Being a fan of Spike Chunsosft since the original release of their hit Danganronpa series, Ai: The Somnium Files: nirvanA Initiative immediately caught my interest. Spike Chunsoft are well known for Danganronpa, a despair-fueled franchise that has been all over the gaming world, the Shiren the Wanderer series, and their video game adaptation of Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World.
Taking a step back from despair, Ai: The Somnium Files series takes us into the world of ABIS and their specially trained detectives as they solve crimes using methods that aren’t available to the normal human eye. Having missed the first Ai: The Somnium Files entry, I definitely wanted to catch this one to see what Spike Chunsoft would throw at us this time. Our friends over at Spike Chunsoft graciously gave us a PS4 code of Ai: The Somnium nirvanA Initiative, so let’s dive in.
The story begins six years ago when the right half of a corpse was discovered. The left half was never found…until six years later, completely fresh with no signs of decay. Special agents Mizuki and Ryuki, along with their AI partners Aiba and Tama, are tasked to solve the bizarre Half Body serial killings while unveiling the mysterious plot known only as the Nirvana Initiative…
Before getting into my thoughts and review, I recommend that players play the first Ai: The Somnium Files game due to this being the direct sequel to the first. The beginning parts of the game will refer to many events and characters from the previous game. There is so much to talk about from the Ai: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative and because of that, I will focus on parts of the game that are important: story and gameplay.
The story is well done. It is not your straightforward detective, thriller story. The way that the story unfolds and links all of the events back to each other and not to mention the unexpected twists is amazingly done. Seeing the game through the eyes of Ryuki/Tama and Mizuki/Aiba unfolds the story for players but on opposite sides – six years into the past and six years into the future.
One thing to note is that you have to start as Ryuki/Tama are the player’s introduction to what happened six years ago, basically setting up the current events. I also recommend playing through Ryuki’s side thoroughly as you will come to realize that there are different paths that you can take while investigating the Somnium. Each path reveals different information and will help you through future events.
Another interesting point is that it is very apparent that you can see how the events that happened six years ago have affected Ryuki. I really appreciate the fact that the writers included that in the game, not all characters are always strong, walls of no emotions; Ryuki is a prime example of a downward spiral of a character caused by the events around them. I also want to mention that all of the characters are well done main characters. The NPCs and of course Tama and Aiba are wonderfully done. These two have their own strong personalities that add well to the events taking place as well as the progression of the story. Plus the fan service – hello~!
One more point about the story is that I welcomed the fact that the writers included real-life conspiracy theories, relevant information, ARGs and even functioning QR codes into the game. If you see it, you see it and I find that to be the greatest thing ever.
As for the gameplay, AI: The Somnium Files is a point-and-click hybrid with Quick Time Events (QTE), and limited investigation events. I will say there are not many situations where you have to worry about QTEs but be prepared for them; one wrong button and you have to do the event completely over. I appreciate how simple and straight to the point the tutorials are. They tell you what you need to know.
Speaking more about the investigation parts in the game, these take place in the real world where you search the crime scenes, listen to testimonies, and look a bit deeper using the Wink Psync, virtual reality mode to take a closer look at the scene. Then you put everything together through a Truth Reenactment. These are all new features for Ai-Ball, aka Tama and Aiba, in the sequel. Mentioned above are things that you can do in real life. The next phase of the investigation is dive into the individual’s dreams, the Somnium, to find even more clues and information they aren’t saying. It would be too easy if they were just to tell you everything you wanted to know, right?
There is a time limit as to how long you can be in the Somnium. The game will remind you, so watch your movements since every second counts. During your time in the Somnium, you control Tama or Aiba depending on the story you’re playing at the time. The goal of the Somnium sections is to enter the deep consciousness of a subject and unlock the mental locks that hinder the investigation aka puzzles. Did I mention that you have six minutes to do this? The Somnium of those you enter all has their defining features, quirks combined with their struggles, and the desires and fears that plague them. You must work through them for them to solve the case of the Half Body serial killings.
There is so much in this game that it’s difficult to say it all here! My overall feeling of this game is that it’s fantastic. The story is well done even if you haven’t played the first game. The writers have done an amazing job providing you with those details as well as providing you all the information you need plus a little trivia on the character or topic at hand. I thoroughly enjoyed the plethora of memes, suggestive and questionable phrases throughout the game, the QR codes, and of course the fan service. I personally enjoyed this game and if you’re looking for a captivating story with unexpected twists paired with easy gameplay, high-tech sleuthing, memes, and good fanservice, you HAVE to play Ai: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative.