The Science Adventure series is great! You get MAGES and Nitroplus – two companies that I love – doing what they love the most: convoluted plots filled with over-the-top action and bizarre designs! Robotics;Notes is the third entry in this series, so I was certainly expecting great things from it, I just didn’t expect this would end up being one of the best Visual Novels I’ve played in my life!
The plot is set in 2019 and revolves around the Club of robotics at Tanegashima High School, which was once a prestigious club with a strong tradition and dreams to build their own giant robot based on the anime Gunvarrel (dubbed: “The Gun-tsuku project”).But now, the club is at risk of being disbanded forever for the lack of members, funds and interest.On a final desperate attempt, the current president Senomiya Akiho bets everything on the ROBO-ONE tournament, so they could appeal to their school principal and hopefully attract some new members.This is where Yashio Kaito enters. He’s the only remaining member on the club besides Akiho herself, but he has no interest in neither robots or animes.His only hobby is the fighting game Kill-Ballad, which he plays all the time and accepts anyone’s challenge. The only reason he is part of the club is to keep an eye on Akiho as a request of her older sister who has gone to work in Tokyo.Naturally, Kaito is not interested in the tournament either, but he changes his mind when the creator of his favorite fighting game accepts to change their robot so it could be controlled like in Kill-Ballad. After the tournament, they make new friends and rivals become allies. Everything seems to be going well for the club, until Kai comes across Yukifune Airi – a strange little girl who can only be seeing by using the AR app in his tablet device.Through her, he gets himself and his friends involved in a giant conspiracy that threats to change their whole society forever.
Characters & Themes
I love technobabbles, conspiracies and chuunibyou talk, but it’s rare to see a Visual Novel that incorporates these elements properly. These are usually poorly written, with too much focus on cute girls and Ero-stuff. But what bothers me the most is the “show, don’t tell” problem that persists through PC titles of this genre.You usually end up reading thousands of lines of pure texts that describe thrilling action scenes or incredible phenomena…this is not exciting. This kind of game just dulls me to death. But what can you expect when the industry knows full well that they can get away with it?They can sell a cheap game and it will give them huge profits, because as long as it has lolitas and gigant breasts, no one will ever complain about it. So why should they stop doing so? It pains me, but it’s rare to see a developer working on PC titles that goes out of their way to create something that’s truly remarkable. But once you get out of the PC scene, you can find companies like Nitroplus and Mages. It’s complicated to work with adult material on consoles, so they are fully aware that they can’t count on pornography to sell their games. Ironically, their all-ages titles end up being much more mature than the adult games for PC, because they work around themes that give more credibility and depth to their characters.Daitoku Junna is a perfect example when it comes to this subject. She is hated by many who played this game, because they say she is a slow and boring loser, but I love her! This little tomboy is really easy to relate with, as she is one of the best characters I’ve seen when it comes to portraiting love for a hobby or sport!The thing is: Junna’s family owns a Karate doujo, and she works really hard practicing it every day since her childhood, but she gets eliminated still in the first stage of a tournament, losing her last chance to accomplish something with it in high school. Still, this is all the more reason for me to get interested in both Karate and Junna. After all, despite the fact she didn’t even got close to win the tournament, her love for this martial art is so genuine, that she keeps practicing it every day with all she got.I don’t feel like she is worthless. It just means that the Karate world can be really harsh and exciting! This is way more convincing than some Mary Sue who is already one of the best in the world since the start without even trying, which is what most Eroge writers do, because it’s much easier to write and “develop” a character like that.Furugouri Kona is also a very intriguing character who is worth to be analyzed. Also known as Koujiro Frau in the Net, She is a young genius who created the game Kill-Ballad at a young age all by herself. There’s a price for all this status, though… You see, Frau takes a liking to Kaito, often inviting the game-addicted boy to her