I don’t usually review visual novels, because I honestly find them boring. Even if the writing is topnotch, I find myself lacking patience to read (while I’m gaming) nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I still read as a hobby (Aliens novels mostly) but reading while gaming? No thanks. Well…unless it’s a horror visual novel, like PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is.
Then I’m all in!
I actually reached out to Square Enix because I saw them publishing the game on Steam without much fanfare. I don’t know why, because I knew wanted to review the game as soon as I read its description.
So here’s the review…
What is PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo?
PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a single player horror visual novel. Developed and published by Square Enix, it is available right now on Steam and on mobile devices.
Our review copy, was mentioned earlier, was generously provided by the kind folks over at Square Enix. Thanks so much!
As a horror visual novel, PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo isn’t for everybody.
If you hate having to read reams of text, move on because that’s what a visual novel essentially is; a book masquerading as a game. If you stay for whatever reason, you’ll find that PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is one of the best horror VNs you’ll come across.
Personally, I feel that it’s certainly on par with Spirit Hunter: NG, Death Mark and The Letter which I feel is high praise indeed.
Despite it firmly being in the realm of horror, PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo isn’t a scary visual novel. There are certainly a handful of jumpscares and creepy illustrations, but the general vibe is one of mystery instead of pure, all out horror like in Death Mark or Spirit Hunter: NG.
That’s fine, because truth be told, while I was attracted to the game initially because of its horror premise, I kept playing because I wanted to actually know more about the Seven Mysteries of Honjo and whether they were actually real or fiction.
You see, unlike other visual novels, the game doesn’t use fictional backgrounds.
All of the locales in the game are real life locations from Sumida City, in Japan.
There’s just something cool about using images from real life locations in games. Plus, the game has this grainy look to it, that makes everything seem that much more grittier.
It blurs the line between fiction and reality and makes you question whether the events of the game are completely made up…or are there grains of truth hidden inside?
Real or not, I do know I’m going to make a beeline for the locales in game in September, when I’m in Tokyo once more for the Tokyo Game Show.
PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo doesn’t play like your typical horror VN too.
While you initially start off on a linear path with one character, completion of that story to a certain point unlocks alternate viewpoints (and even ‘What If…’ branches in the storyline). You’ll get to play as the other characters you encountered initially, experiencing events from their perspective.
Thankfully, the game lays out all characters (and their events) on a handy flowchart, so you can easily tell what happens when, to who, at a glance.
Intriguingly, you can’t just stick with one character and then jump to another after their story ends. Certain events on the character’s timelines are blocked off, and will only unlock when you’ve cleared other character events.
It’s logical when you think about it, as it prevents spoilers from knowing what happens to other characters if you advance too far with one viewpoint.
Each of the characters you play as are distinct, with their own motivations. They’re all interesting in their own right, but you’ll probably find out you like some better than others. The game’s characters are all awesomely drawn too. I really love the design for Richter Kai, who looks like a cross between a debonair man you’d find on a romance novel cover and a cowboy.
It’s a helluva weird look, but somehow, it just clicks with the character.
That’s a testament to the game’s writing. The localization is excellent and each character is fleshed out, with their own motivations and quirks. Not everybody is noble or out to do the right thing, as you’ll discover as you play.
While most of the game’s reading (and clicking at points of interests), there be times when you’re given choices on how to proceed. Doing something wrong can get you killed, but death is a non-factor, as you’ll just restart just prior to when you died, with no repercussions for dying.
Death is a constant theme for PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo, if you haven’t figured it out yet. Behind each of the seven mysteries of Honjo are curse stones, each of which have chosen their bearers (who you get to play as).
Each stone has their own trigger, which will allow you to activate their power and kill if the conditions are met.
For example, the police detective’s stone can kill those who lie to its bearer. If during your conversations with other characters you suspect somebody is lying, you can trigger the curse and kill the person. If they’re lying, they’re dead.
Killing people empowers the stones, which is why all the curse bearers are out for blood. When fully powered up, the curse stones can be used to initiate the Rite of Resurrection, which is rumored to be able to bring somebody back from the dead.
You can pretty much guess from here on out why the curse bearers are willing to kill, right? Everybody has somebody they want to bring back.
Awesomely, the team at Square Enix who developed PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo went beyond what’s expected and put in some truly mindboggling ways to kill (and get yourself killed).
One of them is so meta, it’s on the level of Psycho Mantis reading your Playstation memory card. I won’t say what you’ll need to do to survive a specific curse, but it involves mucking around in the game’s Options.
It’s breaking the fourth wall, but it’s so damn cool and innovative.
Prepare to get your mind blown!
The Bottom Line.
PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo isn’t your average visual novel. Hell, it’s not even your average horror visual novel. It’s unique approach at using real locations as backgrounds ground the game in reality, making the events of the game seem that much more plausible even if you know it’s just fiction.
The writing’s good too, the characters are all nicely detailed and fleshed out and pretty much everybody gets their time in the limelight. I’m just a bit disappointed that there’s not a ton of horror to the game actually, because I absolutely love the premise.
A cool visual novel with a unique premise, great writing and intriguing story.
- Writing is good.
- Cool plot.
- Breaks the fourth wall in a cool way in some parts.
- Not enough horror.