Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo Review – The First Must-Play Mystery Adventure of 2023
Title: Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: March 8, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Square Enix
The announcement of Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo from developer Square Enix was unexpected. Although they’re no strangers to the adventure genre, with the release of The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story in 2022, it amazes me that they would put effort into something so niche. However, here I am, neck-deep in a murder mystery where death lurks around every decision made. Still, I must say this is a genuinely dark and brilliant narrative experience that will keep you guessing until the credits roll.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo begins with the introduction of Shogo Okiee, our supposed protagonist, who introduces many in-game systems and the overall lore of the Seven Mysteries of Honjo. We meet up with him after midnight while out with a friend named Yoko Fukunaga. Their friendship is only a month old, but they seem to get along. Yoko is interested in the mystery surrounding the Rite of Ressurection, which gives you the power to bring someone back from the dead.
While Shogo is only mildly interested in the history lesson, he doesn’t expect to find himself in the center of it all after he becomes a curse bearer himself and Yoko is killed. With the power of a curse bearer, he can kill someone under specific circumstances. He aims to find the other curse bearer, kill them, and use their collected Soul Dregs to resurrect Yoko. However, nothing is that simple.
The story introduces several other key characters that players will take control of to progress the narrative. This all takes place on a timeline system that branches based on player choices. While some outcomes lead to a character’s death, others might lead to an alternate fate for our protagonists.
Each curse bearer has a reason for wanting to kill for the Rite of Resurrection. However, their twisted ways of going about it make them all seem self-centered and emotionless sometimes. They are so set on their goal that they seem to lose a bit of humanity.
The story tends to pair up characters who don’t completely share similar personality traits, allowing the opposing character to test their ideals and thoughts. For example, the Veteran Detective Tetsuo often clashes with the Rookie Detective Hun. However, Jun still shows Tetsuo respect when it comes to gaining knowledge. What may seem like a trope-filled character lineup works incredibly well, thanks to the level of depth each character receives.
Slowly over a day, you’ll unravel the full mystery in hopes of saving every character, but the game will keep that mystery up to the very end. This is just not the kind of game that gives you hope for a happy ending. The grim themes of murder, suicide and a 20-year-old murder case are all somehow connected through this cast. However, trust me when I say the slow reveal of information across each route is unnerving and unexpected.
Given that you are the player in this entire experience, you’ll know way more information than the characters. The game seems to use this to spark some type of “Ah-ha” moments in the player as they piece it all together. However, this requires the player’s full attention. While the opening two chapters seem to over-explain some of the same concepts, chapter 3 doesn’t let up for a second as you put the curses down to truly understand what you’re up against.
I will say that this rollout of information is extremely wordy, and the adventure elements take a back seat in the middle of the game, which can cause it to drag. It’s all needed information, but after such an intense opening, the slowness comes as a surprise as we get a more visual novel experience. You’ll still need to read everything because the characters like to test your knowledge during dialogue.
Luckily, even if you aren’t keeping up to speed, everything that was said in the previous text and all the information gathered throughout the game is retained in the menu. These files have everything from curse details to character profiles that become even more detailed as you collect new information about characters. Everyone seems to be a suspect and suspicious of each other, but these files keep it all in order, including knowledge of whether they’ve killed or not.
Other features go beyond the game itself, as the fourth-wall-breaking Storyteller always seems to have something up his sleeve. I’d hate to spoil elements of gameplay, but it very much feels like you’re being messed with as much as these characters are. You’ll need to think outside the box or face an early death to progress. If you die too much, a hint will be provided, but thankfully it never spoils the surprise.
The illustrations of the characters are absolutely fantastic. With character designs from Gen Kobayashi, I was amazed by how grounded each character was portrayed, contrasted by the scary spirits you’ll encounter during the narrative. In addition, players can survey entire areas in a 360-degree view to investigate scenes. This is impressive and allows the player to develop clever ways to progress. Some secret stickers are also found in the areas that act as collectibles, which is always fun.
Other features include Autoplay and a forgiving auto-save function. However, you’re only allowed one save file due to the nature of some of the in-game gimmicks. I should add that, in some moments, the game comes across as too linear. I feel like potential story branches, or dialogue choices were sometimes made for the player. There were moments when I felt like I was being led, and when I attempted to alter the narrative, I wasn’t allowed to. This could very well come down to budget, which is likely why the game doesn’t feature voiced audio. Regardless, it still manages to be impactful in its final act.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo is a gripping and horrific adventure that branches outside of what genre fans would expect. It plays with your intuition and tests your deduction skills as you piece together each puzzle. Unfortunately, the narrative intermission brings gameplay to a crawl, but you’ll want to stick through until the end to experience everything this twisted adventure offers.
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