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Video Game / Kuon

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Hashizoroe, hashizoroe...

A 2004 Survival Horror game developed by FromSoftware and published by Agetec for the PlayStation 2, Kuon is based on ancient Japanese ghost stories. Set in Heian-era Kyoto, it tells the strange, dark and grisly tale of a cursed mansion and all the terrors that lurk within...

Much like Evergrace before it, Kuon has two parallel storylines ("phases" in this game), each with a different Player Character:

  • Utsuki, daughter of Doman, a disgraced court exorcist. Her phase is Yin, the Chapter of Shadow. She and her frail sister Kureha brave the mansion in search of their father, who has gone missing after being assigned to break the curse. She uses a dagger to defend herself, and can also use spells.
  • Sakuya, Doman's only female disciple. Her phase is Yang, the Chapter of Light. She and her fellow disciples, including her brother Doryo, are summoned to the mansion to investigate. She helps Utsuki on numerous occasions. She fights with a fan, and can perform spells and summonings.

If you complete both the Yin and Yang stages, then you can unlock the Kuon phase, which follows where the Cliffhanger left off. For the final chapter, you play as the legendary exorcist and Doman's bitter rival Abe-no-Seimei, as she (yes, she) takes it upon herself to solve the crisis once and for all. Her weapon is a spear, and she has unlimited magical ability. Only by completing the Kuon phase can you attain the Golden Ending.

The antagonists that our two protagonists face are the Gaki, the mansion's former inhabitants (or what remains of them) who have been turned into bloodthirsty ghouls that are randomly encountered throughout the game. Other characters include the owner of the mansion Lord Fujiwara, his wife, their daughter Ayako, the high priest of the local shrine, and the mysterious unnamed twins who crop up every now and then, either to deliver cryptic information or just generally be creepy.

The plot is developed through a series of reports, documents and diary extracts, and can prove pretty complex. However the setting, while chilling and bloody, is also beautiful and the suspense created by the music and lighting (or sometimes lack thereof) gives the game a great sense of depth.

