Humble Bundle just kicked off their annual birthday celebration which will run for the next 11 days featuring hundreds of discounted digital PC games from both AAA studios and indie developers. Some of the savings are up to 75 or even 90% off. In fact, they’re even giving you a free game just for visiting the website and registering or logging into your account.
Re:Zero quickly became my favorite anime of 2016. And since the year is now drawing to a close, I don’t see another anime contending for that title. Ever since the first episode, I’ve pretty much been hooked on this show. Whether it’s the beautiful artwork, kawaii cute girls, fantasy races such as neko (cat) people, wolf people, lizard/dragon people, the amazing soundtrack, the acting, or the story itself which is a great blend of comedy, horror, action, drama, and romance. This show stands out to me, with characters that pull me in more and more with each episode. Now that it’s almost all over, I thought I’d write a review.
When I first began watching Re:Zero which was when Crunchyroll began simulcasting it several months ago, I had just recently finished watching Erased (which I reviewed here by the way). Re:Zero reminds me of like a mashup between Erased and the .Hack or Sword Art Online anime. The main premise is that a young man is trapped in a fantasy world (with lots of geeky cultural references taken from games/anime). When things go wrong, instead of “game over” he’s returned back to the start of the day. Each time he is defeated, he returns with memories of everything that’s happened so far, but no one else around him has any memory of the previous events. He is able to use his knowledge from previous “lifetimes” to outwit his opponents bringing him closer to his goals.
The main character constantly breaks the 4th wall by talking (mostly to the audience) about things that don’t exist in this fantasy world, but which exist back in his home of Japan. In this way, the series could also be said to borrow from Deadpool. Other people have compared this anime to Konosuba – upon hearing about that, I checked out Konosuba but only made it into the first few episodes so I can neither confirm nor deny the similarities. Another anime that Re:Zero reminds me of is “Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In Dungeons?” If you like any of these, then you will probably like Re:Zero too.
Now on to the review!
Studio: White Fox
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Length: 25 Episodes
Related Media: Re:Zero is based on a series of Light Novels of the same name by Tappei Nagatsuki. These novels are still ongoing so who knows how closely the anime will follow the novels or at what point they will begin to diverge or how their endings may differ.
Interested in the Light Novels? Volume 1 is on sale on Amazon as of the writing of this article, almost 50% off for the paperback or the always low price of $7.99 for the kindle edition. There’s also a manga that’s also still currently running which is based upon the light novel. And very soon there will be a Playstation visual novel game as well. Although there’s still no word of an English release yet for said game. *Crosses fingers for an English Release*
Check out the links to the Light Novel and Manga in the widget below and enjoy a free preview of each!
Geeky: 5/5 – The geeky cultural references, high quality animation, amazing soundtrack, and fantasy setting make this anime a must watch for “geeks”.
Sweetie: 4/5 – Girls will appreciate the beautiful artwork, soundtrack, characters, and love story throughout this series. However, many girls may be turned off by the huge amount of gore in Re:Zero.
Overall: 53/55 96% A “Excellent Anime for Girls”
Concept: 10/10 Re:Zero has a lot going on. It could equally be considered a fantasy adventure, as well as a comedy, or even a love story. The huge amount of gore could also land it into the horror genre. Overall, it’s a hard anime to pin down. While it might seem impossible, somehow Re:Zero is able to blend all of these genres into something that fits well together and never feels out of place. The overarching concept of “Return by Death”, allows viewers to truly feel Subaru’s pain and frustration, and of course his love for his friends; it’s oddly grotesque, heartwarming, and hilarious all at once.
Story: 10/10 Our story begins when Subaru hears a faint voice while at a convenience store in Japan. The voice tries to tell Subaru to get out and run away, but Subaru chooses to ignore the voice, thinking he’s hearing things. As he eventually exits the convenience store with his purchase, he’s assaulted by a strong dizzy spell that knocks him to his knees. When he comes to, he finds himself in a strange fantasy world, still holding the bag from the convenience store he thought he was just at moments ago. All Subaru has are the clothes on his back, some ramen, potato chips, and his cellphone, which of course doesn’t get any signal in the new world.