apartment with the pretext to have him help her with her game. During such occasions, she frequently tries to make a move on the young gamer. If this was a regular Eroge, this would immediately lead to hours of delicious sex between these two. However, since Robotics;Notes is more realistic, Kaito always rejects her. “Why?” You ask? Because poor Kona-chan smells really bad! Not only that, but it’s not like she is super sexy. In fact, she is really skinny, which can’t be helped, since she hardly ever goes out of her room to exercise or to do anything, for that matter. The truth is: Frau is a more realistic take on the “shut-in beauty” stereotype, which means she is a hikkikomori otaku who is even kinda cute, but she fails to meet all the other criteria in this trope.The generic shut-in heroine would have unparalleled athletic prowess combined with an attractive body, great social skills and bursting confidence. Kona got none of these, but she does have a very charming and unique way to talk. Putting it simply: She talks like a real disgusting otaku! She stutters quite a lot and speaks with a low voice, but can suddenly scream really loud when referencing animes and games.She is not really the popular type, you know? Even so, all those unconventional traits and flaws are the very reason to why she has since become one of my favorite heroines of all time! She is such an amusing character! It’s never boring when she is around, as she is completely unpredictable! I love Frau very much and I would like to see more characters like her, but I understand that no one would be brave enough to make such a bizarre and unlikely heroine in a regular Eroge, which makes me sad…Even Kaito is a character who you can’t expect to find on a regular basis in other games of this genre. For starters: He is NOT really really kind! He’s the only Dating Sim hero I’ve seen refusing to help a cute girl. His code of honor is that he only obeys those who can defeat him on Kill-Ballad.Even his friends are no exception for this rule, but he can offer his help if he gets interested in something, which is why he ends up fighting for his childhood friend on the ROBO-ONE tournament. No one needs to force Kaito to become part of the story, he does that on his own free will and even drags other characters with him. Yes, fighting-games are not the only genre Kai is good at, as he’s quite the schemer. By his influence, he saves the club by blackmailing his rival in the tournament. He also gets Frau to join the club later as a programmer and even convinces Junna to help them with motion-capture for their giant robot. This guy is one of the few protagonists in a Visual Novel that I can truly consider the main character. And yet, he manages to avoid being just a lame Garry Stu, because, in the end, he’s only exceptionally good at fighting games, so he still fails in a lot of other areas. For this reason, Kaito is as a badass hero, but still keeps being a normal human whom is easy to sympathize with!And still, Kaito is probably hated by most people who are into this genre, since the very first thing he does upon his fateful encounter with a mysterious loli AI is to try to get rid of her. Said AI being Yukifune Airi, the one who triggers countless events and phenomena around the heroes by means of the Kimijima Reports. Only she knows the key to unlock these hidden files filled with dangerous info suggesting a giant conspiracy and plans for mass murder. It’s quite ironic how your character must interact with the most innocent little girl in the world in order to put his filthy hands on some of the most disturbing information he finds. At this moment, you realize how effective it is for Airi to be the sole heroine who fits in those “Eroge ideals”. She is the perfect little girl, and as the story goes forward, you must strip her from everything she has (nothing sexual). You take her mission from her, and even her knowledge, until you eventually put an end to her very existence. It works! It’s dreadful and fairly dramatic!Some other characters are kept “hidden”, as some may take a few chapters to notice their appeal and worth. Akiho fits in this description just fine. She has such a huge charisma and leadership that she is able to attract people with her charm alone. Without mentioning she is quite skilled with machines for her age. Nevertheless, she is seeing just as a goofy little girl for most of the game, thanks to her older sister who treats her as such.There are so many other interesting characters, each one with their own themes and importance for the main plot! Since every single one of them is so interesting, I could go on and on talking about each minor role in this story, but this would make this review even bigger than what already is, and I’m lazy.
