Published on September 8th, 2023 | by Abdul Saad
ANONYMOUS;CODE Nintendo Switch Review
Summary: While the story could have been fleshed out more, and the interactivity needs a lot of improvement, it doesn't change the fact that Anonymous Code is one of the few visual novels that display a significant amount of effort.
Save and Load
ANONYMOUS;CODE is the latest entry in the fantastic Science Adventure visual novel series. Though announced and delayed several times and released last year in Japan, Western fans finally have the chance to play the game on PC and consoles. As a big fan of the series who played almost every game, my experience with Anonymous Code genuinely impressed me in many ways. It’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t live up to all the narrative elements it presents.
ANONYMOUS;CODE follows a sci-fi-focused overarching narrative consistent with the Science Adventure series but this time, it sports some cyberpunk elements. The game follows Pollon, a sixteen-year-old hacker of the Nakano Symphonies, a duo of hackers doing odd job contracts for money in the futuristic world of 2038. The game wastes no time in teaching players several lore details, like how a disaster similar to Y2K killed several people before the game’s events. Technological reliance is also at an all-time high with devices like the VR-like BMI system that handles all operations, machines and AI are highly prominent, and more. The game starts as Pollon encounters a mysterious girl called Momo out of nowhere and learns she is being chased by the military. After this, his life changes forever as he now not only has to defend himself and figure out why this mysterious girl is being chased but also a new mysterious ability that lets him save and load the world.
After saving Momo from being captured in the first hour, players will be thrown into new mysterious events and quests. Many of these reference several real-world events and historical stories from the mysterious internet movement and phenomenon such as Cicada 30331 to the catholic belief of the three secrets of Fatima. However, the game’s narrative warps these events with fictional twists in an exciting and compelling way.
Another aspect of the story that immediately piqued my interest is the concept of Pollon’s powers. As I mentioned earlier, Pollon can save and load his world much like most players do in games. This system is also done in the menu that the player interacts with, much like in most games. This blew my mind upon learning this, as it is particularly a concept I’ve always wanted more games to explore and contributes to the novel’s uniqueness and how much effort was put into it..
Unfortunately, the system is also very limited. The novel gives players the chance to convince Pollon when to save and load in critical moments but only in very specific scripted moments in the game. Additionally, as this is the only way players are given a chance to influence the game’s narrative, these moments are very vague, appear out of nowhere, and can be pretty confusing, making for an unsatisfying experience that didn’t make me feel like I had many options of controlling the narrative.
It’s also a shame that the game doesn’t support any actual branching decision-making seen in other games in the series, and I feel a combination of the two mechanics would have helped this problem significantly. Other than that, it’s also worth mentioning that the game tends to drag on a lot in the middle of the story, and as there are barely any moments of interaction, many players may be put off by this.
However, where the game fails with its narrative, it more than makes up for it with its endearing characters and inviting visual aesthetic. Every character in Anonymous Code has unique personalities that help hold the story together. This is primarily seen in Pollon, the game’s charismatic but logical main character with an infectious personality. The way he talks and acts makes him one of my favorite protagonists in a visual novel, mainly because he has a defined, non-generic personality. The English and Japanese voice cast also remarkably depict all the characters and their interesting quirks.
In terms of visuals, ANONYMOUS;CODE is perhaps the best-looking visual novel I’ve played, at least in terms of pure aesthetic. MAGES did a fantastic job of presenting the game and its elements with beautiful illustrations, unique and distinguishable character models, detailed animations, and impressive motions on character models. Unlike in most visual novels, the models have actual facial animations and body movements when talking instead of the usual 2D illustration that swaps faces now and then. Additionally, several scenes in the game are presented with unique comic book panels that especially emphasize the cooler moments in the game.
Overall, ANONYMOUS;CODE is by far one of the coolest Science Adventure games I’ve played. While the story could have been fleshed out more, and the interactivity needs a lot of improvement, it doesn’t change the fact that it is one of the few visual novels that display a significant amount of effort. As such, it is one of the few games that’s an easy recommendation to sci-fi visual novel fans.