It’s not long before he inadvertently gets mixed up in a bid for the throne of the kingdom. He chooses to back Emilia as he feels indebted (and attracted) to her. Emilia is the least favorite candidate currently because she is a half elf. In this fantasy world, it is believed that half elves are evil, and Emilia bears a striking resemblance to one half elf in particular known as “The Jealous Witch” who is believed to have been sealed away, but not destroyed, in a war eons ago that almost led to the total destruction of their kingdom.
Subaru quickly learns he has a mysterious power, unique only to him, that no one else in this world possesses – the ability to “Return by Death”. In the beginning Subaru dies many, many times through his various trials and encounters. But each death brings him closer to success because he is able to “respawn” back to a “check point” from the start of each day. Similar to an RPG game.
He vows to use this power to help Emilia claim the throne, as well as to protect all of the new friends he’s made in this fantasy world. However his power is not without a price, and it takes a great toll on Subaru both mentally and physically. What’s worse, he can’t talk about his unique ability, or it causes dire consequences for Subaru and/or the people he loves. This creates misunderstandings among his friends that Subaru must navigate through which become increasingly challenging on his spirit as he witnesses and experiences more death and devastation throughout the series.
Characters: 10/10 – The characters in this anime are amazing. Subaru himself is an unlikely hero, a shut-in in his own world, who suddenly finds himself caught up in a dangerous fantasy world. Emilia and her spirit companion, Puck, are adorable. The maid twins, Ram and Rem grow on you too, especially Rem who gets considerable screentime in the second half of the series. Emilia is my pick for the best girl, but the more episodes I watch, the more I begin to really like Rem to where she’s an extremely close 2nd favorite of mine. The other minor characters are also charming; there’s a kawaii lolita girl with a tsundere temper nicknamed Betti for short. She provides a lot of comic relief, and is of course, adorable. Among other characters there’s a super kawaii cross-dressing Neko boy with healing powers, a thief-princess, an old drunk giant, and a butler who’s also a master swordsman.
Not only are the characters unique and kawaii, but the character interaction and growth in this series is top notch. Whether it’s watching Subaru’s transformation from weak, helpless, and confused, to his determination and courage as he vows to protect those he loves, or watching the shy maid twins begin to trust and grow closer to Subaru, or Felt’s transformation from a dirty street-rat to would-be princess.
The characters are also fleshed out with rich back stories that are often revealed through flashbacks throughout the series. And occasionally some characters can throw a few surprises our way in who they really are and where their loyalties lie.
The characters really drive the story and make it a rich and rewarding anime to watch each week.
Artwork: 4/5 – The gore is a bit much at times, but there’s no arguing that this is a simply breathtaking anime to watch. The characters are cute. (I personally want to create a dollfie dream modeled after Emilia.) In fact, the very style of the characters, reminds me of a dollfie dream doll. My favorite trait is their reflective bright eyes that brim with emotion. Their skin is almost “glowing” with the blush around the character’s eyes. Their hair is beautiful and “soft” looking. The animation quality is high, bringing the characters to life. The backgrounds are also beautiful and vivid with lots of details. Even the minor characters are stylized well and represent a wide range of fantasy races, including lots of cute furies. This series definitely is “cute” – which is oddly juxtaposed by a huge amount of gore. I deducted 1 point for all the gore, but I agree that the gore can serve a point, to make the audience feel the same discomfort as the characters, I just think it’s a bit extreme at times here.
Music: 5/5 – Crunchyroll recently had a really good article about the music in Re:Zero (which I sadly can’t find a link to right now). The title of the article was something like: “Why does Re:Zero Have Such Dramatic Music?” and it was an interview with the composer who said he was a fan of the light novels, and how the light novels made him cry, and when he saw the concept art for the manga, and the anime, that also made him cry, and he wanted to create a music score which conveyed his emotional connection to the series and the characters to the audience. I would say that his musical work in Re:Zero definitely accomplishes this goal. There are some chilling and haunting pieces, as well as some beautiful melodic pieces, but on the other hand, there are lots of “dis-harmonious” tracks, which really convey the mental turmoil and pain Subaru is suffering from. The intentional “unpleasant” music and sound effects playing against the otherwise typical more calming fantasy music creates just that experience with the audience.
