Also On: PS4
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Root Letter is how relatively normal it is. Where games like Norn9: Var Commons or Amnesia: Memories revel in their weirdness with stories about aliens and spaceships, Root Letter is essentially a mystery novel — and a well-written, engaging one at that.
What's more, it's got a sense of class and elegance that you don't normally associate with the visual novel genre in general. Maybe I've just played the wrong games, but when I think of visual novels, I think of confusing tales of romance and high school students, not — as is the case here — of a middle-aged man trying to track down the truth about his one-time pen pal. It's kind of refreshing to play one of these games and not come away from it feeling vaguely pervy.
Credit for that, of course, goes back to the fact that Root Letter is fairly well-written, with a well-paced plot that starts off with an explosive reveal (you discover an unopened letter from 15 years earlier, in which your pen pal confesses that she killed someone), and just builds from there. There aren't many games that even attempt to play around with the idea of an unreliable narrator, so to see it used here — and to such interesting effect, too — is refreshing.
I don't think the game is hurt by the fact that it adds in a few flourishes here and there that mean it's not 100% a visual novel, at least in the strictest sense of the term. There are points where Root Letter borrows from the adventure genre, and makes you search around an environment to find the clues you need. There's an ever-growing map that you need to keep track of, as your search constantly leads you to new places all over town. There's even a weird little minigame centred around timing your responses correctly, but I'd be lying if I said I understood it.
Ultimately, though, all of these flourishes are in support of advancing the novel's story. And as I said, it's one heck of a compelling story, which means that all of them do their job. In fact, everything about Root Letter seems to do its job of making it a good, worthwhile game…which, in turn, is why it's most definitely worth a look.