Review: AI: The Somnium Files – The Nirvana Initative (Switch) ~ Let’s Dive Again

Official English websiteWikipedia page

One of my most favorite genres is an adventure visual novel. A game with a deep story with memorable characters and unique gameplay that draws you into the world of the game. Examples are Corpse Party where a cursed school plays tricks on your mind or Ace Attorney where you play as an attorney that takes on the strangest cases. I could list examples here for quite a while, like Time Hollow, where you get a pen that can mess with the past in certain circumstances. My favorite series in this genre are the Nonary games. I sometimes quote various moments to this day. I was beyond excited that after the trilogy ended, a new series by the same writer started in 2019. AI: The Somnium Files. Now, after I finished that game, I couldn’t wait to see what Kotaro Uchikoshi and his team were going to turn out next. And that is a sequel to AI: The Somnium Files, which picks up 6 years after the original game. But is it any good, or is this a sequel that we should avoid? Well, that’s what I want to talk about in this review. This review is spoiler free, so if you haven’t played the game… You shouldn’t worry about that. But in any case, let’s dive right into the game while I welcome you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editoral note: this game also released on all other major platforms. I chose to play this game on Switch since I played the original on Switch as well.

Have you played?

In the original game, you took on the role of Date. An investigator at ABIS with a special AI companion implanted in his eye. Now, in this game, that isn’t really the case anymore since the focus is more on daughter Mizuki. In this game, you also play as Ryuki who is another investigator at ABIS. Both these agents are involved in a cold case which they are trying to solve for their own reasons. After the case going cold, suddenly 6 years later a new clue is found that totally reopens the cold case. So, why did the case turn into a cold case and why suddenly after 6 years are there new clues found?

In terms of explaining the story, that’s all I’m willing to say to avoid spoilers. I know I might be cutting it a bit short or being extremely vague, but this is a sort of game where you should go in as blind as possible. The story in visual novel adventure games like this one are best experienced as blind as possible. At least, that’s the way how I enjoy it the best. And sidenote, to avoid spoilers I’m going to explain some things in this article with rather generic terms instead of the in game terms.

Something that really surprised me in the opening few minutes of the game is that there is something implemented that is something I think should become a standard in other visual novel games. A sort of check to avoid spoilers of the original game. Since this game is a sequel, there is a potential that people start with this game before the original. And if you won’t get yourself spoiled on the previous game, certain pieces of dialogue are changed if you are unable to answer the questions about the ending of the previous game. Then, it skips over the dialogue that spoils parts of the previous game. Apart from a few lines, it doesn’t change too much, so you won’t be missing out if you answer the question or not.

In terms of writing, this game really delivers. The new characters don’t feel out of place at all. I honestly sometimes felt that the new characters were background characters in the original game… The voice acting in this game is one of the strongest points of this game. They make the characters come to live and pull me in the game’s world so hard. There are some weaker moments in this story, but overall, these are far and few between. In general, this pacing and story of this game is good.

Something that’s really great in this game is that there is a sort of glossary. When you forgot who a certain character is or what a certain word means, you can easily look it up in your file. There is some amazing value in there as well. So, I highly recommend reading through it.

Explore the dreams

Just like in the previous game, in this game you have to explore people’s dreams to find answers and clues for your investigation. If you played the previous game, it’s very familiar. In these explorations, you have 6 minutes to unlock the mental locks of a person to find the big clue that’ll let you progress into the game. Each interaction costs a certain amount of time, so you have to be careful and really think your actions through.

You do have 3 “retry coins” you can spend to travel back to a previous checkpoint. So, if you mess up, and you want to restart a certain section with a bit more time, you can travel back. If you don’t have enough retry coins or game-over, you’ll have to restart from you’re the start of the exploration. Also, in these explorations, it’s possible that the story splits into two paths. Now, I highly recommend that you explore all paths to the end before going to another path.

There are some additional mechanics during these explorations that can influence the time used, but that mechanic is somewhat underused in this game compared to the original. I played this game on the highest difficulty setting and to be honest, while the puzzles are interesting and a blast to figure out… I found them a bit too easy. Furthermore, I have to admit that I had to write some puzzles down on a piece of paper, but rarely did I get stuck or didn’t know right away how to solve a puzzle. The original game was more challenging.

