Over the past few years, Xbox has done a great job bringing Japanese titles to its Game Pass service and crushing the idea that there are no Japanese games available on Xbox platforms. While most of these inclusions come from major studios like Square Enix and Capcom, a surprising addition to Xbox Game Pass has been the surprise release of IA: The Somnium files, a detective adventure game from Danganronpa developer Spike Chunsoft. IA: The Somnium files Not only did it join the service earlier this week as a surprise announcement during the Microsoft Tokyo Game Show 2021 showcase, but it also marked the game’s debut on Xbox platforms.
The only downside to IA: The Somnium files now is the time to join Xbox Game Pass. The game joins the service on the same day as AAA games such as Marvel Avengers and Scarlet Nexus, and just before the storm of new AAA releases like Back 4 Blood, Forza Horizon 5, and Halo: infinite. Even among these major titles, IA: The Somnium files should be played by Xbox Game Pass subscribers because it is one of the most unique and addicting sleuth games in the latest generation of consoles.
The startling, non-linear mystery of AI
From the start, IA: The Somnium filesThe story immediately intrigues by focusing on a detective named Kaname Date, who is investigating a serial murder case involving a killer who removed the left eyes of his victims before killing them. When he arrives, he finds the daughter of the latest victim, Mizuki, traumatized by witnessing her mother’s murder. He then uses a device called Somnium to travel inside his brain and recount the moments leading up to his mother’s death. Throughout this, Date is accompanied by Aiba, the AI implemented in his cybernetic eye. As the game continues, it focuses on the two as they investigate the ongoing murders while traveling the minds of other victims and suspects attached to the case.
What really sets the game apart from other visual novels / adventure games is that most of the story is built in a non-linear fashion, with an intricate, heavily branched flowchart forcing the player to pursue what initially seems be dead ends in the hope of getting more clues regarding the case. One of the reasons IA: The Somnium filescomplex story works so well because it is written and directed by Kotaro Uchikoshi, who is the creator of the beloved Zero escape trilogy composed of 999: 9 hours, 9 people, 9 doors, The last reward of virtue, and Zero time dilemma. Anyone familiar with Uchikoshi’s works knows that the writer is still capable of making often complex stories that are very easy to digest thanks to his wonderful character writing, with IA: The Somnium files being one of his best work to date in this regard.
The unique and complex characters of AI
Another reason IA: The Somnium files worth the time of Xbox Game Pass subscribers is its incredible characters, including its two protagonists, Date and Aiba. Given Aiba’s nature as an artificial intelligence developed in Date’s cybernetic eye, it would be safe to assume that her character is nothing more than a JARVIS-like robotic voice guiding Date through her investigations. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as his personality is more often compared to Halo‘s Cortana, acting as Date’s true companion and often providing plenty of banter when questioning suspects and investigating crime scenes. Date and Aiba’s relationship is ultimately the heart and soul of IA: The Somnium files, as the two develop a strong bond throughout the game.
Both of these protagonists are supported by a plethora of wonderful side characters such as the aforementioned Mizuki, who ends up sharing a sibling bond with Date after the two start out on bad terms. There’s Iris Sagan, also known as A-Set, an internet streamer who gets involved in the affair alongside her friend / fanboy Ota. The game’s approach to character-centric storytelling is similar to titles like Psychonauts, as it initially features characters who seem to have very little to offer in terms of strong characterization and memorization, but very quickly the player gains a solid understanding of the trauma and complexity of the cast. In the end, the game manages to expand its cast so much that it ends up being comparable to even the best castings in the As Lawyer franchise.
These are just a few of the reasons Xbox Game Pass members shouldn’t miss out. IA: The Somnium files now that he’s on the service. It’s also worth mentioning that in Spring 2022, Spike Chunsoft will also release IA: The Somnium Files – The Nirvana Initiative, a complete sequel to the original written by Kotaro Uchikoshi. The sequel follows a new protagonist and takes place more than six years after the events of the original, but it’s probably best if newcomers aren’t too interested in it to avoid spoilers for the original game.
IA: The Somnium files is now available for PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.
MORE: What Disco Elysium Achieves That Other Detective Games Get Wrong
The free PlayStation Plus games for October 2021 could carry over a model that was broken with the free PS Plus games for September 2021.
About the Author