After a chance encounter with a beautiful girl at a music concert, your character in Sonicomi struggles to get her out of his mind. Much to his surprise, he runs into her again at work, where he is apprenticing with a professional photographer. It turns out that the girl, Super Sonico, is planning on making her modelling debut and your boss has appointed you as the photographer who will help her with this. As her personal photographer you are not only responsible for her image, but also carving out a niche for her in the competitive world of gravure modelling.
Fans of Nitro+ should already be familiar with Sonico as she has been the official mascot of the company for a while now. Although quite voluptuous, her character is very sweet and caring, but also quite naive. This means that she is rather trusting of your character, who she refers to as “Mr. Cameraman” throughout the game. In addition to taking her photos you also get to know Sonico a little better between shoots during the visual novel sections of the game. Ultimately the way you interact with Sonico and the direction you choose for her career will lead you to one of 18 different endings.
Most of the story is revealed during the visual novel sections where you get to sit back and watch the events unfold. Every now and then you are given an opportunity to interact with Sonic in one of three different ways; talking looking or touching. You are also generally given a choice when it comes to these actions, so if you want your character to constantly make lewd remarks about her physique, ogle her breasts and try to grope her you are free to do so. However, this is probably not going to endear you to Sonico and her Hannya mask wearing manager is usually around to threaten you with his katana if you overstep your bounds. On the other hand, if you are respectful towards Sonic and supportive then your cameraman/gravure model relationship could take a more romantic direction. Regardless of your choices, the game doesn’t feature any sex or nudity, although you’ll find plenty of fan service in the form of revealing outfits. Your choices will however affect the outcome of the game and sometimes not making any choice can also branch the story off in surprising directions.
Providing a break from the visual novel sections of the game are the photography sessions. Here you are given free rein to choose what outfit Sonico will wear and where as well as when the shoot will take place. You can even choose to ignore the needs of the clients, but doing so can result in getting a bad ending. Initially the amount of outfits to choose from are rather limited, but as the game progresses you get to unlock more. The more pleased clients are with your shoots, the more money you make, which can then be used to purchase even more clothes from the shop that is unlocked after your first playthrough.
The type of clothes you choose for Sonico will determine whether she appeals to mainstream, niche, energetic or mellow audiences. Each shoot can feature up to three sessions, so you have to be careful to choose different outfits for each. Most of the clothing articles feature different design as well as color options, each with a different influence, so choosing the right outfit is almost a mini-game in itself. Luckily Sonico will provide visual cues about how appropriate your choices are and you can also purchase items from the shop that take all the guesswork out of the selection process. In total there are fourteen clothing categories, ranging from outerwear and tops, all the way to bottoms, legwear, facewear and footwear.
The actual photography scenes are viewed in first person, through the lens of your camera and take place in 3D. You are basically given three minutes in which to take the best photos of Sonico that you can muster. To make your job easier targeting rings constantly appear over Sonico and taking a photo when they turn pink will provide you with a “Great” or “Perfect” shot. Perfect shots require Sonico to actually be in the shot, so you are encouraged to move around and photograph her from different angles. Getting good, great or perfect shots in succession increases your “combo” which results in a better score, but bad or poor shots breaks the combo. With each great or perfect shot you take, you’ll also increase Sonicos enthusiasm gauge, which can be used to increase her enthusiasm level. This is vital as it allows you to unlock additional poses for her. On the other hand, bad and poor shots deplete her energy gauge faster, which means the shoot can end prematurely if you don’t allow Sonico to rest. Overall the photography scenes are fun and the fact that each location allows for different types of poses keeps things varied. There are eight different shooting locations, ranging from the beach and a park to a studio and school scattered around Tokyo. However, most of them must be unlocked first by following certain routes through the game.
Visually Sonicomi looks like a typical visual novel and all the characters, apart from Sonico herself, are portrayed as 2D sprites. They are a wacky bunch too, with most of them wearing all kinds of bizarre masks for some reason. Sonico is obviously 3D during the photography scenes, but her 3D character model is also used for the visual novel segments. This looks a little strange initially, but it is something you’ll get used to quickly. It also allows for Sonico to show a lot more emotion than what would have been possible with 2D sprites, plus it means she’s constantly wearing new outfits. Overall we liked the graphics and about the only issue is some minor clipping problems with some of the clothes.
The audio is just as good and features plenty of catchy tunes along with crisp sound effects. The game features enough audio tracks that even after completing it a few times you can still end up hearing new tunes when you discover a different route. The only character with full voice acting is Sonico and this is handled by Jessica Nigri, who also did the English voice for the character in the Super Sonico anime series. The voice acting is as over the top as you would expect, but the option to switch over to the original Japanese voice of Ayano Yamamoto is also included, so everyone should be happy. The controls for the visual novel portions of the game are as straightforward as can be and anyone who has ever played a first person shooter should have no trouble with the WASD controls of the 3D photography sections.
Although Sonicomi is a little pricier than most visual novels, it is also more of a niche title thanks to the photography scenes. The game can be completed in only a few hours, but anyone who plans on only doing so once will be wasting their money. Half the fun is unlocking new clothes, discovering new story routes and finding all of the endings, which takes a lot more time. Completing the game the first time also unlocks a free mode where you can take photos of Sonico without time limits or target rings. About the only criticism we have is that the game can only be saved at certain predetermined spots and not at any time like we would have liked. Luckily all previously read text can be skipped, which makes repeated playthroughs a bit faster.
Fans of Sonico will have a blast interacting with her in the game as will players who want to step into the shoes of a gravure photographer. The story isn’t anything special, but a few of the routes do have some humorous or touching scenes. It’s a pity that the only model in the game is Sonico, but the vast amount of clothes available for her does make up for that a bit. We definitely recommend Sonicomi for all VN fans looking for something a little more interactive than what is typically found in the genre.