[Review] Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo
Posted on March 12, 2023 by Dennis Gagliardotto(@LyonHart_) in Reviews, Switch eShop
Release Date: March 9, 2023
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
In the realm of horror, the genre has numerous ways to latch onto the viewer, player, or reader in ways that most other genres wouldn’t. That sense of mystery that comes from being unable to discern what it is that haunts piques a level of curiosity that keeps the one consuming the media involved and captivated, and Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo does an incredible job of getting players in an engrossing story that never overstays its welcome and gets to-the-point in a matter of minutes. On Switch, especially the OLED, the game shines despite its dark colors and atmosphere, and Square Enix has done a tremendous job in creating a unique visual novel that can be up there with the genre’s greats.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo has players view the perspectives of a few protagonists that find themselves as new “owners” of peculiar stones that have the power to curse, leading a victim to eventually die once it’s been used upon them. Each character wielding a curse stone has their own motives, but a life must be met with life, and with just about every single character wanting to resurrect someone, each curse stone needs to consume souls until it’s satisfied enough to garner the power to give them what they want. Based on real-world urban legends set over the course of three days, mysteries and events occur all throughout Honjo within Tokyo, and players are able to travel throughout and experience the stories seamlessly in a wonderfully weaved dark tale of sacrifice and power.
Unlike a lot of other visual novels where static illustrations or live-2D tends to be the norm in conveying the characters and art, Paranormasight is completely animated from head to toe, and its presentation sets the tone and atmosphere extremely quickly, continuing all throughout with a spooky atmosphere that has elements of 1980’s technology sprinkled in every which way. The writing consistently keeps players on their toes and the conversations that are had between those with the power to curse, those who are aware of what’s happening, and those completely oblivious always feels genuine rather than a robotic sequence of events made to fit together like a generic puzzle just because “it works” considering this is a bit of a budget title from Square Enix. Instead, it does feel every bit as large production as any other AAA visual novel.
While horror visual novels have been around forever, it’s hard to make most feel genuinely scary. They do, however, do a tremendous job at building tension through striking imagery and, if available, the voice acting that accompanies them can really bring those scenarios to life and get that frightening chill sent down one’s spine. With all the interactivity and immersion that Paranormasight has, it’s almost set a new standard on how visual novels – and especially horror visual novels – should be crafted moving forward. There’s this feeling of an amalgam of Spirit Hunter: NG, Famicom Detective Club, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows all flowing through its DNA, and it does a wonderful job of incorporating the best elements of each to create what feels like an ultimate fusion of sorts.
Also, rather than always facing forward, the camera can be moved at will by the player when in exploration mode and rotated an entire 360 degrees in any direction. Add the ability to zoom, examine, talk, think, walk, and even trigger a curse on someone unsuspecting gives a large amount of depth to Paranormasight, and this is showcased further through the clever tricks that are done throughout that consistently made it so my mind was either blown away or a jump scare was actually well done in my eyes. As an example, in one scenario, you speak with a gentleman who tries to form an alliance in collecting souls for the curse stones that each has. However, after a bit of banter, cockiness, and eventually disagreement, the player has to think quick about what to do before they end up dying through a lethal sound per the other man’s curse. After I had died multiple times wondering why there wasn’t a clear way for me to escape an untimely demise, I decided to go to the settings and reduce the voice volume down to 0. Amazingly, I lived to see another day and this action was reflected through the scene that would lead into the next portion of the story. While this isn’t the first time I had seen something like this accomplished, it’s a rare occurrence, and when it’s executed the way that Paranormasight has done it, it can be memorable and shocking in so many ways that it keeps up with that sense of really making the player feel involved and engrossed.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo, for all it does incredibly well, has one thing overlooked, however: There’s a mouse cursor that, for whatever reason, never seems to go away. Nothing in the settings seems to help get rid of it and instead it’s always there like a bug attached to a light. For PC, it would make a lot of sense given that the game also serves as an extremely intricate point-and-click as well, but to keep that as an irremovable object even if you’re playing entirely touchscreen – which you can do 100% of the time without obstruction – it feels like a fly on the wall at times. Other than the ubiquitous cursor and over-exaggerated chromatic aberration, however, Paranormasight has little to no flaws and presents itself wonderfully from beginning to end, lending itself to a well-paced story that never shows any sign of slowing down or a sense of boredom.
One has to commend Square Enix and its willingness to try new things even if they end up performing under expectations, and this is a direction that I would love to see them go in more often as a lot of their surprise titles are the ones that tend to stick with me the most when they’re not hyper-focused on RPGs. Paranormasight joins the creative library of titles like The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story, Life Is Strange, Voice of Cards, and the Square Enix Collective collection of titles like The Turing Test, Forgotton Anne, and Tokyo Dark published by the giant (though this is not part of the SEC) that really stand out among the company’s history despite a lesser emphasis on marketing and budgeting. For visual novel fans, Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo should not be missed by any means necessary, and considering it’s already being sold at a budget of $19.99 USD, it’s well worth the price of admission for a story that gets under the skin and opens the mind to a perspective of Japanese urban legends that never get old.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a gripping tale of curses and the lengths we’d go to revive someone close to us. The way the game goes through the stories of multiple protagonists utilizes its curses from person to person and presents itself from its user interface to admittedly excessive chromatic aberration and art direction makes the whole package feel seamless and exceptional from beginning to end. Fans of the the genre can expect a wonderful amalgam of each represented in Paranormasight while still retaining its own identity to sit among one of the best interactive stories in the Switch’s library.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.