Voice Acting: 5/5 – The casting and the talent of each actor really brings out each character’s charm and personality. There are some truly memorable performances in this anime. Roswaal is very eccentric sounding, and one of my favorite voice actors in this series. Cute little Puck sounds mischievous and playful. Rem sounds so soft spoken and shy and fragile. Emilia sounds strong and determined. Felt sounds like the tomboy that she is. Beatrice sounds spoiled and prissy. And Betelguese just sounds absolutely batshit crazy lol.
Overall: 53/55 96% A “Excellent Anime for Girls”
Tsukihime was my very first visual novel, and still one of my favorites. While looking up images to use in this post, I also came across news that there’s a remake in the works. This is old news I guess as it was first announced clear back in 2012. However, a post from Siliconera indicates that yes, it’s still in development as of July 2015, so that’s a good sign. You can see more updates about this remake over on Siliconera here.
I’m not going to cover those details here, because this review is actually for the original Tsukihime visual novel from 2001. Also, I’ve never watched the anime, I’ve been told by many people that the Tsukihime anime sucked. Please don’t ignore this visual novel, even if you really hated the anime. This is a must play for any visual novel fan.
PS: You can grab the fan translation here. I couldn’t find a link for you guys to buy the game as it is now out of print, but Yahoo Japan Auctions or Ebay may be a good place to look. This game has never officially been released in English; but maybe now with the remake, we’ll finally see a commercial release.
P.P.S: This game is set in the same universe as Fate/Extra which is available in English. Instead of being a visual novel though, it’s an RPG that plays EXTREMELY similar to the Persona series. It’s a great game, and it’s getting older, and may become harder to find. If you like persona, or like Tsukihime, then you need to get this game. You can get Fate/Extra on Amazon for $44.95 here.
Also, Please Note: This is a Hentai Game, which means that it has adult scenes. — However, those scenes are very few in nature. This game is very long with an excellent story, and the hentai is near the end of each route. For example, I estimate it’ll take you at least 60 hours to complete all the routes in this game. The amount of hentai scenes in the game accounts for less than 2 hours from that total. You can always skip past those scenes if it makes you uncomfortable. Also one of the routes is with the main character’s sister, so if that makes you uncomfortable, you may either not want to play that route, or skip this game entirely. This is an adult game, and should not be played by children. Not only does it have a few sex scenes, but it has a TON of gore. It’s a very violent game.
Title: Tsukihime – Blue, Blue Glass Moon, Under the Crimson Sky
Release Date: 2001 (Japan only)
Genre: Visual Novel
Overall: 57/80 71% C- “Good Game for Girls”
Concept: 10/10 Tsukihime is a visual novel with a dark, sad, and super natural story. It’s a very violent game. It’s also a hentai game. The writing in Tsukihime is exceptional. The characters are really unique and detailed. The writing is almost TOO detailed at times. I was really cringing in some of the scenes with Ciel near the end. It still makes my finger nails hurt just thinking about it haha. Overall it’s a great game. It has kinda amateurish artwork. It’s actually a Doujin game – which I guess is the equivalent to what we western folk call “Indie Games” – that is, Type-Moon began as a group of fans working on a game together, and not a big corporation. Given that – I think the artwork is acceptable since they didn’t necessarily have the budget or skill and experience as more established studios.
Gameplay: 3/10 Like most visual novels, there’s nothing to do except read, and click, and read, and click ad nauseam. The choices presented to you are also pretty dang spread out and few in number. The choices do matter and determine which route you get on. If you’re stuck, also there’s a tips section that’s set up in a really unique and humorous way. There’s also of course the option to skip previously read text. But it’s pretty basic visual novel style gameplay here. You don’t really play this game for gameplay, you play it for story, but I’m scoring story separately below. so Gameplay wise, it’s about a 3.
Story: 10/10 The reason I love this visual novel so much is because of the story. It’s a long tale with some surprising twists especially regarding Shiki (the player character) and the two maid twins. It’s been a few years since I played, but I think one of the maid’s routes only unlocks after completing all other good and true endings – and her route really will close the loop nicely on all the questions from the previous routes, bringing the game a good sense of closure.
