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June 2024

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: March 8, 2023


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Switch/PC Preview - 'Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 1, 2023 @ 6:00 a.m. PST

How far would you go to bring someone back from the dead? Discover the depths that some will go to in this horror-adventure game.

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is set in recent times (but not quite modern day) in Honjo, Japan. The seemingly innocent city is home to seven mysteries — effectively spooky ghost stories that speak of terrible tragedies in the past. For most people, this would just be a fun urban legend. However, for a small group, it is something more. Seven people came into possession of seven cursed stones and were given a command: kill. Kill to fill the curse stone with the soul dregs of your victims. Kill the other curse stone holders for more dregs. Whoever fills their curse stone can access the Rite of Resurrection, a one-time chance to bring someone back from the dead.

Every important character in the game is in possession of a curse stone, and each stone connects to the titular Seven Mysteries. Each one has a different activation condition. In the early part of the game, the character you control has access to the curse stone of the Whispering Canal. This can only be triggered if someone is walking away from the user, but if triggered, it causes them to instantly drown on the spot, regardless of where the water is.

The first chapter plays heavily into figuring out how to make this work for you, while defeating other curse-wielders before they can activate their condition and kill you. For example, one of the first encounters is with a threatening man who's demanding your stone. Turn your back on him, and he stabs you. Instead, you have to work out the exact conversation choices that will make him run away ... at which point you can activate the curse and kill him on the spot.

It reminds me a bit of the anime Death Note, where the concept revolves around supernatural killing methods with extremely strict methods of use. It's clear that the puzzles and plots won't just revolve around finding or using items but trying to figure out the best way to activate your current character's curse. While we only saw a bit of this, there was a really enjoyable tension when two curse stone owners met; any word or action could trigger death.

One of the more interesting elements we saw in our preview build of Paranormasight is how the player is connected to the events. It's made pretty clear early on that you are observing, not controlling, the characters. The outside knowledge you gain isn't something that the characters gain themselves. However, that also means you have the ability to "cheat" and influence the story. For example, one duel between the curses involves you figuring out the conditions for the curse to activate and to overcome it. There's no way for your player character to solve it because it involves something distinctly meta. The curse is activated by hearing its voice. How can you solve this? By going into options and turning the voice volume down to zero.

There are similar puzzles that I encountered in the preview build, and it left me incredibly interested and excited to see more, because it's clear that the game is going to do some wild stuff with the conceit of the player being separate from the characters. As with many visual novels of this style, you can also go back in time and redo certain segments of the story, but this time, the player can give little nudges that may change fates. It's not clear if there will be one specific true route, but you're certainly able to make branching plot decisions.

From what I've seen, Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is tremendously engaging. The core concept offers a lot of excitement and tension, and the unusual meta-puzzles leave me eager to see what comes up further on in the game. It can always be difficult to tell how visual novels like this will pan out, but if nothing else, Paranormasight put its best foot forward. Thankfully, we'll only have to wait a week to see the full game.

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