This is not a review or anything, just me posting my thoughts on various aspects of the game, Robotics;Notes.
|All images shamelessly stolen from elsewhere.|
八汐 海翔 - Yashio Kaito
The protagonist of the game. A 3rd year student. He is always playing fighting games, and is ranked in the top 5 for the game Kill Ballad. I think that's what it's called at least. Whenever someone asks him to do something, he always says they have to beat him first in the game. He has a condition where when he over exerts himself, he enters something he calls 'slow mo', in where everything seems to be moving slower than it is. While 3 seconds go by in the real world, he experiences that 3 seconds for what feels like 30 seconds.
瀬乃宮 あき穂 - Senomiya Akiho
The heroine of the game. Also a 3rd year student, and the current leader of the Robo club. She loves robots and mechs and such. She is always watching mecha anime, and she frequently quotes Char. She is also quite a siscon. She has a condition like Kaito, but the effects of it are somewhat opposite. While for Kaito things seem to slow down, for her things speed up faster than they are. They call her condition 'fast forward' I think. It is her dream to finish the giant robot that her sister started back when she was the original leader of the robo club.
神代 フラウ - Koujiro Frau
Her real name is Furugoori Kona. She is a 2nd year student, and is also a genius programmer. She created the super popular game that Kaito plays, Kill Ballad. She's also somewhat of a hikikomori, having not showed up to class since her first day. She also speaks using 2ch talk from 10 years prior.
大徳 淳和 - Daitoku Junna
A 3rd year student. She practices karate, as her house is a karate doujou and everything. She is super afraid of robots as she had a traumatising experience when she was little. She also has a somewhat meek personality; when she practices karate by herself, her form is really good and she looks like a pro. When other people are around though she gets nervous and can't perform as well.
A very advanced, realistic, AI created by Kimijima Kou. She can only be viewed via the 居ル夫(iruo) app. She likes to call Kaito 'oniichan' ^_^.
日高 昴 - Hidaka Subaru
A 2nd year student. He looks down on the robo club. He has a habit of using the word 'nonsense'. He is very realistic when designing robots and has a cool personality.
The game is set in 2019, on the rural island, Tanegashima. Kaito and Akiho are childhood friends, and are the only two members of the robot club, though Kaito is only in the club because Akiho is, and he doesn't actually help with anything. Akiho's goal is finishing the giant robot, Gantsuku1, started by her older sister, and bringing it to participate in a world wide robot expedition the next year. The robot club was originally created by Akiho's older sister, Misaki, years earlier. Back then, they had drawn up plans for a giant robot, and ever since, the robot club has been working on it bit by bit. Misaki moved to Tokyo after graduating high school, and Akiho and Kaito haven't had contact with her since.
In the world, in 2019, devices called PokeComs have replaced cell phones and smart phones. Though they essentially are just smart(er) phones. The devices feature an app called 居る夫(Iruo), pre-installed on all systems, which acts as an AR (augmented reality) tool. You can use it to view geotags placed on buildings, cars, etc. You can use it to do things like make Akiho cosplay via it. Kaito uses Iruo to uncover hidden text documents on the island, called Kimijima Notes, left by Kimijima Kou, which move the plot forward.
There are twelve phases. Phase 6 is devoted to Junna. Phase 7 is devoted to Frau. And Phase 8 is devoted to Airi. In order to get to Phase 9, and essentially the rest of the game, you must first play these 3 phases. At the end of each phase, there is a CG and the credits role, so even if you fulfill the conditions for the subsequent phase, it does not go into it, the game ends there, and it will take you back to the title screen saying 'Phase X clear'. You need to load a save and fulfill the conditions for the next phase, without fulfilling the conditions for the one prior.
Also, even though the game has an 'end' at each of these phases, they are not really 'endings' as the following stage continues directly after the ending.
The game uses a twitter like system to determine the phases you go to, somewhat similar to the email system in Steins;Gate. It's not actually called twitter, but that is what I will refer to it as for convenience. The requirements to get on a phase, is to respond correctly to the specific girls' tweets up until the end of phase 5.
If you responded correctly to Junna's tweets, you will proceed to Phase 6 after Phase 5. If you respond correctly to both Junna and Frau's tweets, you will still proceed to Phase 6 after Phase 5, and you will be unable to go to Phase 7 (Frau's phase). You need to respond correctly to Frau's tweets without doing so for Junna in order to go to Phase 7. The same is true for Phase 8, Airi's phase. Without a guide this would be a hassle, but with one, it isn't a big deal as there is a convenient point on Aug 23 where you can make a save.