I don’t want to spoil the story, but the bare bones is as follows (may spoil the first hour or so of the game for you): You play as Shiki; he has been hospitalized and sick for a long time. Shiki has a memory of a girl who disappeared from his life who was very kind to him and encouraged him greatly. The other girls throughout the game will remind him of his mystery girl in his memories. Somewhere along the way while hospitalized, he discovered he could see the “life line” in all things – living or even inanimate objects. Because he was bored and stuck in a hospital bed, he discovered one day that just by idly tracing his finger over this “life line” he could erase whatever that object was from existence. Not just “killing” whatever it was, but making it so it never “was” to begin with. Finally now he’s going home from the hospital. He gets notice that his father died and that he is being requested to move back to his childhood home. He has not been home in many years. Shiki becomes reacquainted with his sister and the maids of the mansion where he used to play as a child. He also begins going back to school. On his way to school one day he passes by a beautiful woman. He doesn’t know why, but he feels compelled to follow her. He waits until she enters her apartment, and he can’t resist the urge to murder her. Shiki is not a violent person; he’s never hurt anyone before, but he feels disgusted by this woman. He cannot control himself and completely destroys her, chopping her to bits with a knife and brutally attacking her. Much to Shiki’s surprise, as he’s leaving school the next day, the woman is there again in the same place where they met the day before. It turns out that she is a vampire, and that’s why Shiki could not kill her. It’s also explained why he felt so compelled to kill her (and about his strange power to see life lines) later on in the story – but I won’t spoil that for you just now. Needless to say, the vampire is pissed, and she also has a mission she’s on, so she forces Shiki to basically become her slave and help her by using his power of being able to see life lines to obliterate anyone or anything from existence.
Characters: 10/10 Each of the characters has a different super natural secret. Also all characters have a “good” ending and a “true” ending which is much sadder. The character interaction is really high. The characters are unique, and as the mystery plays out you do see them evolve and change. You also are drawn to the characters and begin to feel their pain and saddness. Most of their pasts are very sad.
Graphics: 3/10 Sorry to say, but these graphics are bad. They’re ugly, the proportions are weird, and they just look very amateurish. The picture I’ve attached is from the 2001 visual novel. You can see how her head almost seems to be detached from her neck and at a funny angle – and this one of the more “pretty” pictures that I could find. (Not counting the anime or fanart or etc) Luckily, in the new remake the artwork is much higher quality, while still having the same character designs and appearance, just being redrawn and recolored in a more modern style. These graphics are no where nearly as bad as the original Higurashi – but still bad lol. By that, if Higurashi is like a 1 on a 10 scale, Tsukihime is maybe a 3. A slight improvement, but still not even “average” looking.
Music: 7/10 I like the music and sound effects used in Tsukihime. It fits the mood perfectly and gives it a nice dark and mysterious feeling. However, ultimately, none of the tracks really stand out in a memorable way.
Replay Value: 10/10 The game is long in and of itself. Each route will probably take 6-10 hours to complete. When you factor in the multiple endings for each character, that extends that time to 12-20 hours per character with 4 dateable characters – you’re looking around 60-80 hours of gameplay time. And it’s well worth it. The story and each of the routes are really interesting. The stories do start a bit slow, but you learn more and more about Shiki, his powers, his past, and just why he was sent away from his childhood home in the first place. Really great story, worth playing all routes to see how all the puzzle pieces fit together. The new remake is adding more characters and routes, so I’m really looking forward to it. I just hope they don’t change the story too much as it’s so good already as it is!
Overall: 57/80 71% C- “Good Game for Girls”
I got an email today about a kickstarter campaign for a new horror visual novel inspired by Japanese horror films such as Ringu and the Grudge. It’s currently half way to funding with only 5 days left.
It features 6 playable characters, fully animated sprites, and quick time events similar to telltales gaming mechanics.
There’s a playable demo also on the kickstarter page.
There’s a number of trailers and visuals for this game, and it looks great. So if you like anime, visual novels, or horror, please consider donating to this project so that we can all play the finished game when it comes out.
There are numerous bonuses for those who back the project on kickstarter, as well as several awesome stretch goals related to the game as well.
For $13 you will receive a digital copy of the game (only 5 left at this price) and for $50 you can get a physical copy (on a disc).
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Manga Gamer sent me another email today to let me know that Higurashi Chapter 2 Watanagashi is now accepting Preorders and that the game will be available on Friday, November 13th, 2015 (although their website says the 14th). It costs $7.95, but if you preorder, you can save about 50 cents off that price (not much of a preorder incentive).
