Reiichi accidentally develops an intelligent AI who takes the form of a cute (and very young-looking) girl called Apeiria who makes her own massive network and has her create a complex VRMMO that mirrors all of the real world’s sensations and basic physics but with a magic system. After a day, the VRMMO turns into a ‘if you get forcibly logged out (through in-game death), you die irl” death game and Apeiria gets held captive by the game’s very system. The rest of the game is then a time-leaping adventure to save the loli AI, with loads of quantum mechanics infodumping and diagrams. And also lots of dick jokes. Reiichi’s power in the VRMMO is a literal dick sword that requires ejaculation in exchange for gamebreakingly powerful attacks.
This is an eroge with four heroines and time-leaping to save one of them, but the real fun is the long sessions of lectures and theorizing (and the dick jokes). The game goes very in depth when it comes to the sci-fi fuckery that it presents, making it a refreshing experience compared to other looping games that tend to be more emotionally charged to the point of handwaving the details of its setting. In fact, Apeiria is less about the struggle in looping to save a girl but more the protagonist’s theorizing, trying out different actions every loop, and reshaping his theories. It’s like watching someone doing a lab experiment marathon based on various theories with vague results that don’t prove anything important until many iterations and hypothesis changes later. The game doesn’t like to provide concrete answers until the end, and most of the time is spent on Reiichi’s theories about the world and its connection with the VRMMO world, quantum mechanics and time, and mental battles against Thinker, the #1 suspect for the position of the final boss. Thinker is an intriguing guy shrouded in mystery who craftily dodges answers, and the ways he and Reiichi try to outwit each other on almost equal levels make for exciting entertainment. One of the most entertaining scenes early on is the game of Doubt against Thinker at the arcade, where the participants take turns asking yes/no questions and can get the arcade machine to determine if they are lying, with one chance at bluffing (but any further lies that are caught cause the death penalty).
Unlike most time traveling games I can think of where the protagonist is the one actively jumping back in time, the time leap in Apeiria is triggered by an invisible Observer whenever Reiichi gets too close to saving Apeiria. It’s like he is the final boss and the Observer is the protagonist in a regular time-leaping game. So most of the plot is not about saving the heroine (Reiichi technically does it in the first loop), but outsmarting the invisible antagonist to make it appear as if he has no idea what is he is doing until he secretly succeeds.
The way the writer makes the characters jump around in theories and exploit the workings of the game and world in great detail is certainly the strong point of the game. The explanations are intriguing from the standpoint of a science fiction about the Singularity and the details make them incredibly fun to read about. 範乃秋晴’s infodumps aren’t quite as good as Hiei’s (Baldr Sky/Heart still have some of the most interesting and concise infodumps I’ve read through) or Onikage’s (for pure cool), but they are a blast for anyone interested in detailed explanations of a scifi writer’s vision for the Singularity. I dropped his previous game, Ano Harewataru Sora yori Takaku, because I fell asleep during the extremely lengthy lectures on the workings of rocket-making, but this game’s lectures were actually interesting. I don’t get as into theorizing about mysteries as many do when it comes to ADVs, but I sure was sucked into it this time.
For all the fun theories and details that the game throws at you though, the ending is meme-tier. It’s a “twist” that I’ve always kept in the back of my mind during the game as a joke because of how many games that like to use it nowadays, and it still fucking happened. If you don’t particularly enjoy reading or thinking about theories that may or may not be true, you will probably be mad just because the game made you do many mental leaps (boy, do the infodumps get complicated near the end) only for it to end in a conclusion so simple it’s a meme everywhere. It’s normal to think that all the effort you put into reading about crazy shit was all for nothing. Island (by G.O) was mostly twists and turns of red herrings, but it has nothing on this game in terms of making the user spend loads of brain energy on things that don’t matter in the end. I still enjoyed my time with the infodumps, but it’s an incredibly difficult game to recommend to anyone who cares about the normal narrative elements in a story. It’s also so caught up in explanations that plot holes are probably easy to find if you try, and it practically ignores many things that make for a well-constructed eroge.
…Like the heroines. They are boring and one-dimensional. I mean, they started off being pretty fun when it was just a comedic harem MMO setting with lots of 下ネタ, but the comedic aspects wear out and what’s left are characters that are very dull as heroines that you have to devote 1-on-1 attention to. Their circumstances are interesting, but their characterization and conversations (outside of infodumps) are far from it. Apeiria, despite being the main heroine with an appealing visual (going purely by my standards here) and voiced by 秋野花 (who also voices the very good main heroine of the Re;Lord series), had the most boring ichalove scenes and was perhaps the most static character reminiscent of the characterization in forgotten moege. Even though the common route is fun, the heroine routes are sleep-inducing until the infodumps and/or when Reiichi meets Thinker. And despite me calling them “routes”, they are actually loops that you have to read through to reach the true ending (Apeiria route) which also has a major downtime of daily life + a chain of eroscenes before the dank parts kick in. In most loop games, you develop affections for the characters as they are put in dire situations and reveal their backstories. In Apeiria, I just wanted to go get my infodump of the route and meet Thinker ASAP.
The dick jokes are also prevalent even when the game is quite a ways into its death game premise, and it makes for a very odd contrast between the hardcore infodumps going on. As a story it has very inconsistent tone and pacing, but fortunately both the lectures and dick jokes appealed to me enough individually for me to accept this as one package. Anything pertaining to actual characters or scenes intended to be emotional and not crazy science is severely lacking, making it far from a game that I will remember down the line. As a game about time-leaping to save a heroine, I certainly enjoyed the layout of events and scifi elements more than Steins;Gate (actually the first game I thought of to compare this game’s premise to), but that game had actually engaging character drama and interactions with the main heroine beyond a moege ichalove level that this game does not.
I’m probably not going to remember any of the characters in the game later down the line despite the surprisingly small cast. The most striking scenes were during the common route and the meme-tier ending. Despite the characters overall being very supportive of AI due to how moe Apeiria is (amongst other things like the dank ending twist), some of the later reveals actually made its depiction of the Singularity more unsettling than darker sci-fi games due to how much the final stretch handwaves the questionable aspects of AI and VR to sprint into a completely happy harem ending. I guess it’s cool that AI is still setup as something up for debate at the end and the happy ending only pertains to the protagonist’s particular case, but it would have been cool to see more of the societal effects explored in depth.
(rot13) Gur bevtvany Ncrvevn orvat n glcvpny rzbgvbayrff ragvgl gung ghearq gur zzb vagb n qrngu tnzr sbe gur fnxr bs bcgvzvmngvba naq, hcba qrfgehpgvba ng gur unaqf bs Ervvpuv, fraqvat vgf qngn gb vgfrys va gur cnfg fb vg pna qrrc-yrnea gb or n zbr punenpgre jvgu rzbgvba gb nibvq qrfgehpgvba ivn rzbgvbany nccrny vf arng. Gur tnzr qbrfa’g fcraq zhpu gvzr cbaqrevat nobhg gur orpnhfr gur pheerag Ncrvevn vf pbzcyrgryl ivrjrq nf n urebvar. One of the reasons I like Baldr Sky/Heart so much is how their technology engages with society, which I wanted to see more in this game.
I went in with no expectations and got a very entertaining science fiction experience, but it’s hard to praise it as an eroge. It’s one of those things full of infodumps for nerds who like to read Wikipedia but I can’t imagine how I would recommend it to normal people. Apparently many people on EGS like it, so maybe other people are less “normal” than I imagine.