KEMCO are well known for their top-down retro-style RPG games, releasing numerous games every year on all platforms. So, when I saw that they were localising their Visual Novel, Raging Loop, on the PlayStation 4, I had to try it out and see how it compares to recent games from publishers and developers who primarily focus on this genre. To top it off, the psychological horror and thriller aspect makes October the perfect time of the year for it to get released.
Despite my initial thoughts and feelings of the game, Raging Loop quickly became my new obsession. I’d only shortly finished Spirit Hunter: NG and wasn’t looking for a new game to lose sleep over, however, I was instantly hooked for the 35-40 hour story and couldn’t stop playing until I’d achieved the platinum.
So, how has KEMCO taken a classic party game and moulded it into a Japanese story which will leave you questioning WTF is going on and constantly wanting to see what happens next? Let’s find out…
The story revolves around Haruaki Fusaishi, a young man who has just had his heartbroken by his (now) ex-girlfriend and is out to clear his head by taking a ride on his bike. Stopping only for directions from a very ignorant and grumpy gas station clerk, it’s not long before a tragedy happens and you end up off-road and in the dirt. After being spotted by a local from the nearby village, you’re given shelter for the night in what seems like a very friendly off-the-map settlement.
However, this village has a secret, a tradition which must be upheld if the Gods decide to shroud the land in a thick mist – an event which unfortunately happens before you’re able to fix your bike and get out of there! As such, you’re dragged into the villager’s games and rituals which must be completed should you wish to live to see another day. The mist brings with it ‘The Feast’, five beast guardians who once resided within this village have now arisen within the citizens who have eaten the meat of the land previously. Wolves, Spider, Monkeys, Snake, and Crow, each one possessing a certain trait or ‘role’ within this deadly game.
As you arrived unexpectedly, you aren’t drawn into the first Feast, but you do play a major part as you help the locals figure out who the wolves are whist trying your hardest to avoid death. However, death is inevitable and plays a key mechanic in the game, jumping back and forth through various timelines in order to change the outcome and possibly create a better future. However, each major jump allows you to keep your memories of your death so that you can use that knowledge to help others – although, sometimes it’s of little help as the vessels the guardians choose alters with each timeline shift.
So, can you make it through the multiple Feasts alive, sacrificing yourself if needed in order to try again with more knowledge, or are you doomed to live within their endless Raging Loop of madness?
Raging Loop is a pure Visual Novel. There’s no action or puzzle segments like we saw in Death Mark and Spirit Hunter: NG, there’s no combat and dating like in Song of Memories, and there’s no investigations and questioning like in Ace Attorney, it’s simply a story which you read along with and pick an option every few hours. It’s been a while since I’ve played a Visual Novel which is, quite literally, a novel more than anything else, and I was initially worried by this as I tend to get tired when I’m reading for a long time. However, I was so invested and interested in the story, I didn’t want to stop reading – that’s how much the game immersed me within its world.
As I mentioned above, choices are few and far between within the game, offering you various ways to deal with the situation and watching how the story alters accordingly. Initially, all choices have multiple routes, rather than being there purely to mould your character, as we saw in NG. When this happens, you’ll usually find that one pathway is correct and the others lead to death or an outcome you weren’t expecting. Later on, in the game, you’ll have options that won’t change the story, as such, but they will grant you ‘Keys’ which subsequently allows you to ‘unlock’ new dialogue options and pathways when you come to another conversation or situation choice.
These keys are very important. Each time you reach an unfortunate end in a certain way, make a story-changing choice or discover something important, you’ll be given a numbered key. These are technically your memories, jumping between timelines and through time itself, and using a key in certain choices, will allow you to recall events which have happened to you, the gamer, and alter the current scene accordingly. For example, once you reach the first ‘end’ point, you can jump back to the beginning of the game and use your recalled knowledge to make a different choice so that the entire story shifts and becomes a new adventure – even though certain events remain very similar.
This is a really cool mechanic which has been done before, but the utilisation of the keys and the drastic story changes is done really well.
