[Game review] ROOT REXX

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Mochizuki Kazune gets really into a boy band known as REXX with one single to its name that disappears into the void after said single’s release, announcing an indefinite disbandment despite the band’s apparent popularity. Life goes on and she transfers into a school soon after, where she finds out that members of said band are currently enrolled in it as well through a series of Complete Coincidences. Thus begins Kazune’s quest to hopefully revive the band as she navigates her own school life.

Wow, I actually managed to finish this game before a year passed me by! It’s a February miracle!

Developer: Otomate
Genre: Otome game
Official site: Here
Type: Commercial
Platform: PS Vita
Language: Japanese

Anyway, graphics. Pretty standard stuff. I like the usage of colours.

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The general system layout. Covers all the main bases except for a chapter select option, which is unfortunate for a game that runs on a somewhat lengthy common route.

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What’s a music-based game without a rhythm game to accompany it? Songs are unlocked as you clear routes. There are character songs sung by the voice actors for the five main boys.

As for how to play it, it’s pretty simple.

  • Aki and Rei: Tap the notes when they touch the horizontal line.
  • Sohma and Syun: Flick the notes in the direction indicated when they touch the vertical line.
  • Mikado: Tap the back of the PS Vita when the crown shows up on the note.

ROOT REXX employs a gimmick where it switches out between different tap inputs. It’s not very difficult to follow. There’s not much of a challenge with all of the different tap inputs isolated from each other.

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The mini game doesn’t run on any life system, so you could let a whole song play without tapping a note. I guess it can technically function as an alternative BGM gallery. (The game itself doesn’t have one.)

The opening. I can’t really describe it other than saying it’s like an old-school AMV. Filters! Flashing lights! A rose is set on fire! I’m not sure if an epilepsy warning is warranted, but here’s a note just in case.

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The game’s structure goes like this: common route (July – October) character route (November – March) ending. Months are used to denote chapters. The game will prematurely bad end you if you don’t score enough affection points to be branched to a character route, so all the characters have one good ending (with the exception of Aki who has an additional normal one).

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There is an affection indicator so picking the “correct” choices for specific character routes aren’t difficult. Replaying the game for a different route can be a bit of a pain, though, especially as it is pretty lengthy and there isn’t a chapter select option. No shortcuts, we suffer like true gamers.

It follows a somewhat formulaic structure where there are set events that happen in every route along with the characters’ personal drama, such as a festival or Valentine’s, and depending on the route you’re on Kazune will spend time with that particular character.

There is also a ~ secret ~ route that unlocks after finishing the routes of the five main guys.

…I have no comment on the characters. I played this game in around June last year and knocked out three routes (Aki, Sohma, Rei), managed to make my way through the another two routes (Mikado, Syun) somewhere in…November or December, and stalled my way through the secret route from January to February until I gave up and force skipped the last chunk of story (I left my Vita on sleep mode for almost a month trying to go through it). They just…exist, I guess.

I guess that the characters might connect more to you if you can get behind their own personal drama, but the game following a set story and slotting in a different guy with each route does it no favours. After the first couple of routes, you get used to the pattern of how the story unfolds. I think it suffers from the same issue as Prince of Stride in this regard – with the same scene fatigue setting in as you play new routes, the impact of the individual character events starts getting more and more diluted as you replay, to the point that when the personal drama sets in I’m already thinking “ah, here we go again, but I’m sure they’ll solve it no problem by the end, I guess.”

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Ami: Is there something you’re worried about? You can always tell me. We’re best friends, after all!

Honestly speaking, I think the only times I got interested in the game was when Kazune was interacting with her token best friend Ami. They meet up in the school and make friends with each other, and their relationship feels way more genuine to me than most of the other routes where the initial spark of interest comes from the characters thinking that Kazune seems like someone they know.

It’s a little weird talking about this game, because while it did feel like there was a conscious effort that went into the writing, I just couldn’t find myself feeling much for it as I went along? It’s very character-driven drama, but I can’t really imagine the characters by themselves outside of the game’s premise. Kazune’s very driven and dedicated towards REXX and its members, and that’s something admirable, but I have completely zero idea about her own hobbies and schedules outside of them. To put it in this way, if the band wasn’t something that existed, I have no idea what she would be doing in her free time outside of attending school.

The story is extremely centered around Kazune’s efforts to get the band going again. This sounds perfectly fine on its own, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like Kazune has her own personal goals in the grand scheme of things? Reviving the band is important to her, of course, but outside of them and ~ the music they make ~ I don’t really get too much of a sense of who she is. Is the band all she thinks about? What about her own hobbies?

In one of the routes, she even thinks “huh, I wonder what my plans are after I’m done supporting the band”, as if she didn’t have any before she met them. Before the whole series of complete coincidences that leads to the fateful encounter, she more or less keeps mulling on the band’s situation, and I genuinely don’t have a good grasp of what her character is on its own beyond being the audience surrogate. She Is There. To quote one of the characters, the game is quite literally “just sit back, relax, enjoy our music, you don’t have to think about anything else”.

