The world is afflicted with a mysterious disease known as “The Enigma.”
Chester, infected with this disease, finds himself washed onto a lonely island, Carlyle.
As he is being given a tour of the island by the girl who nursed him back to health, Chester finds himself feeling that something is off. There are no doctors from the mainland. Not only is there no information of the outside world, but the inhabitants seem entirely oblivious of the worldwide epidemic.
—It’s as if this place has been completely removed from the rest of the world.
After a while, Chester finds a conspicuous white forest in the middle of a green expanse.
“That forest devours people. That’s what I believe.”
The forest’s name is Enigma.
The same as the disease consuming his body.
★ ☆ ✰ Rating: 9/10
To be honest, when I first started this visual novel, I was expecting something from its cast and with a main character like Chester. What intrigued me about this visual novel enough to buy it was the story, a forest that eats people and its connections to the world outside of the island and how Chester might be connected to all that. The art is really well done and I fell in love with some of the designs, particular Envirio’s and Ignis’ (though the sprites don’t really change and the emotional moments are hard to convey because of this). The music was also great and the ending song was really emotional, while the GUI is always there to remind the player that they are in story and that there is a hero to it all, though it isn’t exactly Chester, as shown later on.
As stated above, Chester ends up on the island after capsizing near the island of Carlyle. He ends up getting saved by a group of siblings by the name of Colette and Lauro, who quickly welcome him with open arms and through them meets the herbalists, Greta and her apprentice, Ignis. While he might not be welcomed by everyone on the island, he gets closer to these four, but it seems that he is short on time as the Enigma disease and a mysterious figure —Envirio– gravitate towards his end. With the decisions that Chester makes, he can either end up dying another way besides his illness or he make peace with everything that he couldn’t be.
The game is split into three routes: Lauro, Ignis, and Envirio. Each of them have seven different endings that deal with several different things in regards to the each character. Lauro, as the youngest member of the cast, deals with how he wants to grow and become independent in his own way. With Chester’s help, Lauro is able to see his own strength and find what he wants to do…away from the island. In Ignis’ route, Chester helps the older man come to terms with his past actions and who he once was, even if it is only subtly shown. A branch of Ignis’ route also deals a lot with Greta and allowing her to enjoy some of the things that she couldn’t when she was a normal girl. With Envirio, its a little different as their interactions with Chester allow them to see themselves in a way that is separate from Enigma and have their own feelings and experiences to begin to form.
With some many endings it might be a little hard to form an opinion on all of them, but the true ending (Envirio’s 1st ending) really does strike an emotional chord. After become friends with everyone and sharing a dinner with them, Chester’s time comes to a close and accepts that while he might not be a hero, he can help them in their own way to move forward on their journey — his memory becomes a chord through all the people he affected on the island and this unknown hero that the world seems to be waiting for. All the people of the island move forward and prepare but also move on in what has been holding them back and the future is bright for this new hero with Chester watching their back in many different ways.
However, one thing that I didn’t enjoy of the endings was how many placed Chester and Colette in bizarre situations that usually ended with Colette going insane and that at times leading to Chester’s death. While it is understandable that she has certain thoughts and feelings when it came to losing the people that she cares about, her strong obsession with Chester is never explained and her character’s archetype is something that is a little bit overused within the game and while I liked her in the beginning, all the endings just made me feel antagonistic towards her, even when she was just being nice. I was even happy when she wasn’t shown in the true ending. Colette is a sweet and lovable character, but her character was destroyed through the bad endings.
A large theme within the visual novel is the idea of heroism, what a person’s beliefs are surrounding that ideal, and the consequences of their actions. Both Ignis and Chester at some point in time they could/were heroes and believed that their actions were in the right during that time, but time has made them change their mindset and regret a lot of their actions. While, Ignis completely ignores that part of his life now, Chester still clings to it at times and wishes to help in some type of way. On the other hand, Lauro as a young man has his own ideas on what heroism is, but doesn’t believe he could be that type of person. And while everyone is waiting for this “grand hero” to arrive, everyone is able to become their own hero and move forward with their ideas — Ignis’ time finally started moving once more, Lauro stands up for himself and is learning magic, and Chester (even in death) is able to become that line that moves the “grand hero” forward and his words lay the foundation for the next adventure. Things come full circle for a lot of people and they stop living in a static placement.
The ideas talked about in ENIGMA are really heavy at times, but there are still a lot of questions left unanswered when it comes to the island and what is a happening to the outside world, even to what is really happening to a supporting character. At the same time, it tends to overuse Colette and Tai (her aggressive suitor that doesn’t like Chester) in scenarios that tend to drag the story and just make the player dislike the oversaturation of seeing these two and nothing really happening because Colette doesn’t really declare she doesn’t want to be with him, or Tai just doesn’t listen. It was one of the main reasons I enjoyed Ignis’ route (followed by Envirio’s) because that situation isn’t seen that much due to Ignis’ and Envirio’s personalities keeping these two away. So while, ENIGMA is a great visual novel in some aspects, it still gets pulled down by commonly used tropes found in Japanese visual novels.
Nevertheless, I will miss the world of ENIGMA and maybe, one day we will get to see where the “grand hero” as they follow Chester’s ideals.