The sheer vol­ume of text in the game demon­strates why it’s taken so long to reach English­s­peak­ing au­di­ences. It’s still sig­nif­i­cantly over­writ­ten, but a ter­rific lo­cal­i­sa­tion mines ev­ery nugget of in­sight from the script. There’s an ex­ten­sive glos­sary, too, rang­ing from de­tail about the 11 the­o­ries of time travel to thor­ough ex­pla­na­tions of otaku ter­mi­nol­ogy. It’s hard not to ad­mire a game that cov­ers both Dirac an­tipar­ti­cle the­ory and fu­joshi. ques­tion not only his re­li­a­bil­ity as a nar­ra­tor, but whether his seem­ingly non-se­quitur ut­ter­ances are delu­sion or acu­ity. By turns lu­cid and manic, and re­alised with a daunt­less, com­mit­ted per­for­mance by Ja­panese voice ac­tor Mamoru Miyano, he’s the most fas­ci­nat­ingly un­hinged pro­tag­o­nist since Fran­cis York Mor­gan, and a nar­ra­tive ful­crum to latch onto even as the plot threat­ens to spin off its axis.

Still, it’s a story with gen­uine smarts, even if they’re ra­tioned some­what, in­ter­spersed with lengthy, pa­tience-test­ing ex­changes of ques­tion­able nar­ra­tive value, lightly comedic in­ter­ludes, and the con­vo­lu­tions of a ro­coco plot.

As such, it aims both high and low, splic­ing talk of worm­holes and world­lines with ex­am­i­na­tions of con­tem­po­rary otaku cul­ture – and if that means its tem­po­ral ta­pes­try oc­ca­sion­ally un­rav­els, it also re­sults in plenty of loose threads upon which to tug. Not that you’ll al­ways know which ones you’re pulling: your in­ter­ac­tions are lim­ited to re­spond­ing to, or ig­nor­ing, Ok­abe’s emails and text mes­sages, choos­ing sub­jects in hy­per­links with no way of know­ing the tone of the mis­sive be­fore hit­ting send. You’ll likely need the aid of a walk­through to see the game’s true end­ing, but with fresh nar­ra­tive splin­ters to un­cover, and the most charis­matic of guides to fol­low, it’s a jour­ney that bears re­peat­ing.

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