anonymous;code review
Screenshot by Siliconera

Review: Anonymous;Code Is a Thrilling Masterpiece

After multiple delays, Anonymous;Code came out in July 2022 in Japan and finally, a little over a year later, Spike Chunsoft is bringing the game to the West. With a strong localization, fun cast, and engaging story, I was almost constantly on the edge of my seat. This is probably my contender for Game of the Year. That’s how good I think Anonymous;Code is.

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Pollon Takaoka and Cross Yumikawa are members of Nakano Symphonies, which is a group that takes on hacking-related jobs in order to make money and help others. After Pollon brashly exclaims that he has a girlfriend named Momo Aizaki, his friends insist on seeing her. To their surprise, a girl calling herself Momo Aizaki actually shows up. However, it turns out that she’s on the run from the military. While helping her escape, Pollon awakens to a strange ability to Save & Load, which essentially lets him time travel to a point in time when he “Saved.” Soon after, Cicada 3301 (a separate Cicada 3301 from the one in real life) starts issuing terrorist Quests to search for a “highly intelligent individual.” Pollon, with the help of Nakano Symphonies, attempts to solve these Quests using his new power.

anonymous;code review cicada 3301

Screenshot by Siliconera

The characters in Anonymous;Code are all really fun and charming. Even if they start out weird or irritating, it’s easy to develop a soft spot towards them. I didn’t like Bambi, for example, because her group was so bizarre. But seeing her interact with Momo and learning more about her history made me root for her. Wind was also super cringe, but his enthusiasm and optimism made him great in a lot of scenes. Their dynamic with each other was fun, and watching them all work together to solve Cicada 3301’s Quests or help Momo against her pursuers was exciting. The problem is that there are a lot of characters and one main route. So not everyone gets an equal amount of development, nor do we learn too much about them as people. In that sense, someone who wants a really character-focused game might feel dissatisfied with Anonymous;Code.

The Save & Load power that Pollon has is something you (the player) have as well. I don’t mean in the literal sense where you save and load the game. I mean that while Pollon will make Saves himself, you actually have to Load for him when things get bad. This is a really fun mechanic, except when you’re trying to get Pollon to Load, only for him to brush you off. Like, I’m trying to save your life, dude! Relying on the auto-save, rather than manual saves, for this is far easier. The interface of Save & Load uses the same menu as your normal saving and loading. So if you’re the type to save in multiple slots, you and Pollon will always be fighting for space. I actually recommend not manually saving that often because of this.

anonymous;code review load screen

Screenshot by Siliconera

Visual novels are still a fairly niche genre (though definitely not as bad as a few years ago), but this game is a pretty good starting point for the average players. Steins;Gate is a show and game that I feel like you can recommend to a mainstream audience. It’s a pretty standard science fiction, albeit there is enough anime elements in it that could make it a hard sell. Anonymous;Code is similar in that vein where it’s very easy for someone with no visual novel experience to jump in. It feels a bit more grounded than Steins;Gate did, mostly because of the focus on technology like AI, as well as less of the aforementioned anime elements. A lot of the technology feels like items that we use or a logical progression of them if trends continue as they are. It’s a game that anyone could play.

anonymous;code nerds and normies

Screenshot by Siliconera

While I certainly would go so far as to say that Anonymous;Code might be my favorite game in 2023, it’s not completely free of some issues. These are more personal hang-ups than actual problems in the game, though. I’m not exactly a fan of how the team used Live2D for the sprites. The overly smooth animation for the mouth flaps and movements when everything else about the sprite is so static can look disconcerting. I’m also not really interested Pollon and Momo’s romantic relationship. Though I genuinely wanted Okarin and Kurisu to work out, Pollon and Momo are so much cuter when platonic that the more romantic moments between them weren’t my cup of tea.

Though I mentioned the sprites, that’s not to say that the aesthetic of Anonymous;Code is weak. I really like the UI for the game and how it looks like Pollon’s BMI (AR device), complete with breaking news updates in the corner or messages from his friends. At times, the game switches to a vomic (video comic) style of story-telling. It does take a bit of time, but it helps to explain really complicated topics like the Earth Simulator or quantum physics in a more visually interesting way. Once you can ignore the Live2D, it’s a treat to look at.

With a solid localization and a gripping story, Anonymous;Code is definitely a game I would recommend to basically anyone who enjoys visual novels or sci-fi. Very few games had me Googling terms and events with the fervor I had when playing this. It simultaneously made me feel like the biggest idiot and the smartest person in the room. You just can’t put a price on that feeling.

Anonymous;Code will come out on the PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC on September 8, 2023.

9
Anonymous;Code

Pollon is thrown into numerous plots as a result of his encounter with Momo, and faces a major event that shakes the world. What truth awaits you when you use hacking, saving, and loading? Hack the myriad branches of reality and "load" the ending that saves the world! This is the story of the hackers who will rewrite the future. Nintendo Switch version reviewed.

2037. Nakano, Tokyo.

Pollon Takaoka is caught up in a tangle of plots as a result of his encounter with the mysterious girl Momo and faces major events that shake the world. Live the experience with Pollon, help him hack the myriad branches of reality and “load” the ending that saves the world!

An exciting and suspenseful visual novel that maintains its momentum from beginning to end. It's a story that relies on its medium for a complete experience.

Food for Thought:
  • Games that take advantage of the fact that they're a game are always fun. The fact that the entire UI feels like an extension of the story immediately got me interested.
  • The characters are all really fun and you know more about them through the story. Conversely, since all of the scenes advance the story, you only get a basic understanding of characters like Cross, who Pollon knew way before the game started.
  • I personally really like how the game hyper focuses on the story without too much fluff. However, some people may not enjoy that in a visual novel.
  • Math and physics are ridiculous.

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Author
Stephanie Liu
Stephanie is a senior writer who has been writing for games journalism and translating since 2020. After graduating with a BA in English and a Certificate in Creative Writing, she spent a few years teaching English and history before fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a writer. In terms of games, she loves RPGs, action-adventure, and visual novels. Aside from writing for Siliconera and Crunchyroll, she translates light novels, manga, and video games.