Gameplay & Routes
Yes, guys! There’s actual gameplay in a Visual Novel! What treachery is this? In the setting of Robotics;Notes, everyone in the world seems to use the Poke-com, which is a tablet device similar to an iPad, but with lots of apps based on AR, being “Iru-o” the most prominent one. It can give information about pretty much anything by using tags attached to objects and individuals. You can open your Poke-com almost anytime you’re in control of Kaito (except during an event in the principal’s office, as she don’t want you to be playing around while she talks). This by itself is already a pretty enjoyable addition. You can even control it by moving your PS Vita around! It can be just a novelty at first, as it doesn’t do much other than giving you some extra curiosities and easter eggs. This is until Airi gets introduced, which is when things get even more interesting. You search for hidden files in the map, can look at invisible people and even some disturbing things can be found through it! It’s a fun and unique gimmick!Another thing Kaito does a lot with his Poke-com is talk to his friends on Twipo (which is clearly to be the Twitter of this universe!). Not only you can learn more about those characters by reading their chat, but you can reply to their comments, which can actually influence their actions. This is how you will be getting different routes later.Talking about routes, it’s interesting to notice every single one of them is canon! They just take place in different periods, but they all fit in a specific chronological order that makes sense. You can complete them in any order you wish, except for Akiho’s route, which only opens after you’ve watched all the other endings.There’s a lot of battle through the story. Most of them are just Kaito challenging someone to a Kill-Ballad match, but from time to time you get to fight in real robot brawls! Both types of combat require a sequence of Quick Time Events in order to win, those are not difficult nor too frequent, so it can get pretty fun sometimes.
There’s also many “skins” to all characters, which provide them with several change of clothes, which includes even different uniforms. This is one of the best graphics I’ve seen in a Visual Novel.The only thing LovePlus obviously does better is the mouth animation, since the lip-synch in Robotics;Notes is pretty bad, but at least, it’s basically the only flaw I could find in the graphics.There’s also plenty of traditional “Colored Graphics”. Those good and old CGs were drawn by Fukuda Tomonori, and they look excellent! I love his character design!BUT WAIT! It’s not over yet! Remember the fighting game and robot battles? Do you know why those are really exciting? It’s because they don’t use just a single still image to represent all the action! Yes! You will see a combination of anime cut-scenes, CGI, CG, and real-time 3D models to depict what the hell is happening in those crazy combats! It’s certainly one of the best action-scenes I’ve seen in the genre, losing only to Guilty Gear Xrd! (Ok! I know GGXrd doesn’t count as a VN, but…)
The game is fully voiced, which means even the male protagonist get his own seiyuu, who is very competent, like all the other voice-actors working in this game. The whole cast is composed of only top-tier professionals who only show what means to be a high-rank seiyuu.The one who most got my attention was Kugimiya Rie. She gives voices to 3 different characters: Airi, Geji-nee and the real Airi. The thing is: Those 3 are technically the same person, but she manages to make each one feel like a different character. I’m not talking about different funny voices! This woman is just a really good actress, so she was able to give a distinct atmosphere for each one.
The Vita version got a new opening theme entitled “Yakusoku no Augment” performed by Zwei, which is…freaking cool! I got addicted to this opening and I lost the count of how many times I’ve watched it! It portraits all the chuunibyou stuff really well, as well as the serious stuff! Also: Zwei is a damn good singer! The BGM was composed by Abo Takeshi. A super veteran who worked on all the Memories Off titles and has being the official composer for all the Science Adventure series. At first, I felt like his style was just average, but it’s one of those tunes that grows on you as you listen to it. The soundtrack uses mostly piano, guitar and synthesizer, and the tracks can be relaxing, funny, exciting, mysterious, and many other styles that fit each event.
Some years ago, I watched the anime adaptation, which has basically the same story as this game with just some minor changes. Nevertheless, I played through the whole thing, because the game version gives an excellent narrative and presentation to an already great plot! Even so, I can’t really recommend Robotics;Notes for those who are starting to learn the Japanese language and want a cool Visual Novel to practice, but I think this is the perfect title to get someone into this genre. Different from the usual VNs, you will not get bored by just pressing a button to read the next line of text. You will really interact with the game in many creative ways that make you get into the plot, which is awesome, because this is the most well written story I’ve read in a Visual Novel. Yes! Great visuals, interesting gameplay, nice soundtrack and on top of that, an excellent story line? That’s why Robotics;Notes has become my favorite Visual Novel! I freaking love this game so much and I want to see more titles like this in the future!