A sequel to 2019's epic AI: The Somnium Files has arrived so let's find out what the Advanced Brain Investigation Squad has been up to.
AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative stars some of the same cast of the original game with a bunch of new faces mixed in. Date and the adorable Mizuki make an appearance but our protagonist this time is Ryuki, a detective who also works at ABIS and has his own friend in his eyeball just like Date in the original title. Ryuki's eyeball friend Tama is just as silly as Date's Aiba and she serves the same tasks including a connection to the internet that allows her to look up useful information very quickly and hack into cameras around the city to see what other people are up to. She also provides heat vision and x-ray vision for Ryuki to help him in his investigations and a new ability called Wink Psync that allows Ryuki to see into someone's thoughts for a few seconds. v1d30chumz 18-232-59-38
The main case in AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative involves victims being cut in half vertically by an unknown force. Thankfully, Ryuki also has Mizuki at his side which I was very happy about because she was my favourite character in the first game. When Ryuki and Mizuki investigate the appearance of the right half of a well-known personality in a television studio along with a QR code to a video, Ryuki blacks out and when he comes to, we go back 6 years to when he first came across the same victim's left half in an earlier case.
This story pattern seems quite familiar... Anyway, after revisiting the events of 6 years ago and hopefully reaching a couple of endings, you now has the option of taking a different path in the early stages of the game after rewinding back to a moment when a decision is made that sends you down a different path. This formula of hopping between key moments in time and changing the future is executed just as well as it was in the first title and I'm glad to see it return. 😊
I was quite quickly taken back to the familiar and elaborate murder mystery method of storytelling that I was expecting so nirvanA Initiative did not disappoint. With many twists and turns and a large cast of characters, there's always something happening to keep you interested. The story follows the goings on of an apparently sinister organisation called Naix that comes across almost like a cult.
AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative also does a good job of bringing levity to these very serious scenes by following them up with silly banter between some of the more carefree characters such as happy-go-lucky Iris who returns, square-headed comedian Komeji, and a popular teen's stalker-turned-friend Lien. You also get to see Mizuki in her slightly older years which is a treat. Additionally, new locations that you visit can be quite interesting such as the offices of Naix, a fairground atop a building, and a video capture studio.
Speaking of video capture, one piece of gameplay that is new in AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative is when Tama has Ryuki act out what they think happened in a scene. You'll go through a quick rehearsal then Tama will command you to perform each action while she films it and yells orders like a demanding director. These scenes are pretty fun to play out and it's nice to see another layer of gameplay on top of the Psync episodes which also make a return, of course.
In the Psync scenes, you investigate inside a person's mind and make decisions that will uncover more information about what they may be hiding. The clock ticks down as you move and make decisions and it's not easy to finish in the given time limit. In fact, I failed a few Psyncs that then required me to restart them and even though this was usually my own fault, there were a couple of occasions when it was the controls that were getting in the way such as when you have to swim and that was kind of frustrating. 🥴
I also had some frustrating moments outside of the Psyncs such as when it took me a long time to figure out a puzzle with no hints given and multiple occasions when I couldn't execute a quick-time event. These quick-time events feel a bit out of place and when the prompt telling you what to do isn't clear and you have to keep restarting while wondering what you're missing, they can be quite annoying.
Finally, AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative suffers the same problem of the first game in that there will be times when you simply don't know what to do next and you're given no hints to figure it out. This series is really lacking some kind of hint system or even an "I give up" option that lets you just continue the story when you're bored of trying to solve a puzzle or articulate an answer.
In the menu of AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative, you'll find some new collectibles such as a Tamagotchi to play with, a list of achievements, and Tama's room where you can get pretty useless life advice by answering questions or dress up Tama in unlocked costumes which can be purchased with eyeballs that you collect during Psyncs. There are some cute outfits to unlock but they don't affect Tama when she's out with you on a case so they feel a little tacked on just to pad things out.
AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative is a worthy sequel with a gripping story and an expanded cast of loveable characters. Plus, the new re-enactment mode adds an extra layer of gameplay to help keep things fresh and interesting but it still suffers from a lack of a hint system that can make progressing through the otherwise intriguing story occasionally feel like a chore.
- + Re-enactments of crimes with Tama are an excellent new addition
- + Familiar and enjoyable storytelling
- + Mix of new and returning cast is a treat
- - No hint system makes for too many frustrating moments
- - Quick-time events feel out of place
- - Certain moments have awkward controls