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Review: LOOPERS—Let’s set out to Find a Real Treasure

This review was handed in by Manpig. If you’re interested in the works of KEY, Minori and an abundance of robot related takes, make sure to follow his account on Twitter.

He also maintains a YouTube channel that features a lot of visual novel related content, albeit he hasn’t produced many new videos since he’s occupied with his full-time job. He’s also head staff of the Ef, Eden & Minori and KEYVERSE discords, two sweet communities of fans of titles by these respective companies.

“Let’s set out to find a real treasure.”

With the recent Steam release, there’s no better time to take a look at Loopers, a short visual novel created by the studio Key as part of their ‘Kinetic Novel’ series. For those unfamiliar, Key’s Kinetic Novels are short 4-10 hour all-ages visual novels that aim to provide a more casual reading experience with an immersive self-contained story and world for the reader at a lower price and budget. 

Loopers is the third entry of this series following Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet and Harmonia, and the first of what can be considered a new wave of Kinetic Novels created for Key’s 20th-anniversary project. Made in collaboration with author Ryukishi07 from 07th Expansion, and illustrated by freelance artist Mochizuki Kei, let’s take a look at what the third entry of the series has to offer.


The story begins with Tyler, your average everyday highschooler with an energetic go-getter personality and a love for treasure hunting. On one of his geocaching runs, he encounters a strange boy named Simon accompanied with a girl named Mia. With strange phenomena occurring to Tyler and his friends, he soon realizes that he’s found himself in what seems to be a time loop, repeating a singular day without end. 

As a kinetic novel, LOOPERS has a linear narrative with no routes or choices, with a short length akin to that of a film. Off the bat, LOOPERS is a big departure from Key’s Kinetic Novels. Whilst prior entries focused on settings revolving around robots and humanity, Loopers focuses on a mysterious anomaly in the present day, with its strange time vortex phenomena and unnerving events. 

As LOOPERS is written by the famous Ryukishi07, one might expect some horror elements in the story. However, readers should not go into the game expecting such a tone. While the first act does indeed have some horror elements that build up the mystery of the world, once the initial confusion boils over, the story keeps in line with the “nakige” formula Key is well-known for. Readers can expect a more lighthearted first act, focusing on comedic slice-of-life to get readers attached to the characters, and more dramatic elements coming in later.

There is certainly an element of mystery to LOOPERS, however, it is not the main focus of the kinetic novel. Admittedly, there are a few unexplained elements to the story that never get answered, meaning fans of tight mystery stories may be disappointed. However, Key visual novels rarely focus on explaining their magic, instead, using them as devices to create a story aiming to tell tangible life lessons. LOOPERS is no exception to this, with the time loop acting as a vehicle and metaphor for the work’s core meaning. Those who resonate with the story will find plenty of emotional touching moments scattered throughout, some which might just speak to you personally. 


The characters are probably the defining aspect of whether most readers will enjoy LOOPERS or not. Key’s stories are almost always character-driven at their core, and LOOPERS is no exception. The titular ‘Loopers’ group consists of all the individuals trapped within the time loop, creating the largest cast of Key’s entire kinetic novel series to date. As a result, the story makes sure to pace introductions as to not overwhelm the reader with too many new faces at once so readers can familiarize themselves with each individual.

Once introduced, you’ll be quick to learn that the people who make up the Loopers all have their own distinct personalities, interests, and quirks. You’ll definitely get the feel that the group is a collection of unrelated individuals who were only brought together by circumstance. Yet, despite this, the situation they find themselves in causes the whole cast share a tight sense of camaraderie with one another, which warmed my heart whilst reading the story. 

That being said, LOOPERS is only able to accomplish so much in its shorter length. The visual novel does not divide screen time equally and only focuses on one or two characters per act. As a result, only a fraction of the cast get fleshed out with their own stories, while others are relegated to supportive roles. This may be a letdown for some, especially if they find themselves interested in a character that the story does not choose to focus on. As a result, you might want to temper expectations when it comes to that aspect. 

However, the greatest boon to LOOPERS’ characters is undoubtedly the warm found-family dynamic that definitely appeals to many Key works, and this game continues this trend by putting it at the forefront. There will be one or two characters that you may remember being the star of the show, but many of LOOPERS’ most memorable moments belong to the ensemble cast, and the team they formed together. 


The first thing that comes to mind when readers think about LOOPERS tends to be its unique art style. The visuals are headed by freelance artist Mochizuki Kei, who distinguishes the visual novel from other kinetic novels with a minimalistic approach to coloring and detail. Using sharp angles and simpler shading, LOOPERS conveys a somewhat cartoony art style that feels both modern and distinct from any other visual novel currently on the market. 

Mochizuki Kei also made sure to make each character’s design match their personalities to a T, which each character having an outfit that fits their personality, and their own distinct body shape that makes them immediately recognizable. Though the trade-off is that aside from expressions, the characters do not have much variety in appearance. Each character only has one pose, and a large majority only receive one outfit as well. This can be distracting once you notice it, but it’s a reasonable compromise considering the volume of spirited characters. 

The original soundtrack of LOOPERS is once again composed by Shinji Orito, who composes sounds that deliver a perfect mix of the mysterious allure of the time vortex’s world, and the exciting, joyful feelings of spending a day out with a bunch of close friends. Whilst I admit there aren’t any tracks that especially stand out to me, the music is consistent and embodies the tone that the work is going for, that being a lighthearted, modern-day city adventure. Overall, the music gives the work a trendy atmosphere that fits with the general vibe that LOOPERS aims to deliver. 


Ultimately, LOOPERS is a fun casual entry into the kinetic novel series that offers a lot of enjoyment for the light runtime. While this visual novel definitely stands out with its one-of-a-kind visuals and trendy styles, at its core, LOOPERS is a very earnest Key story that aims to impart a similarly simple, yet important message to its reader. Readers who seek an engaging mystery or horror akin to Ryukishi07’s other works might be disappointed to learn LOOPERS doesn’t focus on these aspects. However, for fans of Key works, and those who want to meet a heartwarming cast of loving friends, LOOPERS is a fantastic short story that is sure to entertain. 

Rating: 9/10


Enjoyer of stories and nostalgic media. Tourist of life. Obsessed with Type-Moon, Key, and Minori. Amamiya Yuuko's devout Follower

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