This game provides examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Abe-no-Seimei, who shows up during the finale as a third playable character, ready to turn over the Downer Ending.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Doryo, when he's not being a jerkass, though he does help Sakuya occasionally and makes a point of how even he can be nice at times.
  • Already Undone for You: Particularly egregious in some cases, as the two leads are traversing roughly the same area at the same time, yet any area that they share will have the same puzzles, jumpscares, enemies, and in some cases boss fights, and this is all without mentioning how Doman and his disciples are getting around. Subverted with Seimei, who comes much later and is able to utilize some of the shortcuts that the other two unlocked, and others that are exclusive to her route. Possibly justified, as much of Utsuki's scenario is revealed to have been conjured up by her mind while she was in the process of merging with Kureha, so she wasn't physically going through the same spaces as Sakuya.
  • Animal Motifs: Unsurprisingly, silkworms, as mulberry trees and silk cocoons are involved.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Considering the plot involves a resurrecting curse, this happens to a lot of characters.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Meditation allows you to recover your health without wasting herbs. And since enemies won't chase you in other areas, you can always run away and recover if you're at a disadvantage.
  • Apocalyptic Log: A couple of the logs read like this, especially the servant boy's notes and Lady Fujiwara's diary pages.
  • Berserk Button: When one of the twins is killed by Sakuya, the remaining twin loses it. Sakuya shows up later, drenched in blood and near death, likely due to whatever the remaining twin did to her.
  • Body Horror: Your average Gaki is a small, bloated creature, half-rotten and covered in blood. But that doesn't compare to demons like the centipede-woman (who literally tears herself apart when she transforms) or the incomplete cocoons, which look like humans wrapped in silk that drag themselves across the ground, moaning pitifully. Most of the corpses are also horribly disfigured.
  • Break the Haughty: Dokai appears to be aloof, consescending and arrogant. By the time he's met again in the Mountain Shrine, he's visibly rotting and in panic, begging for his life and attacking Utsuki/Sakuya when cornered.
  • Came Back Wrong: What happens to whoever undertakes the merging process and has his cocoon break before its time or simply isn't fit.
  • Covert Pervert: Doman, who mentions in his notes that he intends to have Seimei whore herself to him.
  • Creepy Basement: The caves beneath the shrine function in this manner.
  • Creepy Centipedes: Lady Fujiwara's diary mentions waking up in a wicker chest with a centipede. Her log mentions her feeling something writhing inside her. When confronted in the Temple's Main Hall, she sprouts a giant centipede's body in lieu of her spine.
  • Creepy Twins: Do they need an explanation? They're actually the Kami (possibly) of the Mulberry trees.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Utsuki accidentally caused her sister's death when they were young, and has been living with the guilt ever since.
  • Dead All Along: Kureha, who died long before the start of the story and was resurrected.
  • Degraded Boss: The very first miniboss, Ennyo (the fleshy, shapeless thing dropping out of the cupboard in both chapters) is unique in both Yin and Yang chapters. Becomes a normal enemy in Kuon chapter.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: The Tsuchi Jogo summon creates an area of blackness: if a monster touches it, several pale arms will emerge, snatch the monster and drag him down to the Netherworld. If you walk in the middle of the Dream Room after unleashing the Tempest, this can happen to you too!
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: Doman, after going insane and creating the curse.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Downplayed, though if you play on Daydream (the easiest setting), then you'll find less spell tags, and with less variety.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Every single character, especially the women.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • The Adamushi, slug-like creatures composed of body parts wrapped in silk with a human head on top.
    • Ennyo is a grotesque mass of flesh, bodyparts, tentacles and silk cocoons.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: The twins are actually manifestations of a very special kind of mulberry tree, one of which found at Fujiwara Manor and the other at the Silkworm Shrine (Utsuki, Kureha, and Doman's home). Rather than fruit, they produce the eggs of silkworms who spin fragile cocoons that can temporarily bring dead people back to life. In order to keep from eventually dying again, the subject must be re-cocooned with another being, absorbing their "grudge" as nourishment. They need to absorb more powerful beings each time, culminating in the absorption of someone close to them. After nine times, the subject becomes a new mulberry fruit/tree, presuming they manage to survive this delicate process. Failures either die or become gaki.
  • The Fair Folk: The twins, who alternately give information and play dangerous pranks — such as shutting Sakuya in the room with a Gaki — act like this.
  • Femme Fatale: Kureha plays this to Doryo.
  • Finishing Stomp: Sakuya's finishing move.
  • Footprints of Muck: If a character walks through a puddle of blood, which happens often, they will leave bloody footprints. It later turns out to be a Chekhov's Gun of sorts; at one point in the game, if a character steps on a really obvious puddle in the middle of a room, it's an instant game over.
  • Fountain of Youth: At the end, Utsuki is seemingly reborn as a young girl, free to leave the shrine and manor with her wolf familiar… Subverted, however, as Word of God indicates that this isn't actually Utsuki, but basically a being like the Twins.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: Dokai, being scared beyond his wits, can only crawl on his back to get away from the protagonist while casting fire spells at them.
  • Gorn: And how! Blood covers the floors, the walls, the ceilings, and you can't walk down a hallway or into a room without finding at least one half-eaten dead body…
