The Science Adventure series of visual novels has always made for some rather interesting experiences. Best known for its incredibly popular Steins;Gate entry and subsequent follow-ups and spin-offs, most of the Science Adventure games have kept fans waiting as many titles in the series took quite some time to be localized officially in English but this time around Mages aren’t keeping fans of the franchise worldwide waiting. Although the original Japanese release was delayed a handful of times to be released last year, the English release of the sixth entry in the Science Adventure series has arrived in a year with Anonymous;Code. Offering yet another new mind-bending story of science fiction, does Anonymous;Code hold up with the rest of the franchise?
Set in the fairly distant future of 2037 technology has continued to invade every aspect of life to the point that nearly everyone now has implanted BMI computers that allow them to be connected to the digital realm at all times. Reality itself is augmented with ads, news stories, people wearing costumes or completely different appearances, and of course AI is everywhere to the point that AI girlfriends and helpers have become commonplace. Pollon Takaoka and his friends in the hacker group Nakano Symphonies take advantage of this all digital future by taking on jobs that prey on the less fortunate and gullible so when Pollon’s boast about a girlfriend turns into an encounter with a real girl in need of help, he quickly finds himself willing to help her even with incredibly strange events and powerful military forces following her.
With Momo Aizaki now in his care, Pollon does his best to escape from her pursuers only to find his skills no match for their overwhelming force. That all changes however when a strange app appears in his BMI, one that works as a Save & Load mechanic that allows him to reload a previous save, starting from that point on to try and change the future. With this strange new ability, military forces beyond his comprehension, religion, AI, doomsday, and existentialism all clashing together over the course of this fairly short, by Science Adventure series standards anyway, visual novel in what becomes an incredible tale that stands as one of the best in the Science Adventure series following the ever-popular Steins;Gate and Chaos;Head Noah.
Going too far into detail about certain elements would easily spoil some of the major events and twists that happen throughout the course of the visual novel so we won’t discuss them much but it must be said that Anonymous;Code grabs a hold of the player’s attention and never lets up. This is partially due to the game never really taking a chance to breathe as the many “slice-of-life” elements found in other visual novels from the developer are mostly non-existent here. Along these same lines, this visual novel is as linear as they come, meaning that there are no branching paths or even alternate storylines to witness outside of a sudden bad end that sends players back to the main menu.
This lack of fluff is something of a double-edge sword as it keeps players invested in the engrossing tail of twists, revelations, and deeply blended fantasy science with real world elements but losses out on player interaction and replayability. Along these same lines, a large amount of the characters that are introduced don’t really get too much of a chance to develop beyond the core cast. Those wanting to learn more about certain characters may find themselves left wanting entirely as even the game’s extensive glossary of terms and history doesn’t often delve into their backstories. Meaning what players see through the main route is unfortunately what they get. That being said the characters in Anonymous;Code are all quite interesting, especially the dynamics between Momo and Pollon. Being able to experience the complex technical ideas brought up by the story with these characters is a delight. This is helped of course by the fact that, for the first time ever in the series’ history, the game has also been released with an English dub to help bring the character’s to life.
Now while every game in the Science Adventure series has had its own unique take on a visual novel, with some offering different routes or interactions depending on properly timing certain viewed side-content or even incredibly obscure events that would be hard to uncover on your own, Anonymous;Code is a bit different thanks to the aforementioned Save & Load mechanic that Pollon obtains. Without going into detail about the plot implications of his power and its source, players will find that they actually share save slots with Pollon. Throughout the story Pollon will create save spots at certain times and players can then prompt him at any point by pulling up the load screen to reload a save and try to change fate.
This mechanic is interesting in concept but also a bit flawed in execution. The reason for this is that Pollon will often straight up ignore or complain to the player when they prompt them to load to avoid a bad ending as the game will only do so on the exact line of dialogue it requires. This means that players can spend a lot of trial and error trying to trigger the proper way to continue the storyline simply because Pollon refuses to load, forcing the player to reload anyways once they hit the bad end and try again.
Audio & Visuals
Anonymous;Code features some impressive presentation work with the character models appearing to be using Live2D mechanics to appear fluid while talking and mostly fluid whenever they happen to move on screen. There are a few stiffer animations here and there from adopting the Live2D portraits but they aren’t too noticeable in the long run compared to how impressive they look most of the time. The models themselves are nicely varied with an extensive amount of detail to most of them and while the game primarily makes use of standard visual novel presentation, it also often swaps to gorgeous looking CGs and even utilizes comic book style presentations for more action packed sequences or dramatic story moments. It is a little unfortunate that players cannot pull up the dialogue log during CG scenes though.
As mentioned before this release marks the first time in the Science Adventure series’ history that the game has been released in the West with an English dub. The voice actors for the game handle it impressively well with Max Mittelman handling Pollon and Anairis Quinones handling Momo. Of course, for those who prefer, the Japanese dub is also included. The background music features an excellent collection of tracks that do wonders to fill out the atmosphere of a scene. This works exceptionally well during the more tense moments, especially when involving the “Quests” that players eventually need to undertake in the storyline.
Anonymous;Code features a riveting story that moves at a brisk pace without much fluff to tell a sci-fi epic that constantly keeps players on their toes. While the lack of slice-of-life elements is a disappointment and its main mechanic is a little frustrating, the story told throughout this latest entry in the Science Adventure series certainly lives up to the franchise’s history, delivering a visual novel that will keep players engaged throughout with grand sci-fi concepts that will stick with players long through the ending..
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