The original AI: The Somnium Files was quite the surprise when it debuted a few years ago on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. At the time, it felt like a great adventure game, and I never expected to see a full sequel. When Spike Chunsoft announced AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam, I was very excited. While the team nailed the characters and localization in the first game, I was hoping to see some gameplay improvements, and this release delivered in spades while surprising me in the best possible ways. I’ve been playing the game for my AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative review on PS4, Switch, and Steam Deck, but will focus on the PS4 version played on PS5 for this review. You can read my PC review covering the game on Steam Deck where it works perfectly here.
What makes AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative an essential, is a variety of factors that come together perfectly. The localization is excellent, voice acting amazing, and the gameplay and quality of life additions are great. The story itself is almost perfectly executed making me think it is easily one of Uchikoshi’s best works yet. I still remember playing 999 on Nintendo DS a long time ago and then playing through the other Zero Escape games multiple times across all platforms. At the time, I didn’t think we’d get a mystery adventure series that could be comparable. AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative has shown me that the team is more than capable of doing exactly that, but also delivering an experience that feels modern.
One of the highlights about AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative, is in how it is accessible not just with its gameplay, but also in its story. When you begin, you’re asked if you’ve played the first game. This will result in you being questioned to be sure so that the narrative can have spoilers for the original AI: The Somnium Files. If you’ve not played it and select no, this changes certain things to make AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative be a completely standalone experience. It already is one, but you will not be spoiled on anything from the first game. This is one of the best implementations I’ve seen of something like this, and I hope more developers opt for doing so when feasible in sequels. Some of the Yakuza games in particular would’ve benefited quite a bit from this.
With loads of gameplay improvements making even the tedious aspects of the original feel better here, newcomers to adventure games now have difficulty options that give you more time or even infinite retries. Even playing on the normal mode sees improvements over the first game. You will be replaying some sequences, swapping characters, and more, but things all fall into place soon to some degree. AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative will never show its hand to you, but piecing things together through the variety of gameplay sections will remind you of some of the adventure game greats that Spike Chunsoft has released over the years.
Considering AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative is very much a story-driven mystery adventure game, I’m not going to get into any spoilers. What I will comment on, is how well-written the characters here are and how self aware the game is. I know some people weren’t a fan of the innuendos or some parts of the humor in AI: The Somnium Files, but I loved it all. I’m glad that AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative goes even further and feels like it was written just for me in many ways with the character interactions and some of the dialogue.
Visually, AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative is a step above the original as well. Character designs are improved alongside animations, but the cut-scene direction and overall environment design are the real standouts compared to the original. Yusuke Kozaki has done amazing work in the past, but I think AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative is my favorite by far with highlights like Tama. I really hope the game gets a dedicated artbook later on with designs from the original included as well. There is a lot of work put into even the bonus content that many players might not even spend time on.
Voice acting is another highlight in AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative. The voice talent did a superb job in the game in English. I didn’t bother trying out the Japanese voice option this time because of how good the English dub was for the first game. This release feels like a very big budget production in the best possible ways, and I’m glad Spike Chunsoft invested this much into making this not only get a global release, but also have this level of quality when it comes to the story and gameplay.
Having played AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative’s PS4 version on PS5, there are a few technical issues that may or may not affect you. If you play on a 4K or even 1440p display, the 3D models and environments aren’t as crisp as they should be. The 2D elements are all high resolution, but the 3D models are noticeably blurry in parts when played on a 1440p display. The load times even on PS5 aren’t great. These made me hope for a native PS5 version, because even the Steam Deck has better visuals and performance than playing the PS4 Pro version on PS5.
AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative gets almost everything right. It adds accessibility and more options for newcomers, builds on the original in almost every way for fans of that, and is one of the best mystery adventure games in years thanks to its humor, characters, and narrative. This year has started out very strong with so many excellent releases like Elden Ring, Atelier Sophie 2, Gran Turismo 7, and more, but you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t buy AI: The Somnium Files nirvanA Initiative. It is an easy game of the year contender, and I can’t wait to see what the team does next.