Paranormasight Review - Stylish Mystery
Updated: Jul 7
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a Square Enix visual novel that has remarkably little to do with anything else they've put out. This is a slightly goofy horror story set in the real world 1980s with some light "meta" elements mixed in. None of those are things Square is exactly known for, which is probably why this was made by a small team and hardly promoted at all relative to something like Forspoken. In this instance, it's very much the small team on a budget that came out ahead.
Like most adventure/visual novels, gameplay in Paranormasight consists just about entirely of either selecting dialogue choices or clicking on things in the background. There's nothing amazingly revolutionary about either system, although it does remember your choices when moving between protagonists and sometimes you need to make certain people converge on one spot in order to advance the plot. It'll look like you have a lot of choices, but everything leads either to one of five real endings of varying badness or numerous more immediate terrible ends. You do get some interesting choices with surprising consequences, but you'll end up choosing every path through the important scenes if you want to see all of the content.
It's hard to go into much detail about the story without spoilers since it moves quickly and has some early twists. At a high level, you'll be alternating between controlling a few different protagonists who have all obtained a curse stone. Said curse stone allows them to instantly kill anyone who meets certain conditions, and they can resurrect one person if they collect enough soul dregs from using their curse. Killing other curse bearers is far more efficient, however, so there's a battle royale-esque setup in which all the important characters are theoretically incentivized to heartlessly murder each other.
That said, if you go in expecting Corpse Party or Danganronpa, I think you'll be disappointed. This can be a brutal game when it wants to be, but the horror is generally more of a slow burn and most of the time you're playing investigation sections that'd be right at home in Phoenix Wright. This is a paranormal detective game with some scenes of violence rather than a gorefest. It's an underused premise that this delivers on almost perfectly - I was a little underwhelmed by the ending, but it's otherwise hard to find fault with the writing.
Still, the highlight for me is definitely the sheer visual and audio style that Paranormasight has. The OST is excellent throughout and covers a very impressive range from classic horror music box-esque tracks to funky jazz music. Visually, meanwhile, the game looks like a blend of 1980s anime and more traditional ink painting or ukiyo-e. It's an extremely distinctive look that fits the game's themes perfectly and more importantly, works great with the 360-degree camera scenes that are used frequently. I haven't seen Square promoting this style in the way they did with Octopath Traveler's looks, but I'd certainly love to see it in more games.
Lastly, Paranormasight is very much a game about a specific time and place. Just like each of the Yakuza games leans heavily on what real world Kabuchiko was like at the time, this is as much about 1980s Sumida as anything else. This is even sponsored by the local tourism board and, for a horror game, works surprisingly well as a tourism pitch. It's great to see a small team get to make a game about a place that's clearly very dear to them, especially when it's a place that's generally overlooked for the more famous areas of Tokyo.
Paranormasight is a stylish game that succeeds at almost everything it tries to do. A slightly disappointing ending and a few unintuitive puzzles aside, I loved every minute of it. Those flaws hold it back from a truly excellent score, but it's still easy to recommend to anyone who likes Japanese horror or general paranormal stories. The story doesn't necessarily set itself up for a sequel, but I'd love to see more games in a similar vein from this team. It's a very promising debut to what I hope becomes a series.
Time to beat: About 10 hours.
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