Developed By: Kemco
Published By: PQube
Platforms: PS4 / Switch
Reviewed On: Switch
I must confess that normally it takes me longer to play this type of twisted visual novel but thankfully this time around, Raging Loop is holding my hands firmly with their exceptional voice acting in Japanese dubs. Delivering both the atmosphere and tone of the story without the need for me to re-imagine the scenario over and over again. After finishing, I think to myself how fortunate I am not to be stuck in a village driven by ritual and focus on my delivery of puns every day behind my keyboard. I get to play my mindless grindy RPG’s or mindless shooters (pew! pew!) without needing to play the villagers deadly ritual games. Raging Loop gives me an odd sense of appreciation of where I am living now.
Story – The Wolves Among Us
Raging Loop is a psychological thriller mystery novel type of game, the premise of this game is simple. Step into the shoes of student Fusaishi Haruaki who just got out of a pretty bad breakup. He is sitting on his bike roaming aimlessly around the countryside in Japan, only to find himself in a crash and ended up recovering in an unknown remote village called Yasumizu. The villagers appeared simple, kind and old fashioned but when a thick mist kicks in, the villagers will have to play a game called the feast which is basically a communication game like Wolf. The chosen guardians and villagers will identify and hang the suspected wolf amongst themselves with their own terms and condition. After that, the wolves will choose one victim to kill per night cycle, sometimes randomly but sometimes predetermined. As the game goes on, the once-simple yet peaceful villagers finally unmask their true faces.
Simple so far right but there’s a twist to this, for those who failed to fulfil their roles and rules may end up dying for real either at the hands of the wolves or by an unknown entity known as the corruption. There is another twist on top of that which is our main character will gain new abilities later on to loop back into key moments of the game each time he dies with retained past memories of previous decisions. For each time he loops, the story flow changes in a soft reset like the anime Re:Zero.
In return, he ends up gaining more insights into the said villagers and hopefully resolves the mystery behind the ritual feast and oh.. did I mention this is just a tip of the iceberg?. Well there you have it, only one way to find out
Gameplay – Complex in Sheep Clothing
What appears to be a game with multiple-choices and multiple endings is actually a surprising long linear experience in nature. This mystery novel gameplay derives mainly upon the death of our main character. Gaining keys each time he dies in order to get new hints and unlock certain dialogue options. Well.. as they always say, communication is key.
Players will not only be given previous communication logs for instant backreading but also gains a branching scenario chart, allowing players to choose certain key moments to loop back into such moments at key decision making, dialogues or at the beginning of each chapter without the need to restart the entire game each time the main character dies. (Ooh thankfully!)
A Writers Glory
The writing in this game is heavily detailed to the core, fleshing out all the characters from their main drives, personalities, dialogues, craftiness, motivations, pasts, feelings, and all the way to their relationships. There is also added explanations about the cultural and religious background for their secluded village. With that being said, Raging Loop certainly wrapped up every detail as much as possible, making even any DLC driven game put to shame. Even after you finish the game, it adds even more extras, ending scenes, new ending visual novels, a gallery and even a touch on the mind-reading perspectives in the game to make it even more replayable. The typography letters in this game are well thought out, with acceptable space kerning in between letters for ease of reading with creepy yet lean letters to suit the game.
In terms of minor hiccups, other than the understandable minor translation error is that at the beginning of the game where our main character is faced with a certain dazed situation the typography changes playfully to the point that I thought to myself “My Switch is broken??”. Thankfully this is an actual intended effect to invoke the feeling of panic in readers. Rather oddly this playfulness was not implemented throughout the game especially towards a more life-threatening or maddening moments later on.
Other than that, there was a minor mishap towards the ending progression which felt rushed because of a detective approach that lacked the necessary visuals to enhance the effect of anything the main character said. You will know what I mean when you get to it.
Graphics are pretty decent in general
Graphics in this game is presentable with the Japanese art style with a strong contrast of colours, fine details and lighting like a shimmering jacket added with a vivid light background, bringing out the focal points to their readers. This only applies to their CG illustrations where object design and background are both vivid and pleasing at the same time.
Unlike the CG, the sprites of the characters alone are not on par or lack the emotional punch given the circumstances.
