A young man who can relive the last moments of the dead finds himself the suspect in a murder investigation. An engaging visual novel from a promising new group.
What They Say
"I can relive the dying moment of any corpse I touch." A teenager with no name and no home wanders from one city to the next, burdened by the weight of his extraordinary ability. When he is accused of murdering a woman that he's never even met, he sets out to prove his innocence and find the true killer. The investigation quickly takes a turn for the complicated when a strange voice appears in his head, warning him to watch his step. Every word has a hidden meaning. Every suspect has a secret. Search for clues, interrogate the witnesses, and unravel the mystery before it's too late.
Sake Visual is an international group, and both the background and character art was done by Chilean artist M. Beatriz Garcia. While the number of backgrounds is limited, they are extremely detailed and colorful, evoking a coffee shop you know you've been to yourself. Paper doll art for the characters is also well done, as Garcia infuses them with a strong anime influence while also retaining her own unique style. The suspects each have a distinct look to complement their personality and there's also a nice variety of poses and facial expressions. I did think that Gurski looked a little bishonen for a cop, but it's nothing that takes you out of the story. The opening cinematic features some stylish, if simple, animation effects that serve to really raise your expectations for the title.
Jisei is well written with easy to read text, no typos, and only one line of dialogue that I felt sounded a little odd. Mystery stories are very tricky to write, but Ayu Sakata did a skillful job. I didn't notice any plot holes, and neither was I expected to pick up on any information that wasn't easily inferred from the available evidence. While this first chapter raises more questions than it answers, the story was believable, with some interesting twists and turns that weren't forced or jarring. There are also some very witty lines sprinkled throughout to lighten the mood.
Music for Jisei was done by Marc Conrad Tabula. Background music is spooky and atmospheric, using bells and a mournful piano to great effect. I was less fond of the opening theme, a moody techno piece, but it does establish the atmosphere for the novel quite well. English voice actors were recruited from across the internet, and overall do a surprisingly good job. The recording is clean and professional, the voices fit each of the characters, and emotion is conveyed realistically. A few lines are spoken with an odd intonation, but overall it's a solid job.
Packaging looks very professional with a glossy slipcover inside of a DVD case. The cover features our protagonist wiping a bloody finger against what looks like the opposite side of a window. It's simple, yet it really reflects the mood of the piece and the special power the main character possesses. The spine features the Sake Visual logo and the number 1, as this is intended to be the first chapter of an ongoing story. The back is well organized, with a story summary, three screenshots, credits, and system requirements.
The interface for Jisei is self-explanatory and easy to navigate. I was pleased to find a Notes button that revealed a notebook wherein all evidence found so far was collected. Commands are selected from easy to navigate menus, and saving and loading can be done at any time.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I'd asked for the review copy before I realized the full implications what I'd just done. The young woman at the small Sake Visual booth was enthusiastic about their project, and being a fan of other visual novels, asking for one seemed the natural thing to do. I learned that Sake Visual was a group who lived around the world and communicated over the internet. They'd released some free projects in the past, but this was their first commercial title, and first in a planned series. The ambition was inspiring, and I wanted to help.
It wasn't until I walked away that I realized the predicament I was in. What if the game was awful? I'd have to choose between crushing dreams or writing what amounted to a soulless press release. With some trepidation, I installed and started the game. It looked professional. It sounded professional. It actually had more visual flair than many Japanese visual novels I'd played. With a growing sense of relief, I came to realize I'd get to write the positive review for which I'd hoped.
Jisei, which means "moment of death," is a supernatural murder mystery game. You play as the unnamed protagonist, a young man who can relive the death of any dead body he touches. He awakens in a coffee shop, and upon heading to the restroom, discovers the stabbed body of a woman he's never seen before. Curious, he touches the body to find out what happened. Another customer at the coffee shop finds the protagonist hunched over the stabbed body and assumes the obvious. She screams, and an off-duty cop runs over to investigate. The police are called, but during the unusually long period before they arrive, he (and you) are given the chance to clear your name and figure out what really happened. Of course, there are hidden secrets and nothing is as it seems.
While the game is limited to the coffee shop location, you do have the ability to walk around and investigate, as well as interrogate all suspects and witnesses. As new information arises or new events transpire, you find new clues and can ask different questions. You also gradually learn hints about the protagonist himself and his mysterious past. As this is only the first part of the story, however, the game ends as things get really interesting. My main complaint, and the biggest drawback of the release, is arguably best one to have: There simply isn't enough. This first part offers only several hours of gameplay. The amount of work that went into making those hours polished entertaining is clear to see, but it leaves you wanting more. Fortunately, with some support, more is what we're going to get.
I'm very pleased to report that Sake Visual is a talented group that is off to a promising start. Due to its length, I would be hesitant to recommend Jisei if it were a standard commercial release. However, it's apparent that Jisei is a true labor of love, and one that can only be improved with support and feedback from other visual novel fans. Consider part of the purchase price an investment in the future. Recommended.