Even for the infamous genre of Visual Novels, Infinite Loop is an odd game, which is why I took an interest in it! I believe even the most hardcore fans of the genre are unfamiliar with this little PSP game, which doesn’t come as a surprise to me. You see, even with the giant Nippon Ichi behind it, Infinite Loop never did too well in Japanese stores. Thus, it didn’t got a localization. Nevertheless, I had this game in my radar for over 5 years, and it’s time to undo the seal and finally play this peculiar title!
Once upon a time, there was a very charming and gentle prince who was loved by all. His good deeds earned him the hand of a beautiful princess of a nearby kingdom in marriage. The whole country blessed their union, but something dark was lurking in the shadows. An unknown plague attacked the kingdom, making many victims among people important to the prince, starting with his father – the king. The fear of death made the citizens unstable and depressed.Thankfully, the marriage could cure the heart of the people. Unfortunately, the prince received an unwanted guest in his room at night: A dreadful apparition, like death itself took his life with a mere glance, ruining the dreams and hope for a new bright future. But not all was lost just yet! The prince opened his eyes to see his own corpse lying on the floor. He found his soul attached to his personal maid, who was the first to come to his aid. However, his voice and touch couldn’t reach anyone. Sadly, even more tragedies befall the kingdom, taking the lives of his loved ones. Desperate and powerless, the prince fell into darkness. When he came to, he was back at the exact moment when he passed away. This gave new hope to the prince! Even though he could not undo his own death, there should be a way for him to help others. And a way he found: Thanks to an enigmatic fortuneteller, he realized he could send messages to the living through their dreams. Now it’s up to the prince to uncover the truth behind all those calamities, and hopefully, find everlasting peace!
Characters, Themes & Gameplay
As you control prince William’s ghost, you notice that not only he has no voice, but he also has no dialog. It makes sense, though, since right at the beginning, it is stated that spirits can’t talk. Holy plot convenience! Until there’s a flashback sequence, where William was suppose to talk, as he’s not dead yet. Still, William deserves his reputation as a charismatic and kind person. The developers manage to pass this without almost any dialog (save from some narrations here and there).The prince’s true nature is shown through every single of his actions and facial expressions. You know he’s concerned about everyone around him and that he doesn’t wish harm to anyone.The aforementioned flashbacks also help to cover this through interactions with other characters. It even got me a bit confused, as I usually don’t need to pay attention to the protagonist dialogs because of how poorly written and predictable the game is, but in this case, it’s the complete opposite.Infinite Loop is so well written and directed that you can have a deep understanding of what’s going on during a complicated conversation by just reading the atmosphere and looking at the characters’ faces.It’s also really satisfying to see how all the tragedies in the story are not taken lightly! You notice this right at the beginning, when you see how William’s death affected the people in the castle. Everyone looks pretty depressed already, starting with Aisha, the maid who is the first to be “possessed” by the prince’s ghost. She has a hard time to even believe that her master is gone. She keeps wishing it was just a dream.As you follow the maid’s point-of-view, you find out that most of the other servants left the country and Mary – the only remaining maid in the castle aside from Aisha – is planning to quite her job as well. This is because they got reassigned to work for other nobles, and for the first time, they realized how arrogant and selfcentered they usually are.But then, Aisha visits the room of William’s most beloved ones, and you get to see how destroyed they are! Starting with Celestia – the princess who was deeply in love with him. They had a long going love story together and their love was pure. Now her eyes completely lost any sign of life. She feels sick and just don’t wish to speak with anyone.On the following day, Aisha goes check William’s little sister Vanessa (nicknamed “Viene”) and she is EVEN WORSE! She has completely closed her mind from the world, as she keeps looking at the nothing. After some hours, she becomes self-aware again, just to immediately remember what happened to her brother, which makes her cry intensively, until she goes back to her catatonic state.Not much later, Celestia is unable to bear anymore and takes her own life by drinking poison. Your first task is to save her. For starters, you make Aisha dream with the castle terrace, which is an important place for the siblings. She gets influenced by this and takes Viene there. The scenario reminds the little princess of her promises for her future that she made to her brother. This gives her some will to live. Next, you move from Aisha to possess Viene by pressing the R or L triggers and at the following night, you pick the “Celestia” icon to make Viene dream with her depressed sister-in-law. Feeling sympathized with her, Viene visits her room in the next morning right in time to stop her from drinking the poison. They hug and cry together, until they make a pact to live on for the sake of their beloved William.This covers only the tutorial during the opening act found in the demo version (which you can play online right here!), but it gives you an idea of how unusual this game is. I would classify it as a “Puzzle Visual Novel”, since every piece of event connect together to form a bigger story with is part of yet a bigger plot. Said “pieces” are unlocked by using “key words” that you find during dialogs in other events. In turn, you unlock events by using these “key words” to give dreams to specific targets as you switch perspective from person to person.Even when a character is doing something that looks superfluous, later you notice every little action is an important part of something bigger and it will eventually have influence in the main plot. As you play through one point-of-view, the other characters keep moving with their own schedule. Regardless of who you’re possessing, every character will still be moving around, and it’s extremely important that you keep track