The first (and only other) J-Horror visual novel I have ever played was Iwaihime. You’d think considering my love of both genres that wouldn’t be the case. Paranormasight now holds the honour of being the second of these in my library and the first one with all endings unlocked. First I’d heard of this one was during the February 2023 Nintendo Direct and it was an immediate add to all the wish lists possible deal. Published by Square Enix, featuring Japanese mythology. The writing was on the wall. I had to play this game.
Beware the Curses of Honjo
Rumours spread, and perhaps none so fast as that regarding the Rite of Resurrection. Occult specialists have written articles and been featured in television programs promoting this supposed research but it’s probably nothing more than a fad. That said, those who do more than dabble in the dark arts are intrigued. Now, someone has set the wheels in motion. Both willing and unwilling participants find themselves wrapped up in a world of curses and vengeful spirits.
Paranormasight has a real late-70s/early-80s aesthetic. From the giant tube CRT televisions with the dials to the enclosed public telephone booths, everything is washed in that slightly grainy filter. Nostalgia at its best. We open in a community park. It’s not extravagant. There’s a jungle gym, some sandbox style toys, a community board, and a phone booth. We’re here helping out a new friend, Yoko. She’s searching for one of the seven mysteries of Honjo and believes one of the tools required to perform the rite might be located in this very park. And she has plans to use it.
Nearly a dozen people became curse bearers when the clock struck midnight. Characters suddenly in possession of cursed netsuke trinkets must make a tough moral choice: collect soul fragments and pursue the rite, or do the right thing and leave the dead be. Learning about each of the eleven mysteries and discovering the triggers was well paced. I never felt overwhelmed by new information, but there were times I missed obvious clues the first three times I looked at them. The fact that Paranormasight never punishes you for dying is a huge bonus. If you made a fatal error, the Storyteller appears with words of encouragement and sends you back into the television. Every mistake is nothing more than an opportunity to stretch your detective chops.
A Path Varied and Winding
This twisted, interconnected tale features all of the elements required for a solid horror experience. You’ve got your no-nonsense police, mourning parents, schoolgirls, truly evil people trying to manipulate the situation. By playing through new chapters as they open, more clues come to light. New scenes open once you reach set outcomes. This encourages multiple plays. It’s the smallest details that can set about change, like switching between scenarios to position people in just the right spots. (One chapter really threw me off. I had to resort to a guide *gasp*!)
When you control a curse bearer, activating the curse isn’t too difficult; if the target has met the requirements, an alert will pop up and you can harvest dregs. There are pros and cons either way you go. Thankfully this is a game that thrives on following every possible pathway. Killing a target may go against your personal ethics. But taking that chance here often proves useful.
I’d love to see Square and other developers create more suspense and/or horror visual novels along these lines. And it’s not like Square shouldn’t be taking these chances. I personally think they nailed Paranormasight as well as the interactive live action (FMV) mystery The Centennial Case which I reviewed for Siliconera. Games like these can be innovative and inspire people to discover new ways to experience storytelling. Fingers crossed companies like Square Enix take more chances on bringing gems like these to market.