Game Reviewby Kim Morrissy,
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne
Nintendo Switch/PlayStation 4/Steam
One month after Subaru's new life in another world began, an emissary sent by the royal castle suddenly appears with news that the royal selection has been postponed, but offers no reason as to why. The postponement of this grand event that decides the next ruler of the Kingdom of Lugunica stirs Subaru and his friends into action. They return to the royal capital only to find that a sixth candidate has claimed their stake for the throne. But the Dragon Stone prophesizes that only five candidates would be chosen. With one candidate being an imposter, suspicions are immediately cast toward one woman in particular: Emilia. What answers lie beyond the mysterious web of assassinations, betrayal, and conspiracies…?
The anime world is filled with cheap tie-in visual novel games aimed at niche collectors, very few of which get localized. In fact, this isn't even the first Re:Zero console game. In 2017, there was a game for the PlayStation 4 and Vita called Re:Zero: Death or Kiss, which mostly sold itself as an opportunity to check out all the girls in swimsuits. So the fact that Prophecy of the Throne has gotten an overseas release – and an English dub at that – indicates a confidence in the game's appeal that goes beyond low-brow fanservice.
Having played this game to the end, I can say that the confidence in this case was warranted. Prophecy of the Throne tells a compelling story that satisfied me greatly as a Re:Zero fan. It has everything I like about the original series: An intriguing mystery, fun characters, entertaining dialogue, and clever foreshadowing.
The story is an alternate take on Re:Zero's popular Royal Selection arc, which was covered in the second half of the anime's first season. This part of the original tale was memorable because it's when Subaru experienced his lowest of lows. Prophecy of the Throne, however, largely shifts the focus away from Subaru's character development and towards the new characters instead. There are some of you who may read that and think: "What's the point of that? Isn't that taking away the best part of the arc?" But what's good about the Royal Selection arc is how it seamlessly introduced the various political factions contending for the throne; both Subaru and the audience are forced to reckon with the fact that the world is a bigger place than they realize, and that every character could potentially be the main character of their own story. Prophecy of the Throne throws a new faction on top of the existing five, complicating the dynamics even further.
The most interesting thing about the game is how it plays with your expectations of how the story will unfold. It knows, for example, that you'll go into it suspecting the new characters. Some events play out identically to the original Royal Selection arc, while others get rewritten entirely. Half the fun is figuring out just how the new characters fit into the overarching storyline and how their actions affect the timeline. In that sense, they fit right into the world of Re:Zero, where every character has their own agenda. Even when they're not on screen, their presence indirectly affects Subaru's relationships with the other camps, so even the characters you think you're familiar with will end up showing new sides to them.
This is still a game with a very niche appeal, however. For obvious reasons I can't recommend it to anyone as their first exposure to Re:Zero. Also, despite selling itself as a "tactical adventure" game, the gameplay elements are minimal. There are occasional "missions" that pop up as you're playing the story, which mainly involve walking around a very small map and interacting with characters/objects so that you can proceed. It's all very basic in both presentation and difficulty; this is no Utawarerumono or Rance game, where the tactical combat segments offer a genuinely fun diversion to the visual novel storytelling.
Furthermore, despite featuring a flowchart and the promise of branching paths, Prophecy of the Throne is for the most part a very linear game. Subaru's Return By Death powers serve a very limited role; if Subaru dies during a mission, he will go back to the start of it with his memories intact. This alters some of the dialogue during the mission segments but nothing beyond that. All of his other deaths in the narrative are scripted and non-interactive, which I found to be a wasted opportunity for a video game. (It's also a bit nonsensical from a storytelling perspective; dying in a mission will send Subaru to the start of the mission, but then if he dies later for a scripted reason, he'll often get sent further back in time. This is never commented upon.)
The production values are also rather modest. The sprites drawn by Shinichirou Otsuka are appealing, but the Live2D animation looks cheap and awkward. I did get used to it eventually, but in some ways I think I would have preferred static images with a broader range of facial expressions. As for the mission segments, they make use of cute, super-deformed 3D models, but they move around with such limited animation that they seem like little more than wooden puppets in motion. Certain moments of classic Re:Zero violence lack the punch they could have had due to the visual limitations.
There are other little things that detracted from the experience. I can't comment on the English dub because I played the game before the Day One patch, but the sound mixing in the Japanese audio is a bit off, with some characters sounding much quieter than others. (Crusch is particularly susceptible to this.) Also, the English localization, while solid overall, has some typos here and there. It should also be noted that the localization follows the same conventions as the anime's English dub, so Subaru's nickname for Emilia is "Mili" rather than "Emilia-tan." That is a minor issue in the scheme of things, but if you're attached to the translations from the subtitled versions and the novels, then it might take some getting used to.
Still, if you're a Re:Zero fan and enjoy reading visual novels, Prophecy of the Throne is a very solid game. As with many great visual novels, the writing is good enough to carry it on its own. I enjoyed this as an alternate take on the Royal Selection arc and as an entertaining mystery adventure in its own right. It's not a terribly long game – it took me around thirteen hours to finish it – but Re:Zero fans will not regret the purchase.
Played on Nintendo Switch. Review copy provided by Spike Chunsoft.
Overall : B+
Graphics : C
Sound/Music : C+
Gameplay : C+
Presentation : C+
+ Compelling story with intriguing new characters and mystery, plays with your expectations of the Royal Selection arc
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