Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Super Famicom Horror Sound Novels

This entry will list and briefly discuss the horror-themed visual novels available on the Super Famicom/SNES. If there are any notable titles that you feel I have missed, feel free to inform me, and I will be glad to add what I can on it. My translation 'skills' are also less than adequate, so feel free to correct me on any obvious issues.

I feel I should clarify that though I refer to them as 'sound novels', referring to them as 'visual novels' would probably work just as well, given that the two are largely one and the same. 'Sound novel' was a genre introduced by Chunsoft and is thus something of a copyright of theirs; 'visual novel' was introduced as a work-around of sorts.
Otogirisō (Otogirisou) / 弟切草
"St. John's Wort"
Publisher/Developer: Chunsoft
Release date: 03/07/1992
Ports: Sound Novel Evolution 1: Otogirisou Sosei-Hen ("Rebirth"/PS1). Also available on Wii's Virtual Console
Graphical style: No character sprites, drawn backgrounds
Footage: YouTube

Arguably one of, if not the first horror-themed sound novels. The protagonist (Kouhei) and his girlfriend Nami are stranded in the forest after a falling tree demolishes their car. With nowhere else to go, they decide to spend the night in a nearby western-style mansion. Given that the mansion is in a spooky forest in the middle of nowhere, something is bound to happen.

There was a film adaptation, although I cannot say how accurate it was to the original title, seeing as how I have yet to see it... you can read a review here.

Kamaitachi no Yoru / かまいたちの夜
"The Night of the Sickle Weasels"
Publisher: Chunsoft
Release date: 11/25/94
Ports: Kamaitachi no Yoru Tokubetsuhen ("Special"/PS1), Kamaitachi no Yoru ADVANCE (GBA), Kamaitachi no Yoru mini (mobile). Also available on PC and Wii Virtual Console.
Graphical style: Silhouettes, photographic backgrounds
Footage: YouTube

Although sound novels existed before Kamaitachi, it was the overwhelming popularity of KnY which helped set the genre off with a bang. As a result, the series has established a legacy that has continued to this very day. Even as we speak, new installments are being released on the PS3 and Vita.

The protagonist Tōru is staying at a skiing lodge with his would-be girlfriend and twelve other people. All seems well until one of the residents is found dead. The mystery begins here: the protagonist must examine the statements made by the other lodgers, discover clues, and uncover the culprit before time runs out.

Somewhat notable for being the only sound novel Arino challenges on the TV show "GameCenter CX". A summary of the episode can be read here.

"Kamaitachi" (sickle-weasel) refers to a Japanese demon that takes on the form of a weasel traveling in a whirlwind. It bears sickle-like claws and attacks humans. See here.

Yakouchuu / 夜光虫やこうちゅう)
"Phosphorescence Animalcule" aka "Noctiluca Scintillans"
Publisher: Athena
Release date: 06/16/95
Ports: Yakouchuu GB (Game Boy Color)
Graphical style: No sprites, photographic backgrounds
Footage: Nicovideo

The story is set on the cargo ship 'Diana'. The protagonist has no default name, but players generally refer to him as 'Captain', considering his position as captain of the ship the game takes place on. He is joined by a number of crewmates onboard the ship, nine of whom are named. The cruise is going well until corpses begin to appear, and the presence of a murderer is made clear. It has been noted by some that this feels like a much weaker take on what Kamaitachi no Yoru had already accomplished.

'Phosphorescence' refers to radiation of light. 'Animalcule' is an archaic term that refers to a microscopic lifeform. 'Noctiulca Scintillans' is a microscopic sea-dwelling creature that radiates light. You can read more about them here.

Gakkou Deatta Kowai Hanashi /
"School Terror Story"
Developer: Banpresto
Release date: 08/04/95
Ports: Gakkou Deatta Kowai Hanashi S (PS1)
Graphical style: Photographic sprites and backgrounds
Footage: YouTube

It's nearing the end of the school year, and the five-man high school newspaper team is desperate for stories. During a brainstorming session, one member mentions that they have heard bizarre ghost stories about an abandoned building on the far end of the school campus. Unanimously, they decide to go with this idea, and each heads off on their own to investigate. Each character has their own story, and depending upon the order selected and the choices made, the ending scenario can change drastically.

Zakuro no Aji / ざくろの味
"Taste of Pomegranate"
Developer: Imagineer
Release date: 11/22/95
Graphical style: Silhouettes, photographic backgrounds
Footage: YouTube

The story is set in a five-story office building on a cold winter evening. The protagonist (default name Domon) is working on a story for a monthly science fiction serial. As he goes to visit the editorial department, a series of earthquakes cause the building to collapse and trap everybody inside. Attempting to find an escape, Domon heads into the basement, and depending upon a decision made early in the game, he may run into anything from zombies to demons.

Getsumen no Anubis /

"Anubis of the Moon's Surface"
Publisher: Access / Imagineer
Release date: 11/22/95
Graphical style: Silhouettes, drawn backgrounds
Footage: YouTube

The protagonist (default name Keisuke) and heroine (default name Kaori) are astronauts living in a laboratory set on the moon. A group of American soldiers are also stationed there. Mysterious incidents begin to occur that threaten the lives of everyone there - there are multiple scenarios, but only one is explicitly horror-themed. Said scenario involves a race of mysterious space parasites that can take possession of anyone, leading the protagonist (and thus the player) to grow distrustful of the other characters.

Getsumen was released on the same day as Zakuro no Aji, and is also referenced within it - one of the books the protagonist Domon had written was titled 'Getsumen no Anubis'.

Majo Tachi no Nemuri /

"Sleepless Witches"
Publisher: Pack-In-Video
Release date: 11/24/95
Ports: Akagawa Jirou: Majo Tachi no Nemuri: Fukkatsusai ("Easter"/PS1), Akagawa Jirou: Majo Tachi no Nemuri: Kanzenban ("Complete Version"/PC)
Graphical style: No sprites, photographic backgrounds
Footage: YouTube

The protagonist (default name Toshio) is working at his office one day when he receives a call asking for help from a girl he knew as a child (default name Yoriko). The next day he discovers that this same girl apparently killed herself by way of self-immolation. He decides to go investigate the girl's mountain village, and depending upon the choices the player makes, may uncover the truth of the matter...

Jirou Akagawa is a prolific Japanese novelist. Majotachi no Nemuri is directly based on one of his works.

Tsukikomori / 晦-つきこもり
"Last Day of the Month"
Developer: Banpresto / Pandora Box
Release date: 03/01/96
Graphical style: Photographic sprites and backgrounds
Footage: YouTube

A follow-up of sorts to Gakkou de atta Kowai Hanashi. The protagonist (default name Yoko Maeda) is currently not in school due to spring break. Her grandmother's seventh death anniversary (a uniquely eastern custom which is celebrated on the day of an individual's passing) has come, and several members of the family have gathered. In observance of the day, six of the family members each tell a different horror story. In addition, there is also an introductory scenario which can change based upon choices selected.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making a small article about these.
I've been wondering what that rom called Tsukikomori I had was about.
I might look into these more.
It seems though these are not the type of games that would be easily translated by people.