Re:ZERO is one of my all-time favorite anime, so I was quite surprised to see it just randomly pop up on Steam one day. It looked to be the series equivalent to what Date A Live did with Rio Reincarnation, another decent visual novel tie-in I reviewed a couple years back. So, as someone that plays a ton of these weeb games, I had to give it a look.
Decent visuals and animation. So if you’re a fan of how the anime looked, well, nothing has changed here. Same great character designs, same cool setting, same pretty much everything. What really caught me off guard though was that the game appears to run at 120 fps, far higher than what most visual novels do. This is immediately noticeable because characters have a bit of animation to them, with their hair swaying and mouths moving when talking – similar to a Compile Heart game.
I was equally surprised to see that the game supports 1440p output. I saw the resolution in the launcher and went in expecting it to be some sort of upscale, but it definitely doesn’t look bad. The lines were crisp and it didn’t look blurry in the slightest. That same launcher also allows you to swap between input methods. I personally went for an Xbox controller, but the game does have keyboard and mouse support as well – although the bindings are a bit weird and cannot be changed.
An actually good English dub. It is very rare for a visual novel to receive an English dub, let alone a full English dub for every voiced line in the game, yet Prophecy of the Throne does just that. It defaults to the dub when you open it (although you can still change it to Japanese audio), but I was actually surprised with the quality of the dub here. I may not have watched the anime dubbed (the game uses the same voices), but I played through the entire game with it just for the novelty – and I gotta say I wasn’t disappointed with my decision. The voices fit the characters and the acting isn’t overdramatic, it’s a really nice fit overall.
Wasted potential of a story. The idea behind a Re:ZERO VN is great in theory. Subaru’s “return by death” ability could be expertly woven into a multiple-route mystery setup to great effect. However, Prophecy of the Throne doesn’t really do that. Instead, it offers up the most linear story possible and not even a fully unique one at that, instead an alternate take on one of the early arcs from the anime.
To be specific, the game starts right after episode 11 of the anime – and yes, you’ll want to have watched the anime at least up to that point because the game isn’t really newcomer friendly with its lack of introductions and whatnot. It takes that same royal election arc from the anime and basically dumps a few new characters onto it, working them into the story in a way that makes at least some sense. When the new characters aren’t involved, it progresses just like the anime does, albeit at a far slower pace (which I’ll discuss later).
However, the story is in this unique position where it can’t really be understood without watching the anime, but watching the anime also spoils the one major twist. The main conflict here is that there is an imposter amongst the royal election candidates and most of the story is spent trying to uncover said imposter. Having watched the anime though, I immediately knew who the imposter was and was stuck reading through this mystery that completely loses any sense of suspense or surprise.
Then there’s the flowchart feature, which I was excited to see upon first loading up the game. However, I quickly found out that the “separate branches” are mostly just single events that you run into when dying during a mission or otherwise making a wrong decision. They give a little bit of extra dialogue, but don’t add much to the main story – a story that is otherwise fully linear. Even when Subaru dies for story reasons (which the game usually shows off-screen – most likely due to the gore), you’re still going along the same path.
It’s a complete waste of what makes Re:ZERO great and what could have been an excellent use of the VN medium just comes off as a pointless alternate take on an arc that the anime handled much better.
Tacked-on and boring gameplay. The marketing for this game is a bit deceptive. It bills itself as a “tactical adventure” game, which is technically correct given that visual novels are a subgenre of adventure, but I believe this will lead people into thinking its something other than a visual novel with tacked-on gameplay segments – which is exactly what it is. Don’t let the tags fool you, this is 90% visual novel and 10% gameplay. As a massive VN fan, I have no issue with this balance, but it should be made clear for those expecting otherwise.
The problem though is that the gameplay segments are just awful. They occur at random and you can easily tell they were some sort of afterthought. You basically move around, interact with objects and other characters, and engage in missions that have you doing that, but with a light puzzle layer on top of it. The “puzzle” mostly comes in the form of figuring out which character to talk to next and which objects need an item applied to them. I often had to restart each mission at least once because figuring out which objects and characters to interact with and in what order was more of a trial-and-error kind of affair.
It’s the bare minimum of gameplay and, honestly, was just annoying whenever it popped up. I may have been disappointed with the story, but at least that didn’t actively make me feel bored like the gameplay does.
Tons of gameplay and story padding. An arc that is resolved in just a handful of episodes in the anime somehow takes 10-15 hours to clear here (depending on your reading speed). You may think, “yeah, a visual novel is supposed to offer a deeper look, what are you talking about?” but that is exactly where the problem lies. Instead of giving a deeper look into the characters and the events surrounding that arc, the game instead takes that arc, fluffs it up with hours upon hours of needless dialogue, and passes it off as a full experience.
To give an example: there’s an entire sequence midway through where you come across a lost child and have to help find her parents. You then have to formulate a plan, make a few decisions, and finally engage in one of those gameplay missions going around asking people if they’ve seen her parents. This goes on for some time before you’ve finally located her parents and then the game just moves on. It was a completely pointless event and one that felt shoehorned into the story just to add screen time for one of the new characters (who helps you during the mission).
That is just one example though, there are countless other areas in the game where the entire sequence serves no purpose or where there is some actual development, but said development is given an unnecessary amount of dialogue. It’s both the story and gameplay segments that fall into this, and it’s bad enough that I would say it represents the majority of the game, maybe 60%.
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne is a bit of a disappointing mess. From the story that just lazily takes an arc from the anime and slaps some new characters on it to the gameplay that is straight-up tacked-on, there really isn’t much to like here. Sure, the art and voices are good and the story isn’t terrible, but as a fan of the series, I find it hard to recommend, even to other fans.
Quote: Re:ZERO: Prophecy of the Throne could have been a cool take on the excellent anime, but instead is just a disappointing mess, one with tacked-on gameplay, a subpar story, and tons of padding.
You can buy Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne on Steam here. The game is also available on PS4 and Switch.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.