Sometimes you can tell something was originally based on a light novel. For instance, when the title Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne first graces your eyes or ears, it immediately screams, "someone started naming me and didn't know when to bloody stop," which is a hallmark of light novel titles. The title doesn't tell you almost anything about the actual game, other than it being based on Re:ZERO and having something to do with a throne and a prophecy.
Since the title doesn't give away much, allow me to explain. Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne is a visual novel/strategy game hybrid that tells an alternative story set in the universe of Re:ZERO. You play the main character, Natsuki Subaru. You must use your mysterious ability to reset your wife when you die (spoilers?) to help your main waifu, Emilia, live her best life because you're pathetically obsessed with her. So in that regard, it's exactly like the anime and light novels.
In reality, there's a good reason why this game's plot feels so much like the source material, and that's because the plot was overseen by Tappei Nagatsuki, the writer of the original light novel series. It makes a lot of sense to have involved the original writer. Firstly, visual novels are a primary literary-based medium, so a novel writer will better understand the necessary narrative pacing. Secondly, including Nagatsuki has made the characters feel exactly like their counterparts from the anime, so fans will easily connect with it.
The plot of the game actually starts about halfway through the first season. Your waifu must take part in some sort of royal popularity contest to pick a new ruler, and it's your job to help her. At this point, the plot diverges from the anime a little. When you arrive for the contest, you learn it's been postponed because there are only supposed to be 5 contestants, but a 6th has shown up. You must do your best to solve the answer of who the fake contestant is while keeping everyone around you safe and trying your best not to die yourself.
This 6th contest thing is the main point of the plot and also the biggest issue with it. To fulfill the role of the 6th contestant, the game has added some new characters that are currently exclusive to the game. If you're a fan of the anime at all, you'll know exactly who to suspect when 3 characters you've never heard of are introduced during a scene you're already familiar with. This makes the 'twist' of the fake's identity seem completely obvious, making it completely pointless. For the sake of spoilers, I won't say if this feeling is correct or not, but it's not a great start.
Usually, the gameplay is hard to talk about in visual novels. Typically, visual novel gameplay comes down to making choices that affect the plot. While this is true in Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne, it also has more gameplay. As well as reading dialogue boxes and making choices, you also have two other types of gameplay segments: exploration stages and encounters.
Exploration stages are exactly what they sound like. You explore an area in full-3D, and all the characters you come across have a chibi-style design. The encounters use the same graphical style but task you with solving a particular problem. Sometimes the problem you're solving is combat, but sometimes you're searching for something or completing another, less-aggressive objective.
The main reason for the exploration stages is to facilitate the encounters you have to go through. As you explore the stages, you pick up information and items. You can use these items to plan out your encounters or perform various actions in the encounters themselves. The planning is also where the typical visual novel choice system comes into place. If you gather the right information before you plan the encounter, this information will combine and give you two choices on how to proceed. If you haven't gained the right information you'll have to pick neither choice, which is almost always worse.
The style of gameplay in Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne is actually quite unique. Because Subaru is physically inept, he doesn't really play much of a direct part in the different encounters. He has to explore the area and use his knowledge and his ability to reset after death to figure out the perfect way to win in each encounter. You can even learn certain things in your first attempt and retain the knowledge if you die, meaning that in some cases, it's only possible to get the best ending after you've died once.
If I had to make one complaint about the gameplay, it would be that it's a little one-sided instead of being a more even mixture. Most of the time, you're reading dialogue boxes and progressing in a linear narrative. Your only sense of control is over the brief moments before an encounter when you get to make an actual choice. On top of that, most of the writing feels superfluous. 80% of the dialogue doesn't advance the story, develop the characters, or build the world, which makes getting through it feel like a slough at times.
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne also has some minor technical issues. There are some performance problems at times. Even when running the same mission, with the same settings, dying and coming back to life can cause the framerate to tank. It might sound a little weeb-y, but there's also no option for Japanese voiceover, which is a personal gripe, but it would have been a good option for those who're more familiar with the subbed version of the show.
It's not all doom and gloom. The visuals and animation are really well done, especially for a visual novel. While there aren't loads of unique CGs, the characters are actually animated slightly, rather than being a slideshow of still images used to convey expressions. It's semi-rare to see animation over slide-shows in a visual novel, but honestly, if that time had been spent trimming up the dialogue, I probably would have liked the game a little better.
At the end of the day, bloated writing and a one-sided mix of gameplay will kill a game, no matter how good it looks. If you're a fan of strategy games you'll be annoyed by how little there is here. If you're a fan of visual novels, you'll probably be put off by the random strategy moments interrupting your story. The only reason that I can think of for anyone to play this would be because they're insanely into Re:ZERO, and if that's the case then you're better off reading the original novels.
TechRaptor reviewed Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
- Well-Done Visuals And Animation
- Indirect Gameplay is Unique And Interesting
- Writing Feels Bloated
- Plot Is Too Obvious
- Not Enough Of A Mix Between Gameplay/Novel Moments