Back during my middle school days I used to have a foreign pen pal. She ceased writing to me once I sent her the postal stamps from my country that she desired for her collection. Ouch, I felt so used. Unable to trust people ever again I retreated to the world of video games, hiding away from human contact in my bedroom. That torrid tale explains why I am a hermit who spends his free time reading visual novels. Call me overly sensitive if you must, but the past is too painful for my fragile heart to bear. Anyways, enough with the sob stories let us move on and review another fine PlayStation Vita release. Oh, this one looks good. Root Letter from Kadokawa Games and published in the west by PQube. According to the synopsis the game deals with a chap who is searching for his missing pen pal…. pen pal?!? Nooooo. Ingrid why did you abandon me? Didn’t you like my stamps? Waaaah!
Root Letter is a mystery visual novel starring a bloke named Takayuki. The game begins with our protagonist partaking in a spot of spring-cleaning. Whilst sorting through old correspondences from former pen pal Aya Fumino he stumbles across an unopened letter. Curious, he opens the note only to discover a written confession from Aya were she remorsefully admits to committing murder. What would you do after making such a morbid discovery? Dismiss the message as a childish prank? Report the matter to the police? Well you could, but that wouldn’t make for a very interesting video game would it? Takayuki doesn’t want to star in a game that is duller than Desert Bus so he travels to Aya’s hometown of Matsue in search of answers. When he arrives Takayuki learns from locals that Aya perished twenty-five years ago. Huh? That can’t be right. Since when do the deceased send out snail mail?
Channelling his inner Fox Mulder, Takayuki sets off in search of clues to solve the pen pal conundrum. Is there a logical explanation or could supernatural forces really be at work? The investigation won’t be easy though, as the townsfolk all deny knowing Aya. His only lead are the friends mentioned in Aya’s correspondence. Unfortunately for Takayuki he doesn’t know the true monikers of Aya’s chums because her letters only mention their nicknames. Locating the fabled Four-Eyes, Snappy, Shorty, Monkey, Bestie, Bitch and Fatty is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Wait a minute. Bitch? Fatty? Those nicknames are rather disparaging. Perhaps the aforementioned friends killed Aya after being insulted one too many times. No one likes being called obese or a female dog. To be honest I have committed homicide for much less.
My rating for Root Letter is three and a half stars. The game starts slow, but after the first chapter I got hooked in hunting down Aya’s childhood acquaintances. Root Letter isn’t the best-written visual novel on Sony’s handheld, but I still enjoyed its nice soundtrack and anime rendition of Shimane Prefecture’s picturesque tourist sites. Unlike some other visual novels there is a fair bit of interactivity in Root Letter. To advance the narrative players will have to use a magnifying glass to check locations for clues. Phoenix Wright fans will be happy to hear that the game contains some interrogation sequences too. During these segments Takayuki interviews suspects by asking questions and uses the evidence he has previously procured to challenge their testimony. If your detective skills match those of Inspector Clouseau worry not because hints are readily available by selecting the “think” command from the in-game menu.
Overall I had a grand time playing through Root Letter. The original ending I got wasn’t great, but with a total of five finales to unlock most readers should find a conclusion they enjoy. Outcomes range from romantic to downright silliness involving extra terrestrials (looks like the writers may have been fans of Silent Hill.) After playing Root Letter my faith in pen pals has been rejuvenated. Perhaps the time has come for me to be less anti-social and open up to others? Coincidently I received an email from a Russian lady the other day expressing the desire to become friends. Maybe she could become my new pen pal? Unlike that hussy Ingrid she doesn’t expect me to furnish her with stamps. All she requests is that I provide her with my bank details and social security number. What could possibly go wrong?