Road 96: Mile 0: A Worthy Origin Story
Road 96 was a unique game that captivated players with its gripping storyline, stunning visuals, and immersive gameplay. I was personally addicted, pushing myself to 100% the game on steam and being so excited about it that my partner purchased a physical Nintendo Switch copy for me for Christmas, so I could take Road 96 on a journey of my own. The game introduced us to several fascinating characters, including the young hitchhiker, Zoe, who played a significant role in the game’s narrative. I was excited to hear about the development and release of the much-anticipated prequel, Road 96: Mile 0, which explores the origins of Zoe and introduces us to a new character, Kaito.
Zoe is definitely an important character in Road 96 and although I wasn’t as strongly compelled by her as I know other fans were, she was undeniably a fan favourite for her growing anarchist personality, so it’s only logical that she starred in a game of her own.
The prequel game takes place in White Sands, a luxurious condominium where Petria’s elite reside. Zoe and Kaito, two teenagers with different backgrounds and beliefs, live and explore the area with Kaito living in a far more impoverished area of White Sands in stark contrast to Zoe, who lives in a mansion between the home of the president Tyrak and TV Presenter Sonya Sanchez. The game allows players to alternate between the roles of Zoe and Kaito, revealing their stories and shaping their fate – letting players make some of their decisions. The focus of the game is on the two friends’ friendship and their struggles to overcome their differences.
The musical segments of the game are visually stunning and immersive, taking players on a psychedelic journey through the inner worlds of Zoe and Kaito. However, the emphasis on the game’s musical rides gave the impression that they would be rhythm-based with a dependence on the music. In reality, they are just soundtracks that are fantastic but just background to the actual gameplay. Nonetheless, the rides are visually great and tell a lot of the story. I am just a little disappointed in the lack of interaction between sound and button presses.
One of the most significant strengths of Road 96: Mile 0 is its exploration of the characters’ backgrounds and beliefs. As I mentioned, Zoe, a character from the first game, comes from the rich side of the city, and her father works for the government. Kaito, on the other hand, lives in a less privileged area where his parents are labourers for the cities elites. Kaito even spends a lot of the time in the game openly mourning his former best friend Aya who passed away from cancer caused by carcinogenic pollution in Colton City where he used to live.
The game shows the process Zoe had to go through to change her perspective after spending most of her life methodically brainwashed, despite her rebellious spirit. It’s essential to see that even those who seem free and rebellious can be blind. The game contrasts her to Kaito and his life in poverty, highlighting the different struggles they face. The game doesn’t shy away from showing just how much privilege Zoe has – exemplified in how she barely gets into trouble for acts of vandalism.
Despite the game’s strengths, some players have expressed disappointment in the endings. The game’s multiple endings give the impression that the player’s choices matter, but ultimately, the endings are similar, regardless of the decisions made. The illusion of choice can be frustrating for players who want to see the full impact of their decisions. However, the game’s story remains good and engaging, even if player input means little at best. I found my own ending to be very similar to my partners, even though I did my best to make polar opposite actions to his. The similarity in endings may be because the game is a prequel, the future is set in relative stone in the canon so they may not be able to make changes to the narrative. Despite that, they have anyway – as Kaito who is a character in the prequel is solely a creation for the prequel – he doesn’t exist in Road 96 which leads me to believe they could have changed more about the ending.
I’m hoping that this ending leads us to a sequel to the original game where Kaito and Zoe can reunite. After all, even if a dictatorship is overturned it does not mean hardship is over. The face of facism can be stamped out, but the stain remains and I envision a similar stain to have been left on Petria.
In conclusion, Road 96: Mile 0 is a worthy prequel to the original game, exploring the origins of Zoe and introducing a new character in Kaito. The game’s focus on the characters’ backgrounds and beliefs, and their friendship is a significant strength. The musical rides are visually impressive and provide an immersive experience, even if they do not meet some players’ expectations. While the game’s endings may not satisfy some players, the story remains engaging and thought-provoking. Overall, Road 96: Mile 0 is a must-play for fans of the original game and anyone who enjoys a well-crafted narrative adventure game.
Road 96: Mile 0 is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and Playstation.