Being caught at the scene of a crime is never a good move, especially if the crime is murder. For the unnamed protagonist in visual novel Jisei, this particular situation seems to happen quite a lot.
Jisei delves into the mystery of a seemingly random murder, and one boy’s supernatural ability to relive the death of any body he touches. It’s a gorgeous tale with full voice-acting, but one that is much too short and doesn’t give the player enough input.
Waking up in a small coffee shop, a young teenager struggles to work out who is he and how he got there. Stumbling into the bathroom, he finds a dead body on the floor and is instantly branded as the prime suspect. Your task is to gather clues, talk to witnesses and find the real culprit.
This isn’t a new scenario for our mysterious hero, however, as he has a rather special power – when he touches a corpse, he can relive the last few moments of their death and see exactly how they died. As a death is occurring, he also feels extreme headaches, letting him know that something bad has happened nearby.
Unfortunately, due to his power, he’s frequently found cowering over dead bodies, and this instance is no different. Rather than arrest him, however, the detective allows him to talk with witnesses and attempt to clear his name.
Of course, it’s never that easy. All three witnesses appear innocent at first, but slowly start to show their darker sides as you ask questions. Finding the killer will take all your skills of deduction.
Instantly noticeable is the gorgeous art and character design. Jisei features static images rather than animation, but it’s all a joy to behold. The dialogue is also fully voiced with top-quality voice-acting. This combination of lovingly crafted visuals and spoken dialogue makes for some really immersive play.
The story is top-notch too, and will keep you guessing until the very end. Details are given away slowly but surely, and spotting the subtle hints is the difference between making the wrong accusation and the correct one. The mystery shrouding the main character’s past is also a nice touch and adds an element of intrigue to the whole ordeal.
However, the story’s implementation is another kettle of fish. While Jisei is touted as a ‘visual novel’ and hence should be taken as more of an interactive story rather than a game, there just isn’t enough interaction available. The player’s input mainly consists of clicking through reams and reams of dialogue, and there are only around half a dozen moments when the player is asked to make a decision that will affect the final outcome.
This lack of input made the experience a lot less immersive, and it eventually felt like I was simply talking to everyone available, then moving onto the next area and talking to everyone there, and repeat until fin. Letting the player feel that they are making an impact on the story is essential to the visual novel concept, and Jisei simply does not bring the player into the action enough.
The points at which user input are involved are sometimes rather confusing, too. During play, a bad decision caused one of the characters to turn on me, and my game was over. Due to this, I assumed throughout my entire next playthrough that this character was the killer – yet when I reached the end, it turned out it was not. Why this other person decided to kill me in my previous playthrough is then never explained.
My final, major gripe with Jisei is the length. A single playthrough will take around 30-50 minutes, and there aren’t really enough variations on the main storyline to render multiple plays worthwhile. It feels like it’s all over much too quickly and most people will feel quite short-changed.
Jisei looks and sounds the part, but is ultimately let down by a lack of player involvement and content. Those looking for a visual novel fix should probably look elsewhere – if you’re still intrigued, however, there is a demo available for download.