The Playstation Vita launched with a lineup heavily populated with big names. Hot Shots Golf. Ridge Racer. Uncharted. Marvel vs Capcom. Blaz Blue. Disgaea. However there is one game in that launch list that happens to be part of a series that got its start during the Super Famicom era.
Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru.
That's a mouthful, right? It roughly translates to "True Night of the Sickleweasels". Kamaitachi are a trio of weasels with sharp claws that in order, knock you down, cut you up and then apply medicine so that you are left with wounds that hurt yet are not bleeding.
Not the most menacing trio until you realize most weasels have not likely been to medical school. You don't know what you're getting.
The Kamaitachi no Yoru series got its start in the latter part of 1994 and has since spawned 3 sequels along with several ports of the original title. With Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru being the fourth installment, it is not exactly a huge series. Chunsoft still manages to deliver a product well worth accolade.
In fact, the visual novel genre which we know today owes much of what it is to the "sound novels" developed by Chunsoft. Kamaitachi no Yoru, their second of these sound novels, became famous for its multiple paths and music still used in Japanese dramas today.
Did you ever wonder why the terms "sound novel" and "visual novel" get thrown around anyway? I sure did. "Sound Novel" is actually a term copyrighted by Chunsoft and yet there is no actual voice acting in most of them. The term "sound" here is actually referring to the use of music and sound effects to accompany the text.
But maybe you are a big visual novel fan and I'm telling you nothing new.
Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru does offer voice acting, yet unfortunately not for every line of dialogue. What the game does manage to do is masterfully use music and sound effects to make the lines of text even more powerful than they already are. Be the situation tense, humorous or downright frightening, the music and sound effects match perfectly.
The game also uses a rather unique art style. Instead of colorful 2D sprites or highly detailed 3D models, all characters are represented by simple blue silhouettes. These silhouettes are detailed enough to prevent confusing one character with another but still vague enough to allow the imagination to work its wonder.
And these two points, the sound and silhouettes, are exactly what make the game so gripping. The atmosphere that Chunsoft manages to create is one that has completely sucked me in.
She's a lovely girl. But is she a murderer?
Much like the aforementioned weasels, the game quickly takes the peaceful setting of the Brownie boarding house and tramples over the reader with a shocking murder. Things escalate fairly quickly from there on and the story beings to wrap itself all around the player.
Unfortunately, the game is not perfect.
I mean, that beer is way too small.
One issue I have is that saving does not remember your exact place in the text.
The result is rereading text once in a while but this is quite confusing as most other visual novels do save much more precisely.
(As an aside it's worth noting that even the recently released iOS version of 428, another Chunsoft game, also has this quirk. Perhaps it is something Chunsoft themselves prefer? But why?)
In a gimmicky move, the exploration segments are controlled via the gyro sensors. Thankfully you can control the searching with the sticks as well, but neither feel perfect.
Oooh, reading dead people's mail!
As the Playstation Vita's screen is a gigantic touch device, it only makes sense that a game like this would make use of it. Tapping away to proceed the text is just fine, but making choices doesn't feel as nice as I would expect. On some Yes/No dialog boxes I've often hit the one I was not intending to. This isn't a huge issue, of course, as outside of saving these dialog boxes mostly show up in the multiplayer.
Yep, one curious feature of this game is the inclusion of multiplayer. Instead of blazing down the halls of the boarding house trying to stab or otherwise maim the other guests it plays more like a massively multiplayer version of Clue (or Cluedo as it is known outside of North America).
Anyone who has played Clue won't find anything surprising here. Each player is given hints (not clues, clearly) and a limited number of investigation tries per day. Also, once per day (and I mean real life Earth day) players can take a stab at whodunnit, wheredeydunnit and howdeydunnit.
How correct, or incorrect, you are affects your score which determines how many coins you get. Coins are then used for buying more avatars which are used to play the multiplayer with a different picture. This could result in massive amounts of happiness once players unlock the Tama avatar.
From the trophies that are not hidden, it does not seem playing the multiplayer is required to get that platinum trophy. However, the bulk of the trophies are hidden. The multiplayer is a neat distraction, but not something I'll be playing months from now.
The in-game ending list shows that there are a total of fifty-nine endings to be seen. So in that regard getting that platinum trophy may still take a decent chunk of time. With as fast as the story is going, it certainly won't feel like it.
At fifteen percent of the text seen right now, I have only scratched the surface of what Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru is going to offer me. It is making it hard to put the Vita down, and that is probably the one thing one can ask of any game.