Title: Robotics;Notes Elite
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Visual Novel
The Science Adventure (SciADV) series, developed by Chiyomaru Studio and Mages, is one of my favorite franchises of all time. Each entry is grounded, with down-to-earth adventure stories until some sort of science fiction concept weasels its way in, resulting in all sorts of fantastical and amazing stories.
You know what they say, “magic is just advanced science.” I think I just butchered Clarke’s third rule of science fiction writing there, but someone has definitely said it like that before. For the longest time, only the Science Adventure games tied to Steins;Gate have been officially localized, with the exception of Chaos;Child, but that’s now changing with the release of Robotics;Notes Elite in English. I could not be more excited to be here.
In the not so far distant future of 2019, look this game was initially released in 2012; just roll with it, the world is surprisingly similar to how it is now, with Mecha anime being a bit more popular. Our story takes place on Tanegashima, an island that is part of the southernmost part of Japan and home to the central high school’s robot research club.
Our lead, Kaito Yashio, is one of its just two members. He’s a relatively anti-social young man who spends most of his time playing the fighting game, Kill-Ballad, which is based on the hit mecha anime GunVarrel. The other club member is his childhood friend and the club’s president, Akiho Senomiya. The two were in some sort of incident when they were kids and stuck fast ever since.
Unfortunately, no one else has joined them, and the club will be shut down if they don’t get new members and complete an activity. Through the power of serious hard work and a lot of panic, they do just that, and as the newly reformed robot research club begins to work on projects that transcend new heights, the group finds themselves embroiled in a mystery that concerns the fate of the world itself.
Robotics;Notes Elite makes the most of a unique visual style, utilizing animated 3D character models over 2D portraits. However, this is not the only visual style as the title also uses well crafted CGs like most other visual novels and animated sequences that convey harder to describe robot scenes or any event that needs a little extra impact. With all the extra movement, Robotics;Notes Elite pushes towards a more immersive experience than other titles can’t quite achieve.
To double down on the immersive elements, that game introduces Kaito’s phondroid. Throughout the narrative, he’ll pull it out himself if he wants to play Kill-Ballad, and you’ll see a series of button prompts to press if you want to win. On the other hand, you can boot it up whenever he isn’t busy to check Twitter-, sorry, Twipo, where you can check your friend’s posts and respond to them.
Additionally, there’s IROU, an AR program that is used to look around. You can find geotags that gives background info on buildings, character profiles, and you’ll be tasked to actually go treasure hunting. When this happens, you can use the map feature and hunt around yourself, sometimes running into other characters in optional scenes. The UI is very nice to look at, matching the style of the game perfectly. The way they implement the phondroid into the story gives players more ways to interact with the narrative, which works exceptionally well.
Robotics;Notes Elite has probably one of my favorite casts in recent memory. It stands out as a visual novel, especially when you contrast the characters in previous entries. In this title, the main five are part of a club, and when it’s all said and done, they all share the same goal. In many other titles, the lead will be best friends with the other characters, but the actual interactions between nonlead cast members are simply little to non-existent. In Robotics;Notes Elite, the group forms a very cohesive bond, helped by the player viewpoint not being confined to just Kaito. This allows you to witness the interactions between members without our leads, giving them a stronger sense of agency.
Still, the story just doesn’t only give us a strong main cast, but the supporting cast members each play a substantial role during scenes that tie into the main cast’s development and progression as characters. They really help make this island feel full and inhabited. It’s a cast that, at its core, is extremely comfy and will leave you feeling like a member of the club as they go through their twists and turns. The opening chapters, in fact, are probably some of the strongest ones in this franchise, setting up characters and beats in a relatable manner.
It’s impossible to talk about how good a Science Adventure game without mentioning the absolutely killer soundtracks that show up in each entry. Takeshi Abo never disappoints with a new collection of fantastic songs to punctuate every moment of the story. We also need to bring up is the bizarre ending scheme the game uses. Science Adventure titles are pretty notorious for this, as the requirements for different endings end up being a bit weird.
In Robotics;Notes Elite, during the week beginning on August 23, you’ll need to respond to your friends correctly on Twipo to unlock phases 6-8, the game’s very fancy name for chapters. It calls these endings, but they occur chronologically, and once you’ve passed them, all you can continue phase 9 and onwards. It puzzles me as to why these are called endings, or why these requirements are necessary in the first place as the story could have just continued without them. Knowing that you just need to focus on responses from that date on will make progressing far easier.
I should also mention the neat “daily records” system. This is essentially an auto-quicksave menu that automatically places a save point at the start of each calendar day, so if you ever want to double-check some info or jump back to that particular date, you can.
Robotics;Notes Elite gives us a visual novel experience full of compelling characters, immersive systems, and excellent pacing that rivals the best the genre offers. It’s both dramatic and impactful, and not afraid to have fun with its cast as it balances its story beats expertly.
I’d want to make some sort of robot analogy about all these “parts” coming together to create a “well-oiled machine,” but I feel that would undersell just how great this Robotics;Notes Elite is. This was a visual novel that lived up to the very high expectations I imposed upon it, and I couldn’t recommend it more.
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