Root Double: Before Crime * After Days – Xtend Edition – Review
Follow Genre: Visual Novel
Developer: Regista
Publisher: Sekai Games
Platform: Switch, PC, Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita
Tested on: Switch

Root Double: Before Crime * After Days – Xtend Edition – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: A variety of interconnected stories spread over multiple genres
Bad: A convoluted structure that is not accessible for everyone
User Score
7.3
(3 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 7.3/10 (3 votes cast)

There certainly is no shortage of visual novels on the Switch. Whether it’s a short and sweet tale that you’ll finish in an afternoon or a hefty narrative spanning hours upon hours, you’re sure to find a story that suits your craving. Root Double: Before Crime * After Days – Xtend Edition (hereafter shortened to Root Double) falls into the latter category. Given that Root Double requires you to invest a hefty chunk of cash and an even heftier chunk of your time, is this visual novel a recommended read?

Story

As usual, it’s not easy to review a visual novel without delving into the game’s storyline in a way that completely avoids spoilers. Usually, we summarize the story premise and explain the setup. This time, however, it’s not as easy. Root Double comprises several stories, or routes, each of which works as a standalone story. All of these stories are connected, however, and after finishing the first route, any routes you subsequently read will be influenced by previous routes you read. Don’t take the word “influenced” too literally here: the actual text won’t change but you’ll have access to information from having read the concurrent storyline. All stories take place in 2030, in the futuristic Rokumei City. Rokumei City is a hybrid between a typical metropolis and a research facility, and it is here that there is a large community of telepaths and empaths, known as Communicators. The stories take place in the days surrounding a nuclear meltdown in one of the city’s laboratories. 

At the start of Root Double, you’ll have access to two vastly different routes, the aptly named “Before” and “After”. “After” tells the story of SIRIUS rescue squad commander Watase Kasasagi. When things go awry in the 6th Laboratory of Atomic and Biological Organization, or LABO for short, Kasasagi becomes a victim of amnesia. Not only is he forced to restore his memory, but he is also put in a life-threatening situation that sees him take charge. As you’d expect, the After storyline is dark and dramatic and is filled with mystery and horror elements.

Meanwhile, the “Before” storyline is the complete opposite. While that story’s beginning starts off at the same point, with the exact same nuclear meltdown, things take a different turn rather quickly and unexpectedly. “Before” tells a lighthearted slice-of-life tale focusing on high school drama. It might sound strange that these two genres are sides of the same coin and we won’t give away too much, but once things start to come together, Root Double really shines. The stories are interconnected brilliantly, in ways that we cannot explain without giving up too much of the plot, but rest assured, Root Double’s overall structure provides a fantastic experience.

Neither of the two stories’ endings, or those of any of the additional routes you unlock, is set in stone thanks to the Senses Sympathy System. We’ll dig into this system deeper in the gameplay section of this review but rest assured, Root Double features a plethora of different endings. Additionally, while the story routes are lengthy enough on their own, the Xtend Edition in the title refers to an additional side story. Essentially, you’re not buying a single visual novel here, but a series of interconnected books. 

Graphics

As a visual novel, Root Double’s imagery mostly comprises still images, although some effect work has been done to bring the story to life. This includes subtle things such as the characters’ mouths moving or the effects of fire, but don’t expect a fully animated tale. The manga artwork presented is top-notch and helps sell the story. 

Sound

Overall, the game’s music wouldn’t feel out of place in an anime, although we were slightly disappointed in how artificial everything sounded. While not quite MIDI quality, it’s still very obvious that the soundtrack wasn’t orchestrated but computer-generated. This is fine for the techno sounds and piano melodies that dominate parts of the OST, but the violin sounds fall flat. The music is serviceable but ultimately forgettable. The game features no voice acting. Limited sound effects are in place, and these are appropriate but unremarkable. 

Gameplay

Root Double is purely a visual novel, and is therefore very limited when it comes to its gameplay options. The game attempts to stand out the Senses Sympathy System, or SSS for short. As you are reading through the story, you’ll receive the option to set your emotional response to a character at key points. This cannot be changed in between these key points and it affects how the story’s protagonist reacts to characters according to how you’ve set up this system. By changing these emotional responses during multiple read-throughs, you’re able to change the ending. This sounds good in theory, but in practice, it boils down to simply making choices, just like you would in most other visual novels.

With over a dozen endings, all affected by how you set your emotional responses, we can’t say the SSS doesn’t affect the game, but we would’ve perhaps preferred a system that was either simpler to understand or a more classic approach to the game’s choices. The SSS system hampers the game’s accessibility to anyone that might be new to visual novels, as the explanation isn’t written in a way that is easy to understand and makes it seem more difficult than it actually is. This is something that we attribute to the way the game was translated: Root Double’s writing feels -for lack of a better word- very Japanese. We imagine that whoever localized the title tried to stick as close to the source material as possible. This is something that we’d usually applaud, and we imagine that diehard fans of Japanese visual novels will absolutely adore Root Double. However, the wordy writing does not reflect the typical Western approach to a story and might turn off those new to the genre. 

Conclusion

Root Double manages to stitch together vastly different stories into a powerful and gripping overarching narrative. With various routes spread out over different genres and a plethora of endings, there certainly is plenty to love here for visual novel aficionados. Casual fans and newcomers to the visual novel genre might feel somewhat daunted by the amount of content and the way it is set up, however. Additionally, the writing style takes some getting used to. If you can overcome these issues, then there is a good chance you’ll end up loving Root Double.

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Rating: 7.3/10 (3 votes cast)
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Root Double: Before Crime * After Days - Xtend Edition - Review, 7.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


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