Root Double is probably not a name that a lot of gamers would have recognised before Sekai Project launched a Kickstarter to bring it to the West. I’m a big fan of visual novels, particularly the more cerebral ones, but I must confess that I hadn’t heard of it before either. Originally developed as a collaboration between Regista and Yeti, the game was first published in 2012 for Xbox 360 and Windows. Subsequently, the Xtend edition, featuring a new ending, was released for PS3 and PS Vita. Now Sekai Project are localizing the PC version of that Xtend Edition, providing their campaign is successful.
The game is the brainchild of veteran visual novel producer and director Takumi Nakazawa. Nakazawa was the director of Never 7, Ever 17, and Remember 11, also known as the Infinity Trilogy. Thanks to a fan translation of Never 7 and Hirameki International, who published Ever 17, the series built quite a following among western VN fans. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that these games were written by none other than Kotaro Uchikoshi, the much-lauded creator of the Zero Escape VN series for handhelds. If you’re a fan of the mind-bending, time-travelling, puzzle-solving mysteries of any of these games, Root Double is a game which should definitely be on your radar.
The story begins shortly after a series of explosions rock a nuclear research facility, causing it to go into meltdown. Rescue squad leader Watase Kasasagi wakes up in the facility without his memories and with no way out of the facility. Unable to recall any of his training, he must lead the team deeper into the facility in the hope of finding survivors and a way out. At the same time, Natsuhiko Tenkawa, a quiet schoolboy who was investigating the facility in the days leading up to the meltdown is also trapped inside. You must play through both protagonists’ stories, set in the past and the present, in order to solve the mystery and save the day.
Instead of typical dialogue choices, Root Double uses the Senses Sympathy System (or SSS for short). Using SSS, you project your emotions onto the characters around you in order to win their trust and inspire hope. Quite how that works in practice, I’m not sure, but it sounds like an interesting twist on the standard VN gameplay.
If successfully funded, Sekai Project expects to ship Root Double in March of this year. This seems remarkably ambitious, given that the Kickstarter campaign is not due to finish until February 4th. According to the funding breakdown, they’re going to spend $36,450 on translation and editing. I’m inclined to wonder whether the staff at Lemnisca Translations could possibly deliver so much work in such a short space of time. I can only assume that they’re working from a partially completed fan translation.
Sekai Project does not make any mention of a PS Vita port this time around. As a huge PS Vita fan, that’s disappointing but understandable, considering their well-publicized problems with that platform.
For visual novel fans like me who prefer a good sci-fi, crime or mystery VN, the game marks a promising new direction for Sekai Project. All of their official crowdfunded games to date have had dating elements or some kind of adult content. If Root Double meets its goal, I hope it encourages Sekai Project to bring more such VNs to market. I’ll be backing this campaign for the digital game and you can do the same via their Kickstarter page. If you’re interested but not yet ready to commit, you can still support their Steam Greenlight campaign.