Release Date: June 2, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Visual Arts
Genre: Visual Novel
At one point in our lives, we’ve all wished for life to come to a standstill. LOOPERS, a visual novel by Ryukishi07 of When They Cry fame, in collaboration with studio Key, explores the idea of eternally living within the bounds of a single day. Initially released in 2021 for PC and mobile devices, LOOPERS would only have a Japanese text option until a Switch port was released earlier this summer. Knowing the author and development team involved is enough to pique any visual novel fans’ interest and, on that note, creates a really high bar for quality compared to their previous titles.
LOOPERS begins with a fairy tale where a witch details how to cast a magic spell that grants wishes. Proceeding the narrative, we are shifted to a scene of a young boy in a hospital room meeting a young girl. The boy asks the girl to go on a treasure hunt with him to have fun. As thanks for playing with him, the boy offers his most prized treasure and proudly exclaims that he’ll travel the world to become a great treasure hunter.
Again, shifting scenes, we are greeted by Hilda and Leona, two friends having a regular high-schooler evening. They eventually run-in with a boy, who turns out to be their childhood friend, Tyler. Tyler, despite looking shady, has only one thing on his mind—a treasure hunt.
However, the group discovers something more than expected, and the main scenario unravels. Hilda and Tyler face oddities in the coming hours, which drive them to madness and sheer confusion. These oddities are premonitions of their entrapment in the Spiral. This endless vortex forces them to live within the confines of August 1st.
The story is concise, so to not spoil too much, I’ll focus on some aspects beyond their involvement in the Spiral. Tyler and Hilda join a club named Loopers. The club is trapped within the confines of the same day, and the members have all been entrapped in the loop for an uncountable amount of time, though they greet Tyler and Hilda with open arms.
While within the loop, everything is reset to August 1st, save for a person’s consciousness. This leads the people trapped to become bored to madness, so the change of pace is welcome. This is the crux of the story, as almost all of the scenes focus on testing the precedents within the loop, what is feasible and what isn’t.
Due to the length and the number of club members, there aren’t as many bonding scenes as you’d expect from a slice-of-life visual novel, though you will become familiar with two members. However, there’s still a nice balance of thrilling, comedic, and emotional scenes, which complement the story beats excellently.
As for the gameplay itself, LOOPERS is a kinetic novel. The UI is clean stylistically and is pleasing to look at, with a mountain of options for quality-of-life purposes. As an example, the two options I found most valuable were adjusting each character’s voice individually and being able to disable the Switch’s automatic screen dimming when idling.
One of the most impressive aspects is the art for the sprites, backgrounds, and CGs. The unique art style of Kei Mochizuki gives the subdued designs of the cast an extremely memorable look, and the characters’ facial expressions compliment the scenes they’re presented in. There are even two different openings that I was watching over and over. Last but not least, I should also mention the original soundtrack, which accompanied the story beats well.
Still, I had a few issues with the overall experience. Beginning with the cast, their interactions with everyone are minimal, and the story primarily sticks to the cast introduced at the start of the game.
I felt like these characters could have used a few more scenes just sharing time with each other instead of having the reader believe they all became great friends within the small time skips. However, this may not be an issue for some, as a concise story isn’t necessarily bad, and the fact that I wanted to know more about the side cast is a testament to how engaging the cast was.
One other issue I had was that some characters should have had sprites, or some form of art didn’t have any. Like I said before, the story makes you want to learn more about the characters, though I understand that the story was too short to wholly justify creating art for characters who show up less than the side cast. My last issue was some inconsistencies within the story concepts that weren’t clearly communicated.
There were moments when characters mentioned a past scenario, only for you to realize that this scenario really shouldn’t have happened within the rules of the Spiral. At the very least, the explanation that is supposed to be inferred doesn’t line up with the concepts of the story, though not impossible. A few more lines of dialogue could have touched up these inconsistencies, as I believe the story could have offered more insight into certain precedents.
LOOPERS is a memorable adventure with an engaging and charming cast. Its short length and captivating story beats make it perfect for all visual novel fans to enjoy. While the narrative may not hit the extremely high bars set by previous novels from Ryukishi07 and Key, LOOPERS sets its own pace to provide a much-needed experience in this genre.
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