As for the clues players will uncover, as mentioned before both Yagumo and Riho possess “synesthesia” which allows them to immediately lock-on important clues and make a mental note of them that they will not be able to forget. These clues can be obtained from talking with characters, interacting with objects, and more though players are prevented from advancing the story until they trigger the proper sequence of events so it is impossible to actually fail to find everything necessary to advance. That being said, thanks to the game not properly advancing at all unless players find a specific interaction point it can lead to some trial and error, especially since a few locations require multiple searches after a failed attempt or two.
These clues are then used in a relatively oddly designed “fighting” mini-game where Yagumo or Riho will interrogate a suspect and select the right clues to prove that they are lying. The mini-game is very simple in nature giving players plenty of wriggle-room for failure with incorrect guesses only damaging their health a bit while a correct guess immediately heals them and pushes to unlocking the truth. This makes for an interesting mini-game that doesn’t really do too much other than to give players the feeling like they are actually solving the case finally even if they have already figured things out themselves.
Visuals & Audio
Root Film really shines when it comes to how it likes to present itself. This comes from the unique combination of taking gorgeous character designs with vibrant colors and placing them against highly detailed background pieces of background art that vary wildly depending on the location. Whether this is due to the game’s setting in the Shimane prefecture or due to the developers putting a lot of work into the background art, it helps bring the game’s artwork to life which is great given that the actual character portraits are not animated in any form which is a bit disappointing. It is also worth noting that while localizing a visual novel is always going to be a significant undertaking players will need to be ready for more than a few errors and typos that still persist.
It is also nice to note that, while Root Film only features the original Japanese voice cast, every line of dialogue in the game is voiced by some well-known Japanese voice actors and actresses which is a great touch for this mystery visual novel. As for the background music, the game features a number of standard pieces of music though the only real stand out tracks appear during the more dramatic moments of the story.
Keeping a player interested in solving multiple mysteries can be a difficult challenge but Root Film manages to do so easily by making sure that players never feel like any interactions with main or even side-characters feel like a waste of time and actually trying to tie things together as much as possible throughout the many cases that players have to solve. Sure, there is a bit of an excessive amount of tourism fluff mixed in with the mysteries and some of the mysteries themselves are too predictable for their own good but Root Film still manages to hold strong and deliver a great performance.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.