I previously stated that the game is based on the classic party game, Werewolves – how? That game consists of a group of people sat around a table, or in a circle. Based on the number of participants, there will be either one, two or three wolves hidden among all of the other humans. Based on a random draw, one of the humans will be a snake, one a spider, one a crow and two are monkeys – but nobody in the entire group knows who is who apart from the monkeys, they both know who the other monkey is.
Each guardian/animal has a purpose. The snake can reveal one person’s guardian on the next turn/night; the spider can protect one person of choice from being killed by a wolf; the monkeys are of no threat to either humans or wolves; the crow can reveal the guardian of a person the humans kill; the wolves are out to kill all humans in order to win the game.
During the day, everyone discusses who they think is a wolf, including the wolves who are anonymous at this point, choosing one person to hang. Once this person is gone, it turns night time and everyone closes their eyes/sleep as the wolves wake up and pick who they are going to kill. Once everyone is awake, they find out who was killed in the night – rinse and repeat. The other guardians can either tell you who they are or stay silent, so they don’t become the target of the wolves at night (especially the snake).
This goes on and on until either the humans or the wolves are the only species left. Raging Loop is based on this game and these mechanics with certain things changed to fit around it being a story rather than a party game. Although there are other games out there based on this concept, such as the PSVR game ‘Werewolves Within’ by Ubisoft, Raging Loop adds it’s own spin to the format and brilliantly combines it with a horrific and gruesome narrative. It’ll have you questioning just who your friends really are and who will be killed next by the evil wolves!
Scary or not?
After playing through Spirit Hunter: NG not too long ago, I was almost expecting Raging Loop to be similar as they’re both Visual Novel Horror games, I was wrong. Whereas NG relies on graphic imagery and horrific visuals, Raging Loop opts to keep most of the visual horror within its narrative. Instead of showing a gruesome image and having a scream come from a character as they see it, we are presented with a rather simplistic image of an arm poking out of a bed, coloured in red on black, with a description telling us something along the lines of: “their face has been beaten to a pulp beyond all recognition and their stomach has been slit open, with their insides pouring out onto the floor”.
For me, this was almost as creepy, horrific and disturbing as some of the images I’ve seen in the Spirit Hunter series so far, some descriptions even made me cringe with disgust and verbal let out a noise which indicated my dislike of the image I had in my head. Each death and event is just as bad as the previous one, with each time jump offering new bodies and imaginative ways for a person to meet their demise. I would talk about my favourite deaths and descriptions of such, but I can’t. I’m not going to ruin the actual story or the surprising turn of events that you’ll uncover as you push forward in the narrative.
Despite it being touted as a psychological horror game, there was a lot of laugh-out-loud moments as well. There’s a good balance of serious, horror, thriller, mystery, comedy, and verbally graphic violence – I loved it, it was so interesting to read. This brings me onto…
The best tutorial ever?!?
Raging Loop had me hooked right from the start all the way through the 35-40 hours of the narrative. I never thought it got predictable or boring, even when the game kept going and wouldn’t end, as I was constantly sat there anxious about what was going to happen. I’m not sure who provided the localisation for the game, but they did a brilliant job with only two missing letters throughout (from what I could see). Surprisingly though, the first thing which made me love this game with all of my heart was the tutorial?!?!
So, how can a tutorial hook you? Easy, it’s a hilariously written mini VN in itself and more self-aware than Deadpool! You have one of the stars of the game, Rikako in ‘chibi’ format as she reads through the various gameplay tips and explains the Werewolf concept. The line which made me realise this game was going to be something special was “If you read until the end, you’ll find a sexy CG of me… doesn’t exist. We truly do live in a society. A harsh society. How sad”, accompanied by an image of the girl crying. It’s teasing you then revealing the truth
I also love how the tutorial tells you that the game is “obscenely lengthy” and “don’t get drawn in so thoroughly that you begin to lose sleep” – as that’s exactly what I did. Seriously, these simple funny tutorial and pre-game information sections left a smile on my face throughout – something no tutorial has ever done.
