LTTP: Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P (or: VLR meets Mafia, or: the Switch as a VN box)

GSR

Member
Oct 25, 2017
919
(Fair warning: this post is mostly going to be a long review of this game. If you want to talk about the Switch as a VN machine and less in terms of this specific game, skip to the end.)



Back on the old forum, there was a topic tracking the visual novels coming to the Switch. Despite running the Ace Attorney community OT, I’m not much of one for straight visual novels - I need a little more gameplay than tapping “A” and making occasional choices - but I made a long post in there about a VN I’d recently played on the Switch called Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P (yes, it really is spelled that way.) I wanted to expand that post into something like a full review of the game, and talk a little bit about what I think the Switch does so well for playing VNs.

I heard about Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P through a friend’s mystery blog, where he gave it a positive write-up. The gist of the game is this: you play as grad student Fusaishi Haruaki, who takes off into the countryside of Japan on his motorcycle after a bad breakup. Haruaki eventually winds up (by chance) in Yasumizu village, a tiny, remote farming village nestled in the mountains in the shadow of the more prosperous Fujiyoshi town. Haruaki’s motorcycle breaks down, and that evening a strange fog surrounds the village, leading the residents to panic and lock themselves in their houses. When Haruaki hears a scream and goes to investigate, he sees a massive, wolf-like figure… and is torn to shreds. Just one thing: Haruaki wakes up back on his bike outside the village, and when he gets to that night again, he remembers what happened and has the good sense to stay inside this time. In the morning the villagers declare the Underworld Feast is in session, and that two werewolves are hiding amongst them. Each day they will hold the feast and try to determine which of them has turned werewolf and vote to kill one person, while each night the werewolves will kill one of their fellow villagers. The only weapon the villagers have is that a few of them have been “gifted” with blessings from the mountain gods that will let them do things like designate someone to protect from the wolves once per day. It’s up to Haruaki to use the strange loop he’s trapped in to save as many of the villagers as possible and determine what the truth of this game is.

Or to get to the headline I stuck up there: this game’s setting is essentially Mafia/Werewolf meets Virtue’s Last Reward, just with less puzzle-solving. Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P is a pure VN, with the only gameplay being reading, making choices, and navigating the game’s flowchart. Like VLR, the various endings you get (good and bad) give you “keys” of new information that you can use to take “locked” choices earlier in the game and find new paths. For instance, if you learn someone is a werewolf, you can accuse them during the feast - but that still isn’t necessarily the right play. And making certain choices before the fog hits results in a different distribution of werewolves and “gifted” people. Before I oversell this, I should note the game is still fairly linear; most of the bad ends happen pretty soon after you make a choice that leads to them, and while VLR had you doing some pretty wild flowchart jumping by mid-game, Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P makes you get a few major endings in a set order before you can go back and really start exploring.

What is more fun - and what I think the game does a little better than VLR or ZTD - is that Haruaki is very aware of his loop after the first chunk of the game, and that means he spends a good amount of time exploring what it lets him do and how it’s affecting how he sees the people around him. One particular late-game branch actually spends a lot of time exploring this, and what it could do to someone’s psyche. (I’d go into more detail to avoid making it sound entirely like Murder Groundhog Day, but the most interesting things are spoilers, unfortunately.) In general, Haruaki feels like a bit of an oddball VN protagonist compared to a lot I’ve played; he’s a bit trickstery and troll-ish at times, and his objective is less “get everyone out alive” than it is “survive and break the loop for myself”. I won’t pretend like he’s a Deep Moral Character (tm), but he is a little darker than your usual “detective”, even if you’re not shooting for bad endings.

The rest of the game’s cast is alright, too. While it’s not the case that every character has a route dedicated to them (somewhat unsurprisingly, the three girl characters roughly Haruaki’s age get the spotlight), just about each of the 16 villagers/visitors gets at least some time to shine, and has their own motivations, backstories, and relationships. The nature of the werewolf game, as well as the fact that different routes have different werewolves, adds something of a Danganronpa sense to the proceedings, where you never know who will be dead in the morning or who might turn out to be a killer. There were definitely a few moments of “I really like this person, I really hope they don’t turn out to be… dammit!”

The game also does something that felt fresh to me as someone who usually plays more modern or sci-fi angled story-based games, which is that it has a heavy focus on Japanese folklore and the nature of religion and belief. What I mean here isn’t that the game is going to stop and give you a lecture on Shintoism, but rather that the mystery of the game is inherently tied to the customs and religion of this tiny fictional corner of Japan, and the characters spend a lot of time discussing things like how religions develop over time, or borrow from others, or how fragments of culture from around the world can find root in tiny parts of countries that have nothing to do with it. After all, isn’t it strange that a tiny rural Japanese religion features werewolves, a largely western concept, so prominently?

