By Sean Cabot
Despite being a major component of the early video game market, text-based games have lost traction. Visual novels, the most niche and densely worded of text-based games, are especially neglected in this regard.
Those who find success such as “Phoenix Wright” are largely exceptions to the rule and are still considered more novelties than serious contenders for any awards.
But I’ve been on a quest lately to play as many “pure” visual novels as possible, and in my quest found “Raging Loop.” And if I was in the position to give out any awards, I’d give it “Best Game of 2019,” without hesitation.
“Raging Loop,” follows Haruaki Fusaishi, a 24-year-old on a road trip to take his mind off of a recent breakup. After he suffers an accident, he is led to a reclusive village called Yasumizu – and subsequently finds himself killed under strange circumstances after seeing a werewolf-like creature during a strange mist.
Haruaki’s memories then travel back in time, and he takes shelter from the beast. But he finds on the following morning two other visitors have been killed, and the residents must now partake in a religious practice known as “the Feast.”
The Feast functions like the party game “Mafia” – among the human villagers lay a small number of werewolves, who can kill one person every night. The villagers must then choose a suspect to hang every day until they have killed all the wolves, with various divine roles assigned to the humans to help them in their task.
Skeptical of the supernatural explanations, Haruaki resolves to find the truth of Yasumizu and find out why he is stuck in a seemingly endless loop of events that compel him to enter the village.
Just a warning – “Raging Loop” has pretty much no gameplay to speak of beyond clicking through text and making story decisions. Those choices are also mostly a binary of “bad ending” and “continues the plot.”
If you’re not interested in reading, you probably won’t enjoy this very much – especially once the exposition in the ending stretch kicks in. But if you’re willing to give it a chance, the mystery found within will not disappoint.
“Raging Loop” is capital T tense – with an atmosphere so thick a knife just ain’t gonna cut it. This combined with some stellar voice acting creates an incredibly engaging mystery with twists both bizarre and enticing.
The story doesn’t just nail its aesthetics – it also has a nuanced and relevant message. The themes draw upon Japan’s political and religious history to tackle the subject of oppression – criticizing how figures of power manipulate the morality of the disenfranchised.
Another great addition is a post-game feature called “revelation mode.” This mode features new scenes and dialogue that show the thoughts of various characters during the main story, painting many of them in a very different light than the first read-through does.
While it may sound cumbersome to reread most of the game, the mode goes by quickly if previously read dialogue is skipped, and the added content is absolutely worth reading. Make sure to revisit those hint corners and the extra stories, too.
To top it all off, the characters of “Raging Loop” are just as engaging as its plot. Haruaki, in particular, is a fantastic protagonist. He’s witty without being obnoxious and smart without being unrealistic – all while being a layered character with a fascinating arc. His chemistry with each of the villagers is superb.
Even side characters like an unruly store clerk are incredibly entertaining. If the drama of “Raging Loop” doesn’t engage you, the charming cast almost certainly will.
“Raging Loop” is a marvel of a visual novel, combining an engaging murder mystery with an engrossing emotional undercurrent. You cannot do better than this in terms of murder mysteries.
“Raging Loop” is available for download on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
A game worth playing on loop for years to come.