CyberRebeat -The Fifth Domain of Warfare- is a linear visual novel with a well-done story and likable characters…and absolutely no choices to be made. If you’re looking for an actual game, this isn’t it. However, if you’re looking for a visual storytelling experience, you might find what you’re looking for here. Then again, it’s from Sekai Project – what were you expecting?
The novel features the tale of Hiro, an immature guy missing most of his memories, and a supporting cast of extremely endearing women who far outshine Hiro. The written descriptions can be a little stilted at first, but either they improve over time or I began to acclimate to it, and as more characters show their faces the experience became more enjoyable.
Controlling the novel had a steep learning curve; unless you look into the configuration menu before the game begins (a menu which is worth mentioning is a little rusty, UI-wise), you’ll have no idea how to save. I learned this the hard way, and after pressing all the buttons I could think of to save, exited the novel and had to skip through a ton of story to get back to where I had left off last. The only way to skip through text efficiently is to left-click the mouse, though there is an option to skip dialogue in an entirely unreadable way with the ctrl button, and there is a helpful option to read the previous screens by scrolling the mouse wheel.
The artwork is nothing special – your typical anime/manga style – but without it the game would be little more than a series of backgrounds with nothing else to look at (besides text). The music can be repetitive, but has a feeling to it similar to the Persona games, which feels appropriate considering the mysterious tone of the story. It was also extremely refreshing to find that Hiro is often not the hero; his female friends are, and they rarely, if ever, fall into being damsels in distress.
Where the game shines is the twists and turns in the storyline, with a building mystery and a growing sense of there being something bigger in the picture. It leaves you questioning the unreliable amnesiac narrating the story, and wondering about each character’s true significance and motivations. The added intricacies of computer hacking adds a new level to it all and the novel attempts to teach you some technical jargon that might absorb better into some more mathematically-inclined minds.
If the novel had actually been a branching story with choices to make and consequences to consider, I would have loved CyberRebeat -The Fifth Domain of Warfare-. Instead, it presents a story that I enjoyed but was rarely entirely engaged in. There’s not much for ‘players’ – and I use the word lightly – to do but continue clicking through the voluminous text, which might’ve worked had there been more to the narrative branches. It’s a remarkable story contained in a unremarkable package that diehard visual novel fans might enjoy most. As long as you know what you’re getting into, enjoy!