Visual Novel: Higurashi When They Cry
This is simply a review and recounting of my experience going through the demo of the English release of this game, which can be found here. (Note: I had to change my laptop’s regional and language settings under the administrative tab to Japanese for some reason, in order to play it.) The Higurashi visual novels have been licensed by a company called Manga Gamer, which has released a few other games as well for download.
This is my first time playing a visual novel, the main reason being there aren’t many released in North America–though I imagine there are very few I would want to play (I steer clear of anything ecchi or hentai). Reading that Higurashi was a horror mystery, I gave the demo a try and thought it was rather interesting. The visual novel format is essentially like reading a book, but with background music, sound effects, setting backgrounds, and characters sprites all used to create a strong atmosphere for each scene. Though you’re essentially just reading a story, the mystery and horror elements come across quite powerfully with these visuals and sounds affecting your impression of ensuing events. The first-person narrative worked well for this format, and I liked noting how the revealing of text bit by bit or in chunks affected my reading of the story.
So I quite enjoyed the (very long) demo, but the game is far from perfect. As you can tell, the character drawings are nothing spectacular, almost to the point where I feel I could have drawn them (!!!), though in a strange way I think that adds to the foreboding feel to the story. What is a really big problem though is the translation of the game. Pretty much every paragraph has a spelling mistake or grammatical error, which is rather unnerving. Frankly, I expect better of an official release, especially when the product is essentially a book. Perhaps the full version has fixed all of this, but in the demo at least, it was really bad. Not Youtube comment-level bad, thankfully, but still… it looks very sloppy. =/
Which is a shame! It’s also out of my price range at the moment, so I think I’ll just be content with the manga, and perhaps watch the anime some day. I would like to play more of the Higurashi visual novels one day, but I’d like to have it be an experience without my internal editor groaning every page of the way.
The story itself is great though, and the characters are all interesting and well-developed. Each scene is fleshed out much more than in the manga and anime, and you really get to know the characters well. The story develops slowly, and the mystery is unraveled bit by bit, which seems like the perfect pacing for a story like this. And as I mentioned before, the atmosphere is brilliant, so for that reason alone I think the demo is worth trying!