Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER Final Preview – City Pop Vibes

True pixel art takes real effort, and its effort can often be difficult to justify, especially when there are far more efficient ways to get the job done. Developing a game can be expensive for even the most indie of game studios, but if a creator has the right game world with a compelling story, then going the extra mile with pixel work that is lovingly and painstakingly crafted is the only way to go. Now to fully animate the artwork with the same amount of vivid fluidity as an anime from the 1980s, it almost sounds too good to be real. Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER is all of those things and more.

Read Only Memories is an established video game universe with tie-in media. In fact, this universe reaches as far as to include games that were not even created by the developer. VA-11 Hall-A was created completely independently, and yet the shared cyberpunk sci-fi vibe was enough to bring it into the continuity of Read Only Memories. The point is: this is a remarkably unique setting to lose yourself in.

It took quite some time, but NEURODIVER managed to survive some major delays and setbacks. The developers made their way through the pandemic to put together the latest build showcasing the first two chapters of the game and going far beyond the Steam demo that’s been around for a while.

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Set in Neo-San Francisco and sharing largely the same setting as its predecessor, 2064: Read Only Memories, the sequel is about diving into the subconsciousness of a vibrant cast of characters and solving narrative-style puzzles. It’s a lot like the AI The Somnium Files series in its basic premise and setup, but the execution in both narrative flow and game design is completely different.

It simply bears repeating: NEURODIVER looks amazing in motion. It feels like something straight out of the eclectic and forbidden library of the Sharp X68000 platform, a visual novel experience with some fascinating gameplay hooks to add to the mystery and intrigue.

Much of the gameplay involves careful dialogue choices and interacting with backgrounds, but these interactions come together to create some uniquely compelling puzzles. This blend of narrative puzzle design with branching dialogue flow is quite similar to the Famicom Detective Club series.

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There are some really charming character designs here, and they all seem to work naturally into the overarching plot. The music is the icing on it all, an excellent throwback to FM chiptune beats that create an immersive cyberpunk setting, with catchy tracks straight out of a City Pop playlist.

The presentation alone will win you over, and if you happen to be an anime nerd of the ’80s, there are plenty of heartfelt tributes and influences to be heard. We’re talking classic anime like Bubblegum Crisis, Dirty Pair, Appleseed, and of course, the all-time classic Ghost in the Shell.

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If 2064: Read Only Memories felt like an experimental release, then Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER feels like a fully realized vision with stronger production values to boot. Keep an eye on this one when it finally launches sometime during the third quarter of 2023 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!