of where each one is going, since you will need to be constantly moving from a person to another in order to collect new key words and unlock more events. Thankfully, you get a pretty detailed map that even warns you when someone’s schedule changes.It’s already a pretty busy and difficult game as it is, but things get even more complicated with the addition of the Grim Reaper, an evil entity that, just like you, can possess other people without causing direct harm to them. It can, however, hurt you. And every moment next to this beast drains one point of your HP. If it reaches zero, you go back to the first day of the loop.In total, you have a whole month full of mysteries, assassinations, accidents, conspiracies and other crimes that need to be prevented. Which makes for one hell of a long trip and also culminates in the second most difficult Visual Novel to beat that I ever played! (losing only to totono!). It would certainly be tiresome to play a game that loops through many of the same events, without mentioning it’s quite easy to get stuck during a playthrough, and there’s no reliable walkthroughs around. Thankfully, good writing and directing skills made for an intriguing plot full of relatable characters. I got so attached to all of them, that I wanted to progress further even if it took lots of trial & error.I can’t say these characters don’t fit in some tropes, which is not necessarily bad, but different from regular VN stereotypes, they are not one-dimensional. They act like humans, each one has many problems and worries, they have their own qualities and flaws. Even the more “cartoonish” of these characters have something interesting to show. And considering you will need to stalk them for a long time, it’s good to know they will not bore you to death, nor will they piss you off.All those castles, fancy clothes and armors are not just for show, as the story in fact takes place in medieval times. This setting is not just for the aesthetics, as their whole culture is based on the old European age, and there’s no attempt at adapting this to modern Japanese understanding. The speech, proverbs, quotes, gestures, traditions, beliefs and other behaviors are just like it should be in this place and time in history.For instance, everyone in this story has faith in the Christianism, and they are pretty open about it. They pray, make confessions and visit the church. It’s really uncommon to see Japanese works with religion as an influential element in the story. Usually, religion is portrayed as something evil, but there’s nothing like that in Infinite Loop. Even the priest is a very nice grandpa!Whenever there’s a piece of information that is not commonly known in Japanese culture, a new entry appears on the in-game database, which has detailed explanations about everything, with even some illustrations. So you can brag to everyone about a game that actually teaches you stuff!Of course, the writers took some liberties with this setting in order to make things less awkward for everyone. Nobody talks about slavery and there’s no racism, which doesn’t bother me, as the plot is not about those things. One could also argue that it’s strange how mysticism is just as accepted as the word of the church, but magic was a major thing during medieval times as well, so this has a certain degree of sense.Nothing to worry, though! There are still plenty of popular Visual Novel elements, like Viene’s brother complex (which she doesn’t even try to hide), maids who come in two flavors and a handful of bath scenes and other “ecchi-events” (although, those are well hidden).
Fuwa Daisuke is the character designer and main artist. I admire him for how bold he was with some unusual designs, like the chubby Aisha, whom I find cute, sexy and smart. He was not afraid to add old characters to the cast, either and there’s even some ugly ones! For me, it gives more variety, realism and individuality to all these characters. I really appreciate this! Fuwa Daisuke also worked for WillPlus for a time, but it’s a shame to know he became a freelancer and has been quiet for a while now.In the end, the main appeal in these graphics are the animations. It’s a technique similar to flash, as the body of each character is composed of many separated parts that are animated apart from each other. However, they don’t resize or bend the sprites in order to give the impression of movement (like normal flash animation does). They use the good and old frame by frame animation for each body part, which gives a very lively feel to all these characters. It’s thanks to these superb graphics that it’s possible to read how each character feel just by looking at their gestures and facial expressions!
Some tracks remind me a bit of Castlevania Symphony of the Night, with that dark and melancholic atmosphere by using classic instruments like violin and piano. Those fit quite well during the darkest moments in the story. There are some more lively tunes for comedic scenes and naturally, romantic themes, since there’s plenty of drama during the plot.
Aside for Matsuoka Yuki voicing Celestia, the voice cast is not that well-known. Nevertheless, they all make a great performance. I don’t remember any moment where the acting was lacking and it never felt forced or annoying. Even for character with obnoxious voices, it still sounds amusing! This is not an easy feat.
THIS IS SUCH A GOOD GAME! It’s yet another “all-ages” Visual Novel only for consoles that is at a totally different level, unlike most VN titles released for PC! Excellent plot, charismatic and unique characters, incredible visuals, great music, fantastic voice-acting and creative gameplay! There’s just no significant flaw in the game. If I was to complain about something, it would be the walkthrough that I was using, which was pretty vague and full of mistakes. But this has nothing to do with the game itself.Damn it! Infinite Loop certainly deserved much more! But I can guess why it was not well received in Japan: A chubby maid, bunch of old dudes, story full of tragedies, convoluted plot, lots of cultural elements from other countries and complex gameplay with high difficulty level. At least, I’m glad to know that part of the elements in this game could live on in Disgaea Infinite – a Disgaea spin-off that even got a localization and did great worldwide! Which means that, unknown to many, Infinite Loop still had a huge role in the Visual Novel industry. That’s why I believe Nippon Ichi could announce a spiritual successor at any moment! I will keep my fingers crossed!