Platforms: PC, Mac and Linux
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Supernatural
Release Date: 2010
Editor's Note: This is the very first review of an EVN I ever did for my writer's blog a few years ago, though not the first EVN I ever played...that may come one day. For now, enjoy it in its fully remastered glory!
Jisei is a supernatural visual novel produced by an indie gaming label called SakeVisual. To be honest, this has been something I’ve been interested in playing in for a while but haven’t had the time to do. I came across SakeVisual some time back when I started looking into independent gaming and was really impressed with a certain game that I CANNOT mention here because…seriously…I think it may dock 50 points from my man card for being a fan.
But back to Jisei. This is a fully-produced game featuring an original soundtrack, voice acting and probably the best artwork you will see in any English made visual novel. While there are a few trip-ups that I will mention (mainly because I insist on others being tough but fair on my work, so I give them the same courtesy) anyone who plays this won’t doubt that the first in SV’s ‘Green Tea Line’ is a success.
The story of Jisei starts off with an unnamed protagonist waking up in a coffee house in a city which name he forgets. From that setup you’re quickly thrown into a murder scene which you as the player have to deduce in order to clear your unknown name. While the story seems simple enough from the offset, you’re quickly thrown into a larger case involving international corporations, corruption and people with less than good intentions. Soon you’re questioning if the victim of the crime is really just another victim and trying to get used to the supernatural abilities your silent hero has been cursed with.
Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that. The kid you’re playing as can relive the last moments of any dead person he touches. Also, about a third of the way into the game he starts hearing voices in his head. Clearly, when the awesome superpowers like flight and heat-ray vision were being handed out he got the short end of the stick.
I must warn you now, though, not to expect everything tied neatly into a bow with this story. At a certain point in the game, if you’re paying good enough attention, you’ll be able to cross at least one name off the list of suspects. Exactly who that will be will depend on your first instincts at the beginning of the game. And when that happens, whichever way you jump first will determine which character gets left behind in the narrative.
It’s an understandable mechanic, but each character is developed to the point it’s a shame that you have to make such a choice and every character doesn’t go so deep as the others during normal gameplay. And I literally mean ‘normal gameplay’. Trust me; you’ll want to stick around after the credits for this one.
Also, any questions you have about the main character will not be answered. In fact, I found myself with MORE questions about this guy than when I started. While you do get something of a window into his past and why he’s on the road he’s on (Slight Spoiler Alert) it is a little bittersweet that by the end of the game you still don’t know his name. For some characters that works and the player can insert their own personality and thoughts into the character: an avatar basically. This guy is not an avatar though. His personality is strong and his history is intriguing and to not really know a lot about him even after the game is over is something that sticks with me even now.
Overall the story is solid. Once some of the secrets start coming out, the flow of the game is just as good as any million dollar studio. And the good thing is that you’ll be so involved with what you’re doing that my gripes won’t really hit you until well after you’ve finished the game.
So I'm hearing voice in my head? You talk to me? You understand?
PRESENTATION & GAMEPLAY
The presentation in this game is a solid as a rock. There are no background scans or sloppy art to be found here. The entire game takes place inside of a coffee house so there are not too many differences that had to be sketched out. Regardless, everything is clean and gives you a sense of normalcy and security which only makes how dark this game is that much more noticeable. This is the stuff that attracted me to games like Bioshock and Mass Effect and it is really impressive that one artist could evoke something similar what those games did when it comes to environment and characters.
Just as good is the art is this music. My hat goes off to SakeVisual who really went over and beyond to make this game a unique experience even down to this detail that others, even in the professional game industry, sometimes overlook. Every track carries the weight of the story with it and keeps the mood tense until the very end. The entire soundtrack is included with the game as a part of the game’s menu and it is definitely worth listening to without having to outside of the game.
Unfortunately, voice acting is hit or miss which comes with the territory. Easily my favorite was Kizaki, whose voice actor nailed a very tepid and mysterious character. Same goes for whoever it was that did the character of Miss Bergstrom; who you will actually like by the games end. The Detective’s voice, though, seems forced. It's as if the actor was really, really, trying to get across that this guy is supposed to be a police officer. The fact that the main character had no voice also was something that tossed me around for a second. There are moments in this game that you wish he could speak just so the snarky comments he spits out from time to time can have some life in them.
Yeah thanks for nothing you lazy bums.
I downloaded Jisei in full sometime this morning and finished it a few hours ago…and I was taking my time. I think this may have already been said, but it is true in that you feel like things are just picking up at the EXACT moment the game ends. But that isn’t so much of a negative. Beyond the obvious building towards a sequel and even knowing how it ends, don’t be surprised to find yourself playing again on a future Saturday afternoon. The story and characters make this one worth another play through just to see it unfurl or possibly take a different route in getting to the end.
According to the head writer of SakeVisual Jisei’s sequel, Kansei is in production even as I write this. I am definitely looking forward to what SakeVisual has in store for what is looking to become a series a la the Ace Attorney games. The asking price for the first installment is $15 and considering what all comes in that package, including the full soundtrack and production designs, it’s more than fair.
Beyond a few missteps, Jisei is a game that you would expect to download off Wii Ware, Xbox Live or the PlayStation Market. It is inspirational to see what a lot of talent and hard work can still do in an age of Auto Tune and Friedburg/Seltzer movies (the idiots who made Vampires Suck, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc. etc.). I cannot recommend this game enough and anyone who enjoys both a good story and a good game should have it as a part of their library.
+ Interesting and fairly involved story
+ Solid Presentation
- Wow is this thing short
- The voice actors are hit and miss in some spots