As for the overall story of the game, I liked it a lot. It can drag its feet a little bit, _especially_ in the beginning and one or two exposition dumps near the end, but for the most part the game does a nice job of balancing the “episodic” nature of each route’s werewolf game and the greater mysteries of the plotline. The game is also very good at dropping hints for the attentive player; if you want to solve the case before Haruaki, you should be keeping very close track of who’s saying what, because characters will often let minor contradictions into their speech that the game won’t call out explicitly. I do have slightly mixed feelings about the ending - the game seems to be taking a hard genre swerve at one point but then sort of backs away from it, which is a little disappointing (especially when some elements of that swerve still play a major part in the ending.) In particular, there are so many little plot threads and characters that a few things feel like they’re getting papered over by the end, with a possible explanation given but not enough detail.

…Which leads into this game’s coolest feature, which I can only describe as a new game plus for VNs. While you don’t unlock any new choices or routes after seeing the true ending, you do unlock “exposed mode”. Toggling it on adds a ton of text to the game, as the narration updates to show exactly what Haruaki is thinking (rather than narrating), lets us see what other characters are thinking (letting us see why characters did what they did, or letting us see what the werewolves were up to), and even adds entirely new scenes that show what characters were doing while Haruaki wasn’t present. I haven’t played through this except for a few key chapters, but it’s a fascinating way of adding replay value to the game and letting players dig deeper into the storyline and characters. (There are also some post-story short scenarios unlocked when you finish the game, but again I haven’t dug into those yet.)

If there is one area the game could use some work, it’s the presentation. Don’t get me wrong - for the most part the game looks fine for a VN, especially given it got its start as a mobile exclusive. But there’s not that much in the way of event scenes, and the characters don’t have much variation in their sprites (it’s mostly changes in facial expression.) There’s also the odd moment of characters out of proportion to the background and other nit-picks like that. What did rub me the wrong way a little bit more was the music. It wasn’t bad, but there was a pretty limited selection of tracks, which can wear on you over a 40-hour game with a lot of reading and listening to music. Making matters worse, none of the tracks looped properly. It was truly bizarre, because most of the tracks clearly had a loop point, but instead they would fade out and there would be a five-second period of silence before the track started from the beginning again. In the worst cases, this disrupted the impact of certain scenes, because the music would fade out and I would pause for a sec and try to figure out if the most recent line of dialogue was supposed to be really important.

On a brighter note, the voice work for the game was solid (though Haruaki did have his weak moments, which is unfortunate.) And there’s a lot of it! Basically any dialogue is fully voiced, including minor characters and bad ends. Heck, even the new scenes and internal thoughts added in the exposed mode have full VA, which makes it feel less like an add-on and more like a genuine part of the same story. The flip side of this, of course, is heaven help any company that tries to bring this game over and wants to dub it.

All that said - and here’s where this post starts to segue more into the Switch side of things - the game looked and sounded just fine in both portable and docked mode. It was native res on both, as you might expect, and I never felt like I was losing anything by playing it in one mode rather than the other. That said, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a difference playing on the big screen made at times; it’s an obvious thing, but seeing the game on my TV with actual speakers rather than on a tiny screen with headphones definitely added some impact at times.

The surprise MVP for me in terms of playing this game on the Switch was the tabletop mode. If I wanted to keep reading while I was grabbing a bite to eat, I could set the Switch up on top of a book or two and watch it while still having plenty of room to eat. And the simple nature of VN controls meant that it was easy to run it with just one Joy-Con (assuming I didn’t just kick the dialogue into automatic mode and read that way.) The simple nature of the game meant it wasn’t much of a drain on the Switch’s battery, either.

I think the Switch is going to very soon become the de facto non-PC platform for VNs. They don’t take up much space, meaning they can be printed on cheap 4GB cards or downloaded onto stock storage without issue. The portability of the system lends itself to treating a VN as a literal novel you can take with you wherever you go, while TV mode lets players that prefer to get more involved see things on the big screen. And for more ADV-style games, like Ace Attorney or Zero Escape, the jump in power from 3DS and Vita is more than enough to let developers stretch their legs with the presentation. (The first breakdown scene in AA Switch is going to be amazing.) And, of course, there’s the simple matter of sales and popularity in the Japanese market (insert “you bought a switch.gif” here.)

So overall, I walked away from Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P pretty impressed, and with a new appreciation for how VNs can work with the Switch. I don’t think it’s very likely the game will be picked up for localization, simply because it’s so damn long and is so heavily Japanese (and not in the stereotypical “high school drama” way), but I’m hoping it is! It’s a really interesting mystery story/game that could be a decent hit for its twists and turns, even if it’s not likely to take off like ZE/Danganronpa/Ace Attorney. But who knows - maybe it could wind up being the Switch’s folklorish answer to the Science Adventure series.

(Aside: the game is available on PC, mobile, Vita, and PS4 as well - Switch is just the platform I played it on.)