With that said, it doesn’t mean that with easier puzzles that this game is less fun. Maybe I got lucky in figuring them out, or the experience of solving these puzzles from the previous game helped me out here.

Something I really like is when you full beat one of these dives, you unlock that dive without any time limitations. So, I can find out what the dialogue is in the wrong options and enjoy more of the enjoyable writing of this game.

This game controls extremely well. I don’t have any complaints on how this game controls. There is one minor complaint I have. There is one mini-game in the pause menu, which you can’t select by going through the menu. For the longest time, I thought I was able to only play this in handheld mode, but you just have to press the minus button on the controller to enter it. But I’ll talk more in depth about the mini-games and such later in the article.

So, these explorations in people’s minds isn’t the only mechanic in this game. There are also reconstructions you have to do. This is where you have to search for clues in a crime scene to answer a question. These moments are a lot less punishing since they don’t have a time limit.

These moments are a nice distraction to the game. Since, they help to sell that there is actual investigation work going. Yet, some of the hardest puzzles are in these sections. But, if you get stuck, the biggest hint I can give is to write the puzzle down. In these sections, there were one or two puzzles that would work a lot better if you were able to look at the clues, so that’s why I highly recommend you to write them down.

Another gameplay section of this game are the moments with quick time events. These moments are easily the weakest link of this game. I found these moments a bit boring since they are basically an interactive cutscene. You know when they are coming and these moments would have been so much more fun if they weren’t quick time events since they slow the scene down when they happen and these scenes are supposed to be fast paced actually. I’m sorry, but the implementation of the quick time event scenes in this game isn’t the best in this game. All these moments blend in with each other a bit too well.

Now, you can change the difficulty of the quick time events and the exploration moments. So, if you want to focus more on the story instead of the gameplay, that’s totally possible. Lowering the difficulty makes the game easier since it has less penalties for you. The game doesn’t lock any content away from you by lowering the difficulty.

The final gameplay section you have in this game is the investigation section. Where you go from place to place, so you can talk to the various characters to gather more information. During these moments, you can look around and investigate the environment for additional world & character building, jokes and dialogues.

These moments are just the right length. I never really felt that the conversation went on for a bit too long. Also, you can save during at any time during these moments, so when you have to leave the game and want to come back, you can comeback to a save point. This game also saves automatically. But speaking about saving and loading, this game has only one save slot. So, don’t forget about that.

Costumes and such

The music and sound design in this game is quite enjoyable. The music fits this game as a glove. I have already added it to my playlist, so I can listen to it while I’m working.

In terms of sound effects, the high quality is there as well. I don’t have any complaints about them. Most of the sound effects are just like the previous game, and they worked extremely well there.

Visually, this game looks excellent. There are some very minor rough spots, especially in low lighting, but they didn’t bother me too much. Overall, the visuals fit the atmosphere of the game extremely well. The new locations created for this game fit extremely well in the world. The animations in this game are great as well. I did notice some minor animation flaws here and there, especially with the mouths not always closing after some dialogue. But on the other hand, they help put the expression of the character come to life.

Now, let me talk about the performance of this game. Overall, I noticed barely any performance problems during my playthrough. There was some minor slowdown here and there and I felt like some cutscenes ran at a bit lower framerate compared to the rest of the game but overall, nothing really major in that regard. The game did crash on me. Three times even. Thankfully on moments where I didn’t loose to much progress but it did happen.

This game took me around 35 hours to complete and also to see some of the additional content. So, I think that the price is totally worth it.

One of the last things I want to talk about are the mini-games and the DLC. There is DLC for this game in the forms of alternative customes for the AI assistants in this game. Overall, the additional content is quite cheap but it’s 100% costmetic. If you are a fan of silly alternative customs, they are the right fit for you.

Now, during the game you can unlock eyeballs. With these eyeballs you can purchase the unlocked costmetic items via the bonus menu in the main menu. You can also unlock concept art and other materials. Some of these items even have some easter eggs in them!

What you can buy with these eyeballs depend on your progress in the game. Now, something I really like is how you are unable to unlock everything when you have seen the true ending of this game. You’ll have to go back into the game to go in alternative routes and maybe try the wrong options to have a new evalution. There are in total 40 evaluations to unlock and completing the true ending, I still had 16/40 left to find.

