Thursday, February 06, 2020

Raging Loop would've been one of my favorite games of 2019 if I'd played it when it came out

It's funny how frequently the games I least expect to like end up becoming my favorites.

Four cases in point from the last 12 months: A Witch's Tale, Hey! PikminLapis x Labyrinth, and The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince.

To be honest, I approached Raging Loop with a bit less apprehension than I approached the just-named titles, but only a bit.

I say that because although I always liked the premise of Raging Loop, which is a Groundhog Day-esque visual novel (or VN) set in a secluded Japanese village and mixed with the social-deduction game called "Werewolf," I wasn't so fond of its art style.

In fact, I kept Raging Loop--or Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P, as it's known in Japan--at arm's length due to the latter until I read this old, glowing game-forum post about it.

Although the above-mentioned write-up pushed me to eagerly pre-order a physical copy of Raging Loop, I didn't pop its cartridge into my Switch as soon as it arrived on my doorstep in late November.

Part of the reason for the delay is I planned to race through it in the lead-up to Halloween. (Physical copies were supposed to hit North America on Oct. 22, but didn't actually do so until Nov. 19.) Also, by the time I got my grubby hands on it, I was knee-deep into Romancing SaGa 3. And after I finished that game, I dove right into Heroland.

Forty-plus hours and far too many weeks later, I wrapped up my mostly positive Heroland campaign and looked for something else to play. That's when I remembered Raging Loop--and promptly fired it up.

Honestly, what followed was something akin to a fever dream. For 10 straight days, I was utterly charmed by and obsessed with this visual novel's nail-biter of a story.

Why is Raging Loop's story so darn compelling? For me, the remote, rural Japanese setting was a big part of the pull. It made everything that happened after the protagonist, a mysterious grad student named Haruaki Fusaishi, enters it all the more unnerving and captivating.

Speaking of which, the "everything that happened after" also plays a major role in making Raging Loop such an engaging experience. As I mentioned earlier, it's got a Groundhog Day-esque time-loop thing going on that I'm sure will aggravate some, but for me it added enough twists and turns to that storytelling trope to seem uniquely thrilling.

The characters that help bring Raging Loop's story to life are another standout component of this creepy VN. It'll take you a while to warm up to most of them, if you're anything like me, but once that happens you'll do as I did and root for more than Fusaishi to make it through "the feast" alive.

The contentious art style grows on you after a while, too--or at least it grew on me over time. In the end, I thought Raging Loop's at-times-off-putting aesthetic was a perfect match for its unsettling vibe.

Still, I have a feeling the visuals here won't sit well with some folks. And even those who like them may be turned off by the general "cheapness" of the game's presentation. There isn't much variety to its character or backdrop illustrations, and while that didn't bother me, it may bug others.

Something else that might annoy Raging Loop readers is its overall linearity. Yes, there are decisions to make, the aforementioned time loops to deal with, and a vast assortment of (mostly bad) endings to muse over, but for the most part you have to tackle them in a fairly straightforward manner.

Clearly that didn't keep me from enjoying the hell out of Raging Loop. In fact, I can't point to a single component of the game that irked me in any meaningful way.

Will you have a similarly positive reaction to this VN should you choose to play--or read, as the kids say--it? It's hard to say. If what I've said so far intrigues you in the least, though, I'd recommend giving it a try.

And if you still need a little push in that direction? Read this Raging Loop review, or check out this game-forum thread devoted to it. They should nudge you to one side of the fence or the other.