Like the original, the new release will also feature exclusive special artwork for the characters that’s only available in this version of the game. You can also play the game in either Japanese or English.
Higurashi is a murder mystery presented through 14 different chapters. It’s also a Kinetic Novel, which means that unlike most visual novels, there is not a branching plot nor multiple endings, and there’s in fact, absolutely no interaction by the player. It’s just a story. A very good story though. So if you like murder mysteries, you might like it!
Since this is chapter 2, you should play chapter 1 first to better enjoy this game. Check out my review of Higurashi Chapter 1 Onikakushi — right here to see if it may be something that you’d like. You can also see the lovely new sprites MangaGamer has developed for this release (and comparisons to the Japanese ones).
You can learn more, and preorder Chapter 2 Watanagashi on Manga Gamer’s Site (and soon also on Steam) at http://www.mangagamer.com/detail.php?goods_type=1&product_code=154
Genre: Action-RPG with Platformer and Visual Novel Elements
Release Date: July 2011
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
There is a special Love is Over edition that included a pillow case, men’s boxers, a pizza box, tshirt, and some other goodies. I have this version and took some pictures when I got it a few years ago at release.
There’s also special box art for the 360 version, but I don’t have that, it is however, available, as well as the Love is Over edition, via the Amazon links above. The standard edition of the game costs about $12. And for PS3 you can also get the digital version. The limited edition will cost about $95.
Concept 10/10: The concept of Catherine is quite unique. The gameplay is a bit like Qbert in a way while in Vincent’s nightmares. You see, Vince is having bad dreams because he is worried about being caught cheating on his long-time girlfriend, Katherine with a K, with his hot new heartthrob, Catherine with a C. He’s so scared of being caught that every night he sees strange demons trying to eat him in his sleep. He must climb an endless tower, where the screen moves from the bottom up, while avoiding monsters and obstacles, and racing against a clock to make it to the exit of each dream. When not dreaming, Vince meets with the girls and his other friends in a local bar where the gameplay is very similar to a visual novel. You watch numerous cutscenes and choose the “correct” answer to get different endings ultimately within the game. There are numerous endings, including, good, bad, and true endings for each girl, and good, and true endings for Vince being single as well. So it’s a total of 8 different endings. The entire game is cel-shaded, in a way that’s never been done, before or since, at least not in any game that ever found it’s way to this side of the world. It’s so beautiful. It’s like watching an interactive anime. (actually school days may be similar now that I think about it; but Catherine’s art is higher quality.)
I covered a lot of the other aspects of the game which I’m reviewing below here in the concept above, but I feel like all of these elements make Catherine, what it is, and are what make it such a unique and awesome gaming experience and therefore, they’re all part of the “concept” of the game.
Gameplay 10/10: As mentioned above, the gameplay is really two fold. In his waking hours, Vincent interacts with the girls and his friends in visual novel fashion. When Vince returns home and falls asleep, the gameplay switches into a sort of Qbert style, climbing and jumping from blocks, which fall, as the screen moves and you race against the clock, grabbing power ups, and avoiding monsters and obstacles along the way. There’s also a number of interesting minigames and sidequests available back in the bar as well.
There are numerous difficulty settings in the game, including one hidden “Very Easy” mode which you can access by holding down select on the main screen until you hear a ding sound go off. You can then select Easy mode which will now become Very Easy. In this mode, more powerups appear, and the nightmare modes are all the same as easy. You can also climb 3 blocks at a time with special power drinks. This allows you to play the game more like a visual novel, by (practically) skipping all the puzzles in the game. I think this version is great for your second, third, etc playthrough, but kinda kills the fun of the game if this is your first playthrough. Part of the fun of the game is the difficult puzzles which await you in Vincent’s dreams. If you want a challenge, you can also decide to play the game on Nightmare mode. Different achievements are also available for different difficulty levels. But the story is the same regardless, so if you ONLY want to see the different stories/endings and enjoy the game in a relaxing way, feel free to pick an easier difficulty setting.