Her family circumstances where her parents are separated and live in different countries don’t appear to factor much into her character, other than it being used for bad endings. There are maybe a couple of lines that mention REXX’s music helped her through a tough spot in her parents’ marriage to explain her almost puzzling focus on bringing the band back to life, but it feels…obligatory with how it’s talked about? I guess I can understand the mentality of pouring all your attention into something that grips you at a certain moment, but hm.

I feel like the game tends to hinge on very threadbare attachments, because the slew of love interests in the game also happen to be long-lost childhood friends of Kazune who also happen to think of her as their first love because she said one (1) supportive thing to them during their time together AND THEY HAVE HELD ON TO IT FOR OVER HOW MANY YEARS. In fact, a lot of the characters’ initial interest in Kazune purely blossom from them thinking she seems similar to that person in their childhood, and bam, of course she is, let’s get our love going! I can understand how important one sole person’s support is, but the way the game goes about it feels almost overkill! Please find other avenues of support other than basing it all around a single person!

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Anyway, to get to the main reason of why I bought this game, it was thanks to this review. In summary, what it says is “I like the game, but the unfortunate part of it is the fashion sense, so I’m giving it 4 stars”. It definitely did not disappoint in that regard! Please look at these masterpieces. It was great because every time that shirt of Aki’s showed up in a sprite or a CG I had something to laugh at, but that probably worked against me when those graphics showed up in scenes that were undoubtedly meant to be serious. I couldn’t stop laughing at a scene where Sohma shields Aki from getting hit by some equipment because of Aki’s shirt in the CG…imagining the artists drawing it with a straight face was too much for me. Ahem. It’s a good thing Rei never got a full-body shot of his sprite in-game, because I think I would’ve absolutely lost it seeing the bottom part at any given time.

The main character designs gave me way too many throwbacks to Karneval, and it’s been years since I last read the series. It’s probably because Mikanagi Touya has a particularly distinctive style. Aki took a while for me to register as his own character because my brain kept replacing his name with Gareki and his voice kept making me think back to Victor in Code: Realize. My brain kept replacing Sohma’s name with Jiki‘s, and another character (Shiki) from I-chu. Both of them have similar names along with design aspects as well, so I ended mixing them up together in my head and thinking that Jiki was always green-themed.

Rei made me think of a pink-coloured Nai, but thankfully I had more or less gotten used to the designs at that point of the game so I wasn’t continuously thinking back to Karneval. As for the others, Mikado made me think of an aloof Tsukitachi, and Syun made me think of a punk Yogi. Playing it at the beginning was a surreal experience. I use the anime art since I’d prefer to link to an official source, but you can get a better idea of the similarities if you look up the art Mikanagi Touya did for the manga. …Would ROOT REXX technically be Sonic recolours of Mikanagi’s own characters in Karneval?

It’s more or less a serviceable game, and all the characters do have different situations, but I found it very difficult to engage in. The game feels like it’s just there to sell the band and music it’s attached to (the Kiramune artists). All the characters have their own problems that lead to them almost leaving REXX, but it doesn’t matter because the band takes precedence, even in some situations where it feels like their own problems should be more important than “OUR BAND CAN’T FUNCTION WITHOUT YOU”. It usually works out like this: conflict! but we need you in our band! you’re right, I should just juggle between these two things like it wasn’t a problem to begin with! which I feel also leads to thinking…is this even necessary? The whole thing just ends up feeling soulless even in parts where it’s clearly meant to be the “climax”. Yay! Struggles! Resolution! Friendship! The band lives! Isn’t this what you wanted all along?

I guess it’s similar to sports series where there is a lot of PASSION and the POWER OF FRIENDSHIP involved, which I personally like, but I feel like the game’s execution of it just…falls flat. The almost laser focus on the band and ~ the music they make ~ makes the game and characters feel completely devoid of life when you remove those aspects. I can wholeheartedly recommend the game if you want to see some truly outstanding fashion, though!

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2 thoughts on “[Game review] ROOT REXX

  1. Oh god, the power of friendship 😆 That’s such a shame, the game looked interesting at first glance but from what you described, the conflicts seem to be very insipid and the heroine has no personality if you take out the fact that she cares about the band…that’s unfortunate. I seems like the game works more or less like an anime but with no good execution of the story 😦 Welp, at least the fashion aspect looks fun 😆 Great review!!

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    1. FRIENDSHIP IS GOOD. Yeah, I guess it does have its moments, but everything feels very hollow, somehow? It’s kind of like a sports manga but I couldn’t really feel any stake or investment in it. The fashion aspect is definitely the most memorable 😆 Thank you for reading! ❤

      Like

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