Fans of the first will find more of the same here.
What They Say:
Face the nightmares you thought were merely urban legends. Use your wits and trusty flashlight to search for clues to your sister’s disappearance. Team up with shady characters to uncover a dark mystery, making deadly decisions just to survive. The choices you make determine your fate and affect the lives of everyone around you.
My thoughts on Spirit Hunter: NG are a little mixed, to say the least, but are good overall. If you didn’t read my original review of this sequel’s predecessor Death Mark, go ahead and take a gander at that one first. In fact, don’t even bother with this review if you never played the original.
When Death Mark originally came out, I was surprised given the fact that, though I am a fan of darker visual novels, I’m not a fan of horror for the most part. Though the game didn’t fail to deliver on the scares, its well-written plot and characters were enough to be one of my favorite games of last year.
What’s good about Spirit Hunter: NG is that developer Experience delivered on fixing most of the, albeit few, issues that I had with the original but, at the same time, made some more unnecessary changes that ended up making this sequel feel more lackluster than it should have.
That isn’t to say it is a bad game, though. The game begins with you playing as a young protagonist who lives on his own and the only family that he has is his best friend, aunt, and young cousin who is a lot like a little sister to him.
Without going too much into the spoilers, his sister quickly disappears after a string of deadly events that send the main character on a search for her. In a lot of ways, Spirit Hunter: NG takes a more realistic approach to its horror than in the original with a massive focus on scares in more normal ways.
Instead of the abandoned, creepy school and so on from the first game, this is one where you have to deal with more normal situations like scares in your own home, a standard public park, and so on. Even though there is more of an emphasis on the realistic, this is still a very supernatural game that is filled to the brim with evil spirits, curses, and the like.
The switch to more realistic areas for the horror sections is an understandable decision to shake things up but it did leave a bit to be desired in the long run. Sure, the creepy alley is creepy but it didn’t give me that unnerving feeling that the terrifying forest or any of the other locations from the original did.
This leaves almost all of the scares to the spirits themselves, which are just as ugly and horrifying as ever before. Even though there isn’t the gimmicky nature of the death marks that I actually really liked in the last game, this is replaced by a more central villain to the overarching story.
Early on, you meet an evil spirit that seems to want nothing more than to ruin the protagonist’s life. It is an odd decision to make this game have more of a main boss character to aim all of your anger and fear towards but it’s one that actually worked really well.
She is equal parts stunning and terrifying, having enough time in the game dedicated to her to make her feel valuable to the story. The same can be said for the characters that you’ll encounter and partner up with throughout the game as well.
The cast this time around does feel like they are more developed than before, allowing you to spend more time with them in the process. This is a very welcome change but the problem is that the characters themselves aren’t that interesting for the most part.
There are a couple of solid ones, including gothic idol girl but that’s about it, making the time spent with them not nearly as rewarding as it could have been. In addition, it doesn’t help that the story doesn’t feel as engaging or tense as the original title.
What this did was only highlight some of the issues that the original game had with its repetition and formulaic nature, though, it isn’t nearly as guilty of this. Sure, the story flows a bit more realistically and organically this time around but this doesn’t help too much with the simply passable and predictable writing.
This goes for the art of the game as well. It still contains the classic, stylized horror anime feel from before but the characters, in particular, feel a bit like a couple of steps backwards in both design and detail.
However, the gameplay is largely the same and is, in fact, a lot more clear this time around, alleviating much of the frustration around the choices you make and searching for items in areas. Thankfully, the game even telegraphs that it is possible to lose someone due to your choices more clearly than in the original where you had to figure it all out on your own.
In this way, I did feel a lot less inclined to use a walkthrough for it since it is so familiar to players who played the original. The only two new things this time around gameplay-wise is the option to select your facial expression for responding to characters at certain moments and reading blood.
The former is pretty useless, just letting you select between five different facial expressions that change the other character’s immediate response but does almost nothing for the story, while the latter is more integral to the plot.
The main character is capable of touching blood and seeing the last moments of what made that blood appear there. This allows for seeing a victim or spirit’s final moments, and getting a clearer picture of what’s going on.
What will be welcome for some players, though, is the addition of some much-needed accessibility options. You are now able to turn down the scares if you aren’t a fan of jump scares or even turn them up to the highest setting if you want the most scares.
This is great since Death Mark had everyone on the same page. I, being a wuss, kept everything at the default normal setting and still found the game pretty spooky but a little bit less so than the first title overall so you may want to turn it up or down, depending on your preference.
Spirit Hunter: NG is a mixed sequel that takes the excellent concept of Death Mark and makes a few notable changes. While the story and characters have more detail and flow better, the more “normal” settings aren’t nearly as interesting or scary. It doesn’t help that the formulaic nature of the game returns for a round two either. However, that isn’t to say Spirit Hunter: NG isn’t worth checking out because it is still a good horror game with some spooky moments and a centralized villain who ties the package together nicely, making this game yet another solid Halloween fix.
Publisher: Aksys Games
Age Rating: 17+
Release Date: October 10, 2019
Platform: Switch (reviewed), PS4, Vita, PC
This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.