Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne Review — Happy Death Anime
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne offers a great visual novel experience if you pretend that it isn't also trying to be a strategy game.
Visual novels based on intricately plotted anime franchises are fairly common these days so it can be somewhat of a crowded market. This only makes the fact that Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne (titled Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The False Royal Election Candidate in Japan) that much more impressive in its execution. Yes, it falters a bit when it tries to delve into more roleplaying and strategy elements. However, as a well-written and surprisingly compelling narrative, it truly shines with compelling characters and a strong over-arching mystery. While it definitely pays to be familiar with the anime that it is based on, it is still accessible enough to newcomers. You just have to acclimate to the rules and concepts of its fairly dense world and high-fantasy setting.
The Prophecy of the Throne sees you taking on the role of Subaru, a slacker from real-world Japan who is transported to a fantasy realm and becomes embroiled in royal politics. He is quickly caught up in a conspiracy involving an imposter among the large cast of characters vying for the throne of the Kingdom of Lugnica. During Subaru’s quest for the truth, he finds that he has the ability to revert to a previous moment in time upon death while still retaining his memories. He then uses this skill to alter future events in subsequent timelines by utilizing the clues that he still remembers. It’s reminiscent of something like Groundhog Day or Happy Death Day with some Game of Thrones-style political intrigue thrown in.
The story in The Prophecy of the Throne can feel a bit daunting in the early hours. You’re immediately introduced to many characters and dynamics that can easily feel overwhelming from the offset. These feelings can be even more so if you’re not already familiar with the source material. Personally, I only have a passing knowledge of the Re:ZERO anime series, but it wasn’t long before I was brought up to speed and able to keep up with the constant barrage of characters being introduced even multiple hours into its narrative.
Once you’re into it though, the story is where the game truly delivers. All of the characters have fun tales to explore. Plus, the concept of having to relive the past while implementing what you’ve learned remains compelling throughout without ever feeling like a gimmick. The main live-die-repeat gameplay loop could have easily gotten stale eventually. However, the implementation of it into the story works remarkably well for a visual novel. For instance, after returning to a timeline where you died in battle, you can use this knowledge to influence conversations with characters or actions during movement segments. This could then change that fate and allow you to progress further. It’s almost a rogue-lite but to a much lesser and simplified degree. Which is in no way a knock against it.
While the bulk of the game is spent within the dialogue between Subura and his supporting characters, there are segments where you’ll be engaging in some very bare-bones strategic sequences. This is unfortunately where The Prophecy of the Throne is at its weakest. Visually, it isn’t all that interesting. Especially compared to the vibrant and beautifully drawn graphics that accompany the dialogue sections of the game. The strategic segments don’t employ the same visual style. Instead, the team opts for more of a chibi or even a Funko Pop figure aesthetic to the characters. It’s not nearly as pleasing to look at as the rest of the game.
And as far as gameplay, it doesn’t fare much better in that regard. During these moments you’ll often have to strategically evade an enemy or sometimes engage in actual combat. Sadly, it never goes beyond knocking a barrier in the way of a pursuer or throwing a projectile at an enemy. The only real positive about these segments that I can say is that they are not the main draw. You won’t be spending a whole lot of time in the grand scheme of your time playing through it.
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne is one of the better visual novels I’ve experienced in recent years. The story and the entire cast of characters are colorful and always a blast to continue to unfold. Its overarching mystery regarding corruption and imposters within the kingdom remains enjoyable and compelling throughout the entire lengthy and winding narrative. Sadly, it is sorely lacking with its uninteresting strategy and combat elements. However, the game’s narrative and beautifully drawn visuals are enough to overlook the less than stellar departures from its visual novel trappings. Behind those flaws is a fantastic experience for fans of the source material and those wanting to enjoy a strong time-bending narrative.