The only dissapointing thing is that there are barely any hints in the game to find these remaining endings. I think it would be a nice feature if you are able to see on which day you can unlock that evalution after you have seen the true ending. This doesn’t take away the challenge of searching for the ending since each day has a lot of content to go through.

There are two “mini-games” in this game. One is a sort of advice room where the AI assistant of the character you are playing as plays a sort of shrink for you as the player. I rarely used this mode apart from it also being the dressing room of the costumes you bought. The combinations you can make with dressing up your AI ball are numerous. I just wish that there was a button to “sync” costumes between them.

Anyways, there is one other mini-game I have to talk about. This is a sort of Tamagochi where depending on how you answer the questions, your tamagochi AI-ball evovles into different AI-balls. Each 20 minutes you get a question. You have four different possible replies. Depending on your replies, a certain stat increases and you can get another creature. Since, it all depends on the stats you increase. You can also unlock a guide when you reach a certain type which can help you unlock all the others. It’s an enjoyable destraction to the game but apart from it being a nice source of eyeballs to purchase costumes, I found that there is nothing really to it. While I can totally see some people enjoying this, I’m not one of those.

Overall, in this article I have mostly praised this game. But, there are a few things that don’t work at all and can be improved in a patch or a sequel. The first big thing is the small font of the option menu. If you play this game in docked mode and sit a meter of two (which is +/- 6 feet), the option screen becomes close to unreadable. Thankfully, there is a zoom feature on the Switch and the top right infobox gives some hints… But still, that menu is too small. If they wanted to keep the same visual design, just make more pages with a bigger font.

A nitpick I have is that when something is added to the file, and it’s in the manual… The green dot is so close to the binder of the manual that you can barely see it. I think changing the color of the manual in the file would have been a great move.

Another nitpick I have is when you go to the bonus section from the main menu, you only see Aiba there. I have never seen the other AI-ball there. I found this a missed oppertunity. It would be kind of fun to have a random chance to see either Aiba or Tama there.

The final thing I dislike about this game is that there is no real run button in this game. You do have a skip button, that’s pretty close to the “auto” button, but you can’t run in explorations. I would even not mind it with having a run button and it costing twice as much time to move around… Since, the walking speed is a bit slow when you are playing again to find the other endings.

So, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. So, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article in a nice conclusion so people who are looking at this article to know if this game is any good or not and don’t want to read everything have something to quickly read.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Enjoyable story where you can avoid spoilers of the original.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles.

+ Great controls.

+ …

The bad:

-Some slowdowns/crashes can happen on the Switch version.

-Too small options menu.

-Missed chances with quick time events.

-Some minor issues in terms of polish like one of the mini-games being reachable with a button instead of it being highlighted when scrolling through.

Final thoughts:

To answer the question I posed in my introduction, I think that this game is a worthy sequel to the original game. The game is quite a lot of fun to play and I had a blast playing it. The game has it’s weaker moments but those overall are no big issue compared to the overall package. This sequel can also be a great entry point into the series and there are a lot of winks to veteran fans.

There are some issues for sure and the story has some weaker moments but I might repeat myself but the positive and fun moments far outweigh the negative moments. I enjoyed this game so much when it finally released here in Europe that I even pulled an all nighter during my summer break while playing this game. It’s so much fun.

Thanks to it releasing in my summer break, I have already beaten the game and now I’m looking for the things I missed but so far, it’s one of the best games I have played all year.

Personally, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or visual novel games. This sci-fi thriller story is a blast to play through. This game comes also recommended if you enjoy playing mystery solving games. The original game now has a demo as well on the Switch eShop and if you enjoy that, this game or the original are going to be such an amazing time!

With that said, I really have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 90/100

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It’s almost there! 2022. It’s TOP 10 TIME!

It’s that time of the year again, it’s time to create lists. For the 11 years I have been blogging right now, I have created a tradition of writing two lists at the end of the year. A list of my favorite games I have played in the past year, and a list of the games I’m most excited about in the upcoming year. Today, it’s time to talk about what I’m so hyped to play next year. Since some amazing titles are coming out next year and I can’t wait to play them and/or review them on my blog. So, this is going to be my top 10 list of games I want to play in 2022. What’s your list? Feel free to leave it in the comment section down below, and let’s see how much better we are going to be playing in 2022.

