AI: Somnium Files Review

I enjoyed AI: Somnium Files developed and published by Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. It’s a visual novel with a strong detective murder mystery with some science fiction elements. Yes, like any typical game, there is a lot of saving to do because young girls do need help even when they are bratty and acting all tough! After all, being killed by a sadistic rapist is the worst nightmare that can happen to any girl! You can’t expect a psychopath to have empathy? Do you?

Misuki praying
Poor Mizuki who is only 12, tried so hard to be strong when she is actually mourning for the loss of her mother.

Story

First off, I want to warn readers that I don’t recommend this game to those who don’t have a healthy sense of humor and who are quick to slap anything that has to do with sexuality as misogyny. Quite the contrary, the game is not even misogynistic. The sexual jokes are mild compared to what I see on Twitter and from the former U.S. president. Despite my defense for this game, it doesn’t mean I accept locker room talk. But the jokes are there to poke fun at the protagonist’s singleness. After all, you are playing as the nice, perverted guy who is possibly bi-sexual.

Date looks like a girl
C’mon, look at Date’s face (the protagonist). He can pass off as a pretty woman.

I think that is why I could laugh at the part where Date hit on the 36-year-old receptionist who looks like an idol but is too old to be one. I say as long you can afford anti-aging creams and live comfortably then you are set for life. The average women care more about their appearance and health than they actually would admit as the motivating factor to why they work on top of the fact no one wants to end up homeless. But of course, there are exceptions. So more power to the receptionist for learning how to enjoy life in the moment (as long as you live responsibly that is). It takes a lot of soul searching to find contentment.

I used to work with an older woman who said if she had big boobs she’d flaunt it off. Not to attract men, but for her own liveliness. She was drunk when she said it though.

But I do see how someone would call this game misogynist. I suppose when you analyze a piece of creative work, you got to learn how to put things into context. So don’t dismiss this game because of its humor. On a serious note, there are a lot of heavy subjects around the concept of dream, reality, and AIs and whole bunch other stuff. And what I noticed is that there is a sense of optimistic, progressive thinking about the future of society, or a sense of acceptance on the writer’s part. It’s not just the topic of AIs I am talking about, but also the LGBT community in general.This game is a product of its time.

Aiba looking content
Aiba, the AI who is Date’s detective partner, agrees that human intuition is good from time to time, which is something rational, logical AIs lack.
Mizuki at Marble Bar
Mizuki is accepting of the LGBT community but still shows a sign of uncomfortableness.

I think the balance between seriousness and humor in the game is well done, and that is what I look for when I rate a good game. Even when I completed the game (there are multiple endings) there are still many mysteries to solve and once you solve the remaining mysteries of the story, everything just blows up in your face like fireworks. Overall, the pacing of the story is nice just as much as the colorful cast. Great game for mystery fans.

Gameplay

I played the demo on PS4 so I knew what to expect when I bought the game for PC. There are some differences in terms of user experience obviously. I played with mouse and keyboard but you can also play with a controller. I just stick with mouse and keyboard. I also noticed the game on the PC tends to glitch out occasionally, but it doesn’t happen frequently when I changed the graphic setting. I don’t know what it’s like for PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

While solving a case…this happened. It’s kind of artistic!

Gameplay wise, it did great at creating urgency but can get annoying because it does not reward you based on your skills to solve a case in 6 minutes. It did however, reward you on basic arithmetic skills! You have to select Timie to save seconds from being used on the top left side of the screen. Failure to select Timie correctly and the correct choices will penalize you for using seconds in real time and some of them take big chunks!

I had crossed eyes or something when I was playing the game because I mistook TIMIE for TIME. For awhile I kept proceeding without selecting the TIMIE on top center of the screen.

I found myself several times retrying and restarting the case due to running out of time. Some cases can get pretty tough especially if you are trying to solve it within 1 second remaining to obtain one of the trophies. If that sounds complicated. Do not fret. It will take trials and errors to get it right. Getting all the trophies was worth it.

I pride myself on my determination. I did it!

Overall, I thought the mix of shooting, investigating and solving puzzles were interesting. Not one moment was I bored. The concept of pyscning into someone’s dream to uncover hidden clues seems pretty high tech and futuristic. Is it ethical? Not really! I already feel invaded by tech companies collecting my data. It’s like exposing your underwear for strangers to see. Ugh…

mercenaries hovering over to look at bra

Sound

I realized I don’t write much about sound production and voice acting. But they do make a difference in the quality of any video game. At the beginning of the game, I kept switching from English to Japanese language to see which voice cast I prefer to listen to. Eventually I stick with the Japanese voice cast because I prefer Aiba’s Japanese voice over the English voice because ironically she sounds more natural. Believe it or not Aiba is an evolved AI who has a personality of her own and who has the free agency to think for herself. It makes sense to personify her a bit even though she lives inside the protoganist’s eye and she is just an AI. She is also Date’s alter ego. But I won’t go into detail behind my reasoning. That will be another post for a different time if I decide to write about the eye metaphor.

Lastly, the soundtrack composed by Keisuke Ito is decent and the sound effects are seamless enough that I don’t even recognized the music sometimes. It’s great because I felt immersed in the game, but I can’t say I am all that into idol pop culture music though. So the soundtrack didn’t stood out to me as much as other quality story-driven games. However, I do enjoy the Ikume Shrine theme because I just like all things zen.

Conclusion

This game is far from boring and simplistic. It has good soundtrack, good story, fun gameplay and good humor. Who doesn’t enjoy laughing? It’s a great way to release stress. Time is well spent when you are doing something you enjoy especially if it is also thought-provoking.

P.S.

I was having a hard time writing a review for this game and learned that I can use some sort of structure to make my writing process easier. I don’t know if I will stick to this format though, but I did enjoy putting it together.

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