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How far will you go to revive somebody from the death? Do you believe in the paranormal, or are those just story mechanics for a great campfire story? Those are some questions you have to ask yourself while playing this game. A horror visual novel that got released in March 2023, developed and published by Square Enix. Currently, you can play this game on the Nintendo Switch and Steam. But, you can also play it on your mobile phone. But wait a minute, that might be a worrying sign. If this game is also playable on phones, it might be filled with microtransactions or might not have too much depth. Now, I have already played a bunch of this game so, I’ll tell you if you should play or skip this game in this spoiler free review/first impression of this game. So, let’s dive right into it while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.
Editorial note: this game is rated 16+ and covers some subjects that might be sensitive for some people. Digression is advised.
Playing Around With Curses
I have quite the weak spot for adventure visual novels. Games that take you through a tense and thrilling story with a lot of twists and turns. Games like the Zero Escape trilogy, Danganronpa, Trace Memory and Death Mark are just a few examples that come to mind. So, when I read in the flavor text in the Nintendo eShop that this game takes you on a journey to discover the truth behind seven folk tale mysteries… Oh man, I purchased the game right away.
And let me tell you, the flavor text isn’t lying in the eShop. The story of this game really delivers. The story is indeed about how far would somebody go to bring somebody back from the death. There is no voice acting in this game, but the pacing of the text and the sound effects really add to the atmosphere.
In this game, you also play as different characters. You’ll experience the story from their perspective. Slowly, but surely, you get more pieces of the puzzle before everything falls into place. The story is the strongest point in this game, and it took some fascinating twists. It left me puzzled several times, and it hooked me into playing the next chapter or trying to look for a solution when I got stuck.
That’s something that can happen. You can get stuck in a chapter because you need to finish something else in another chapter. Thankfully, we have a helper. The storyteller is there to help you when you reach a game over or a dead end. When you reach that dead end or game over several times, the storyteller gives some small hint to nudge you into the right direction to progress in the game. It’s an amazing system, since you don’t get the solution right away, but you don’t get frustrated because you are stuck or don’t directly understand what you need to do differently.
It’s more than a painting
You might have noticed from the screenshots, but visually, this game looks like a dark version of Okami. Everything in this game is hand drawn in a sort of manga/comic book style. And not only that, the environments are drawn with the help of the Tourism Division, the local museum, local community and the tourist association of Sumida, Tokyo. So, we are exploring places that are based or extremely close to how they look in real life.
Visually, the game looks gorgeous. Something that surprised me even more is that even with the few animations this game has during dialogues and gameplay segments, this game is still quite immersive. Together with great use of sound effects, camera angles and filters… the well paced dialogue really comes to live. Sometimes I really felt that I was standing next to the characters.
While I can totally understand that some people would want a bit more expression and visual stuff happening in their games, I think they found the right balance in this game. The only thing that sometimes looks a bit weird are the mouth movements of some characters. I felt like the mouth opened a bit too wide. But then again, I don’t speak any Japanese, so who I’m to judge?
In various places, you can look around in 360°. And sometimes that hides secrets. There are 20 hidden stickers of Mocking Birds in this game. And let me tell you, they are hidden quite well. You have to really investigate the area’s really well to find them all. In your overview of the stickers you have or haven’t collected, you can see a little hint on the ones you haven’t collected. And let me tell you, these hints are extremely vague. One hint even says: “Jackpot”.
Now, this brings me to the UI. Let’s first talk about the menu’s before we talk about the gameplay. The main menu of this game is extremely simple. You have a resume button, a button for the options menu and a button for the credits. Now, in game, the pause/inventory menu is opened by pressing “X”. Now, you can control this menu two ways. You can either use the left joystick as a sort of mouse pointer and the “A” button to click. Or, you can navigate it almost all the other buttons. It took a little bit of getting used to, but as soon as I got the hang of it… It was quite easy.
You can also see a dialogue log in this pause menu, which is sometimes very handy when you clicked something away too fast or just want to read up on something. There is also quite the extensive file system. There is a lot of information stored in there that also gets updated the further you get into the game. You always get a notification if something gets added or updated, and you can see the updated or added files easily in the “New” tab. The only thing I’m missing from these files is a sort of search feature. Since, sometimes I have to dig a bit too much… But then again, that’s half the fun of the game, too.
This game has an amazing autosave feature. When you exit the game and restart it, you almost always pick up right from where you left off. There is also a save and load system. You get five save slots, but you can load these from the main menu. If you want to use these save slots to share the game with somebody else… Be wary of the autosave, since it overwrites quite quickly. So, with a bit of using the manual save/load system you can have different profiles, but that isn’t built in.
Choose your words wisely.
In this game, you have to be on your toes. You really need to be careful how you approach each interaction, since one wrong move can mean the end.
Thankfully, this game isn’t a kinetic novel. There is some gameplay in this game. First, you have to look around for clues to progress into the story. Sometimes you can’t even progress in a dialogue when you haven’t found the right clues in the area.
Second, you have to choose the right dialogue options. Like I said earlier, be careful that you choose the right option.
Third, there are some puzzles. The biggest hint I can give you in these puzzles is that you really need to take note of what you learn. Sometimes, the answer to a previous puzzle or another chapter can give you a hint to solve the new puzzle.
Now, something that might put people off from this game is that this game is on the light side in terms of gameplay. I feel that this game could have benefitted from a bit more puzzles, different from choosing the correct path in a dialogue tree. While the game and story is still fun and a blast to go through, I feel like some chapters are more used as exposition dumps than as gameplay. But then again, if you’d ask me to give an example, I’d draw a blank. Maybe more puzzles would ruin the pacing? It’s something on which I’m on the fence about.
If I really have to critique something in this game, then it’s lack of a sensitivity slider for the mouse cursor in the options menu. The speed is perfectly fine in handheld mode, but if you play this game on a bigger TV, it’s a bit too slow. Another complaint I have read about this game is how you have to enter the dialogue tree after you finish a conversation, that might be annoying for some people, but I didn’t find that too big of a deal.
Something I can’t complain about is the music in this game. The music in this game is already a part of my playlist of amazing video game music. It really adds to the atmosphere of the game, and it’s a joy to listen too. It’s also used in very effective ways to make scenes more tense or scary when they need too. If I’d have to describe the soundtrack of this game, I’d say that it’s something like AI: The Somnium Files. I can’t really put a genre on it for the life of me.
Now, this game is only 20 euros on the eShop. For that, you get a 12 to 14 hour game. I have to say, that it’s quite impressive that we get a full game like for that price. It has no silly DLC or microtransactions. So, that’s another bonus for this game.
Just like how you have different control options in this game. You can play this game without your Joycons at all. Well, only in handheld mode that is. Granted, the point-and-click interface might be a bit slow on big TV’s with a controller and the menu UI needs a bit of getting used too, but those are the only complaints I have about the controls.
In general, if you enjoy games like I said in the introduction… This game is a no-brainer recommendation. It’s one of the better visual novel games that I have played recently and apart from a few slower moments, I have barely anything negative to say about this game that doesn’t go in the nitpicky category. Now, if you don’t like reading too much in your games or want more action in your adventure games… I can almost assure you that this game isn’t for you. But, it might be worth it to check out a let’s play online, since this story is really something. It really throws you for a loop sometimes and really takes you on a ride.
In any case, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.