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AI: The Somnium Files - Nirvana Initiative

Alan Stock

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The sequel to AI: The Somnium Files may boast a terrible name, but it's supposed to be pretty good. Nirvana Initiative is out very shortly and the reviews are coming in, with most giving it a Recommended or 8 to 9/10. So its time for it to get its own thread.



I'm steering clear of the review content, those scores are good enough for me to get it because I enjoyed the last one. More of the same with a compelling murder mystery, the return of characters from the first game and god hopes better 'puzzle' sections this time. 


I would strongly suggest anyone that's interested in this game play the original AI: The Somnium Files first, which is a multiple route, murder-mystery visual novel, with a mind bending plot!


PS the official way to write the title is: AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES - nirvanA Initiative 

Oh Japan!

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The first game was one of the few recent ones I've played that I think I actively hated by the end.


It's just packed so aggressively full of pervy and cringey anime nonsense that despite being interested in some of the other stuff it was doing it just spoiled the whole thing.

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It definitely overdid it. It felt like every scene had some kind of horny remark and it all got a bit wearying.


It finishes with an interesting concept that I really hope they run with from the off here. They just need to tone the boobiness down a couple of levels. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Bit of both. Rumour was that Spike Chunsoft had made more Switch copies than PS4 copies.


Fans of the series in the States are having a rough time getting a hold of the Special edition with pre-orders just being cancelled outright -



There is some free (until 15/07/22) costume DLC currently available on PSN Store. Haven't seen it on Eshop yet -


The company...announced that as a limited-time offer, two free costume DLCs, a "3 Pattern T-Shirt Set" and a "Hot Dog Costume Set," will be available for download...


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So, non-spoiler impressions. I think I'm near the end of the first route. 


Overall, pretty much more of the same. The return of familiar faces but a bunch of new ones as well, some of whom are main characters. So far its got the same kind of slower paced mystery/investigation vibe with the occasional bigger revelation, nothing too crazy yet though. This route I'm on definitely has some Uchikoshi (the writer of this and Zero Escape) sci-fi vibes to it, which I'm hyped about. The central mystery is fairly intriguing and there's the same mix of batshit characters and ideas, goofy stuff and more serious bits like the first game. Unfortunately the cringe perve stuff is still here, though to a lesser extent (at least in this route), its mostly side dialogue cringey innuendos and some questionable character designs/actions. Not as bad as the first game but still hurts the tone at times and the perve stuff isn't generally isn't very funny. They managed to make incidental dialogue funny in Zero Escape without constantly having boob jokes so why can't they do it here? Not a gamebreaker but still a bit of a downer.


Gameplay wise its very similar. Somnium sequences are a bit better than the mechanical disasters of the first game. You get more leeway and there's a bit more logic to the actions. Thematically they are still interesting but they're hardly taxing and in the last one I did I still had to reset to do the order of events optimally before time ran out. So they're still flawed but don't actively piss you off.


Dialogue works the same. There's a bit more to crime scenes with a simple investigation sequence. For some reason they still allow you to look around rooms in dialogue sections and examine mundane objects, 99% of which have no useful information or even side dialogue. My advice is ignore your surroundings unless the plot requires it, the chances of getting any extra dialogue are very slim and even when you do its usually a bad joke. Just talk to the people in front of you.


Once again the soundtrack is good, with old tunes but some new bangers as well. And yes there are a few cringey cheesy singing bits.


So ultimately I'm quite enjoying it, there's some interesting plot threads going on and with this kind of game its way to early to say how good the story is with so many seeds planted.


For anyone who is also playing, I made this choice to get onto the route I'm on now (I won't spoil about the content of the route):


In Ryuki's Somnium I said he couldn't remember the culprit, which seems to be the branching path that leads to 2 routes. I've mostly been reliving Ryuki's memories from 6 years ago.


Also pro-tip, if you just want to skip animations/dialogue or speed up a slow sequence (or annoying song), on console just hold the right trigger to zoom through them. Great for slow Somnium animations. 

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  • 1 month later...

So, finally got around to finishing this last night. Alarm bells should already be ringing as no other Uchikoshi game has had me leave it for months, usually I binge them because I can't wait to see what happens.


This ain't it. Spoiler free thoughts ahead.


For me, despite a promising start, this has ended up as Uchikoshi's weakest game. The original AI Somnium Files is much better. Some of the issues are related to a big twist which I won't spoil, but that twist had zero impact on me and was terribly executed and explained. Although, reading player reviews shows that for some folk the big twist made up for the games other shortcomings, for me it just didn't work - not helped by how intermittently I was playing the game. The other cardinal sin that the twist does is that to execute it compromises other areas of the game like the pacing and writing. I could go on in depth about the twist but there's not much point if not many people have played the game, suffice to say its the one of the weakest of Uchikoshis twists. In his other games big twists are only one part of the story but in this way too much stuff is written around and hinges on the twist. It's a clear case of writing around a twist rather than using a twist to compliment the story.


As for non-twist related issues. The characters are much weaker than the first game. Some are downright annoying or cringey. Some of the best characters get barely any screen time. As the game allows you to toggle whether there are spoilers for the first game, as a result there is no meaningful character development from the outcome of that game. They should have just taken the leap and allowed the characters to evolve. Some characters in this are so one dimensional its laughable. Now, Uchikoshi isn't famed for his amazing characters but the first game was a considerable step up from his past games in terms of emotional resonance and characters with depth. Nirvana Initiative is a step back in this regard, and even though it tries to hit the same kind of emotional notes, the characters aren't given as strong material to work with to earn those feelings from the player, leaving nearly every supposedly heart-rending moment feeling hollow.


