Title: Spirit Hunter: NG
Developer: Experience, Ghostlight
Release Date: October 10, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Aksys Games
During my time with the Experience developed horror adventure, Death Mark, I commended the game for its immersive atmosphere and overall story. So, it was easy for me to be excited after hearing that the second entry in this series would release in the west as Spirit Hunter: NG. The developer has already proved they know how to immerse the player in a nightmare. However, NG presents a cast who are close before the hauntings, meaning there’s more on the line for the protagonist. When creating a horror adventure, it’s crucial to improve on elements and features to keep the player on their toes. Thankfully, NG does not disappoint in this department.
The story revolves around Akira Kijima, who was adopted by his aunt, which makes him the older brother of her child, Ami Kijima. Akira often takes care of Ami while his aunt is working at a bar. One night, after a series of supernatural events, Ami suddenly disappears. A spirit contacts Akira to inform him that he must participate in a game, or he will lose Ami along with his life. Luckily for Akira, he has a good group of friends to keep him level headed and focused on the goal. Together, they have to face several ghosts and dangers to bring Ami back.
While the premise of spirts causing deaths around town is the same, NG presents a few new elements that make it entirely different. Even though the “Death Mark doesn’t plague Akira,” he still has a time limit to complete tasks. The big difference here is that the protagonist doesn’t suffer from amnesia, and his motivation is the safety of his little sister without much of a care for his well being. It was easy to empathize with Akira due to his present personality and backstory that fueled his determination to find Ami.
A new feature to the series is that you can interact with the characters by choosing different facial expressions. These responses have an impact on your relationship with the cast and receive some mixed responses from them. The facial expressions go from super happy to very annoyed. During my playthrough, I found myself trying to be the nice guy. At times, the angry expression was fitting in some situations, so I didn’t always smile for everyone. That said, Akira is your typical bad boy and gets displayed as such very often throughout the game.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as in Death Mark, at the beginning of a chapter you first get to know a new rumor about a ghost wandering around and are investigating in an area to know more about the actual story, as tales are often slightly modified. The investigation portion of the game plays like a first-person dungeon crawler game, where the player must investigate the environments and solve puzzles. During exploration, interacting with particular objects executes a new feature known as Bloodmetry, which is similar to Psychometry, but Akira must touch blood for it to work. Doing this lets him view memories left inside the object. I felt this helped the reader understand the spirits even more because you get to see things from this perspective. Lastly, when all information is collected, you move on to fight the spirit before completing a chapter.
While fighting off spirits, you can find clues at how to destroy or purify them in the documents or item descriptions picked up during investigations. Like in Death Mark, when you kill a spirit, it might take a life from someone close to you, and the CGs are incredibly terrifying. Before going into the spirit fight, you need to collect certain items required to defeat them. It’s possible to go into the battle without even finding the right things, so a careful investigation is necessary for this game. I feel like NG contains more straight forward tasks, and makes it clear what you have to do before a spiritual encounter. Although it is possible to die during the spirit fight after choosing a wrong item, you can restart the scene and fix your mistakes. Additionally, the usable items are limited, and you aren’t always able to use them in a fight.
The artwork is gorgeous, with loads of terrifying imagery when compared to its predecessor. Death scenes are very grotesque and managed to terrify me just by looking at them. The soundtrack in the game sets the mode for these scenes, but there are also some cheerful songs. Well, admittedly, not every scene is creepy, yet there is an option that lets you set the scare meter to scary, default, or off. While playing through the “Scary” mode, I became terrified multiple times investigating in the darkness because the game enjoys its jump scares. However, I wish the game contained voice acting to help with the immersion.
NG is an excellent follow-up game in the Spirit Hunter series and improved a lot compared to its predecessor. The game offers new exciting features that allow you to interact with the characters more and become closer to them. I liked that while the premise stays the same, NG tells its story quite differently, and therefore, it didn’t feel repetitive. Instead, the investigation scenes have never felt better.
The environment illustrations and CGs complement the overall atmosphere of the game, which makes it as beautiful as it is creepy. What I enjoyed most about this game is that I could empathize with the protagonist easily, which was gripe I had with the unmoved protagonist in Death Mark. That said, NG is a scary and atmospheric game that managed to surpass my high expectations of the Spirit Hunter series. For that, I couldn’t recommend it more.
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