Other than that, the game of feast is the main meat of the game and there should have been more effort in emphasizing dynamic movements/art angles, showing more raw extreme emotions and hesitations in the respective character sprites. This was a mixed bag for me with the sprite graphics and I do think that some readers will feel the stiffness in the visual alone when it comes to the game of feast and is highly dependent on the game’s voice acting to deliver all the emotion. Check out the CG visuals and gameplay trailer below:
Voice is great and music is kinda loopy
I expect no less with the Japanese dub in terms of the voice acting, which is superb and on point. This carries the weight of the whole series and remains consistent in delivery throughout. Each character voicing out their emotions were distinctively felt and heard, I myself did not have to imagine what each character felt when they going through their warped scenarios. Adding on to that, there is a huge amount of voice acting in this game from beginning all the way to the end and even after the end (You will get it after finishing this game), which is overwhelmingly impressive and that in itself is a major win for this game.
The music of the game suitably focuses on the haunting eerie atmosphere from the folklore songs, chanting, school bell tunes, children singing and all tense moments. The game certainly brings out a rendition of disturbing, yet innocent melodic tunes which suits the haunting ambience.
Aside from the eerie music, there is some odd silence in between tunes. It would seem that that was intentional due to the game intending not to drown out the voice actors sound of shocked or realization towards something. Instead of enhancing the scenes it did the opposite and somehow made me tuned out. Hilariously at first, I really anticipated some form of jump scares in this game when silence lurks in the corner but sadly no. The heavy emphasis on reading for me means a mere drop of silence immediately makes me feel even more tired rather than ramping up my interest.
At the beginning of the game where they first introduce the characters and their village, the initial songs chosen felt pretty mundane like you are in an outdoor library. And for a very long game, it feels draggy almost as if you are going in and out of a convenience store, replaying the same tunes over and over again. There is lack of warm, catchy and cheery tunes in the entire soundtrack for this game.
What I Liked:
- The story is interesting with deep thoughtful character development, investigations and thrilling moments.
- Accessible, easy to use the Switch save at any point options, autosave, scenario charts, back reading logs, skipping conversation options, to hide or text box transparency options, and customizable volume levels of the voice of each character over dialogue (just by tapping and swiping at the screen)
- Writing is well done in terms of fleshing out characterization, cultural and religion explanation.
- Tutorial at the beginning is really speaking out to their audience. Even hilariously till the point of breaking the fourth wall and making me laugh at some points.
- Decent graphics in terms of CG illustrations and backgrounds
- Music delivers the eerie feeling and haunting yet melodic tones
- Great lengthy and consistent voice acting.
- Typography appears rightfully thin presented with acceptable kerning in between words for easy reading.
- Added Extra making it even more replayable after finishing the game.
What I Wish Was Improved On:
- Minor hiccups in spelling
- Character sprite graphics not on par with the voice acting under extreme conditions.
- Lack of cheerful song lists especially at the beginning part of the story and silence in between certain scenes. No extras to listen to the soundtrack.
- Lack of playful typography whereas at the beginning it was done to maintain my interest level.
- Story at the end felt rushed with no visual explanation on the Scooby-Doo moments or the rational side of the reveal.
Raging Loop is a very decent visual novel game overall with a direction similarly to Re:Zero, Catherine, and Death Note. It is definitely a treat to any frequent visual novel readers out there and its easy to read on the Switch. Casual readers will definitely take their time like myself (40-60 hours) to digest what the hell is going on. The game is definitely not recommended for kids, due to its perverse but not too explicit nature.
The story is detailed with all sort of characters including the main characters development, like looking at a layered onion peeling itself off uncovering each aspect of the villagers’ life, rituals, and beliefs one layer at a time.
Portraying a smart protagonist this time around, this game turns my gaming condition from the unwilling victim reader to an actual detective wannabe. Finding myself trying to think back on any contradictions in each loop and dialogue back then, searching for the main culprit before the main character does. I had some fun with that.
The themes I felt from this game is not only about how far anyone would go for their justified killings in the name of love, the desperation to survive and family, but also the endless despair of madness as well as torment with a slight glimpse of hope at the end of a tunnel.