Graphics: 10/10 The majority of the graphics are all real-time 3d cell shaded anime style. I think there may be some anime cutscenes mixed in too; but the cell shaded 3d models are so good that it’s hard to tell sometimes which ones are 3d and which ones are 2d (if any). The graphics are truly unique and a sight to behold. They are vibrant, colorful, and look like a real anime. I’ve never seen a game with this style before. Check out these screenshots below as you continue to read the review.
Story: 10/10 Vince has a long time girlfriend, Katherine. Katherine wants Vince to get married, but Vince is too immature for such a big commitment. While struggling with both his feelings of love and feelings of fear, Vince meets Catherine, a girl who walks into his life unexpectedly and begins to have a week long affair with her. Tormented by feelings of guilt towards his longtime girlfriend, Katherine, Vincent begins to have nightmares each and every single night in which demons are chasing him. What unfolds next is a deadly love triangle. Can Vincent keep his affair a secret? Can he make the girls happy? And can he keep his own conscious from eating away at him?
Characters: 10/10 One of the really cool things about Catherine’s story is that it does not try to impose a “right” way to play onto you. None of the characters are perfect, not Vince, nor Catherine, nor Katherine. They all have flaws, they’re all equally to blame for any relationship problems within the course of the game; but they all have endearing qualities as well. Vince himself is feeling pressured to marry his long time girlfriend Katherine. Vince doesn’t really want to get married, but he realizes that if he doesn’t marry her, she will break up with him. Katherine is a VERY strong woman, and perhaps more woman than Vince can handle. She is very demanding in the relationship and she isn’t above lying or manipulating Vince to play on his emotions to make him more sympathetic to her and try to rush him into a marriage that he isn’t even sure he wants. Around this same time, Vince suddenly meets Catherine, a girl who only wants a no-strings-attached sexual relationship. She makes Vince feel alive, and young, and free, and all of the qualities that Katherine lacks, Catherine has in spades. However, when it comes to love, and a real lasting relationship, Catherine is too immature; she’s like Vince; she isn’t ready for all of that, and as the game progresses, Vince realizes that Katherine’s stability and commitment to him is something unique and special that Catherine can never offer him. (and for good reason too, but I won’t spoil that). There are basically, 3 routes you can take. Go back and beg Katherine for forgiveness, turn your back on her and continue down the path of sin and lust with Catherine, or tell both girls to go F*** themselves and realize your own dreams and ambitions which is perhaps the best feeling of all. However, the game never makes you feel like one ending or choice is better than the others. They both have pluses and minuses. They aren’t “right or wrong” they’re just different choices. That’s all. I also really like the artwork for the characters, Vince’s hair style is so cute. I want to play with it. It looks fluffy! lol. And both of the girls are ridiculously beautiful. Catherine is so cute, youthful, sexy, flirty, etc; while Katherine exudes maturity, calmness, intelligence, and a sort of refined elegance which is also sexy in it’s own right.
Music: 10/10 The music in this game is composed by Shoji Meguro and is often compared to the soundtracks of Persona 3 and Persona 4. Atlus USA released a version of this soundtrack with their Love is Over limited edition release (pictured above). You can listen to the soundtrack on youtube below:
Or you can pick the soundtrack online on sites like Amazon.com It’s out of print though and as of this writing goes for about $80. Here’s a link where you can check the current prices. http://www.amazon.com/CATHERINE-ORIGINAL-SOUDTRACK-MUSIC-O-S-T/dp/B004GN9AW6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1445396054&sr=8-1&keywords=catherine+ost
This is the full soundtrack which is DIFFERENT from the one that Atlus USA included in their special edition. The soundtrack included in Love is Over, only has 11 songs, which are the levels in Vince’s nightmares. It does not include the cutscene music and other tracks. However, the link above, via Amazon will include all of these awesome tracks for you.
Voice Acting: 7/10 My review is for the English dub voice cast. I thought they were fairly good actually for a dub. There were times where I felt they were overacting a tad. But it wasn’t distracting. Catherine has a cute, peppy sugary sweet voice; while Katherine is more quiet and refined, both of which fit their characters perfectly. Vince has kinda a dopey goofy voice, which I guess fits his character. I haven’t watched the japanese voice actors on youtube. I dunno if they are better, my guess would be yes. lol. It’s not that I hate the english cast though. I find it to be better than the Persona dub (which isn’t horrible either). (It may even have some of the same actors. I don’t follow the English voice acting “scene” so I wouldn’t know.) Their performances are all very convincing. Vince has a goofy scream sometimes, but it’s supposed to convey his fear (of himself/his conscious/his actions) and I think it does convey a lot of stress and emotion.
