Are you sure you don’t want to pursue being a detective instead?
Type: Single Player
Genre: Mystery Visual Novel
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Release date: March 19, 2021
It’s been about a year since Root Letter: Last Answer released and news about a Root Letter 2 being in the works was going around. Well, that sequel (or should I say follow-up as you don’t need to play Root Letter first), now known as Root Film, is now here. So, how is it and does it make some improvements from Root Film? Is the suspenseful title screen music justified? And is it worth picking up?
Root Film follows a film director named Yagumo, who is joined by his former delinquent assistant Magari and the camera man Kanade, who formed and are the sole people of Studio Yagumo. While they mainly been working on short supernatural, occult videos, Yagumo is slowly growing into his own as he even won in some film festivals that he submitted to. Though, of course, he wants to expand as he knows he can improve on his work, especially with the help of Magari and her editing skills. Well, right as we come in, the opportunity they were waiting for fell right into their lap. You see, 10 years ago there was this mystery drama film project where three directors compete in producing the best film that was mysteriously shelved. It wasn’t until now that there’s a huge chance it’s going to be greenlit again, and Yagumo is being considered for it. Though, not everyone is convinced to have him be one of the directors, so he’s tasked to look over what was already filmed and maybe see why the project was shut down. This is the first mystery you’ll be diving into, as you’re given a supposedly haunted tape (which is very much to Studio Yagumo is acquainted with) and deciding if it’s real of just a film trick.
Of course, we can’t have a Root Film visual novel if Studio Yagumo doesn’t succeed and he’s put into being one of those three directors. He also gets a choice to choose the leading actress, who ends up being the cute, up-and-coming actress, Hitoha. They’re not filming yet, but going out to scout locations. However, they find themselves involved in murders (and by murders, I mean they literally come to witness them dying, which is much more than Root Letter) that Yagumo just can’t help but help solve. Half because, well, he wants to solve them, but also because they have suspicion on them as well.
There’s also Riho, whose Parts unlock right after you finish Yagumo’s first Part. She only has two Parts, but she’s an up-and-coming actress and model who’s partnered with her manager, Manabe. She loves mystery novels and she’s going into the filming industry. However, suspiciously much like Yagumo, she runs into murders during filming. And even more mysteriously, she seems to know what’s coming and she has synesthesia like our boy Yagumo.
What I really enjoyed was that each Part was essentially it’s own little contained story with a murder mystery to solve, with an overarching plot that gets furthered until it comes all around at the end. Not to say I didn’t like Root Letter’s overarching mystery where you solve other small mysteries to unveil the bigger one in the end, but I feel having each be it’s own contained thing worked really well for Root Film. It’s concise enough to where you won’t get bored and it’s always moving. Not to mention you can solve the murder mystery alongside Yagumo and Magari, or even before they even realize it (which, won’t be long as they’re not the clueless protagonists). Funnily enough, I even solved one of them right away with a half-joking theory that was proven right as all the evidence poured in that supported it. The only negative side to this is that some of the characters, namely the ones that murdered, won’t get as much screen-time to establish their reasoning or give any hints that their outside demeanor isn’t what it seems. There are a few characters that do heel-turns, which I feel they could have been given some subtle lines that don’t seem like they mean anything, until you get to the Solution Chapter.
And, avoiding spoilers as much as I can, it was kind of disappointing what happened in the films that caused the project to shut down in the first place, as well as the final antagonist. To be honest, it wasn’t as gory as the characters were saying it was, especially since you’re not right up against what’s happening, but pretty detached (not to mention, that it didn’t really seem like it would have pinned down the actor and no one helped at all when they were right there in the CG). It definitely wasn’t as bad as the actor actually getting run over (well, it’s still bad and either situation would have ended the actor’s career either way, but it terms of shock and the character’s reactions). I also found the motivation (and somewhat their method of killing) for the last antagonist kind of weak.
I also couldn’t help but also wish we got to see the filming process, since this is called Root Film. This really only goes to scouting locations and ends right after you solve who the last antagonist is, which is before they started filming. Depending on how it would have been written, I think it would have been interesting to see how it went and the end result to this film project. And maybe a way to see what the other films were. It would have still been interesting if it was more like Riho’s chapters. Though, I’m surprised the ending didn’t cause the film project to be shelved again.
Much like in Root Letter, you’ll be going from location to location. You’ll have a map of the area you’re in, as well as another area you can switch to so you can travel there, with the locations you’ll generally need to go to in that Chapter or that section open. Locations that are houses will even have a floor plan-like map so you can travel between rooms. And once you go into a location, you’ll notice another improvement from Root Letter. Rather than having to hunt for the hitboxes on the location artwork, everything that can be investigated or people you can talk to will have a selection square over them. Though, they will often be able to be talked to/investigated multiple times (often giving you more information in the meanwhile) so it’s best to talk to them until they repeat their last dialog lines. There are also some locations (mostly rooms) that you’ll need to go into multiple times (in a row at least) to get everything.
