AI: The Somnium Files is the latest title from legendary game developer Kotaro Uchikoshi. It’s a murder-mystery, detective-adventure game where you play as Kaname Date on his quest to solve a slew of grisly murders carried out by the Cyclops Killer, as well as uncover clues about his own past. In typical Uchikoshi fashion, it has references to mythology, philosophy, secret societies, and classic scientific theories all woven together in a tale like no other. This is not an understatement: AI: The Somnium Files is not only Uchikoshi’s best game to date but also the best narrative he’s written. The lead character, Date, delves into people’s dreams (Somnium is Latin for “dream”) to both heal their psyche but also uncover the truth behind various events that transpire, including the murders that take place. This begs the question though: what are the true nature of dreams? Can dreams affect reality or vice versa? Are dreams a reliable source of information? All of these questions are pondered by Uchikoshi, and thus, the adventure of AI: The Somnium Files begins.

It’s All About Love

AI: The Somnium Files Review

Date and Iris (A-set) are the heart of the story

Despite what may seem like a rather morbid premise, the central theme of AI is love, and it constantly contrasts this with the strict rationality of Date’s AI (intentional) companion Aiba. The Japanese word for love is Ai, and as Uchikoshi explained in his AX 2018 panel, there are many different kinds of love. This is one of the main themes of the game. There’s familial love, like that between Date and Mizuki, there’re the bonds of friendship, like that between Ota and Iris (another play on the word Ai), and even a form of love and trust that is implicit between Date and his artificial AI eye (yes, Ai), Aiba. All of the characters are well developed and each have their moment to shine, especially within their respective routes (these routes are unlocked via the Somnium realm, which we’ll get to later.) Despite the rather grim tone, there are moments of levity. Each character has a sense of humor which balances out the sheer emotion which will bring you to tears.

Mizuki and Date have a complicated relationship

There’s something very special about the cast of The Somnium Files. Each has their own strengths which play off one another. They are all tight-nit, even if Mizuki doesn’t want to acknowledge her feelings for Date. They compliment each other so well, and choosing to have a rather small cast of strong characters was an excellent choice. Even supporting characters, such as Moma, have their moments. There are legitimate moments which will shock you, and the story isn’t linear per se and gets pretty crazy, but it’s well worth it. As a non-franchise game, which is refreshing, the game contains some of the best characters to be found in any video game. Period. While the game is character-driven, it has so many twists and turns that it will leave you in awe.

Gameplay

AI: The Somnium Files Review

The Somnium Realm

There are two components to the gameplay of The Somnium Files. One is questioning various witnesses and suspects and inspecting crime scenes, and the other is entering others’ dreams in order to ascertain the truth behind the grotesque murders that take place. Questioning and inspecting crime scenes (and places of interest) are rather straightforward, as well as using Aiba’s x-ray and thermal vision, but the Somnium Realm is much more in-depth and are the most exciting part of the game. They ooze with creativity. You are given a six-minute time limit to traverse through the subject’s dream and interact with various objects in order to break mental locks in order to progress.

Mental Locks

There are objects which you can interact with that progress mental unlocks, and there are other objects that do not. There are also interactions which will give you items called TIMIES, which allow you to drastically cut down on the amount of time your interactions take, although there are some that will at least double the time it takes, so you have to be careful. The majority of Somnium Realms also allow for two unlocks on a given Mental Lock, which branches the story. Somnium Realms can be revisited via the flow chart, so it’s relatively easy to revisit and then unlock the second Mental Lock to unlock a previously unplayed branch of the narrative, opening up a brand new route, which is convenient.

Game of the Year Material

AI: The Somnium Files Review

Iris, Named After the Greek Goddess, Messenger of the Gods

AI: The Somnium Files is one of, if not the best game to release this year. The gameplay is stellar, the story is phenomenal, the characters are truly special and have chemistry like no other, and the concept is possibly the most unique in gaming history. Kotaro Uchikoshi has done it again. Not only that, but the English voice cast is phenomenal, especially Iris, Mizuki, and Date’s VAs. This is the type of game that only comes around once in a generation, if not that. Depending on how the rest of this fall pans out, it very well may be a GOTY contender, despite the fact that it is a rather niche game. It’s completely polished, and the Switch version runs phenomenally in handheld mode. The story will both make you laugh and make you bawl your eyes out, something that isn’t common given the morbid premise of the story. To balance this though, there are moments of levity at just the right moments.

In the end, it’s all about love and the connections we have with one another. “Ai” is the most profound emotion human beings experience, and without it, we’re nothing. Uchikoshi understands this and more than anything, this is what makes AI: The Somnium Files such an impeccable experience. Love manifests itself in many different ways, but when it’s all said and done, it’s these connections that make us human, despite the pain and sorrow we may experience because of them.

Thank You to Spike Chunsoft for Providing a Review Copy to VGCultureHQ of AI: The Somnium Files

AI: The Somnium Files Review (Switch) - GOTY Contender
Ai: The Somnium Files is Kotaro Uchikoshi's best title to date. When it's said, it's all about love and the connections we have to one another. The gameplay is incredible, the story impeccable, and the characters intriguing. It's Game of the Year material.
Pros
  • The Story
  • The Characters
  • The Somnium Realm
Cons
  • Reused Car Animations
10Masterpiece
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)
9.8

About The Author

Founder/Editor-in-Chief

Morgan Lewis is a Video Game Journalist and is the Founder, Owner, and Editor-in-Chief of VGCultureHQ. He has been writing about games for over five years and has written over 1,500 articles during that timespan. He first fell in love with gaming when he received A Link to the Past for Christmas when he was six and is the guywazeldatatt. He also loves anime and anything that has to do with gaming culture and Tetsuya Takahashi games. He is also a huge anime and Star Wars fan.

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