Title: Robotics;Notes DaSH
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Visual Novel
Crossovers are always a bit weird as some suffer from character Flanderization. The stories themselves can be rather shallow since you won’t see any growth or change in the cast, but new characters will excel. However, it’s almost always a lot of fun to see characters you like from different fiction pieces interact with each other. Science Adventure games had been teasing at these crossovers for a while due to their tendency to hint at relationships between characters in different entries. However, the only crossover to ever come out thus far is Chaos;Child ~Children’s Collapse~, an unlocalized spin-off manga focusing on a whole cast of two existing characters. At least until now, with Robotics;Notes DaSH, which takes the cast of Robotics;Notes and adds DaSH, Daru the Super Hacka, from Steins;Gate. Touting itself as a full sequel to Robotics;Notes, I was incredibly excited to see how this all goes down.
Taking place six months after the events of Robotics;Notes, Robotics;Notes DaSH stars Kaito Yashio, who has returned to the island of Tanegashima for a vacation after moving abroad to study and focus on getting a career. He needs this because he misses his friends, especially Akiho, following a deeply emotional confession scene from the previous game. However, they never really figured out how to undertake the next step before the two were split.
Additionally, as Akiho has graduated, the remaining members of the high school’s Robotics Research Club have been put in charge of some robot-themed tie ins for the upcoming island festival and hoping that can boost their member count, as they are down to three and need to recruit some more, or the school club will be disbanded. Meanwhile, Daru has come to the island for his own mysterious ends and is roped into the story when the last game’s villain Kō Kimijima shows up, taunting everyone to try and stop his unknown plans before he exacts his revenge.
The story’s viewpoint changes between Daru and Kaito as they attempt to figure out what Ko is planning and stop it. It’s so much fun to see the Robotics;Notes characters interact again following the first game’s conclusion. Thankfully, the visual style doesn’t take a dive, which means your eyes get a feast of the unique mix that made the original so great. 3D animated character models on 2D backgrounds with new backgrounds and outfits and a whole host of new well-crafted CGs.
The fantastic UI is back too, and the phondroid has been improved to be cleaner as the twipo accounts change depending on whose viewpoint you are currently looking through. While you can’t respond to anything this time around, it does mean you’ll be able to see posts from other members of the Steins;Gate gang (but not Okabe, who has a bot that auto-posts dramatic quotes from his Hououin Kyoma persona). It almost makes up for the fact they, unfortunately, do not show up at all in any other capacity.
The story of Robotics;Notes DaSH makes use of some technology which causes delusions that can influence reality, explicitly derived from the supernatural phenomenon that occurs in the Chaos;Head and Chaos;Child. Apparently, some technology on the island begins responding to whoever has the strongest delusions and emits signals that alter reality. Ignore any hope you had for this to be interesting, however, because Daru’s fantasies take the stage here, resulting in him fantasizing over the cast of 15 through 18-year-old girls wearing outfits that appeal to his varying fetishes, which causes all of the girls on the island to undergo a sudden wardrobe change.
Daru is supposed to be a 29-year-old man, with a wife and child making this whole exchange creepy. He talks and acts like a horny stereotypical eroge protagonist, and we have to suffer through this behavior during the narrative constantly. Even if you don’t mind the behavior normally, it’s especially grating that he never stops, and there’s a horny musing almost every five lines, even during serious moments all the way to the end of the game. On top of this, Steins;Gate 0 implied that he would get over behaving like this to focus on his future-at-that-point wife Yuki, but here she is in DaSH, rarely referred to by name and spent the title unheard from and entirely unseen. She doesn’t even get text message cameos. It’s a baffling series of decisions that leaves half the game with a frankly unbearable protagonist and ruins what could have just been a pretty good Robotics;Notes fandisc.
I refer to this as a fandisc because the endings suffer from being unconnected to each other. To unlock them, you will need to select map locations in a particular order as you try to fix the fallout caused by Daru’s delusions. This is a convoluted system that means you’ll be spending at least an hour fast-forwarding through the first two chapters tripping event flags to reach endings, and that’s if you already know which order you need to travel through to reach them. The game gives you no hints leaving you floundering through trial and error, or just giving up and looking for a guide.
Each ending takes place after chapter 2, and they focus on the individual Robotics;Notes cast members. They’re actually excellent, more so when Daru isn’t around, and I especially love how Subaru and Akiho’s endings capitalize upon plot points from the original title. However, they all occur individually, leaving the Akiho ending as the only canon one. This whole system is weird because Robotics;Notes had a perfectly serviceable system, but DaSH decided to replace it with one that is infuriating and makes the other endings ultimately feel segmented and empty.
Some plot events feel rushed that seem to tease the player. Characters from Steins;Gate are communicated with to resolve a dramatic plot…. Except we don’t see them. Or hear them. But we, the audience, are told they’re right there, talking to the characters we can see on screen. It’s another baffling decision that could have been part of a fantastic scenario, but instead, I feel like I’ve only had half the experience and missed out on something that could have been so much cooler. This is not helped by the constant script fawning over just how good Daru is, despite his non-contribution to the story, which hits its peak when a character says, “Thanks to Daru, every hacker in the world has just started hacking” after said character “looks at the internet.” It feels like I’m just reading bad fan-fiction without the crossover elements that would make it that.
At least Takeshi Abo once again proves that he is totally incapable of making a bad soundtrack because the OST for Robotics;Notes DaSH is fire. Aside from reusing some of the original game’s truly great songs, about thirty new ones are added, and they’re absolutely fantastic. There were many moments I just stopped playing and just listened to the beautiful background beats.
Robotics;Notes DaSH is a game that had such an incredible base, and some terrific story beats set up to resolve but is constantly at odds with its progression system and Daru’s presence within the story. This ultimately runs counter to everything that made its predecessor so fantastic. If you liked the original story, you would get some enjoyment out of the endings, and there are some fun goofy moments to be had with Kaito and the gang. Still, they are severely undercut by a new insufferable lead and the echoes of what could have been something truly great. Maybe we can delude ourselves into making the next one better, yeah?
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