System(s): Windows (Also Mac and Linux)
Release Date: February 01, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Sakevisual
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for depictions of crime scenes and blood
Yousei is an interactive mystery novel where players follow the story and make certain decisions along the way. Think of it as a choose-your-own adventure that’s a little more interactive. Players guide a young man as he talks to people and finds clues to uncover the truth about a popular professor’s death. It’s a situation where people don’t know who to trust and who might be the real murderer.
Sakevisual has made a couple other interactive novel games like Yousei and this is actually the third game in the series. It is strongly recommended people play the other two games first, or at least the second game, Kansei, because this game picks up right from where it left off.
College life with a splash of murder!
Kangai is a special teenager with a special ability called “Kensei,” also known as spirit powers. His Kensei allows him to relive the death of any corpse he touches. Kangai and some other teenagers with Kensei are working with the police to solve a murder and their first lead is a local university. In order to find out more information, they disguise themselves as future college students who are interested in touring the facility. While they are there they end up caught in the middle of another murder that is linked to the first one.
Yousei starts out with a healthy dose of exposition, allowing players to make a few dialogue choices as they go. Honestly, I didn’t really get to do much for the first hour or so. After the murder, which happens about half way through the game, you are allowed to wander freely through the campus to talk to people and search for clues. How I made Kangai respond to people and how much information I had him choose to tell them effected how much they trusted him. If people to trust him, they give him more information, but could also get suspicious.
Yousei has four different endings – two character endings, one “false” ending, and one true ending. Players can get the endings in any order and the order really doesn’t matter because they all tell a different part of the story. The ending players get is determined by the trust relationship built up with the characters. Just remember to keep friends close and enemies closer!
Spirit Powers come with a price…
Yousei is rather short. I would say it lasts between 8-10 hours, if someone goes for every ending. Also, I didn’t get to interact with everything fully in the game until about an hour and a half into it. At first this bothered me, because I felt like I wasn’t doing much in the game, but the story was actually real enthralling and managed to keep my interest.
There are several important choices to during the first part of the game though that affect the ending, so don’t just blow off them off in order to get to the exploration aspect. Since there are multiple endings in Yousei, players should probably play the game more than once, which would mean having to read all the dialogue again. Fortunately, Sakevisual is aware of how monotonous this is and gives the option to skip with a fast-forward button. It will skip until it hits unseen dialogue or other option. I could even zoom through the text on my first playthrough, which I would not recommend unless someone is one of those “who cares about story” people. In which case, I wouldn’t recommend you play an interactive fiction game!
Another nice thing about Yousei is that you can save anytime, even right before a critical choice. This is nice for those times when you just know you made the wrong choice and want to go back. Also, if you have one of those fancy mice with the scroll bar, you can scroll back to previous parts of the game. There is also a quick save and load option as well, in case you have to make a decision, but know you’ll want to reload and see another option. This is done by pressing the floppy disc icon with a q on it to save, and the folder icon with a q on it next to it to load. I didn’t seem much point to it, since you can save at any time.
The one thing that bothered me about Yousei is that it doesn’t do a whole lot to fill you in on the events of the previous game or the characters’ background. I came into this game thinking it was a stand-alone, but then I was suddenly introduced to a girl who could communicate telepathically and a boy who has amnesia, with no explanation as to why. There are also a couple times when Kangai will mention events from the previous games, but only mention a few details. For instance, there was a rather important incident that occurred at a coffee shop in Jisei, but we really only hear about it a couple times and never fully get the details. There are some explanations of characters and events as you delve more into the game, but nothing is fully explained. A lot just has to be assumed from the context. I’d say it’s best to either play the previous two games, or accept that you’ll have to assume a lot in Yousei.
I do have to say that Yousei has some great voice acting. Each character has his or her own unique voice, however Kangai doesn’t have one since he is the main character. There’s that whole “the main character is your voice since you control him” thing they like to do in video games. I like the character art as well, and that each has different facial expressions depending on their reactions and moods. It helped me gauge how the choices I made effected them, which helped me determine the killer. It also helps create ambiance. Though the game, is mainly lighthearted and calm, there are a couple downright creepy parts and the character portraits and reactions help set the mood.
What made Yousei so fun and enjoyable was it’s cool voice acting, realistic characters, great story, multiple endings, and replay-ability. The story was well written and kept me guessing the entire time. The fact that I had to create a lot of my own theories about some of the events and characters and perhaps it’s relatively short play-time may did bug me, but overall I really enjoyed Yousei. It is definitely a visual novel and offers a casual experience, so people who prefer more interactive adventures may want to try a demo before getting into the game and series.