On May 5th, mystery visual novel director Kotaro Uchikoshi tweeted the following:
I'm curious about this site… https://t.co/HZBplFbjf2
— Kotaro Uchikoshi Eng (@Uchikoshi_Eng) May 6, 2022
The account linked in the Tweet, Hidden Bats, was a Twitter account devoid of any content except a link to a website for a fictional company, the Sunaiku Foundation, whose site was reporting on the missing teenagers Aine Ichirai and Binato Sotobara. It also contained a countdown ending in 2 days.
Fans of Uchikoshi’s games, which include titles like the Zero Escape trilogy as well as AI: The Somnium Files, wondered if this mysterious Tweet and empty Twitter account could be part of an augmented reality game related to Uchikoshi’s upcoming game, AI: The Somnium Files NirvanA Initiative, a sequel to the original AI game. Uchikoshi had previously run another ARG for the first AI game before it released in late 2019, featuring the YouTube account of A-Set, a fictional streamer character from the game.
When the 2 day countdown ended, fans checked back on the Hidden Bats Twitter to find a new tweet, this time a set of rules:
Rule 1: 2 people are being held in separate rooms in an undisclosed location. There is a box with a 9-digit number lock. The box has multiple locked layers. Enter the final password to release the captive.
Rule 2: Each captive has a smartphone that is activated for only 21 minutes at a fixed time once every two days. The phone can only be used for Twitter. The captive may use that phone to share information with you.
Rule 3: Use the video to solve the cyphers given to you daily by the missing persons. On the site, enter the correct answer for a 9-digit number. That is the password for the box. Tell the missing person to help them open the box. Their fate is in your hands.
The Sunaiku Foundation website previously linked on the Hidden Bats Twitter also had a new “Hidden Bats” section added that linked to the rules, cipher video, and the Twitter accounts of the previously mentioned missing teenagers, as well as a text field for the answers mentioned in the rules. In addition to the rules, the Twitter account for the first missing character, Aine Ichirai, posted the first puzzle.
Fans quickly set about analyzing the cipher video to solve the first puzzle. Two dedicated fans, Mori and Skitty, created a spreadsheet with the full cipher from the video organized into an easy-to-read table, as well as a record of each clue and (eventually) the answers. The spreadsheet can be found here. .
The next day, the second character, Binato Sotobara, posted his first puzzle. The ARG continued throughout the week, alternating between the two characters, with increasingly difficult puzzles that began to utilize other elements such as compass directions, Morse Code, and Caesarian Ciphers. Fans solved a total of 6 puzzles, three from each character. The next time the characters posted the puzzles, it was different. The 4th picture posted by each character was an image containing no puzzles or ciphers, instead showing a single word. Aine’s post was first, of a blank page with the word ‘STALKER’ written on it. The next day, Binato’s account posted his, again a blank piece of paper, this time with the word “THIEF” on it. When players entered those words into the site, they were greeted with the following messages:
Binato Sotobara has a burner account: @TESTESCAPEGAME. When the time comes, please make sure you are well informed about the true nature of Binato Sotobara. Until next time.
Aine Ichirai has a burner account: @PANCAKE_SHOES. When the time comes, please make sure you are well informed about the true nature of Aine Ichirai. Until next time.
Upon visiting the burner accounts linked and reading through their older tweets, players learned that the mystery words posted by each character were related to the true nature of the other. Aine’s burner account detailed her love of theft, where she talked about robbing stores and even her own friends in great detail, culminating in her live tweeting breaking into her school to steal test answers. She tells her followers she was caught by a security guard during her break-in, but hit them over the head with a hammer to avoid getting in trouble. Binato’s burner account focused on his obsession with women, where he details sleeping with a different girl almost every day, including a CEO’s wife, his friend’s girlfriend, and several women from his job at a modeling agency. More recent tweets in the account were him lamenting that rumors were going around about him being “creepy” or “a stalker,” and his claim that women these days just don’t understand. However, the newest tweets on the account are of Binato admitting he pushed a girl down the stairs when she tried to call the cops on him.
With the reveal of these accounts, the character accounts went dark, with the Hidden Bats Twitter posting that the fates of both characters would be revealed on the night of May 15. On the night of May 15th, the players were given a choice. In an exercise referred to by the Twitter account as a “Balance Experiment,” participants were asked to decide the fates of both Aine and Binato. Whichever character’s linked tweet got more likes and retweets would be ‘saved,’ with the other remaining trapped. If both characters got an equal number of likes and retweets, they both would be saved. Voting for the fate of the two characters ends on May 16th at 7 pm PDT.
The replies to the tweets are currently mixed. With the reveals of the criminal nature of each character, many people in the comments don’t want to save either. Other people are picking to save Aine over Binato, saying that her crimes of stealing were lesser to Binato’s creepy behavior towards women. Part of the fandom has started pushing the hashtag #tAIthevote in an effort to convince others to even the votes for both characters out. As of publication, the votes are still open, and both tweets can be seen below:
— Aine Ichirai/壱来アイネ (@Aine_Ichirai) May 16, 2022
— Binato Sotobara/卒斗原ビナト (@Binato_Sotobara) May 16, 2022
It is currently unknown what effect, if any, the results of this ARG will have on the plot of the upcoming AI: The Somnium Files NirvanA Initiative. A QR code linking to the cipher video was found hidden in one of the game’s trailers released earlier this year, but that has been the only connection found so far between the game and the ARG. Fans will have to wait and see what happens when the game releases on June 24th in the United States and July 8th in Europe for the Nintendo Switch, Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
The voting for the Hidden Bats ARG came to a close the evening of May 16th. The account posted the results as screenshots in the following tweet. Despite the fanbase’s collective efforts to tie the vote, the numbers ended up being mismatched, with Aine Ichirai’s combined like and retweet total being 4 higher. With these results, the Hidden Bats website changed to display a new message:
As a result of your choices, Aine Ichirai has been rescued and Binato Sotobara’s existence has been removed from this world. The sinful thief will return to her normal life and the greedy obsessive will disappear forever. A very interesting conclusion indeed. Thank you for your participation. The next experiment will begin at [2022/05/19 19:00 PDT] . Thank you again for your cooperation.
The site also updated with a news article stating that Aine had been rescued, consistent with the results of the Twitter voting. As mentioned in the text on the Hidden Bats site, another round of the Hidden Bats ARG will begin on May 19th, with the participants remaining determined to balance the votes this time.