The humour from the first game is pretty much the same, but didn't land for me at all. In the first game despite all the pervo stuff, there were still plenty of entertaining exhanges and fun and whacky sequences that worked. This is all present in the sequel but doesn't elicit the same response, its less witty, the characters don't bounce off each other as well as the first, and maybe I'm just tired of that humour. There's less pervo stuff in this game but its still here in force and still creates some terrible jarring in tone when panty jokes come at some critical moment.


As for gameplay, the Somniums are better in this one, which isn't saying much. But they have much more variety and more logical 'puzzles', which makes them less of a chore than the original. Unfortunately issues from the first game remain, like failing sections forcing you to redo chunks of the somnium and having to replay somniums to take different plot routes. There are some poorly executed mini games in there as well, with some frustraing fail states. Elsewhere in the game, investigation sections add a bit of variety, but railroad you into the answers and don't feel very satisfying. There are a few other actual puzzles littered through the game as well, which are quite tough and often don't give you good enough tools to solve. I even had to look up a few answers and didn't feel guilty for doing so when I saw the answers!


Structurally the game has a more linear route to take, which isn't a massive deal but does remove a feeling of freedom. The problems come from the game constantly hopping you between different locations, times and events, making it very hard to keep track of what's transpired especially if you aren't binging it. Although the first game also did this, it was much easier to track. There's also an annoying tendancy for the game to dump you on the map screen and force you to go to upwards of 10 locations to speak to different characters, which just bogs the game down. Its quite a long game and could have done with being significantly shorter.


Twists aside, the story is lacking in many ways. The antagonists aren't very compelling. The mystery hooks at first are really intriguing, but that gradually peters out as the game goes on. Revelations are notable in their lack of impact. At no point did a mini twist or reveal ever elicit a 'wow' moment from me, unlike Uchikoshi's other games. Apparently someone on the team thought the combat sequences in the first game were great, so they put tons of them into Nirvana Initiative. It's a pity that they're all against faceless goons, and although the coregraphy is good, the camerawork and sound can't reach the same heights. And because the enemies are goons and the protagonists are OP, there are no stakes, so when you see a combat sequence after the second time you just groan. Oh, and they have QTEs which if you fail mean restarting the whole sequence. Talking of stakes, they feel much lower than the first game. Part of that is that you are less invested in the characters, but there's also much less peril, much less paranoia, and much less shocking moments in Nirvana Initiative. Overall its just less engaging, and is why I didn't play it for days at a time, and ultimately ended up putting it down for a few months because it just didn't grab me.


I can't leave these impressions without mentioning the character designs. For no reason, one of the characters has a huge cube-like head. This is never explained and apparently just part of the whacky Somnium Files world. That's fine, but the problem is that he is father to a normal human boy, and there are emotional moments with the father throughout the game. The inexplicable cube head completely ruins any immersion in these sequences, even once you sort of get used to it, its so whacky, random and looks so bizzare that you can't take any sequence with him seriously. Another character has a terrifying grinning face mask. Of course he's a nice guy, but again the disturbing mask just ruins your connection to the character until you get used to it. It also completely breaks immersion when you learn he wears a mask to hide a facial condition, he's insecure about people looking at him. So that sad fact is completely undermined by the fact they gave him a serial killer style mask which would probably attract more attention than what he's hiding beneath! Just terrible art choices. I can deal with whacky or 'a book is more than its cover', but they've going out of their way to make the character's appearances jarring without any depth or explanation to balance it out.


As for over-sexualisation, its still here, although thankfully its less pronounced than the first game, at least visually. To make up for this there's a cringey dressing room in the menu where you unlock outfits for the female AIs and they flirt with you. Like I said, the pervert jokes are still here, but less than the first game. One character who you're supposed to sympathise with/laugh at basically stalks a girl and then turns into a one-note simp whose defining character trait is that he loves the girl. Its really creepy (especially when she gives in to his stalkery behaviour), and although they develop his character a bit more and their relationship, it still leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Basically the older I get, the more tired I get with Uchikoshi and this especially Japanese visual novel tendancy for pervo stuff. I'm no prude but its just lame, veers into distastefulness and often undermines the tone. Its sad that the older Uchikoshi gets the more he's leaning into the pervy side (probably not helped much  by teaming up with fellow self-admitted perve Kodaka of Danganronpa fame). The tone shift is just a bit off with this and the first game.


The dance numbers are back as well. It was pretty cheesy but entertaining in the first game. Here their one song is flogged to death, showing up multiple times in the game. Its awful. Thank god for the fast forward button. Talking of which, I often ended up skipping dialogue before the voice actors read all their lines in Nirvana Initiative, something I don't ususally do in voice acted visual novels. That's how unengaging the writing was.


So, overall I found this game a big dissapointment. Its still competant and playable, and there are still some good moments, but those are overshadowed by the issues above. If the big twists work for you, maybe you'll get more out of it than me. I certainly seem like more of an outlier, the game has had good reviews and on places like Reddit players seem split on whether this was great or a big letdown, although most acknowledge the first game was better and this is one of Uchikoshi's weakest games. Unfortunately given its praise, I don't know if Uchikoshi will learn from this, but hopefully enough people have raised their issues for his next game to not fall into the same traps as Nirvana Initiative. Interested to hear thoughts from rllmukkers on this one, if anyone else soldiered through.




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  • 8 months later...

Yeah, my opinion of this game is the polar opposite of yours on this one. On all counts.

This game is fantastic. Truly a worthy sequel. The characters, the story and the music are all top notch.

Could not put this game down once I'd started it. Any game that has me playing until 5am is something special.

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