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Obscure Japanese Game Review 01: twilight syndrome Tansaku-hen

Title Translation: Twilight Syndrome ~Search volume~
Kanji Title: トワイライトシンドローム ~探索編~
Genre: Horror Adventure
Developer: Human Entertainment
Publisher: Human Entertainment
Format: Playstation
Release Date: 1/3/1996
Serial Number: SLPS-00102
Number of Players: 1
Number of Memory used: 1 Block
Language: Japanese Text Intensive/limited voice
Availability: Import only (OUT OF PRINT) (EBay or yahoo Japan auctions(Knowledge of Japanese language required))

The Twilight Syndrome franchaise is very popular in Japan and has spawn numerous games, tv dramas & films spanning 12 years most recently being the Nintendo DS game “Twilight Syndrome: Kinjiratera Toshi Densetsu” & also a spinoff title”moonlight Sundrome” which features Mika (the character with the rucksack). The main theme of the games investigating the urban legends around the characters school and hometown (which is a common pass time for school aged kids in japan) ranging from ghost photo locations, Hanako-san & other usual rumours that involve the ghosts in the music room & the last train. The ****of gameplay is a mixture of exploration in a 2D sidescrolling manner & forms of a sound novel where you are faced with multiple choice answers to choose the direction that the stories go, obviously to fully enjoy this game like most other japanese horror games its advisable to have knowledge of the Japanese language as the game is text intensive and features little to no speech. Once you have gotten over the language barrier (if there was even one there to begin with) it is an interesting and relatively spooky game. It also features some of the funniest engrish on a video game cover I’ve every seen.

This game features 6 scenarios, the first is a brief introduction to the urban legends around the school & town. It also offers a variety of different urband legends. Each of the chapters are well written with a multiple ending scenario, depending on how you answered the multiple choice options throughout the chapter there is a bad ending if you recieve this ending for the chapter you will not be able to progress to the next chapter. Both the normal ending and the perfect ending will allow progression to the next chapter of the game apart from fifth chapter “Hinashiro Koko Nanafushigi” where you must get the perfect ending to recieve the final chapter and the true ending. Though the game is a horror title its stories are written in a traditionally Japanese way and fall into the spooky area of scenarios rather then terrifying. My favourite chapter of the game was the 2nd “Shinrei Shashin Ryousan Kouen” & the 4th “Saishuu Densha” as those chapters were the longest and featured more possible scemearios and ghosts, though that being said I still thoroughly enjoyed all chapters. The only thing I did not like about the storyline is that in the final chapter, once the true ending begins it shows you that to complete that particular chapters story and to find out what happens to Mika you must play the sequel which is more like part 2 rather then a fully fledged sequel, the only problem with this is that it is ridiculously difficult to get hold of this game from any western speaking auction site/shops so I have yet to find the funds to use an importing site to get hold of it.

**~Game play~**
The Gameplay in this installment of the Twilight syndrome is a mixture of sound novel elements and 2D exploration sequences. You use the D-pad to control the 3 characters and move them around the environment. The D-pad is also used for coosing the multiple choice answers, nothing groundbreaking but it works efficiently. The sprites reacted with there environment well and do not get stuck on any walls or other background items. The only problem that I have found with the control scheme is that when trying to select and search items on the back of the screen the character may exit the room if the door is on the back wall, I assume its just due to close hit detection areas between the door and the back items, even so it did not hinder the game too much. Twilight Syndrome does not feature a health gauge as such as there is no real attacking enemies, it uses a fright level which is a metre to show the girls heart rate which will affect the scenes and event that you will encounter depending on whether it is blue (calm), green (spooked), red (very frightened).

The sound in this game is similar to most sound novels in the way that it features background noise to set the scene for example at the park the is crows and crickets to show that it is at night or the school which features chattering students to show that the scene is taking place during school hours. Other then the usual sound effects the game is quite lacking there is no constant music in the background unless you have encountered a spirit or similar event. When the music is playing however it has a spooky vibe, highlighting the tension of the event and also creating a level of suspense and urgency. Though the use of silence is very effective in creating an eerie setting and sets up the events well. There is a small amount of voice elements used in the game from the occasional scream, evil laugh or short phrase. Thelargest amount of the speeches are during chapter 3 “M.F of the Music room” where the intro features a characters repeating a sentence over and over (though Im not going to spoil it for you ;p) and then when the main characters try to contact Fujita Mayuko mid-way through the level. All in all the voice acting where applyable is very good and helps the narractive have more of a human element to it.

The graphics featured in this game are quite unique as though they have the look of a 2D sidescroller they were actors on a blue screen altered to fit the ****of the game, because of this the animations are smooth and very realistic. The settings and landscapes are very dark and can be quite awkward to manoeuver around even with Yukari touchlight. The character design is affective and suits the setting of the game with it being a school. Each of the characters have there unique look and animation even down to a subtle change to the school uniform. The animations suit each of the girls’ personalities as Chisato is quite reserved so she walks with a more cautious manner, Mika being more childish and playful has a lighthearted walk cycle & Yukari being the leader often walks at the front leading the group with the torch.

My overall impression of this game is a very positive one, apart from the fact I am very parcial to japanese horror themed media I thought that the game brought a new twist on the sound novel/exploration genre. I am looking forward to delving deeper into the twilight syndrome series, which will most likely be twilight syndrome: Sakai which is the 3rd installment of the series and the newly released DS title just as soon as it pops through my letterbox. If you are interested in Japanese horror titles and can read japanese I would really recommend this game, but if your knowledge of japanese is not that strong I would not really advice it as the story and multiple choice answers will probably be lost in translation.

Storyline: 8
Game play: 8
Sound: 6
Graphics: 8

TOTAL: 8/10

**~:Engrish from the dust cover:~** (You’ve gotta Love Engrish ;D)
Yukari is usually leading and very calm but unexpected coward. Chisato is a childhood friend of Yukari, with a brilliant inspiration. And Mika, cheerful and innocent, is reliable with a lot of curiosity. In Summer of 1996, They go for the darkness to lookover gossips that are at their school and environs. Can you conduct them to a success, or end in a failure? The results will be waiting for you over thet door. Welcome to the world,”TWILIGHT SYNDROME”…


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