The AI in Kotaro Uchikoshi and Spike Chunsoft’s latest title, AI: The Somnium Files is read like “eye”, the body part, or Ai (愛) the Japanese word for “love” and “affection.” It’s also a play on “A.I”, as in artificial intelligence because the main character has a robot eye.
With so much to take in with this soon-to-be-released adventure, I’ve decided to give you all massive exposition dump filled with everything to know about AI: The Somnium Files before it comes out. It’s “everything to know” instead of “everything you need to know” because that’s basically clickbait and it’s like we’re shoving expectations down your throat. You don’t need to know most of this, but it may enhance your experience with the game when it comes out. And maybe help convince you to acquire a copy before my review shows up on launch day.
AI: The Somnium Files is a neo-noir adventure thriller that I haven’t seen enough people talking about it. Worrying because this month is filled with lots of great games and I don’t want this unique gem left drowning in a massive sea of games. Why is it unique? We’ll get to that.
At the beginning of 2019, a YouTube channel called “Lemniscate” went up. Enter the most important character pre-release: Kaname Date, our lead character, a detective who lost his memory and even an eye six years ago. Coincidentally around the same time as the mysterious cyclops killings- No? What? Then who would they use to promote the game then?
Enter Iris Sagan, or Tesa, AKA A-Set, you bet! A net idol who sings, dances, tweets, and made silly videos she uploaded to the Lemniscate YouTube channel. These videos were a great way to get an audience invested in the mysteries of the world and introduce cast members, places, mechanics and story elements. But later on, A-Set fans, such as myself, realized that these lighthearted videos lulled us into a false sense of security as A-Set later gets kidnapped by a cult and sawed in half by someone wearing a polar bear costume in one video.
This leads to a fictional fanboy trying to hunt her down and the director of the game running around San Francisco in an attempt to find her (I’m not kidding). Then afterward, she reappeared and a whole bunch of other undecipherable stuff happened and we got a trailer along with more footage. You can watch the whole set of videos if you’re interested, but it’s not necessary.
AI: The Somnium Files is a 3D adventure game in the same vein as the director’s last game Zero Time Dilemma. A lot of Japanese visual novel developers have, of recent, been inspired by western adventure games and have been using them as a base to expand upon the method of presentation. It’s why things like Steins;Gate Elite exist. Unlike Zero Time Dilemma, AI is not an ontological mystery so there aren’t any locked door puzzles. This is a story about a Detective and his A.I eyeball, Aiba, who solve crimes. However, instead of getting upset and throwing a table like detectives in crime shows when they can’t get the info they need, Date and Aiba are part of a group that simply drug them, then hook them up to a large machine and dive into their dreams. It beats an assault charge.
Our story begins when Date is brought in to investigate the murder of a woman at an abandoned theme park. Date is chosen because of his relationship to the victim, the mother of a kid he’s been looking after for several years. Unfortunately, the 12-year-old kid is the main witness and the trauma of seeing her mother’s corpse has rendered her with psychological aphonia. Put simply, she’s mute. Unable to simply question her, the “Advanced Brain Investigation Squad” or A.B.I.S, set her up for Date to ‘Psync’ (pronounced sync). This is the whole diving into their dreams that I mentioned earlier.
This makes up the first couple of hours you’ll spend on the title, and it’s off to a strong start. The first thing you’ll notice is the godly soundtrack which is completely on point. Then your attention is brought to the point and click adventure setup. The HUD looks stylistic, with a nice electronic vibe to it. Controls and context are given to you almost immediately, in a “you should know this already” style, merging some comedy and practicality.
Voice acting in the game is of an extremely high caliber across the board even, as the game’s opening segments cleanly introduce a bunch of characters who are each given enough time for the player to get to know them without it being a massive infodump. You’ll be given all sorts of dialogue prompts and there is a ridiculous amount of flavor text provided from checking out various environments.
If there’s something you can’t remember, just take a gander at the menu, which aside from just looking incredibly cool, also has “Case Files”. These contain character profiles and definitions for various words and concepts that come up, in case you didn’t remember what things like “sockpuppeting” meant.
You’ll also be able to access the flowchart, which allows you to jump to any previous experienced point in the story. It’s broken down into specifics and it’s on a corkboard, for maximum mystery points. The options menu is also a “settings request form” which is hilarious and looks needlessly good. It’s only an options menu but.
Somnium or dream exploration has all of its mechanics laid out in the first two somnia, the first explains basic details during Date’s dream. Being his dream allows him to be a perfect viewpoint as, well you know how dreams work, they’re a mess you can’t control and he’s tired as hell so he needs everything explained again. This means that when you enter your first somnium you’re up to Date, I mean, date. And you only need the “new updates” that have just been implemented. It’s a really smart setup.
The puzzles within said Somnia are wildly fun, presented like mysterious drug trips, logic is very inconsistent and there is a time limit. Those things don’t sound fun, but using common sense will get you a decent way in if you have any trouble, the time limit keeps the tension up and you can just restart from the beginning or at various checkpoints. It’s all the benefits without the cons.
AI: The Somnium Files is A-set to release digitally on September 17 for PC, Nintendo Switch and PS4. The physical release is on the 24th.
Stay tuned for our full review on launch day.
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