Review – Anonymous;Code

Close the loop / Hack into god

Overview

Developer MAGES
Publisher Spike Chunsoft
Genre Visual Novel
Platforms Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, PC
Release Date September 8, 2023 (English)

Anonymous;Code is the newest game in the Science Adventure franchise (hereafter referred to as SciADV), which includes the acclaimed Steins;Gate and recently reviewed Chaos;Head NOAH. Each SciADV game toys with a science fiction concept rooted (to some degree) in fact. Time travel, robotics, and ESP have all been explored by various games in the series. This particular title plays with the ideas of hacking, Earth simulators, and prediction. As the first mainline SciADV entry since the Occultic;Nine light novels of 2016—not including sequels or spin-off titles—Anonymous;Code has pretty big shoes to fill.

Blue-haired girl, orange-haired girl, and purple-haired girl in idol police uniforms; black-haired boy; blue-haired boy; girl in cat onesie; man with black ponytail; young girl in blue dress; woman with umbrella; male police officer
Line-up of Major Characters

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: This plot involves terrorist acts and murder, most of which are not given on-screen images. Descriptions of death and injuries are frequent but not graphic. Most visuals include nothing more gruesome than blood and the occasional missing limb. The screen goes red when the protagonist is injured or dies. Someone is almost eaten by a shark. One character comes back from the dead as a zombie, and his sprite includes missing flesh. A backstory includes child abuse.

Language: Frequent language including d***, b*****d, b***h, a**, p****d, s***, g*****n, and occasional uses of f***. “Hell” is used as both an expletive and a place.

Alcohol/Substance Abuse: Some adult characters are seen drinking and smoking. One backstory involves an alcoholic parent.

Sexual Content/Nudity: A female character wears a revealing outfit and seems to be in love with her brother. While all characters are fully clothed—aside from a man in a shirtless coat—most of the women have “jiggle physics” added to their breasts, so they wobble when their bodies move.

Man with a coat and no shirt carrying a cross

Other Negative Content: A couple of the main characters are hackers and utilize illegal methods to achieve results. This is criticized by others who encourage them to work within the law. Suicide is a recurring occurrence, ranging from fanatics dying for a cause to people forced by terrorists to kill themselves.

Spiritual Content: The main antagonist of this game is a fictional faction of the Catholic church, and religious references are constant. Extremists carve crosses onto bodies and murder and maim in the name of God’s will. A major plot point revolves around people who have seen the apparition of the Virgin Mary (incidentally, based on real accounts). Some characters have powers known as “miracles,” which are a mix of technology and Mary’s gifts from beyond mortality. The concept of “God” is explained via science and does not line up with the Christian view of God.

Positive Content: More diversity than most Japanese visual novels, including a female deuteragonist and BIPOC secondary characters. The main group describes themselves as heroes, and they continually work for the betterment of those around them. When faced with life-threatening situations, they refuse to leave others to fend for ourselves, instead risking their own lives to help. One of the deuteragonists is assumed to be Catholic and showcases Christian values.

Blue-haired boy with caption "Pollon Takaoka, anons with bright futures who can't sit idly by when someone's in need. That's what Nakano Symphonies is all about!"

Review

This reviewer was given a copy of the game by the publisher.

Anonymous;Code requires a lot of reading, but it has no explicit decisions to make. The playable character, Pollon, is able to save and load the world as if it was a video game. This leads to meta moments since the screen he uses is the same one where players save and load their own progress. Those players must decide at what point to open the Saving/Loading screen so Pollon can use his ability, making this closer to puzzle gameplay than previous SciADV titles. The option to use that ability is not always available, though. Players are often limited to either opening the screen when the game hints at doing so or dying and backtracking to an appropriate time. Because of this, Anonymous;Code feels more like a webcomic with fantastic visuals and a fun soundtrack than a game.

Save and Load screen
A New Generation of Visual Novels

Despite its lack of agency, this title is a joy to play. It is the first SciADV games to feature an English cast, and the dub voice acting is superb. The songs always match the narrative and are so fun that I added the soundtrack to my personal video games playlist. Every character sprite has full-body motion akin to Live 2D mobile games. Their facial expressions and movements are the perfect blend of computer-generated fluidity and hand-drawn vibrancy. Most cut scenes are rendered as Western comic pages with sound effects and voiceover.

Blue-haired boy protecting girl in cat onesie with military-garbed dark-skinned man scowling at them

As of this writing, I have not reached the end of the game itself, though I can confirm its pacing is great. I played over a long weekend and never realized how much time I was sinking into the story. Unlike other SciADV titles, jargon is limited, and most of the technical vocabulary includes terms I know as a laywoman. The lack of exposition speeds up the plot significantly, allowing players to relish every second of gameplay.

Christian Ethics in a Secular Game

Though a science fiction title, religion is a major factor in the plot, and it is refreshing to see a positive take on Christianity in a secular title. The antagonistic Catholic faction is seen as extreme, and only their views about fictional issues—never their spiritual beliefs—are discussed in a negative light. There are no “religion vs science” debates, and religion itself is never mocked or seen as the problem. In fact, one of the deuteragonists is a Catholic, and none of the characters are fazed. Her religion is never explicitly mentioned, but Christian players will appreciate her obvious Christ-like behavior. She is the only character who does not curse or use the Lord’s name in vain, and she refuses to kill people, even in self-defense.

Map overlaid with five  faces on the right side on the screen

The game almost feels like the secular version of a Christian game. Most unsavory elements of other SciADV titles have been pared down to be almost family-friendly. Violence is not graphic or gruesome. Sexual innuendo is amazingly nonexistent, and every female character except one wears modest clothes. Language is still abundant, but the f-bomb is used sparingly.

Conclusion

Anonymous;Code is not a revolutionary game. Its gameplay is practically nonexistent (and this is coming from a visual novel devotee), and it does still have enough objectionable content to warrant the Mature rating. However, the catchy soundtrack, updated visuals, and brilliant dub make it a great game worthy of at least one playthrough.

Blue-haired boy and girl in pink cat onesie
Line-up of Major Characters

The Bottom Line

 

Anonymous;Code does not have much gameplay; but it makes up for that with amazing visuals, sympathetic characters, and an intriguing story centered on Catholicism.

 

9

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Courtney Floyd

Courtney has loved reading since she was a child. Kid's books, YA, memoirs, comics, graphic novels, manga, anything. She also loves bingeing anime, keeping up with her favorite shows like Star Trek, and playing video games. She has two dogs named Kora and Crash (after the Airbender series and Crash Bandicoot, respectively).

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