#10 – Sports Story (Nintendo Switch – TBA)

I’m a huge fan when it comes to playing RPG/adventure games that put a spin on your typical “fight the enemy” or “save the world”. Now, when I learned about this game, I was hyped right away.

The reason I placed it so low on my list is that I’m afraid that a lot of the sports gameplay is going to be rhythm or reflexes based, which are two things that I’m not too good at in games and that might ruin it a bit for me. But, then again, looking at the trailer and the promotional material, this game looks quite promising.

Now, I know that this game doesn’t have a release date set in stone yet, so it might be not for 2022… But hey, if this one comes out in 2022, you can be sure that I’m going to play it!

#9 – Yurukill: The Calumniation Games (Nintendo Switch, June 10th)

I wish I could put this game higher on my list. But, the bullet hell gameplay worries me a bit. I easily get frustrated by bullet hell games, but I still enjoy playing them.

But, this game is an escape game that gives off a lot of Zero Escape and Danganrompa vibes and I love it. Also, it’s being developed by the creators of Death Come True and World’s End Club.

I’m quite curious to see what’s going to become of this game. How much they are going to blend the escape-the-room style of gameplay with bullet hell… It is two very different gameplay styles that don’t fit at all, and this might be crazy enough to work.

And even when I’m afraid that the bullet hell sections might frustrate me, since I’m not that good at them… Still, I want to see the end result. And who knows, maybe by playing this game, I might become interested in bullet hell games… We’ll have to wait and see.

#8 – The Cruel King and the Great Hero (Nintendo Switch, March 31st)

You know that moment when you see a trailer, and you fall in love with the art style, setting, and atmosphere right away? This is one of those games to me.

This game looks like a simple, charming RPG game that’s going to have a coming-of-age story.

At first glance, it might look mediocre and a game you might skip. But I think that would be a shame. Since this game looks adorable and charming, and it reminds me how I fell in love with Fantasy Life on the 3DS. A game can also be charming, enjoyable, and relaxing to be fun. And I’m sure this is going to be one of the games I’m going to play next year to wind down after a long day at work. And that’s one of the biggest reasons I’m looking forward to this game.

You know what, it also reminds me off? Like a storybook game. Where you go from location to location and stories are told to children to teach them life lessons. A bit like the core story concept of Blossom Tales.

#7 – Mario + Rabbids – Sparks of Hope (Nintendo Switch, TBA)

Throughout this year, I have been slowly chipping away at the Mario + Rabbits game. I have been distracted by so many other games, I didn’t finish the original.

But, then out of nowhere in a Nintendo Direct, this game got dropped. And I’m so happy to see this happen. The original game is an amazing mash-up of both worlds, and it would be a shame if it was a one-time spin-off.

And now we are getting a sequel. I feel it’s more than well deserved. The passion and love put into the first game… So, I have some time to finish the first game, so I can dive right into the next game next year. So, I know what I’m going to play right after this article is published.

#6 – Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

The amount of times I wanted to start playing Advance Wars 1/2 or purchase my own copy via a second-hand website, is just crazy. I always wanted to give this series a try after I heard so many amazing things about it from other people I follow and YouTubers I watch.

But, next year is going to be my chance. I’ll be able to play both games and more in the remake. A big turn-based strategy game that started on a handheld that helped shape my childhood, the Game Boy Advance, is going to come to the Nintendo Switch.

And maybe, with a subtitle like “Re-Boot Camp”, it might mean we get an Advance Wars 3… It might be the reboot we are waiting for. So, I’m ready to enter the tanks in the Spring of 2022 and fight alongside Andy and the others.

#5 – The Stanley Parable – Ultra Deluxe (PC – Early 2022)

This game has been delayed since 2019 till early 2022. I honestly think that each and every time, the developers had more ideas and wanted to improve the game even more.

Now, as a writer and a gamer, I’m in love with the concept of the Stanley Parable that turns the story-telling in games on its head. So, the promise of seeing more of this, well, you don’t have to tell me twice.

