Root Letter is one of my favourite games of 2016 as well as of the most engrossing experiences of the year. A mystery revolving a penpal from 15 years ago, Aya Fumino, sees your character visit her hometown in an effort to finally meet her – but she died 25 years ago.
Root Letter feels human. When the main character, who you can name but is nicknamed Max as he’s known to always give it his all, finds an 11th letter from his old penpal about how she killed someone and will cut off further communication with him, he realises he wants to finally meet her and find out the truth.
I won’t go too far into it as you should most certainly experience it for yourself, but things aren’t as they seem when he finds out that she died 25 years ago – ten years before they started writing to each other. It’s now up to him to track down her old school friends who she detailed in her letters to find out who he was talking to all along. The main character is hilarious and determined, and I quickly grew to love him, and he’s since become one of my favourite protagonists – this game had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion despite its serious tone and story, and I loved it.
Root Letter is one of the most engrossing experiences of 2016.
The characters feel very real in Root Letter and their reactions, reasoning’s and emotions are easy to relate to which makes them both likeable and not so much – the good is beautiful and the bad is ugly, but they’re undeniably human and whilst they may be selfish, it’s easy to understand why. The atmosphere and raw emotion made Root Letter very easy to become engrossed in and I found myself glued until the very end.
There are multiple endings and I’ve seen the true end and am fully satisfied, and even now it has me itching for another playthrough and I wish to see more of these characters. It’s incredibly well-written with several twists, engaging characters and a story about love and friendship that’s powerful, nostalgic and I would not be surprised if some of the interactions are based on the writer’s own experiences.
This is a visual novel and it’s pretty linear but don’t let that deter you as the writing is outstanding. The gameplay, especially during the ‘breakdown’ scenes where you get to question Aya’s old friends, had my palms sweaty and my focus fully captured as I just needed more information to find out what happened to my beloved Aya. It works similarly to Ace Attorney in that you have items on your person which you can use to coax more information from who you’re speaking with and this happens over several stages until you’re finally successful, but the similarities end there.
Think mode comes in handy to give you hints as to what you should be doing, and I made good use of it. You’ll spend most of your time wandering around the serene town of Matsue looking for leads on each of the friends, with each chapter focusing on a friend until everything comes together for a grand finale.
The art direction and animation are nothing short of breathtaking.
You may have noticed this already but Root Letter is absolutely stunning and features a painstaking recreation of the real world Matsue, and Kadokawa worked closely with officials of Matsue to really capture its atmosphere and aesthetic. This effort hasn’t gone to waste at all as the atmosphere is one of my favourite things about this game and it’s undeniably gorgeous, proving to potentially be the best looking game on Vita and one of the best on PS4 – it might not push either system to their full potential, but the art direction and animation are nothing short of breathtaking.
Root Letter does its best at recreating an authentic Japanese experience and so it makes sense that only the original Japanese voice-over exists here. I enjoyed the voice-acting and the voice talent breathed life into these characters and helped them to feel as real as they do.
If I haven’t praised Root Letter enough, then you may be interested to know that it also features a brilliant OST which I can’t get enough of. It aids the atmosphere and the intense music that plays during the ‘breakdown’ segments had me pumping adrenaline and it saw me on the edge of my seat with rapt attention, whilst the soothing, wind instruments used for wandering around Matsue were relaxing and peaceful. The soundtrack as a whole has a variety of tunes and masterfully composed pieces, and I know it’ll be stuck in my head for a long time.
It’s been a beautiful, captivating experience I urge everyone to try.
Root Letter is a game that touched me in a way I didn’t expect and it more or less came out of the blue for me, but I’m sure glad that it did! This might be my favourite game of the year and it’s been a beautiful, captivating experience I urge everyone to try. With a compelling plot and characters, alluring visuals and a catchy soundtrack, it isn’t difficult to not call Root Letter one of the best games released this year. If you like the sound of it then please buy and experience it for yourselves, and I’m excited to see what else is coming in Kadokawa’s Game Mystery series.
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