Spirit Hunter NG Review – Scarily Beautiful
Platforms: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PS Vita
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release: 10th October 2019
Experience’s first horror visual novel, now titled Spirit Hunter Death Mark was one of my most pleasant surprises of last year. Advertising itself with truly beautiful, gruesome art, great designs and an intriguing mix of visual novel and point and click influences, it delivered on all that and offered a horror experience that just clicked. Now with the follow-up I’m happy to say, it’s even better.
Instead of being ordered around by a doll in a game about our own life and death, Spirit Hunter NG tells the tale of Akira who has to save his sister Ami. An evil spirit called Kakuya took control over her and if he doesn’t obey, Akira’s sister will die, forcing him on a similar journey than Death Mark of exorcising the roaming vengeful spirits before they can inflict more harm than they already have.
With its 10-20 hours length, Spirit Hunter NG is more structured as an episodic adventure with an overarching narrative to connect the dots. However, in comparion to the predecessor, nearly all stories and the whole setting in general became a lot more appealing, at least for me. While the mansion and mysterious doll worked good enough, the more personal approach to the characters motivation just feels a whole lot more genuine and fascinating, since all characters have some sort of thing they want to protect, which is explained in some more detail here as well.
On the other hand, the spirit stories themselves feel more “real” this time around, due to multiple aspects. For one, their backstories too simply became a bit more fascinating. They were already rooted in Japanese folklore but either Experience picked more interesting stories as a base this time around or simply came up with better ways to integrate those references, the way those spirit act and how their behaviour is routed in their story is more intertwined and connected. They actually get a lot more character through the exploration and hints you find throughout their haunting grounds, so when you’re facing them in the end, they also invoke a more real threat.
On the other hand, the gameplay sections are just more fun and scarier as a result, surprisingly. Players of the first game will now Spirit Hunter throws point and click passages into the mix, in which you explore the haunted space of the ghost and try to find out what haunts them or why they turned into those brutal monsters. Personally, I found Death Mark a bit less obvious when it comes to communicating important spaces to the player, leading to way more downtime than in the now released Spirit Hunter NG. Maybe due to the more striking colours or more unique design of the rooms, I just had less problems actually finding the items, making each level way more dense in terms of atmosphere. Still, it remains a rather barebones and pixel-precise implementation I didn’t need to have fun with the overall story.
As I hinted multiple times though, the true reason why Spirit Hunter NG is actually a far more impressive experience (by Experience) is the bigger in scope art and generally more gruesome imagery. The story is full of brutal deaths, disgusting moments and really frightening imagery in general since the NG in particular doesn’t shy away from even sexualized brutality and is, compared to Death Mark, more daring and even more frightening, able to truly convey why these ghosts are so dangerous. On top of that, all designs are way more unique as well but still presented in he unique artstyle I came to love this series for, featuring a fascinating mix between sharp lines, blurring colours and the nerve to portray those scenes with the needed care.
In the end, Spirit Hunter NG is an improvement in basically every way, albeit not a big one. It’s still an immensely satisfying and gruesome horror game and I came to appreciate this entry even more for it.
[A Review Code was provided by Aksys Games]