The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a visual novel that ties together nine (don’t ask) Japanese folktales, spirits, curses and, well, ukiyoe block prints. You’ll hop between several protagonists, trying to figure out who’s holding magical killer trinkets and who’s trying to collect them all from reviving the dead.
It’s the usual visual novel style of play: you talk to people, click on interesting things in the background, try to choose the right dialogue options, fail and try again. Paranormasight uses 360-degree environments to keep things relatively immersive. Each character illustration has frayed red, blue and green outlines that imitate old TVs – this was a time before OLED.
What makes Paranormasight so much fun to play through is a rich vein of subversion — which I am not going to spoil. When you first begin the game, there’s a host of sorts, with a mysterious mask, who explains the game you’re about to play, how the menus work and other administrative fun.
When you (inevitably) meet your end due to poor decisions (or someone attacking you with cursed stones), it’ll cut back to the host, who will often hint at something that you’d have never guessed before – there are several ‘game overs’ that are inevitable for the early beats of the game to make sense. Fortunately, the game ‘logic’ settles in pretty quickly. You’ll hop between each character’s quests, with narrative paths unlocking further as the story unfolds and characters, curses and misunderstandings get messy.
In the first few chapters, you must confront others who may or may not be curse holders, unaware of how their curse “works”. This turns into an anime-style stand-off, like a fight in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure or Naruto, as you either try to sneak your way out of danger or get other curse-bearers to fall into your trap, so you can claim their cursed stone and inch closer to the Rite of Resurrection.
It gets surprisingly tense at times. One confrontation occurs between a woman that wields a pyromaniac curse, while another character with a bludgeoning curse that can tell when you lie. This stand-off all happens in an innocuous living room, with a private investigator, dressed like a villain from the ‘70s looking on, baffled and powerless.
The player can jump between the overlapping timelines, even redoing very early decisions to see if they can change how the story progresses. I did find at one point that I was a little ahead of the story, but couldn’t continue with what I thought was the logical way forward until I’d clicked/tapped absolutely everything on a particular 360-degree scene.
Everyone is seemingly hunting the Rite of Resurrection, which can supposedly bring anyone back from the dead – one character isn’t even looking to resurrect a friend or loved one, but Katsushika Hokusai, arguably the most famous Japanese artist of all time – the ‘tsunami’ guy. The characters have plenty of delightful quirks, which reminds me of Capcom’s Phoenix Wright series, but Paranormasight feels a little smarter. Some of the twists and solutions break the fourth wall brazenly and I loved it. My only criticism is that The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a little short – I finished it in 16 hours. Hopefully, more games will expand on this formula.
My spoiler-free advice is: listen to the masked host, keep an eye on your notes database as you learn more about the legends and don’t be afraid just to guess what might work. Often it does.
The game is available on Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android and Steam.
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