I have to admit, Raging Loop has shot right up to becoming one of my all-time favourite Visual Novels. The writing is gloriously addictive, beyond interesting and well-written. I honestly loaded up the game, saw the simple images and thought that it was going to be a budget-like Visual Novel with a basic story and sub-par characters – I was so wrong! Each character has their own personality which jumps with them between timelines, so you get to see how the same person responds and reacts based on prior knowledge you’ve used to flip the situation in your favour. Rikako’s excitement shrieks are so cute!
This brings me to not only the written narrative but also the verbal narrative. All spoken words are fully narrated, with only your inner thoughts and monologues being silent. Sure, it’s all in Japanese, but the actors, as usual, present enough emotion and tone that you can listen and perceive the written words exactly how you hear the actor speak. I found myself listening to every spoken word within the game as I read along, something I usually don’t do as I tend to cut people off in order to proceed.
Back to the writing though, I don’t know if the game is a 1:1 translation of the Japanese version, but there are some interesting choices when it came to name-calling and nicknames within the game. Each loop sees you being given a new nickname (which I won’t spoil) due to embarrassing situations you find yourself in, all of which were amusing and childish. Then we come to the verbal abuse you and one of the other characters gets. Her son calls her a hag quite often and then the guy turns on you and calls you names such as a “Fucktard”. I can honestly say that this is the first time I can ever recall being called a Fucktard within a game!
One aspect of the narrative I wasn’t too sure about revolved around a cross-dressing member of the village. At first glance, it seemed a few things were said which ‘could’ be taken the wrong way and cause offence to certain groups, namely the person in question justifying themselves wearing a dress as them being an ‘eccentric’. However, as you get further into the game you realise he’s eccentric because it’s another aspect of his personality, he just so happens to also like dressing as a girl.
Streaming and Videos
Recently, I advised everyone that Spirit Hunter: NG on the PS4 stops all video and image taking abilities after about six hours. Raging loop also doesn’t want you to show off anything past around ten hours or so, but it doesn’t restrict you from taking personal photos and videos (I hope you’re listening Aksys!). Basically, whilst in the tutorial you’re given an option to alert you when the streaming and video embargo hits, if enabled then a friendly sheep will appear and tell you when to stop. However, photos and videos continue to work just fine – they are trusting you to stop when they tell you too.
The difference between Raging Loop and NG is that you are told that if you disobey the streaming and video agreement within this game, you run a risk of getting flagged and having your content removed – and you really don’t want that to happen. So, if you are looking to do videos or stream online, be sure to turn this on and stop when it tells you to – you’ll get through about 1/3 of the game and see a number of deaths, paths, time jumps and events. However, don’t pick up the game hoping to do a full playthrough or publish a full walkthrough in video format – as it’ll be taken down quite fast.
On a side note, I’ve used a few images in this review which may have happened after the cut off but I asked for permission before I did so.
Once you’ve finished a Visual Novel, that’s all there is, right? Wrong! Let’s look at the many things you can do once you’ve beaten this incredible game:
• View all CG and good and bad endings (there are a few secret ones to find as well)
• Read through five new mini-episodes which delve deeper into the characters and offer more backstory – each one is over an hour-long
• Go back and check out all the pathways and different routes you missed as you didn’t have the keys before
• A hidden media player
• Revelations mode!
This is the best feature I’ve ever seen in a game, any game, of all time! Basically, once you complete the main game you’ll get this option in the settings menu, activating it allows you to play the entire game again with new perspectives. Almost every chapter and scene will now allow you to read the thoughts of the people you meet, experience what the wolves are doing whilst you’re asleep, gain hidden humourous messages from chibi-Rikako in every death sequence hint screen and more.
For example, when you first arrive at the village, in the first timeline, you find a torch on the floor and look up to see that a girl has dropped it, thus leading to the events we played out originally. With this mode on, you’ll get narration of why she is there, what she’s thinking, why she dropped the torch and why she’s helping you up. It instantly changes the game and almost treats everyone as the protagonist as you now know and hear everything.
Yes, I’ve played through the game a second time, skipping the original text I’ve already read, just so I can read all the new text this mode uncovers. It reminded me a little of The Quiet Man. In that game, you play the game silent first, making up your own ideas on what’s going on as you can’t hear anyone. Then, you play it again with the sound on and the narrative changes as you now know what everyone is doing and why people were acting the way they were – it’s very clever and a brilliant mechanic.
