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428: Shibuya Scramble

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    428: Shibuya Scramble

    Rating: 5.0 – Flawless

    428: Shibuya Scramble

    "Don’t lose sight of what you want to protect. Ever."

    How much can a person change in a single day? How much can you get to know someone in a single day? 428: Shibuya Scramble is a suspense thriller visual novel that takes place in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, its practically like a movie but in the form of images and text. The game was originally released as 428: Fuusa Sareta Shibuya de and was a Japan-only title released in 2009 on PS3 and PSP. For unknown reasons, they decided to localize this game to the West nearly ten years later. As you can tell from the cover, this game is heavily inspired by the suspense visual novels of the 90s that used images of real people, and displayed the text over the entire screen instead of a compacted text-box at the bottom. This game still plays like any other visual novel, its just aesthetically different than the usual anime girl fare.

    Part of the fun of 428 is the fact that the game’s case doesn’t reveal anything about the game and keeps everything a mystery. I will respect that and wont delve too deeply into the story itself, but will instead explain the way its done. The story is told from numerous perspectives and you play as multiple characters who all simultaneously move along both their own timelines and the main timeline. This is very cool as you get to see the story from numerous angles, and many characters for much of the story are in completely different areas and scenarios, and its very fun and interesting to see what everyone is doing and going through at any given time. As said before, this game very much feels like a movie, its full of suspense, cliff hangers (at the ends of chapters), action, comedy, drama, and of course, a tremendous amount of twists (some of which I figured out and some of which I never saw coming). The game does a very good job at keeping you fully engaged and wanting to see what happens next, the amount of unexpected and unpredictable events and scenarios are immense, and there’s a high level of content in the game, back stories, situations, how the characters are connected to one another, whats really going on in the game, there never is a dull moment. Also, dialogue wise, this is one of the best written visual novels that I’ve played. The dialogue actually felt very real, the characters felt real, they were written with such conviction and distinct personalities that they really came to life, it was like I could hear them speaking and see them moving despite the game being mostly still images and unvoiced. With such fleshed out characters, it really makes you care what happens to them and curious to see their character development progress throughout the game. As this is a visual novel, the story, dialogue, and characters, is the most important part of the game, and they did a very good job on this across the board.

    This game also has a tremendous amount of bad endings, these are either dark or something outlandish and comedic. I should also say that the comedy in this game was actually pretty fun and entertaining.

    In case you’ve never played a visual novel before, here’s a quick rundown on the gameplay. Visual novels are a lot like choose your own adventure books, typically the games have very little gameplay and mostly consist of reading/listening, then occasionally selecting choices which change the course of the game’s story. Despite the lack of proper gameplay, when well done, these games can become extremely addicting.

    428 differs from other visual novels in a few distinct ways. In this game you follow the story of five different protagonists simultaneously. Of course this lets you see the story from numerous perspectives, but it also adds a new complexity to the genre. This is because your choices don’t just affect the current character, they effect everyone. A choice that may seem irrelevant to the current situation will end up causing problems for someone else later down the line. A good example of this is when you get approached by some thugs asking for directions, one response wont cause any issues, while another response causes them to jump another character leading to a bad end on there end. Sometimes these choices can be unpredictable and may require you to bounce back and change your choice, while other choices lead to obvious results. This leads me to another point, unlike other visual novels, you don’t need to replay the whole game because of an ending or bad choices. In 428 you can actually go back to a previous event and change your choice, this is extremely helpful and makes the game much easier to play. Sadly though, this system isn’t perfect and there are some issues.

    These issues are all about confusion, as the game doesn’t properly explain how the timelines work. So, in this game there are numerous cliff hanger points, these are either when a character reaches the end of a chapter, is stuck in only bad ends, or gets locked out until another character reaches that same point. The way to advance locked out areas or bad endings results in either different choices or by jumping from one character to another, in this game you can sometimes leap to another character though hyperlinks in the dialogue. Now why this can get confusing, is because different choices move the timelines, but its presented in a confusing way. You’re playing, a choice you made in the past lead to a bad end, so you go back to change that choice, you change the choice, then click to go back to the menu to pop back to where the bad end was, but now its suddenly gone. This is because you changed the course of action, so the progress beyond that point vanishes. But, you can get it to come back by reading through the alternate choice. Basically sometimes the timelines revert backwards, and you need to read a few sentences and/or speed through text to get it to come back. Another issue is that you can get stuck in this game, there were three points in this game where I had no clue what to do, every character was stuck. I have no idea how I passed the first rough spot, second rough spot was because of my decision in an irrelevant choice, and the third was just a tricky maneuvering of the timelines that took me some time to figure out. I should also state this game crashes if you try to pick characters without letting everything fully load, so give it a moment before clicking who you want to play as.

    Despite these issues though (which should be less rough on you as I’ve explained them), this game is extremely fun. I really enjoy how the game follows numerous protagonists and how they try to make the player more involved in the story by presenting a lot more decision making than a typical visual novel and having your actions effect other characters. The game is a tremendous amount of fun.

    After you beat the main game you unlock side-stories and also a pop quiz which can unlock you more additional content. This adds more life to the game and gives more background on the game’s world.

    As this game is inspired by an older style, the graphics are not like your typical visual novel. All of the graphics are real photos and videos, and the text appears on the entire screen. As there are no character sprites, the game has a ton more full screen images than other visual novels, actually, every screen in the game is a full screen image, and there sure is a lot of them. This really helps flesh out the game and make it come to life, as there’s so many photos that they actually illustrate the story. The photos themselves are also of very high quality, lots of detail and nice shots. The videos looked kind of humorous but they served their point. The game is mostly still images with a few very short videos mixed throughout.

    Sound & Music
    Well first off, I should say that this game is not voiced. The only voiced part of the entire game is one of the side-stories you unlock after clearing the game. Despite this game being unvoiced, the way the characters are written, and all of the photos, the characters still feel very much alive, and its like you can hear their voices without ever actually hearing them. The music in this game was enjoyable, had a mix of upbeat tunes for high action parts of the game, and good music for the emotional and suspense parts. Lots of the music during the game was ambient/ambient-leaning, which worked pretty well as it sets the atmosphere but isn’t distracting. Also something I really enjoyed in this game was the room tone, I absolutely love room tone and consider it a hidden art and totally underrated. Room tone are field recordings of just empty environments, like just the sound of a room, and this game was full of numerous room tone recordings. I really loved the room tones in this game and they did a good job adding atmosphere to the environments. In addition to this the game had great sound effects for key actions/scenes and environments.

    Overall, this is a very fun visual novel~! Lots of choices that affect numerous characters, engaging story with tons of twists, lots of action, good comedy, great characters, well written dialogue, revival of an older style of visual novel, ability to go back to change choices, despite the issues it has with being confusing at times, this is a great game and a very fun visual novel. I would recommend this game to gamers who enjoy visual novels, especially ones with serious plots and lots of suspense.

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