March 18 marks an interesting milestone, that maybe perhaps you don’t know of. As you may or may not be aware, I really like visual novels. Like, I really like visual novels, so I’m going to find any excuse I can to talk about them, and one of my favorite series of this medium is the Infinity games.
Developed by the Japanese company ‘KID’, back in the early 2000s, these visual novels were one of the company’s flagship series. This was a series of adventure games that shared common themes but were otherwise fairly unconnected. My favorite of these titles is their third release, Remember11, and today just so happens to mark its 15th anniversary.
Now, I would absolutely love to talk about what makes it such an amazing game in depth for the anniversary, but that would require me to address spoilers. While yes, it is a 15-year-old game, it has never been officially released in the west. Since I’ll be talking to an audience that more than likely hasn’t played this game, and might not have the chance to in an official capacity, I’m going to bring up a collection of games from the series that are much easier to acquire and play and share similar themes and styles. My goal is to get you interested in enough similar games so Spike Chunsoft can officially localize it. So, without further ado, let’s begin.
Ever17: The Out of Infinity (2002)
We’ll start with the one game in the Infinity series that actually made it out of Japan. Ever17: The Out of Infinity is the second game in the Infinity series and shares its development team with the other titles. Directed by Takumi Nakazawa and largely written and planned by Kotaro Uchikoshi, Ever17 stars several high- school students who end up trapped in an underwater theme park. No one on the surface can be contacted and it’s estimated the park will collapse due to high water pressure in 119 hours. Like Remember11, Ever17 stars two playable protagonists, Takeshi Kuranari and the amnesiac ‘Kid’ who have their own story routes. These two protagonists are also able to bond with different members of the cast leading to all sorts of different endings.
Sadly, Finding a physical copy of the game is going to be hard work, you’d be looking at second-hand sites for upwards of $200 but playing through this gem is well rewarding. One of the most well-known things about this somewhat obscure title is that it has what could be regarded as one of the most satisfying endings in video game history.
Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (2009)/Zero Escape: The Nonary Games (2017)
Kotaro Uchikoshi left KID to become a freelance writer in 2001 but was rehired by the company to help with several other visual novels afterward, including the other titles in the Infinity series after Never7. Unfortunately, KID went bankrupt in 2006. Chunsoft, however, hired him and his first game with them would be released in 2009, on the Nintendo DS, to bizarre reception.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is a puzzle game and visual novel hybrid that follows the story of nine people who have been kidnapped by the dastardly ‘Zero’ and trapped on a replica of the Titanic with nine hours to escape. Starring the pun-making college student and general loser Junpei, the player will have to guide him through the ship and its many puzzles to escape whilst unraveling the secrets of why the cast was kidnapped in the first place.
The game was well received upon release but was hindered in Japan due to the advertising implying the game would be a horror title and avoiding standard anime tropes, the lackluster sales in Japan are quite disappointing. The game is a practical masterpiece and one of my favorite games of all time. It was well received enough in the west to obtain two sequels, Virtue’s Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma which made this the Zero Escape trilogy.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was remade for other consoles and bundled together with Virtue’s Last Reward and can be found as Zero Escape: The Nonary Games on Steam, Vita and PS4. Fantastic titles, dripping with atmosphere and character, this gripping series deserves much more attention than it gets. But this article is about the Infinity series wasn’t it.. better stop now or I’ll be shilling the wrong games. Whoops.
Steins;Gate (2009)/Steins;Gate Elite (2018)
One of the most well known visual novels of all time, Steins;Gate is a story about a bunch of weebs/nerds who accidentally turn a microwave into a machine that lets them send short text messages back in time which cause a wide array of amazing shenanigans. Less known, is the fact that this is the second game in the SciAdv (Science Adventure) series, a series of visual novels that combine small elements of science fiction with grounded stories and take place in a shared universe.
Even lesser known is that the creator of the franchise, Mages (formerly 5pb.), was founded with many employees from Tonkin House, a video game publisher from the ’80s and ’90s, Scitron Digital, a record label that publishes video game music, and KID. Takeshi Abo, the incredible composer for these titles also did so for the Infinity series and the series planner/company executive/Opening and Ending song composer/lyricist/general meme Chiyomaru Shikura, worked on the Infinity series producing its vocal tracks along with being credited in multiple titles for casting and as the sound producer. If you haven’t played Steins;Gate, or seen the fantastic 24 episode anime adaptation, you can find both on steam as well as the ingenious visual novel/anime hybrid Steins;Gate Elite. You can also find our review.