Replay Value: 10/10 The 7 different endings force you to play multiple times to see the entire story. You can skip cutscenes you’ve seen already, and you can also use the cheat above to get a “Very Easy” gameplay mode to make your multiple replays fast and as pain free as possible so you can just enjoy the story. The endings and the plot are very different, not just small differences, but very unique. This makes it a very rewarding game on multiple playthroughs. If you like achievements there are different ones which are specific to different difficulty settings which you will have to play to unlock them all.
Overall: 86/90 96% A “Excellent Game For Girls”
In fact, the Mature rating, horror, gore, and sexual themes, make it a great game for guys too 🙂 Maybe a good way to introduce your guy friends to anime or visual novels.
MangaGamer just sent out an email that says Higurashi Chapter 2: Watanagashi will be available for preorder “this” month. Since there are only 8 days left in this month, it must be sometime soon. With this exciting news, I thought I should review the first chapter of Higurashi for those who have not played it yet.
Gameplay: 1/10: Higurashi is a kinetic novel. This means that unlike other types of visual novels, there are absolutely no choices which you, the player, makes through the game. Click and read, Click and read, Click and read… One story, one end, one “path” — That’s it. It’s little more, than a story with some pictures and a soundtrack.
Does that mean it’s bad? Not necessarily. People like to read. What people don’t like, is when they buy a GAME and discover only later that it has no “Gameplay”. So I want to preface my review by making it clear what it is, and what it is not. If you’re still cool with a game in which you absolutely, do not, interact, at all, ever, then read on to learn what Higurashi has to offer.
Concept: 10/10 Higurashi is a murder mystery. It spans multiple “episodes” (14 of them to be exact). I’ve read that each episode is about 10 hours long; but I must read slow because I think it took me about 23 hours to complete the first “chapter”. Your mileage may vary. Even with a conservative estimate of 10 hours, to read the entire thing, all 14 chapters, it’d take a minimum of 140 hours. That’s a LOT of bang for your buck.
Unlike most games in this genre – there is no “season pass” – so there’s no good way to save money if you’re wanting all 14 episodes (although I did pick up Chapter 1 in an awesome bundle from indiegala – I’m hooked now though and will not be waiting for a discount or bundle before ordering Chapter 2. I have GOT to see how it all ends – I refuse to watch the anime until I’ve completed all 14 chapters of the game to avoid any spoilers.) Also, Manga Gamer, being a very small company, is doing it’s best to translate the games as quickly as possible, and are releasing them one by one upon completion. Chapter 1 was released in May of this year…. I hope they are able to release chapters more quickly than this… It’s been almost 6 months now since Chapter 1’s release. And Chapter 2 STILL doesn’t have a definite release date, just that they are taking “preorders”. If they continue with 2 chapter releases per year, it will take 7 years to get all of them released. Perhaps this project was too large for Manga Gamer, or perhaps they should have just purchased the translation rights from one of the many fan translations that were already done for this game.
Graphics: 8/10 However, Manga Gamer is also doing a lot of good with this game. It’s one of the first times I’ve ever seen an English release get HUGE improvements and upgrades over the Japanese version!!! We can make Japanese non-english speaking gamers totally jealous with our beautiful new sprites. When I first saw this feature, I had assumed that Manga Gamer was giving us the option of using the original (horrible) sprites from the PC Japanese version (which they are keeping as an option in Manga Gamer’s release too) OR I THOUGHT that they were giving us the option to select the much improved Playstation sprites from the Japanese version — BUT that is NOT the case!! Manga Gamer Went ALL OUT and developed BRAND NEW artwork for the English release. Sadly, they left the original Japanese PC version background art… The playstation Japanese version has REALLY nice background art — BUT their character sprites are no where near as nice as the ones Manga Gamer contracted for this release. Having these HIGHLY improved sprites makes me feel really special. For ONCE we get something in a port that is a HUGE big deal, and huge upgrade over what Japan has. That makes me feel like Manga Gamer really appreciates their customers and wants to do their best with this project.
