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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Gamer’s Thoughts: The 10 games I want to play in 2021

2021

2020, what a strange year it has been. I think everybody will agree that this is an understatement and a half. Of course there is still this world pandemic which is causing all sorts of havoc. But let’s not forget the events that also happened this year like the Australian bushfires, a new American president, the UK royal family growing smaller, a Brexit agreement… In terms of 2020 being an historic year, I think we delivered in spades. In my personal life, a lot of things happened as well. From me starting my dream job full time to living on my own, it has been a crazy year to say the least. While 2020 was filled with a lot of positives for me, there were also some things that I wish turned out in another way. Anyways, that’s enough rambling about 2020. This blog is a gaming blog and you are all here for me talking about video games. So, I think it’s high time to start talking about 10 games I’m looking forward to be playing in 2021. Feel free to leave a comment with your list of games you want to play next year and if you agree or disagree with my list and/or some of the games on it. Ready? Let’s go and take a look at my personal list in a random order.

#10 – Persona 5 Strikers (PC/PS4/Switch – Feb 23th) 

Persona_5_Scramble

In the past we started to see various franchises cross over with Lego and I think we’ll now see cross overs with Dynasty Warrior cross overs next. We have seen cross overs with series like Fire Emblem, Zelda, Dragon Quest, One Piece and now we are getting a cross over with Persona. 

It was a big surprise when Joker got added to Smash last year, but this year we got the announcement that for the worldwide release of Persona 5 Strikers, we are getting a port to the Nintendo Switch alongside with a PS4 and PC version. 

I really enjoyed playing Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors on the Switch so I’m quite hyped for playing this cross-over. I haven’t played a lot of the Persona series but from what I have played through Persona 3 Golden and Persona Q, I’m extremely interested in seeing how they tackled the franchise and this cross-over. Maybe one day I might have to invest in getting the Persona games on other platforms if I enjoy them enough. 

#9 – World’s End Club (was Death March Club – Switch, Spring 2021)

maxresdefaultLast year, I told you all about Death March Club. A game that’s written by the creator of the Zero Escape franchise. Now, color me surprised when the game released this year under another name exclusively on the Apple Arcade this September. 

Currently, this game is a timed exclusive on the Apple Arcade and it’s coming in Spring of 2021 to the Nintendo Switch where you can be sure that I’m going to play it. I’m currently having a lot of trouble trying to avoid spoilers by not watching gameplay, teasers or anything of the sort. I’m even avoiding reading reviews of the game since I really want to experience it for myself. 

The only thing I know is that it’s going to be a death game where you have to work together to win all the while you need to sacrifice your class mates to avoid bad things in the world above. You can be damn sure that I’m keeping an eye on this game to get a final release date on the Nintendo Switch so I can start playing it and write an article about it!

#8 – Age of Empires IV (PC, TBA)

age_of_empires_iv_logoThe new entry in the amazing RTS Age of Empires franchise got announced late 2019. The original rumors where that this game was going to release in 2020. In hindsight, I should have known better since the teaser we got barely showed any gameplay so it would be way to optimistic to see this game release in 2020. Now, the rumors are that this game is going to release in 2021.   Somehow, I highly doubt that. We do know a few things about the game already which you can read in this helpful article by “Windows Central“. 

As a fan of the series, it’s amazing to see that this series never died. It had some low points but ever since the Age Of Empires II HD version released in 2013, we got a steady stream of upgrades. Granted, apart from 3 new expansion packs we barely saw any new content since 2007. But hey, in the last three years we got definitive editions of the whole franchise (apart from Age of Mythology, oh well) so I have high hopes that Age Of Empires IV will be an amazing game since the team has a lot of experience with the franchise now. 

#7 – Lord Winklebottom Investigates (Switch, Q1 2021)

headerBut, hey! This game has already released in the PC back in 2019. So, why is this on the list of games you want to play in 2021? You have a good point there and I’m going to explain myself. 

When I’m preparing to write this list, I always look around for games releasing in the upcoming year that I want to play. I go over huge lists created by other news outlets and check various games if they could be interesting or not. When I found out that this game was coming to the Nintendo Switch in 2021, I added it to my list. 

Since this game is a port from the 2019 version of the game, the team will have the chance to also iron out some bugs and things for the Switch port so we might get more or better content. Now, why am I excited for this game? Well, doesn’t the logo remind you of the Professor Layton series? 

Because we got only one new game in the past seven years and three ports to mobile platforms, I don’t have high hopes we are going to get any new Professor Layton content real soon. But, in comes this game. A game that looks to be a sort of Layton’s Mystery Journey game but in an animal universe. Do I have to say more? The potential and all those things. Yeah.

#6 – Haven (PS4/Switch, Q1 2021)

Haven_Steam_cover_artworkYes, yes, I know. This game has been released earlier this December. But, I only discovered this game this week and now I’m quite hyped to play it on my Nintendo Switch. 

The story and concept is what drew me into this game. A world where you have to survive with two people all the while being an RPG… Sign me up! The only thing that has me slightly worried is that this game has some rhythm game elements, which is one of my least favorite genres. But we will see, maybe it isn’t that bad and it might be even quite enjoyable. So yeah, let’s wait and see what the Nintendo Switch version is going to bring in the first few months of 2021.

#5 – Mystiqa (PC, Switch – Q1 2021)

capsule_616x353Man, do I miss the old school 2D topdown Zelda games. I wish there were still games developed in that style where you have a whole big adventure in big world. Like the Link’s Awakening remake last year. 