My personal favorite entry in the SciAdv franchise, Chaos;Child is a wild ride starring a pretentious and not-all-there high school journalist who wants to accomplish something with his life. After he and his friends stumble across a series of horrifying murders that line up with the anniversary of the “New Generation Madness” serial killings, Takuru Miyashiro sets out to solve the case and unravel the mysteries surrounding it before anyone else is killed. Both a fantastic and horrifyingly bad decision.
I think this is a good place to end this so I don’t end up recapping a bunch of information. I utterly love this game and you can find my review of the steam version on the site as well as the game itself on PS4, PS Vita and Steam. A word of advice, please, under any circumstances, do not watch the anime adaptation. It’s not very good and will potentially ruin the game for you.
Root Double: Before Crime*After Days (2012)
Root Double is a depressingly overlooked title. This visual novel is a science fiction thriller, developed by Regista and Yeti. Both companies usually just ported adult games to other consoles and removed the erotic content but considering Regista was founded by Takumi Nakazawa of Infinity fame, they’d have to make something at some point. Of course, when they did make their own titles, we didn’t get any of them. These were left untranslated and had to be picked up via piracy and fan-translations.
Eventually, though, Sekai Project managed to pick up and release Root Double in English in 2016. Directed and planned by Takumi Nakazawa, Root Double is a story that has two main protagonists with their own stories. Stylized with a √ (meaning root/route), the game starts with two routes. √After, stars a man named Watase Kasasagi who captains a rescue squad after (haha, get it?) there is some sort of meltdown at a nuclear research facility where his team is sent in to investigate. Unfortunately the facility goes into lockdown, trapping the rescue team and survivors. √Before, stars a high schooler, Natsuhiko Tenkawa, and his path is told through a series of flashbacks before the meltdown occurred. The visual novel has an extremely unique choice system called the “Sense Sympathy System” (SSS), which doesn’t give the player direct choice but allows them to adjust the personality strength of a character on a chart which leads to different outcomes. You can find the game on Steam, and I highly recommend it.
A small puzzle adventure game released in 2016 on Steam by indie game developer Little Cat Feet, Oneshot is a remake of their 2014 RPGmaker game. The game stars a small cat-like child named Niko, who has ended up in this unfamiliar and dying world and ends up being tasked with restoring the sun.
Your role is to guide Niko through this perilous journey and help them save the world. It’s best not to say much more as the game is a real experience that needs to be played with as little foreknowledge as possible. The cute pixel environments and adorable character designs mesh very well with the atmospheric music and simplistic writing, making it an easy game to play, understand and enjoy. What really sets this game apart, however, is just, one, simple, thing.
The world knows you exist.
Occultic;Nine (2016) (Anime Adaptation)
The latest title in the SciADV series is still a Japan-only title. However, Occultic;Nine has had an anime adaptation and it’s quite a quirky entry. Starring resident nerdy high school student and self-proclaimed NEET God, Yuta Gamon is a kid who thought he could make some serious cash with an occult blog that isn’t performing as well as he’d like. After arranging an interview with a scientist with a strong interest in the occult, Yuta is wrapped into a conspiracy when he stumbles upon their deceased body in their home, and a mysterious radio message instructs Yuta that he needs to rip a tooth out of the scientist’s mouth.
The story consistently bounces around to all sorts of different character viewpoints as the plot unravels, including (but not limited to), a detective, a journalist, a fortune teller, and the previously mentioned scientist’s son. These characters are all fantastic, and watching everyone’s story come together in just 12 episodes is an absolute blast as the tale never misses a beat. It’s one of my favorite entries in the SciAdv franchise and a high-speed adventure that never lets up.
Maybe getting enough people to watch it will encourage the visual novel to be released? You can find the anime on Crunchyroll both subbed and dubbed.
So we come to the end of this little list, and if you stuck with me this far, thank you. If you got distracted by the titles I’ve been shilling and took far too long to get back here because of that, also thank you. If you didn’t… well, you won’t be reading this so it won’t matter. I’m hopeful I got at least some of you interested in a few of these titles and if you’ve already played them, hopefully, I got you interested in Remember11. That’s what this article was supposed to be about after all.
Happy birthday, Remember11.
If I missed your favorite game that shares themes or moods with these titles, let me know in the comments, I’m always up for more great games to play and people to interact with about them. Be sure to pay close attention to the upcoming Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) in San Fransisco as Kotaro Uchikoshi is sure to be promoting his upcoming title A.I, The Somnium Files there. Stay tuned because we’ll be attending and sharing all the juicy details we come across.
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