To close out, a shot of the "feast" and the global flowchart, just to drive home the VLR/Danganronpa vibes:

 
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UltraJay

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
858
Playing games like this that very well never receive a translation (even a fan one) are my main motivation for learning Japanese. Even so, a game like this may still be pretty difficult to comb through even if I got a good hold of the language.

The idea of the Switch as a VN machine is very welcome. I'm playing through Steins;Gate Zero at the moment and I've already regretted getting the Vita version. I play mostly at home, and if I had gotten the PS4 version I could have used remote play to play on the Vita (and even on my laptop away from home as well to my surprise).

That new game plus mode sounds intriguing, I know other games have treated additional playthroughs in the same manner - Ico, for instance - where the player gains more insight into the story through actual changes in mechanics rather than simply knowing where the story will eventually end up.
 

takoyaki

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,283
Thanks for your impressions, I’ve had my eyes on the game since it came out on Vita but never got around to playing it. The art-style was a bit of a turn off for me but the story sounds interesting. I’ve been waiting for a visual novel to hit the Switch and judging by your impressions, Switch seems like a fantastic platform for the genre.

Did it take you 40h to fully complete the game and see the best ending? And is there a particular reason in the story for the title being spelled as “Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P" instead of “Raging Loop”? Just to make it sound cool or something along the lines of La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo?
 

Myradeer

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,389
Canada
I had this game on my Steam wishlist for awhile now, vainly hoping for some sort of localization or deep enough sale to justify me dusting off a dictionary.
 
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GSR

GSR

Member
Oct 25, 2017
919
Thanks for your impressions, I’ve had my eyes on the game since it came out on Vita but never got around to playing it. The art-style was a bit of a turn off for me but the story sounds interesting. I’ve been waiting for a visual novel to hit the Switch and judging by your impressions, Switch seems like a fantastic platform for the genre.

Did it take you 40h to fully complete the game and see the best ending? And is there a particular reason in the story for the title being spelled as “Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P" instead of “Raging Loop”? Just to make it sound cool or something along the lines of La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo?
My Switch says "played for 35 hours or more", so yeah, around 40. This was without getting all the bad endings or doing the extra post-game scenarios. Bear in mind the game uses a lot of specialized historical/religious vocab, so if (like me) you're not up to scratch on that you may spend some quality time with a dictionary (or (like me) wind up speed-reading some parts and using context, lol.)

There's not a major in-game reason for the name as far as I can remember. One ending is "RAGING LOUP" but beyond that it doesn't really get referenced.
 

takoyaki

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,283
My Switch says "played for 35 hours or more", so yeah, around 40. This was without getting all the bad endings or doing the extra post-game scenarios. Bear in mind the game uses a lot of specialized historical/religious vocab, so if (like me) you're not up to scratch on that you may spend some quality time with a dictionary (or (like me) wind up speed-reading some parts and using context, lol.)
I’m in as long as it’s not one of those 100h+ VNs. Sounds like I might pick up a couple of new words while reading, my dictionary is ready. But yeah, I used the same speed-reading + context method with other VNs that are full of folklore, rare Kanji readings and religious vocabulary ;)
 

Deleted member 2793

User requested account closure
Banned
Oct 25, 2017
15,368
Great thread. Game seems interesting (my first impression of it was that it looked cliché, but now I want to try it) and I'm really excited to play VNs on the Switch, I never even thought of using tabletop while eating!
 
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GSR

GSR

Member
Oct 25, 2017
919
The art style definitely leaves something to be desired. And the game does have its occasional moments of Anime Writing, but it's not nearly as bad as it could be in that department.
 

UltraJay

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
858
It's unfortunate that this isn't getting much attention, but it is only available in Japanese after all. I wanted to know what engine this runs on, custom or otherwise, to see how reasonable a translation could be done as this title is also on PC.
 
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GSR

GSR

Member
Oct 25, 2017
919
It's unfortunate that this isn't getting much attention, but it is only available in Japanese after all. I wanted to know what engine this runs on, custom or otherwise, to see how reasonable a translation could be done as this title is also on PC.
Yeah, I wasn't expecting a huge response, but I was hoping folks could at least talk about VNs on Switch. (Guess I should've put that first in the title, lol.)

The game is made in Unity, so I imagine it's not that impossible to crack open and work on a fan translation if a group was inclined.
 

mugwhump

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,255
That sounds great. I'd probably play way more VNs if I could get them on switch, but, being an English only speaker, yeah...

Any Switch VNs confirmed for English release yet, besides AA?
 

OniluapL

Member
Oct 25, 2017
689
The game already seemed really great and something I would really be into - this kind of survival gamey mystery is one of my favorite setups for this kind of story, but

Toggling it on adds a ton of text to the game, as the narration updates to show exactly what Haruaki is thinking (rather than narrating), lets us see what other characters are thinking (letting us see why characters did what they did, or letting us see what the werewolves were up to)
that's actually amazing. I now wish every VN I played had that option. I hope it gets a localization eventually.