Raging Loop is crammed with so much post-game content, I had my doubts about mentioning this but I feel it adds to the overall value of the game. There’s a media player within the game, which you’ll find at one point. This lets you listen to the music within the game, hear various characters sing the song which is a major part of the game, watch the various videos and finally, listen to special messages from the voice actors! This part is so cool, each of the voice actors has recorded their own short speech about their character and thank you for playing the game. These are all fully subtitled and were a great addition to the bonus features.
In a way, the amount of post-game content reminded me of Song of Memories, which also had a lot of bonus stuff to work though if you’re into that kind of thing.
Don’t. Please don’t be one of those people who pick up the game for the platinum with no intention of actually experiencing and reading through this amazing story. Why do I say this? Raging Loop has a built-in ‘unlock’ option. Pushing this will instantly unlock the entire timeline as if you’ve just played the last 40 hours on your own. The game also has the option to literally skip all the following narrative until the next branching choice, allowing you to skip hours of narrative within seconds. These are here in case the game doesn’t unlock something when it should (which is a great tool as I’ve been stuck in games that didn’t unlock before), but it does mean it’s open to abuse.
What do I mean by that? There’s a guide online on how to platinum the game in under 30 minutes. Simply unlock the timeline and go back and click on a few things in order to trigger every trophy – making this probably a 0/10 difficulty rating for those who care. However, you’ll be missing out on the story, the brilliant writing, the verbally descriptive deaths and the point of actually buying a game – to play it. End of the day, it’s up to you what your intent is, but this game is worth so much more than being a quick platinum and touted as one – it’s brilliant.
Raging Loop isn’t the most detailed visual Novel I’ve played, in terms of its animations and visuals, but it more than makes up for that with its writing. Despite my first impressions, based shallowly on the way it looked and the UI of the game, I really enjoyed the simple nature of the interactions you have and the less-realistic imagery. However, throw everything I’ve just said out of the window when it comes to the CGs as they are drawn beautifully – I’m so glad you can view them once you’ve seen them, without any photo or video restrictions, as I’ve saved them all as my PC backgrounds on rotation.
One piece of advice about the UI – one you’ve read the controls, press Triangle and select hide – it’ll make it fade offscreen until you press Triangle again – you don’t want to be looking at the controls whilst you’re enjoying the immersive narrative!
In terms of the music and audio, perfection throughout. Some of the music has short loops, so you can hear it repeating itself rather than playing out a long tune, but that never bothered me as there are over 20 BGM tracks that vary based on the situation you’re watching. The voice acting was brilliantly done, along with the personal messages from each actor in the hidden menu. Also, just like most Visual Novels, you can adjust the volume of each character’s voice independently and even turn off the ones you may not like (if such a thing exists).
Raging Loop isn’t just one of my GOTY titles, it’s one of my favourite Visual Novels of all time. The brilliant combination of horror, thriller, comedy, excitement and mystery all combines into a perfect package that I never wanted to end. KEMCO has done an outstanding job of turning a party game into a branching Visual Novel experience that fully immerses you within its world of beasts, Gods and fantasy. For the squeamish out there, the game relies heavily on verbally describing the horrific deaths rather than visually showing them, so don’t worry about it getting too traumatic! All I can say is, Visual Novel fans need to buy this game – it’s bloody brilliant!
Whether you’re looking for a game to play over Halloween or just something to cuddle up with in bed on your Switch, Raging Loop will hook you in with it’s intriguing and exciting narrative. Don’t miss out on this funny, yet gruesome, experience.
- - Brilliant story based around the popular party game, Werewolves
- - Immersive and well-written narrative that keeps you hooked
- - Multiple timelines you can jump between to use new-found knowledge to progress differently
- - Great soundtrack and very emotional voices
- - The Revelation mode lets you experience the entire 30+ hour story with new perspectives and insight
- - Streamers can't stream past chapter four, although there's no block on taking images or videos
- - I didn't want it to end
- - Not a negative, but a notice: this is a pure Visual Novel. It's literally a story you read and press a button every now and again. Don't expect a lot of use from your hands throughout.