The next time I feel like wallowing up in my misery, I will just head to the bar and get a glass of drink to numb my pain. Like Halsdoll’s Diner (a.k.a. my blog), the bar in this game called Black Rabbit Bar serves as a hub for broken people like myself to hang out: Drink your misery away and eat as many chips as you want. Timeout from reality is the place to unwind. Doesn’t it sound like a catchy line to attract customers? Well, what’s so comical is that like the owner of the bar, I don’t make the effort in trying to attract customers (readers) to my blog. Instead, I play video games like I’m consuming alcoholic beverages. I spend more time playing and rearranging my thoughts than finding people to read. So hanging out in my empty diner in this blazing hot summer evenings is the norm for me because I never liked crowded places, unless it’s dim and “secluded” where I can’t see people’s faces like the Beach House concert at the Moore Theatre I went to back in 2019.
Yes, Spirit Hunter NG is thematically refreshing for a horror visual novel and I kind of like that more than the storytelling and for the game experience. The game becomes more like an art piece waiting to be admired and captivated by the viewer. Why you may wonder? Because sometimes I just like hearing the creators’ voice when they assert their thoughts and emotion into a piece of work. It gives me a glimpse of their inner woe. Horror, after all, is really a feeling of ongoing internal conflict. Sounds like the writer was poking fun at horror fans for having to write a horror story for a game:
A stranger’s death dripping with danger and intrigue is a great source of entertainment.
The story follows a “muscle-freak” (borrowing the description from the game) teenage boy by the name of Akira Kijima who happens to be adopted by his aunt, a horror novelist who owns a bar as a side job. Kijima found himself playing a strange game with an evil entity which involved destroying/purifying spirits. He was forced to play a game when the evil doll kidnapped his precious beloved niece (Yes, it’s about saving the damsel. Nothing new here in the story department). Along his journey, he is accompanied by his good friend, a member of the Yakuza and a gothic pop idol. Later down the road, he meets older and more professional folks: a gambler, female cop, and ghost hunter. The variety of age adds maturity to the game which makes it feels less singular and a self-centered experience by providing a third person point of view to the story. There were moments when the side characters point fun at Kijima for his bravery and youthfulness as stupidity. Unlike Root Letter, I didn’t feel as if I was a generic schoolboy, even though I see the story through the main’s character’s eyes. It’s something video game as a medium have a hard time executing because when you play the main character, you walk in his or her shoes and your perspective as the player is skewed. I like that I’m able to separate myself from the character. But what really intrigued me about the story is the villain, the eternal doll who wants to play and who does not always play fairly. Well, it wouldn’t be a game if the story doesn’t revolve around a game. I think this is why I like this game compared to some popular visual novel games I’ve played. It sticks to its root.
Now let’s talk about gameplay. Is it fun? Is it scary? Well, yes to both questions but it’s not going to give you nightmare. It’s not that immersive type of horror but more like a thematic haunted house ride you’d find at the fairground. You know the feeling of walking into a haunted house ride, hoping for a good fright? Yes, the game allows the player the option to select Scary Mode for those who want a jump scare experience. Personally, I select default mode and just enjoy the game for what it is. Even without the additional mechanical scare, there were some chilling tales that involved young girls which would strike a chord to any girl who is often accompanied by herself. Girls love fairy tales and fairy tales are not always happy ever after. So stay away from male doctors! Oops, did I say too much? Well I hope I entice you rather than dissuade you from playing the game. Overall, it’s an adventurous game that requires player to select choices carefully without being punished (wrong choice=Game Over). I played with a guide to save time because like most games with multiple endings, it requires the player to select certain choices to unlock a particular ending. I remember spending 69 hours on it. It might be because I left the game running for a long time trying to cook and play at the same time.
For horror fans, this is a game worth playing. Add to your collection of horror games to play because horror is a genre that is difficult to execute in video games. So it’s nice to find a piece of gem. The only thing I didn’t enjoy is the graphic pictures of tortured women. Why was it necessary? It’s a mystery to me.
I know dolls are scary, but I still love to play with them; that just says a lot about me.