428: SHIBUYA SCRAMBLE
The city never sleeps
There’s a kidnapping gone wrong, a mysterious crime syndicate, a deadly virus, and, of course, a dedication to recycling the right items in the correct bins. 428: Shibuya Scramble finally gets its English release, ten years on from its Japanese debut – it’s unique, and still one of the best visual novels out there. 1
It begins with a ransom hand-off, where the victim’s twin sister is handing over a large sum of money for her return at the crowded Shibuya crossing. You follow Shinya Kano, one of the detectives assigned to the case. Things quickly go awry, and both the money and the sister go missing. As you hop between a selection of other characters, the narrative web becomes increasingly complex.
Even though the plot is a rollercoaster ride of things constantly getting out of hand, it never feels too complicated. The writing is witty, sharp, and easy to follow. Each hour block of the day is played separately, and you have to switch characters to follow their stories, making choices and jumping between them as they pass one another to make sure all their tales go smoothly. 2 It’s all very dynamic, and even the bad endings feel like ones you’d want to see through rather than just annoyances cutting scenes short.
As you can jump around the timeline easily, the game never feels punishing. If you’re curious about visual novels, this is where to start. At times, this is one of the funniest games you’ll ever play as you follow these quirky characters through this stressful day, but thanks to their humanity, the emotional moments hit home all the harder. Oscar Taylor-Kent
FOOTNOTES1 Part FMV game, 428 uses real actors and photos of Japan. 2 A choice in one route might not matter for that character, but could have disastrous consequences for another.