  • Grand Theft Me: In order to stay alive, Kureha merges with the bodies of others, including Fujiwara, Ayako, Doryo, Utsuki, and their father.
  • Golden Ending: Once you beat the Yin and Yang phases as Utsuki and Sakuya, respectively, a third phase titled Kuon opens up, allowing the player to scrap the Downer Ending of the preceding phases and get a more upbeat finale.
  • Harder Than Hard: Clearing the Kuon phase on any difficulty unlocks the ability to play on Insanity difficulty, which is the hardest difficulty.
  • Haunted Castle: The Fujiwara manor.
  • Healing Factor: If you're not engaged in combat, you can meditate to restore your health to top.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Whenever an enemy is near.
  • Hime Cut: Utsuki, Kureha, Ayako; all young Heian Period ladies.
  • Historical Gender Flip: The historical figure Abe-no-Seimei here is female. Something of a Gender Reveal, since the character is much discussed throughout the game, but it is only near the end that she is shown to be female.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Doman's entire plan involves using the Kuon curse, the Mulberry Kami, and his daughters to gain power over Seimei. Not only does Seimei defeat him and seal the Mulberry, but he's also absorbed by Utsuki as her ninth grudge, allowing Utsuki to break the cycle and be reborn.
  • Horror Hunger: The Gaki have a ferocious appetite for human flesh, particularly that of young girls… The diary of Lady Fujiwara is a rather creepy example of this.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Those suffering under the curse who do not regularly merge start feeling hunger for human flesh. No one, especially not family members, is safe.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The result of the Kuon curse on the inhabitants of the house, especially seen with the Fujiwara, Kureha, Doryo, and arguably Utsuki.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Sakuya's fan, made even more unusual by the fact that she can cut things with it.
  • Infinite Flashlight: Utsuki and Sakuya/Seimei use a candle on a string (for the former) and a lantern (for the latter two) that don't require any replacing or refueling from the start of their respective chapters.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Did you want to leap up a steep slope of uneven rocks one leg at a time? Go for it. That sparse, ankle-high pile of random household objects you could even push aside with your foot if you needed to? Out of the question. These sorts of paths and roadblocks are everywhere to a ridiculous degree. The heroines will regularly have to find a way around obstacles that they could simply walk through—not over, through.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: "Hashizoroe". The name refers to a ceremony where a child is fed with chopsticks for the first time. Scary, right?
  • Karmic Death: Doman, who is merged as Utsuki's final grudge after being defeated by Seimei.
  • Kill It with Fire: The most effective way to kill the demons. Or anybody, for that matter.
  • Kudzu Plot: Utsuki's and Sakuya's "phases" (Yin and Yang) take place roughly at the same time and go through more or less the same plot points, even having both characters solve the same puzzles, kill the same enemies, etc. However, their stories frequently intersect, and are neatly tied up by the epilogue. So both stories are canonical, and take place within the same timeline, even though they often contradict each other in terms of cause and effect. What's worse, even though both heroines share a number of scenes together, only a couple of these are shown in the Yin phase, making the timeline even more inconsistent.
  • Late to the Tragedy: Abe-no-Seimei. Also Utsuki, to a lesser degree, since her story picks up after Sakuya's and the other exorcists' arrival.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle: As a survival horror game, there are a lot of these. Most of them have to do with either planetary seals, which are locked until you get the specific bloodsoaked rag that unseals them, or mechanisms, which each require a one off item such as a chisel, spike, or lever.
  • MacGuffin Guardian:
    • Minor one, the Ennyo miniboss guards several items inside the cupboard it was sealed in.
    • A grotesquely mutated Lord Fujiwara guards the bell needed to call for Ayako.
    • In the Yang Chapter, a huge undead ape has taken residence in the hut where the Mallet is stored. Rather than fight it head on, Sakuya must patiently wait for the monster to leave the room before she can sneak in, retrieve the Mallet and leave.
  • Mad Onmyouji's Beautiful Daughters: Kureha and Utsuki, though they're not all they seem…
  • The Man Behind the Man: It's implied that the Twins (likely the kami of the Mulberry Trees) tricked Utsuki into killing her sister and putting her inside the wicker box, starting the cycle.
  • Maniac Monkeys: Mashira (huge, wild undead monkeys) are encountered by Sakuya as enemies. An even bigger one serves first as an obstacle in the mountain hut (you have to evade him to recover the Mallet or it will crush Sakuya istantly) and later fight in a proper boss battle.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Doman, who sends his remaining daughter, disciples, and all the inhabitants of the manor to their deaths just so he can try and prove he is more powerful than Seimei. The bastard!
  • Miko: Utsuki and Kureha could be considered this, since they are the daughters of the shrine and know how to use certain types of magic. They look the part as well. Seimei greatly resembles a miko.
  • Mind Screw: You have to play the game several times to get the plot straight, and even then it's near impossible.
  • Mirror Boss: In Sakuya's route, you must face against an undead Onmyouji, who can and will use the exact same spells you've been using all game.
  • No Name Given: The son of the Fujiwara family is never named at any point in the game.
  • Non-Human Undead: Aside from the Gaki, Ghosts, and Yamabito, there are also the Mizuhiki (venomous fishmen) and Mashira (murderous monkeys).
  • Notice This: Items shine brightly ala Resident Evil, and characters turn their heads towards them ala Silent Hill. Not to mention, meditating will highlight items.
  • Offing the Offspring: Doman manipulates Kureha into killing Utsuki. It's also implied that Lady Fujiwara killed her son in a fit of hunger.
