Paranormalizer: The Seven Secrets of Honjo this is not your average a visual novel. Square Enix’s game has some weird concepts, including breaking the fourth wall to manipulate character actions and literally turning off the sound by turning off voices in the options menu, to name just two of the weirder features (and a major plot twist is discussed in this article, so beware if you plan to play Paranormasight).

However, in the beginning, Paranormasight looks like a normal visual novel in which the player works to prevent a curse from taking the lives of the people of Tokyo. Writer-director Takaya Ishiyama explains that this was actually the starting point for Paranormasight. “First I decided what the ultimate goal of the game would be, and then I started planning the broad elements I needed to include, like the Seven Mysteries,” he explains.

Paranormasight is divided into five “routes”, with a different character leading each path and offering a different perspective on the events surrounding Tokyo as the characters work to retrieve the deadly Curse Stones and prevent the murders. Aligning the five story paths was a trial-and-error process for Ishiyama, as stories would sometimes “derail” from the ultimate goal, requiring him to go back and smooth things out. “I always start out thinking I’m going to create a well-organized story, but it never happens,” says Ishiyama. “It always ends up being a messy job trying to make every scene connect in a way that makes it interesting.” With several main characters and a wide supporting cast pacing Paranormasight, it’s little wonder the game’s plot moves along so smoothly.

Another subversive element is the Paranormasight, which allows the player to explore their surroundings in 360 degrees. Visual novels usually place the player in front of a static 2D image, and while you can view that image at will, you won’t be able to look behind you or stretch your vision to see if there are any curses near you (because Paranormasight definitely is). After assembling the team at Square Enix, Ishiyama knew he wanted to include “a new and unique control scheme and visual style”. The concept of 360-degree visuals was embraced by Ishiyama when it was presented to him, mainly because it “seemed like it could be an interesting format for players” and also because it “makes the story of the Seven Secrets of Honjo so distinctive. ” throughout Paranormasight.

The elusive masked man in Paranormasight The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

Convenient file information system in Paranormasight The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

This feature also helped give Paranormasight a sense of “realism,” according to Ishiyama. Allowing the player to look around gives Paranormasight what it calls a “unique visual style”, which was achieved by processing multiple photos of locations together to create one huge panorama of the area. I guess it’s a bit like iPhone photography, which allows people to scan their surroundings from one spot to take a stunningly wide panoramic photo of a dog with an oddly long body, except that the end result looks choppy.

But this breaking of the fourth wall is perhaps Paranormasight’s most shocking factor. In one instance, you need to save the game to reassure another character that you remember a dead former friend, and as I mentioned, another scene requires the player to completely turn off the game’s voice volume in the menu to stop the curse from reaching the character through its deadly voice. In fact, Ishiyama believes there are “a lot of games today” that break the fourth wall, including “metafiction,” and the director wanted to subvert that in Paranormasight. It turns out that gambits like memorizing Michio with a save function were deliberate metafictional red herrings designed to trick the player into thinking they are playing a metafictional play that breaks the fourth wall and connects directly with them .

A shocked young girl points to something off-screen in Paranormasight The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo

This is all usurped by the grand reveal that the player is not influencing the story, but rather playing the role of an established character involved in the main plot of Paranormasight. It’s as exciting a discovery as it is brain-wrenching, and to be honest, it takes a long time to process. I’ll admit, I thought I’d play an active role in Paranormasight’s story for the majority of the game, so Ishiyama took me fair and square.

Aside from all that, Paranormasight is an amazing milestone for Ishiyama, being his first game to receive a Western localization. Ishiyama may have been with Square Enix since 2005, working on Final Fantasy 12: Revenant Wing and Blood Of Bahamut among other projects, but Paranormasight marks his first English-language release. This is the director’s main impression from the public reception of Paranormasight – that his game is finally “well received outside of Japan”. “I really appreciate everyone who worked on the localization for doing such a great job,” says Ishiyama, adding that Square Enix is ​​”very pleased” with how Paranormasight is selling so far. This brilliant, subversive visual novel seems to have found a well-deserved audience around the world.