When we reviewed Steins;Gate earlier this year, it was our maiden voyage through a visual novel. Code: Realize – Guardians of Rebirth doesn’t just continue the trend of creative use of interpunction, it also shows that Steins;Gate isn’t the only quality title in the genre to grace the Vita this year.
For those who never read our Steins;Gate review, visual novels are – much as the name implies – focused almost entirely on story development. In fact, there is very little gameplay to be found, and what’s there is mostly restricted to narrative choices in terms of the replies you give to people or the thought you wish to pursue. As such, visual novels are definitely an acquired taste, perhaps akin to the “choose your own adventure” books – but with a lot more options in terms of story branches due to the richness of the digital medium.
In Code: Realize – Guardians of Rebirth, you assume the role of Cardia, a young girl locked away in a house on account of her father’s wishes. She suffers from a mysterious and volatile condition, where everything she touches with her skin starts rotting or melting. Because of this, people who know of her existence refer to her as a monster – which ends up tying in nicely with some of the supporting cast, but more on that later.
One day, Cardia finds her house under siege from the Royal Guard, but manages to escape with the help of Arsène Lupin, perhaps Sherlock Holmes’ most famous nemesis. They then embark on a quest for answers together, in which her father of course plays a pivotal part. Another major plot part is Cardia’s mysterious condition, which they hope to remedy. However, the biggest chunk of the story consists of Cardia’s interactions with a rather eccentric collection of men. Without providing too many spoilers, romance is definitely a part of the plot, no matter which branch you end up following.
However, it’s the nature and background of these men that makes things interesting. As we previously mentioned, Cardia is referred to by some of her neighbors as a “monster”. Her suitors, interestingly enough, contain the likes of Abraham van Helsing and Victor Frankenstein. It’s a testament to the setting created for Code: Realize – Guardians of Rebirth, which mixes an old London atmosphere with fictional and technological influences that stem from the source material that it borrows its characters from. This also translates into the various story arcs, which all resonate elements of the source material related to the company you have chosen for yourself.
Such a mash up of material is always at risk of derailing at some point, but it works pretty well for the most part in Code: Realize. This is mostly on account of the quality of the writing, though not everything in the translation is perfect – ranging from little spelling mistakes to sentences that don’t quite flow well. These are exceptions though, for the overall level of writing is high and the story development is excellent. There’s also a fair share of replayability on offer, made easier though a game mechanic that allows you to skip to certain branching points in the story after your first playthrough.
The visuals are of an excellent quality as well, developed from the ground up for the Vita with high definition drawings and animations. The soundtrack consists of musical tracks that translate the mood of the scene you’re in into sound, and Japanese voiceovers to complement the English text. It would have been great to have an English voice cast as well, but this likely would have been at the expense of some of the existing content, since the game weighs in as a 3.2GB download as it. If you consider that this game doesn’t have any 3D textures, character models and whatnot, that’s a great sign that the content here was given a high quality treatment. Which shows, because Code: Realize – Guardians of Rebirth is easily as good as Steins;Gate, which is considered a classic in the genre.