There were also moments where I wasn’t sure where I needed to go. It wasn’t often for me, but others will most likely run into this problem. There were a few times it was kind of my fault, as I accidentally skipped over text saying to go back to the van or their Studio (and you can’t look back at the log while in the map), but there are a lot of places where you can’t access an location yet (or the needed character isn’t there) unless you do something else first.
Shimanekko, the real-life Shimane mascot, also returns and shows up every so often to push Yagumo in the opposite direction. There’s also this weird quiz guy, Nego-Six, that will show up in certain locations at certain times to give you a quiz question before disappearing. I could swear there was also a quiz element as well, but I guess I was remembering wrong. Anyway, I don’t believe any of the answers can be gleamed by investigating the location beforehand and you can always just roll it back if you got the wrong answer. Though, finding Shimanekko and answering all quiz questions correctly don’t really have an impact unless you’re on PS4 as the Switch version doesn’t have built in achievements.
Max Mode also continues into Root Film and I really love how it is here. Max Mode only shows up when you’re questioning someone, usually in the “Solution” Chapter. You’ll be transported into a new screen, with Yagumo and whoever he’s accusing on both sides of the screen and a film reel rolled out behind them. This mode is also where you’ll see most of the character artwork changing expressions as they react to your accusations and try to wiggle out. Of course, we won’t let them. Remember how Yagumo has synesthesia and he’ll make a point in remembering phrases that floats in midair for him? This is where those will come in handy. To get the truth out, you’ll answer each of their “how could I possibly have done that?” with a phrase you remembered to prove they knew and they were the ones that did it. You’ll have to pick between a couple, with the one you think (or know) needing a long press which will start a countdown resembling what’s seen on old films (to drive that aesthetic even more) and you only need to get three right answers to succeed. And man, let me tell you, it feels so good to give out some truth punches.
Either Max Mode was made pretty easy this time around or my mystery solving skills are just too good. Aside from maybe two points, it’s pretty easy to tell what phrase is the correct answer. It’s also forgiving. Getting it wrong three times will cause a game over, but there won’t often be more than three possible answers you can pick from. Based on some testing, it also looks like you can get at max six wrong answers (affording only 2 wrong answers, which reset when you get an answer right) before you’re given a game over and sent to right before Max mode, which I don’t suspect many will encounter. I’m also really surprised that there aren’t alternate questions. There are a lot of clues and phrases you take in, but don’t end up needing.
Once you finish the game, you’ll get access to the museum which basically lets you look back at the CGs (which some are grouped up), the credits that show at the end of each part, and each song that’s featured. You’ll also get a bonus scene which is only a quick little scene where Sakuya and Magari tries to decipher Kanade’s signature “Mm” and Yagumo laughs as they get it so wrong. I do wish there were more bonus scenes though, especially since this doesn’t include multiple endings like Root Letter and we never did get to see what the film ended up being, how the filming process actually went, and how the competition went other than a couple CGs during the credits.
In terms of translation, it’s pretty good, but there are errors and typos here and there that I noticed. I noticed some misspellings, using the wrong word (which I can’t tell is due to it being misspelled or the wrong word was used), and leaving out words that made the sentence not make sense unless you fill it in yourself in your head. Before going into Yagumo’s Part 4, you’re also barred by untranslated Japanese text if you haven’t completed both of Riho’s Parts. Also, while we’re on this subject, this visual novel has Japanese voice acting for all lines where the characters are speaking. All of them do a really great job bringing their characters more life.
Sadly, Root Film does not include touch screen controls either. I have to admit, I was a bit spoiled by other visual novels on the Switch letting you continue dialog by tapping the screen or letting you navigate the pause menu by touch.
I honestly didn’t know much before I dived into Root Film. I wanted to go into it totally blind other than knowing this is a sort of sequel and it’s aimed to be more mature and having a darker mystery surrounding it (as well as it involving film making based on the title). I’d be lying if I was kind of expecting it to be much like Root Letter, but after playing it, it passed my expectations. It for sure still holds that familiar Root Letter feeling that makes those that played it feel at home, but it brings in that change of tone and improvements that make it stand out. I really liked the change where each Part was more or less it’s own contained story with a mystery to solve with an overarching story, not to mention you can solve the murders alongside them or even way before. It also does not have my pet peeve in murder mysteries (that being the murderer was a character you weren’t introduced to so how could you solve it) which I’m really glad, though it does have character heel turns which I think could have given you some subtle hints on so you can look back and be like “Oh, so that’s why I got that feeling” or “Oh, how could I overlook that” or give some more time to those Parts.
I’d say if you enjoyed Root Letter and/or looking for a murder mystery, pick this up. I got about 21 hours out of it and I was invested all the way through. There is also barely any filler scenes, as the majority feels like it has and does have significance, if you’re someone that doesn’t like overly padded out VNs. Though, I’d maybe wait for a discount.