So, I already wishlisted the game on Steam. The only thing I can do now is wait… Right Stanley? Did I follow the correct path? I think so, I haven’t taken a wrong turn anywhere…

#4 – Kirby And The Forgotten Land (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

The last mainline Kirby game was Kirby Star Allies, way back in 2018. We got two spin-off games in the meantime, but Kirby is going to be back in 2022. And not only that, it’s going to be one of three open-world games from Nintendo in the upcoming year.

Yes, I couldn’t believe my ears. An open-world Kirby game. And yes, one of three. Anyways, I always wanted to play an open-world Kirby game. Well, honestly, I wanted to play a 3D Kirby game where you can explore the whole world.

And with this entry in the Kirby series, my wish came true. We shall be able to explore the forgotten lands and together with Kirby we shall uncover the secrets of the Forgotten Land.

#3 – Pokémon Legends Arceus (Nintendo Switch, January 28th)

I honestly think I don’t have to explain myself why I’m so crazy hyped about this game. It’s what Pokémon fans have been asking, begging GameFreak and Nintendo for years. Ever since the first generations, we always wanted a 3D Pokémon game where you can run around and catch Pokémon. Something more than what the main series is offering. Something where you can explore a world freely and maybe use Pokémon to your advantage.

And Pokémon Legends Arceus promises to deliver that. A sort of Breath of the Wild version of Pokémon. I’m really avoiding all released press materials, so I can go into this game as blind as possible. The only thing I have seen is the initial trailer and I also read the news that new materials have improved the frame rate of the game.

While I’m fully aware that we all have an extremely high bar set for this game… I’m going to play it with an open mind. I’m going to try and silence my critical voice in my head while playing this game and let this game’s atmosphere do the work. Since, I’m also silently hoping that this style of Pokémon will be a spin-off series or maybe… Even more. The next generation of gameplay.

#2 – The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild 2 (Nintendo Switch, TBA 2022)

I’m crossing my fingers so hard that this game doesn’t get another delay. Since, I really want to play this game. It’s the 3rd open-world game scheduled for 2022 by Nintendo, and it’s one of the most anticipated games of Nintendo so far.

While I personally miss the top-down Zelda gameplay and first, I wasn’t too fond of the changes in Breath of the Wild, I have to admit that the game grew on me. It added so much more freedom to explore the unique mechanics and gameplay, instead of some items being under-used.

And from what we have seen from the sequel, this game is going above and beyond. From going through floors, skydiving and rewinding time… Man, the possibilities for puzzles and challenges is just huge. I can’t wait. But, if a delay is needed to polish up the game and/or iron out bugs… I wouldn’t mind a delay but on the other hand…

#1 – AI The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

Creating this list, and especially the top 5 was extremely difficult. There are so many good games coming out in 2022, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to play all the games I want to play.

Now, why did I put this game on top? Well, since I have the feeling that this game is going to be one of my favorite games I’m going to play in 2022.

When I played the original game, I was so impressed and blown away… I mean, it was almost my favorite game of 2019.

I’m a huge fan of Kotaro’s Uchikoshi’s work. Especially after the Zero Escape series, which I tend to quote in real life sometimes. And seeing a new game from him, made me extremely happy.

Which mysteries is this game going to bring? Since, you would think that the original game wrapped up everything with a nice bow on top of it. But nope, our beloved cast of characters is coming back and we are going to have a new adventure. I’m so ready!

Final thoughts

You might have noticed that my whole list is almost only Switch games. That’s because due to my busy personal life and events, I mostly play on my retro consoles or on my Switch. Currently, I have no major interest in buying an XBOX or PS5, since there aren’t enough games for me to justify buying those consoles. The same with PC games, the new PC games don’t grab my interest enough for me to upgrade my setup.

Maybe the ports of God Of War and Uncharted might be the games that make me consider upgrading my setup… But then, you have a sequel to Blossom Tales or Coffee Talk and then I get even less interested in upgrading my setup.

Then again, you have the Vampire: The Masquerade sequel… But that’s also coming out on Switch. And I also keep forgetting that huge pile of retro games I still have backlogged. 2022 will be a big year in gaming and for me personally, and I can’t wait to see where it will take me. So, 2021 is almost over and it’s time to wrap it up in the next article(s) and prepare ourselves for 2022. Since, it’s going to be big.

With that said, I want to thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.