But, wait, what is this? A game that’s inspired by the old school Zelda games, Final Fantasy Adventure, Dragon Quest amongst other amazing games? And it’s even a rouge like so the replay value is through the roof? Plus, this game is coming out in 2021 on Steam and Switch? 

When I followed this indie developer on Twitter, I found out that there are several of these games in development! Well, well, well. I think my dream came true. More content in the style of the old school 2D-Zelda games. I simply can’t wait to play them and you can be sure I’m going to write an article about them!

#4 – Bravely Default II (Switch, 26th February)

220px-Bravely_Default_III have played Bravely Default back when it got released on the 3DS. I still have to play the 3DS sequel Bravely Second but from what I have seen from the demo, I think I’m going to have a great time with that. I have also played the demo of Bravely Default II and I’m also quite hyped for that game. 

I can’t put my finger on exactly why I enjoy playing the Bravely Default games but something is really drawing me in. Maybe it’s the unique battle mechanic where you can skip turns to use stronger attacks or the whole class system. Yet, I do know full well that these mechanics are also present in other RPG games but something just clicked for me with Bravely Default. Maybe I’ll be able to answer that question when I have played Bravely Default II. 

One thing I know is that my birthday month is going to be extremely busy with two games releasing I want to play. Not even that, a few games are releasing in Q1 2021, which can be in February as well. And I have the Pokémon collab to finish as well. Wish me luck!

#3 – Re:Zero – Staring Life in Another World: The Prophecy of the Throne (PS4/PC/Switch, 5th February)

headerI love the setup of the Re:Zero story. When Subaru, our main character, got transported to another world he discovered that he has a special ability which he can’t speak about. Whenever he gets killed in the new world, the whole world gets reset. As if he is part of a game that gets reset whenever he dies. He does remember everything but nobody in that world is able to remember the reset. 

Now, this unique story mechanic is getting worked into a game. It’s going to be a visual novel but it’s also going to be a tactical RPG/adventure game. So, this is going to be quite enjoyable if the “Return by Death” is implemented well and might set up various twists up extremely well. 

For some reason, the USA is getting this game a week earlier than we over here in Europe. Oh well, that means I’ll have to dodge spoilers for a week which won’t be too big of an issue since it’s a work week and also working on the final stages of the Pokémon collab by then. 

#2 – Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch, Early 2021)

Shin_Megami_Tensei_VThis series is one of the biggest RPG series ever created. I think I don’t have to explain more by simply saying that Persona is a spin-off of this series. Yes, you read this correctly, the popular Persona series is actually a spin off of this franchise. 

I have played some Shin Megami Tensei games over the years but everytime it was in between waiting for other games to release. But, I decided that in 2021, I want to fully play through a Shin Megami Tensei game. I quite enjoyed my time with the series so far playing the (3)DS entries and the cross over Tokyo Mirrage Sessions #FE. So, it’s a good thing then that a new game is going to be released on the Switch in the near future.

You might argue that it’s not a great idea to jump into the series with the 5th main entry but then again, it might make it more interesting to me to play the other games to connect the dots and to answer all the unanswered questions in the 5th entry. 

#1 – Axiom Verge 2 (Switch, Early 2021)

H2x1_NSwitchDS_AxiomVerge2I honestly have a weakspot when it comes to MetroidVania games. When I learned about Axiom Verge and the unique mechanics that the game brought the genre, I was hooked. I haven’t finished the game yet but it’s one of those games that I pop into my Nintendo Switch or start up on my Wii U once in a while to wind down and relax. Maybe I should continue the game on only one of the two platforms instead of two. But, I own the collectors edition on Switch… 

At first, this game was going to be released in the fall of this year. Sadly enough, due to a delay, this game has been pushed to early next year. For now, I think this game will be an exclusive or a timed exclusive to the Nintendo Switch. And looking at the screenshots, oh wow.. Is this game going to be fun! Maybe I should finish Axiom Verge and Axiom Verge 2 back to back… That might be fun.

Wrapping up

I have to say that it’s getting more difficult by the year to create these lists. Mostly because most of the announced games are scheduled in Q1/Q2 of the upcoming year and a lot of them are sequels or entries in a long running series. On top of that, we lately get more remakes/remasters and ports in the last few years. 

Another big reason is that I’m more and more focusing on my collection and collecting games instead of playing the upcoming and new games. So, that means I’m not going to buy a PS5 or the new XBOX or even upgrading my computer to play the newest games. I’m quite enjoying myself by playing games on my consoles. 

That means I have an even smaller pool of games to pick from. And when I notice that a game that looks interesting to me requires to either upgrade my PC or get a new console, I dismiss it. For now, there aren’t enough games that I really want to play that validate the purchase of a new console or a stronger computer in my mind. 

I rather spend my money on games I actually want to play or add to my collection instead of having the “latest and strongest” gaming hardware. I know that this might be just me or my collecting hobby but maybe this year a lot of games will release that validate the purchase of a better computer. 

Besides all that, it looks like my Nintendo Switch will be quite busy in the upcoming year. Which is a good thing, since I love playing my Switch on the train to and from work. I just a great way to spend the long train journey creating memories and something starting to talk to other gamers on the train about various games. And I wish to be able to do that in 2021 and make new friends. That would create some sunshine in these strange times. 

But with all that said, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article and thank you for reading this one. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and 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.