Why You Should Play AI: The Somnium Files; Diverging Roads Full Of Masterful Memorability

Kotaro Uchikoshi has created several beloved stories in video games, with perhaps the most prominent of those narratives being in the beloved Zero Escape franchise. More recently, he crafted the story for AI: The Somnium Files and the upcoming AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative. Chances are, if you’re aware of who Uchikoshi is, you’re probably someone who’s at least given his games a shot in one way or the other and are thereby mindful of the upcoming Somnium Files sequel.

However, for those who have absolutely no context of his prior work, the hype for nirvanA Initiative probably seems out of nowhere and random. And while an understandable perspective, Somnium Files is a visual novel adventure that genuinely deserves more eyes, and this sequel’s upcoming arrival marks the perfect time to jump onto the hype train. While I could dive into all the specifics that make this game such a hallmark visual novel, regaling the stellar writing is the simplest way to do so.

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Uchikoshi possesses a considerable talent for tonal balance. I wouldn’t call myself an expert on his writing style, seeing as I have only played his Zero Escape trilogy, but it’s highly evident he knows how to complement genuine humor and legitimate drama strongly. It’s rare for these shifts in tone to feel superficial, and AI: The Somnium Files exemplifies that strength tenfold. Character exchanges are arguably the highest point of the game, as every interaction feels cohesive in notably subtle ways. Still, just because this trait is natural doesn’t make it bland or expected. The main characters’ senses of humor are highlighted, and they feel realistically incorporated, as in they tend to joke around about various subject matters. Still, it’s never done to the degree that sullies the more emotional moments. The first two Zero Escape games were masterful at this, and AI follows up robustly in that regard.

A crux to progression in AI are Somnia, essentially dream worlds existing with a person’s subconscious. While appearing initially nonsensical due to the fusion of fictitious happenings and real-life memories, they detail character stories in creative, tragic ways. Each person’s Somnium is entirely unique to themselves, and the trials of determining what sets of logic their mind abides by are thought-provoking and engaging in a way only a visual novel can encapsulate. Even characters I found either annoying or didn’t think much of were redeemed in attachment thanks to their Somnia. Further, this gameplay incorporation shows how courageous AI is for the genre, going beyond the conventional confines of solely text-based adventures. While many visual novels have applied various gameplay types to their experiences, AI does it in perhaps some of the smoothest and least obstructive ways I’ve seen regarding identity.

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I know the choice between playing via English or Japanese dub is sacred for many crowds to a degree where there are those who always solely stick with one option. Still, it is vitally worth noting that the English dub for AI is absolutely masterful. This isn’t to degrade the Japanese dub by any means because that too is fantastic, but the English voice work here is extraordinary and at least deserves a chance. Each character’s respective voice actor/actress befits them to almost humorous degrees, and I can’t imagine this game without this precise casting.

Like many other visual novels, AI has a variety of choices that lead to diverging story routes. A good deal of honest thought into sequential story events and characterization is needed to access these routes, but all of them are worth it. Wildly varying in tone and results, the choices in AI do matter, and the ripple effects they provide are undoubtedly memorable. Plus, there’s a freedom of choice in route accessibility, so your overall playthrough can differ from someone else’s.

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For as generalized as this thought bubble was, I hope I’ve at least clearly illustrated why AI: The Somnium Files is worth your time. For as dedicated of a community as it has, it’s still criminally underrated in the grander scope of video game and visual novel love. This title possesses all the must-haves of any visual novel experience, and if you consider yourself a fan of the medium, this game should be at the top of your ‘next to play’ list.

If you missed it, check out our review of the game’s initial release.

AI: The Somnium Files is currently available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.

AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative is releasing for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC on June 24, 2022.


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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual. Fan of JRPGs, Action, Platformers, Rhythm, and Adventure titles.