The problem, is that you can go to say Phase 8, without having yet played Phase 6 or 7, as the end of Phase 5 will take you directly to the earliest phase you fulfil the conditions for. So if you do play the game, make sure you play it in order.
The gameplay aspect didn't seem to make much sense. All it is is matching the buttons shown on screen before the timer runs out. However, you are never in danger of it running out as you always have plenty of time. It is pretty much impossible to lose unless you go out of your way to try (and even then, you are forced to win sometimes so you simply cannot lose). It makes me wonder what the point was in even including it. It's not a big deal because, as I said, it is super easy, but why put gameplay in in the first place if it is just going to be so simple?
Originally, given the protagonists, "if you want me to do something, then you'll have to beat me first attitude", I thought that the gameplay part would be a way of making in game choices, ie lose on purpose to say yes or win to say no. But that almost never happens.
If there was no walkthrough available when I was playing, it would've been a real hassle getting on the 3 phases required to unlock phase 9+. This is because when using the skip function, the game does not stop ever. So it would be skipping over when you get new tweets you can reply to. Ideally, it should stop each time there is a new set of tweets, but it doesn't. With a walkthrough though, like I said, not a big deal.
You can reply to lots of tweets from Akiho, as she is the main heroine. However, it serves absolutely no purpose, as the only way to get phase 9+ is to do the other 3 girl's phases, and after that you don't have to do anything in regards to the tweets. I'm not sure why they went this route honestly. It makes it kinda pointless to reply to Akiho other than the hope that she might reply to one of your tweets (she usually doesn't). I wish there was more emphasis placed on the conversations with her, otherwise, why put it in?
They should have made the gameplay more interesting. At least some kind of rythm game, or hell an actual fighting game. Maybe they just didn't have time.
Another thing I should mention, is that unlike Steins;Gate (and Chaos;Head Noah) there are no character specific endings really. What I mean by this is, say in Steins;Gate, if you like Faris (sp?), during her phase, you can make a choice that will cause the game to end during her phase, and you get an ending with that girl, that is different than what would happen if you play the game normally. The way Robotics;Notes is, is very linear.
In Steins;Gate, there were girls other than the main heroine that liked the protagonist, and you could get endings for some of them that were somewhat romantic. In contrast, there is absolutely no romance with Junna, Frau, or Airi. You cannot get a separate ending for those characters if you like them. Their phases focus on their story, and only their story. In reality, the only heroine is Akiho. This is fine, because I really like Akiho and she is super cute, but if you like some of the other girls, you might find yourself disappointed.
I would've liked to see more romance between Akiho and Kaito.
The ending was a little lacklustre. The whole last phase was kind of anti-climactic compared to the rest. I won't say anything specific because I don't want to spoil. It wasn't bad, but it could've been better. I also would've liked an epilogue. I want to see what happens to characters afterwards. But instead the game kind of just ends.
The twitter-like system didn't really go far enough. You can only reply to tweets by the 4 main girls, you can only choose 3 replies to choose from to send to them, and they don't reply to you most of the time anyway. It would've been cool to feel like you are having more of a real conversation with them outside the main game. Isn't that the point in going that route as opposed to flat out decision points? Oh well.
Another thing I didn't really like was Airi's sudden feeling of irrelevance to the main story after her phase. It feels like she gets relegated more to a side character.
Things I liked
The story is great. It manages to always dangle something fresh to keep you reading, and there are a few entertaining twists that aren't as predictable as in many other games.
I really liked the setting too. I like the more kind of laid back rural setting, than the typical Tokyo or big city setting. It provided a nice change of pace from C;H and S;G.
I liked the fact that they don't have a super convenient plot device like Steins;Gate's d-mail thing. In Steins;Gate if something bad happens you know they just will fix it with time travel, that killed a little bit of the suspense for me in that game.
I liked the characters a lot. The heroine is super cute, and I enjoy having a more normal protagonist, as I'm not that fond of Okabe or Takumi like protagonists.
I liked that the text wasn't filled with memes. I do not care for memes from 2ch or nicovideo or wherever else to be in my games. The only character that really talks like that in Robotics;Notes is Frau.
Although there were some minor issues with the game I had gripes with, at the end of the day, that's all they were, minor. The story, characters, setting, were all very good, and these are the most important things in any VN.
I sincerely hope they release a fandisc for this game. They did for Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate, and I'm pretty sure Robotics;Notes is their best selling title thus far, so I'm sure they will.
Do not look forward to this game or its anime on the assumption it will be more Steins;Gate. Because it's not. Was Steins;Gate more Chaos;Head? If you like an interesting story with good characters, etc set in that world, then I think you will enjoy Robotics;Notes.
I look forward to the next title in 5pb's science adventure series.