Happy Friday! As we near the end of January, I wanted to introduce a new blog series that will be posted on a monthly basis: Sekamui Spotlight! The concept is simple: I will highlight a game that I finished that stood out to me (for better or worse!) once a month. There are no limits on the types of games that could be here, but I will aim for a blend of old games and new games.
This month’s game is Raging Loop, a 2015 Japanese visual novel developed by Kemco that got an English localization near the end of 2019. The player assumes the perspective of Haruaki Fusaishi when he arrive at a remote village called Yasumizu. Upon arrival, a strange mist arises that instigates a killing game similar to Werewolf. He soon realizes that he’s caught up within a time loop that sends him back to a specific point upon death. To uncover the mysteries that haunt Yasumizu, he must take advantage of the time loop to alter the course of history in their favor.
Depending on who you are, the term “visual novel” might arise different reactions. For some, it holds great potential to tell compelling stories that hold you attention for hours on end. For others, the thought to grudging through text. Regardless, visual novels are exactly what they sound like: novels accompanied by visuals and graphics.
Arguably, the most popular visual novels of all time lie with Ace Attorney, Danganronpa, and Zero Escape. Raging Loop draws the most similarities to Zero Escape in terms of its overall structure. Whereas Ace Attorney and Danganronpa integrate gameplay mechanics that essentially lets the player “weaponize” evidence to uncover the culprits, Zero Escape prides itself on a branching story where sparing but critical decisions lead to different outcomes, many of which reveal new information about how to progress the story. Raging Loop is largely the same, where the few choices that exist have a clear impact on its trajectory. And the game encourages you to seek out such endings in order to find “keys” that unlock different choices.
But how Raging Loop distinguishes itself from the rest of the crowd lies with the “feasts” that transpire. Loosely inspired by Werewolf and Mafia, Raging Loop entangles Yasumizu’s restaurants in a twisted game that prompts them to deduce the identities of the “wolves” before the humans get killed by them. There are a handful of roles allocated to the humans that gives them perks, such as the “snake” (who can find out the identity of any given person once per day).
There are a few “core” routes that constitute the narrative, each one switching up the roles distributed to everyone. As a result, each person assumes new responsibilities that expose new sides of their character. With sixteen characters with unique relationships amongst them, witnessing their behavior change is a great treat. It is an opportunity to unearth some of the game’s prominent supporting characters (Chiemi Serizawa for example) without shackling itself to one timeline.
This also gives the player ample time to appreciate the character and scenario on display. Since it is a true-to-form visual novel, all of their attention can be focused on dissecting the mysteries of Yasumizu and speculating about the identities of each person during the “feasts”. A nice split exists between moment-to-moment interactions between the cast and Haruaki’s internal dialogue to ensure the game combs over important details.
Even if your interest is piqued, some of you might be concerned about the horror aspect. I certainly was since I am quite squeamish with any media of that genre. Thankfully, the instances of violence and death are confined to elaborate descriptions rather than actual pictures. Admittedly, this also attests to the more lackluster elements of Raging Loop’s presentation in terms of aesthetic. While equally unsettling, it is more digestible since it does not subject your eyes to something unpleasant. To be honest, the most unsettling parts of the game lie with its dark, ambient soundtrack that is sparse but effective.
This game is deeply rooted in Japanese mythology that most Western players will be unfamiliar with, but it is no means a barrier to entry. Its localization translates those elements beautifully into a format that remains accessible. Even if certain terminology flies over your head, the story is too intriguing to brush off.
And I need to remain coy about the story, because it is the driving force of any visual novel. That is no exception with Raging Loop as it easily sticks the landing. Without divulging major spoilers, I believe it is a fascinating case study that is quite timely in the modern era. What does that mean? You’ll have to find out… ;).
I played Raging Loop on Nintendo Switch but it is also available on PS5/PS4 and Steam. It is a worthy investment that will take a sizable amount of time, and there’s plenty of additional side content (including a Revelations mode that encourages a second run through the game). The game will throw you for a loop, and you’ll be raging for more.
Sorry, not sorry for the terrible punchline 🙂