While it might not be as compelling as its predecessor, Root Letter, Kadokawa Games’ follow-up visual novel Root Film is still worthy of your time. You’ll visit a bevy of locations and witness the culture of Shimane Prefecture while trying to solve an ever-increasing number of murders. As the title of the game suggests, it places a much greater emphasis on film and the craftsmanship that goes into it. Each of your two protagonists are intimately connected to the medium; Rintaro Yagumo is a little-known director looking for his big break, and Riho is an up-and-coming actress. Each of them possesses the skill dubbed "synesthesia" which allows the characters to memorise noteworthy clues to use in vocal sparring matches that conclude each chapter.
Obviously, with a visual novel, there's an expectation of less in the way of traditional gameplay, which means areas like writing and art are required to do more of the heavy lifting. This is something Root Film more or less succeeds in. The art is splendid, with detailed character models and a robust roster of unique personalities. Environment design is even better, bringing a huge variety of places to life, all gorgeously stylised in a way that works especially well with nature shots. Although, conversations would benefit from more reaction shots when characters uncover important revelations. Everything feels a bit too static.
However, the writing is a bit of a letdown. The character interactions are solid, and seeing their interplay is a delight. There’s also an impressive level of detail paid to the minutiae of film-making that we rarely see. Unfortunately, this level of care doesn’t touch all corners of the experience. The character's connection to the primary narrative is tenuous. Outside of the very first mystery, the protagonist's motivations for remaining involved in these murders don’t feel warranted. This is especially problematic when it comes to Rintaro’s chapters, which comprise the brunt of the game’s 15 or so hours. The writing is able to somewhat successfully sidestep this problem, through sheer force of intrigue, but it’s not wholly successful. The lack of agency doesn’t help either, as there's almost nothing for the player to do other than sit and read. This makes the experience feel barren, even by visual novel standards. This passivity allows for it to be the kind of experience you can do other things while playing, though the lack of a dub may leave some people feeling left out.