Back in 2019, I reviewed AI: The Somnium Files from Spike Chunsoft and found its mysterious branching narrative, memorable cast of characters, and presentation to be one of the best experiences of that year. Since then, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the team’s next entry to see if they could deliver another amazing title. AI: The Somnium Files – nivernA Intiative is finally here and I’m happy to say that it delivers on all fronts just like the last one.
The first thing I want to call out in this review is that if you haven’t played the first game then you can absolutely still enjoy this one. The story is standalone but it does contain characters from the first game so I would personally play it first to familiarize yourself with them and because it’s a fantastic game. That said, if you just want to jump into this one, you’ll be perfectly fine doing that so whatever works for you. This game once again comes from the mind of Kotaro Uchikoshi who Zero Escape fans will know very well so if you were a fan of those games then rest assured, you’re getting another great narrative from him here.
The story in nivanA Initiative is another crazy one as a serial killer is on the loose and they are slicing people’s bodies in half from top to bottom. What’s especially odd about this case is that the separate halves of the body are found six years apart yet the latter half of the body hasn’t decomposed at all. Not only that, but the time of death for the latter half of the body appears to have only been a few hours before it was discovered. How is this possible when the first half was discovered six years prior? That is what you have to solve.
Your cast of characters this time around is a bit different from the first game. The two characters you’ll be playing as include newcomer Ryuki and Mizuki both of which are ABIS agents which stands for Advanced Brain Investigations Squad. Mizuki will be familiar as she is the foster daughter of Date who was the protagonist of the first game. Both Ryuki and Mizuki also have an AI partner with those being Aiba and Tama each of which operates out of a device in each of the agent’s left eyes. They work together with these AI partners to reconstruct crime scenes, gather intelligence, and delve into the minds of those they suspect.
The gameplay is mostly visual novel like but also involves a bit of puzzle solving when you get into the Somnium levels. As you go through the scenes, you’ll have things get highlighted that you can then examine for clues. Your Ai’s can also let you use different visions like thermal or X-Ray to better investigate your surroundings for anything meaningful. When you talk to someone and you get the feeling that they are hiding something important you can take them back to the station to use the Psync Machine on them. This is where the Somnium’s from the first game come into play letting you dive into their mind to search for information. You only have six minutes to get in and get out though so every move is crucial. If you choose to stay still then time won’t move which lets you have some time to think but once you move or perform any kind of action it will start up again. Further, certain actions consume more time than others like opening something may take more seconds than doing something else. You can help yourself a little by collecting tokens called Timies that will reduce the time certain actions take so make use of them well. A number of eyeballs are also hidden in each of these Somniums and finding them will allow you to unlock things like new outfits and concept art.
I personally felt like the Somniums in this game were better designed and easier to navigate than they were in the first game. They are a lot more linear this time around although there are some branching paths that you won’t be able to unlock until you’ve heard something later in the game. Further, if you find yourself struggling with them the team has added some helpful settings to make them easier for yourself like reducing how fast the six minute timer counts down, letting you revert back to a checkpoint more times, and even lettings you replay them with no time limit at all.
I haven’t spoken much about the story because this is one of those games that you are better off going into knowing as little as possible. Just know that it has fantastic writing and another great cast of characters throughout. There were moments where I was laughing, sad, puzzled, and more especially when diving into certain character’s Somniums. I also had moments where I was sure I knew what was going to happen only for the game to surprise me by going in a completely different direction. Some of the characters can be pervy and some of the juvenile humor won’t be to everyone’s tastes but I enjoy it in these types of games. The English voice acting that I opted for was excellent throughout but the game has Japanese voice overs too if that’s what you prefer. Visually the game’s art style looks good but it seems to be stuck at 1080p resolution wise which was a tad bit disappointing. Load times could also be a bit long making me wish that there was an actual PS5 version of this game.
AI: The Somnium Files – nivranA Initiative is a bigger and better version of the first game that left me thinking about its story long after I rolled credits. It’s got another captivating story that is a delight to unravel, great cast of characters to interact with, some smartly designed puzzles, and a wonderful soundtrack and voice overs to listen to. My only real complains are that I wish there was an actual PS5 version so that the visuals and load times were a bit better. If you were a fan of the first game or just enjoy visual novels based around mysteries then this is a must-buy.
*AI: The Somnium Files – nirvana Initiative is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. PlayStation 4 version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES - nirvanA Initiative$59.99
- Excellent written story with tons of intrigue and twists
- Great cast of characters that includes newcomers and returning favorites
- Somnium segments are improved and once again full of creative puzzles
- Great English voice performances and another banger soundtrack
- Visuals and load times could be better