See the sprites here below. Look at the level of detail in shading and better proportions. This makes the sprites much cuter than either of the Japanese versions. P.S. Click To Enlarge :).
Translation Quality: 10/10 In fact, also from a writing standpoint, the translation was very good. I can’t recall really almost ANY typos (though I’m sure there must have been a few) Compared to my most recently completed play through a similar style game (Amnesia Memories which is FULL of typos and inconsistencies) the translation of Manga Gamer’s version of Higurashi is REALLY high — I appreciate that, because it helps to immerse in the story
Music: 10/10 Sound wise, the music and especially the sound effects and atmospheric sounds REALLY stand out and add to the mystery and horror aspects of this game. Actually, I read before that Higurashi is what they call a Sound Novel instead of a Visual Novel, Higurashi relies on the soundtrack more than it’s artwork (especially when you look at the really amateur artwork from the original PC version).However, both the original PC version and the Manga Gamer release do not have any voice acting at all. The Playstation version had full voice acting and if you’re feeling brave, there are tutorials online to patch your game to have voice acting – Would have been nice if Manga Gamer either could have bought the rights to that version’s soundtrack and incorporated it, or cast an English dub cast for the game — I don’t particularly like English dubs, but It would have been another concession on Manga Gamer’s part towards pleasing their fans.
Story: 8/10 I don’t want to ruin anything for people who have not yet played Chapter One Onikakushi – but this game is very very very slowwww starting out — BUT… it rewards you if you put up with all of that by starting to REALLY pick up more horror/suspense/mystery themes towards the last 4-5 hours of the game. PRIOR to that, it’s very very light-hearted, slice of life, fluffy, happy…. When shit starts to go down though, that dark contrast against the MAJORITY of the first chapter being so innocent and pure, really stands out, and it is that contrast that becomes the real “heart and soul” of the first chapter.
Higurashi also leaves you to draw your own conclusions about wtf is going on – and I don’t know if it ever really explains things fully or if it leaves it up to you a la similar murder mysteries such as gone girl which end with an open ending. Since I’ve only played the first chapter I can’t be sure. Is it the occult? Is the town cursed? Do they hate outsiders? Is it all a coincidence? Is everyone just crazy? lol.
Characters: 8/10 The characters are all highly likeable which makes it even more alarming that one (or more) of them could be capable of murder – especially on such a high brutality scale, in such a way, that they enjoy murder, enjoy watching their victims suffer – pretty creepy when these are just CHILDREN. But well, creepy children are a staple of horror films too; such as exorcist, ringu, grudge, children of the corn, etc. Children are kinda creepy with their small frame and large eyes and sometimes strange movements or gestures etc which I guess is why there are so many horror movies and books which focus on the whole creepy kid thing. But children are also pure, innocent, adorable, etc. And Higurashi does a perfect job of showing that, despite being murderers, the children are otherwise, perfectly normal little kids, who like to play tag, hide and seek, and go to school.
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For awhile, it looks like there will be some romance options (well not that you the player have any choice anyways), but then the game decides to take a VERY different approach. If you don’t dig visual novels because they’re all sappy happy slice of life romance anime etc — Well you might just like Higurashi… BUT keep in mind what I said, the MAJORITY of the first chapter IS VERY MUCH like most any other novel, light, happy, innocent, slice of life, boring, slow, REAL slow in fact. — But it REALLY takes a dramatic turn that makes it unlike pretty much any other english visual novel on the market today. — And I hear the following chapters are even more bizarre and darker and that the first was merely a prologue/introduction. So fasten your seatbelts – you’re in for quite a ride.
The emotional impact of Higurashi was high, not only a sense of sadness, but perhaps more over, a feeling of isolation and desperation, a feeling of fear. It really gets creepy. It presents more questions than it solves and makes you the player think and reflect back on the story.
Overall: 55/70 79% C+ “Good Game For Girls”
Note: if you don’t count the lack of gameplay against the game, it then becomes 54/60 or a 90% So if you don’t mind the Kinetic Novel genre, this is probably one of the best, if not the, best, kinetic novels to play. – I personally don’t like Kinetic Novels, but I am hooked on Higurashi!