Say what you will about the generification of the mainstream movie industry by the Marvel Cinematic Universe and similar films, there’s definitely still room for some hard sci-fi here and there. Surely you’ve seen Inception, right? Maybe the more recent Tenet was up your alley? Of course, we can’t talk about this kind of movie without mentioning the classic Primer as well. If this is the kind of story that gets you going, you’ll probably want to check out the Science Adventure series of visual novels – and now you’ve got another couple of those available in English with the release of the Robotics;Notes Double Pack.
One of the issues with reviewing a collection such as this is that, well, there’s not actually a whole lot of game to it. You’ve got the plot and that’s about it. Going too far in depth is going to risk ruining that and rendering the review a little pointless, so instead we’ll just talk about each game briefly. From a system perspective these are visual novels, by the way, with the usual set of reading options you’ve come to expect like saving, loading and so on, so there’s not much new there.
Robotics;Notes Elite follows the activities of the two-person Tanegashima High Robotics Research Club. Club President Akiho is basically the heart and soul of the group, since her clubmate Kai doesn’t really care about much other than video games. A club with only two members, one of whom isn’t especially involved with the point of the club, isn’t long for this world, but as you might imagine things get somewhat more serious as the plot progresses. This plays out as more of a slice-of-life type of story than something like Steins;Gate, which may or may not appeal to readers who came for the hard science that these games are known for.
DaSH, meanwhile, is a direct sequel to Elite that continues the story of Kai and also heavily features Steins;Gate hacker Daru as they deal with anime zaniness and the machinations of the previous game’s antagonist. You’ll want to play the games in order to get the most out of the Double Pack, as you might imagine, and if you binge the whole thing at once you’re looking at a sizable chunk of reading. DaSH ends up connecting pretty obviously to Steins;Gate, even moreso than the original game, so familiarity with the shared universe as a whole will make this a much more rewarding experience.
As a whole, the Double Pack makes for a fantastic way of experiencing these games. These are visual novels through and through, so don’t come in expecting a large amount of interactivity. Your ability to influence the story in Elite revolves primarily around interacting with the characters’ Twipo social media accounts, for instance, which will lead down different branches…but eventually you’ll want to see all the plot branches anyway since they’re all considered to have actually occurred, so in the end, is it really all that different from just watching a linear plot?
DaSH adds in the ability to move around a map, so you’ve got a somewhat larger opportunity to influence events, though you’ll still want to experience all the plot branches to get the most out of things. VN fans know what they’re getting with this sort of thing, so as long as you don’t come in expecting an adventure game you won’t be disappointed.
Likewise, in order to fully understand what’s going on with these games, you’ll want to have played all the Science Adventure series. In fact, you’ll probably want to have played them fairly recently. That could be a tall order if you’re completely new to the franchise, given the massive amount of reading that would entail. Still, if you’re into hard science fiction – think films like Primer – then this is probably something you’d eventually want to do anyway. Steins;Gate, Chaos;Head and now Robotics;Notes are all available for your viewing pleasure in English, so if you’ve got a free week or so that you’re willing to devote to a massive amount of science fiction, then it’s not a bad idea to pick up the Robotics;Notes Double Pack (and any of the other games you’re missing) and check it out.