  • Ominous Fog: Most of the outside areas are covered in creepy fog.
  • Ominous Buddhist Chanting: You hear a creepy one reverberating through the corridors of the Temple, fitting with the atmosphere. You later find out that's the actual priest of the temple chanting sutras while waiting for his death to come. When he dies, his sutra is soon replaced by the Twins' singing.
  • Oni: For a change, Seimei can summon two of them (Zenki and Goki) with her talismans.
  • Optional Stealth: You can either run or walk, but a note in-game advises you to almost never, ever run: while running allows you to move faster and outrun foes, walking makes much less noise, allowing you not only to sneak upon unsuspecting enemies, but also to keep enemies (especially Ghosts) at bay. Furthermore, Tempests will cause you to stumble with vertigo if you're running when they happen.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Corpses have an inordinate amount of blood in them. Trails go on and on…
  • Paper Talisman: How magic spells are performed.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Have an annoying habit of appearing every where you go, in chests and boxes, from behind doors, and even falling on top of you from above.
  • Playing Possum: Sometimes, Gaki and Yamabito will drop to the ground without dying, ready to stand up and attack again if left unchecked. The ruse is revealed by the lack of a blood puddle as they die.
  • Playing with Fire: Most spells are fire-based, and both Sakuya and Utsuki can find a fire-enchanted weapon.
  • Plucky Girl: Sakuya, who seems mostly unfazed by the curse or the creepy mansion, and calmly slaughters the Gaki left and right. Even Utsuki qualifies, since she continued searching for her father despite how afraid and alone she felt.
  • Purposefully Overpowered: Seimei is only playable for about the last hour, but is so much stronger than Utsuki or Sakuya it's like she's from a whole different game.
  • Recurring Boss: Utsuki's chapter has the yellow-robed man, encountered several times during the story. Sakuya's chapter has a skippable one in Kureha.
  • Recycled In SPACE: Resident Evil IN MEDIEVAL JAPAN. It's not subtle about it, either, with its mansion setting, Body Horror zombie enemies, and two (initial) player characters who roughly go through the same areas and fight the same bosses, but with different story sequences.
  • Rocket-Tag Gameplay: If the player clears any phase in the 9 hits mode (where the player can only be hit 9 times before death), they will unlock the 1 hit mode, where the player and every enemy in the game will die in a single hit.
  • Sanity Meter: Although it's less deep than some. As the characters exert themselves or are thrust into particularly haunted areas, the screen around the player starts to swirl, giving the sense that the characters are out of breath. This can be fixed through meditation, although if it happens in combat, then you are in trouble.
  • Save-Game Limits: The game gives the player a finite supply of Vessels (small paper boats with candles in them) to save the game with.
  • Save Point: Bodies of water where you can set your Vessels afloat at.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The demonic souls of the mulberry trees were sealed to prevent them from leaving their bodies. Naturally, they were released.
  • Shows Damage: Like Resident Evil, the "healthbar" is only shown in the menu, but your characters will actually show sign of discomfort when they drop at half health (Utsuki will raise a hand to her chest, Sakuya will cover her eyes) and both will undergo "Vertigo" when near death.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Seimei gives a particularly good one to one of the twins, punctuated by sealing the tree that is their true form.
  • Skippable Boss: Kureha, when merged with Doryo. It is possible to kill her, but you can just run away from her or, in one case, hide inside a chest.
  • Staking the Loved One: Sakuya is forced to destroy her brother after he is affected by the curse.
  • The Stoic: Sakuya. And especially Seimei, who remains serene even under horrific circumstances.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Kureha under the influence of the curse greatly resembles one of these.
  • Summon Magic: Used to summon familiars, including Utsuki's wolf Saiga. Some of them, like Sutegumo and Kugutsu Onna, actively search and attack enemies, while others have unusual roles: Tsuchi Jogo acts kinda like a land mine, dragging a single non-boss enemy to hell, while Mari is a living Action Bomb.
  • Tested on Humans: Doman has been using the lives of innocent people to learn everything he can about the Kuon curse so he one-up the other diviners in the city.
  • Unreliable Narrator: It's implied by several missing sequences and at least one instance where Sakuya's brother goes with her in Sakuya's route that Utsuki's version of events is the least accurate. Particularly after she merges with Kureha.
  • The Virus: The Kuon curse, which is passed from person to person and causes them to go mad and devour other humans. Unless they merge with their victims, they will eventually perish, and merging successfully nine times will supposedly break the curse.
  • Was Once a Man: Yamabito had it easy, but amongst the failures produced by the cocoons we have the grotesque, bloated Gaki, the animalistic, fish-like Mizuhiki, the slug-like Adamushi, and the pathetic-looking mass of slithering flesh known as Ennyo.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Adamushi can be easily disposed of with a well-aimed Tsuchi Jogo spell.
  • Wham Line: In the Yin Chapter, upon finding Kureha's bloodstained diary, a cutscene plays before and after reading it, and we see Utsuki grabbing a brush and add another page. The page declares that Utsuki has been killed by Kureha, and now she will merge with her.
  • Youkai: Gaki are commonly encountered as standard enemies, and so are ghosts, though most of the other enemies are original creations. The twins are something akin to Kodama, evil Kodama, or simply Mulberry Kami.
  • You Have to Burn the Web: Subverted. The silk webs can only be destroyed using a special item, despite you carrying a flaming knife/fan and fire talismans.
  • Zombie Gait: The Gaki move like this. At least the ones that have legs do…


Video Example(s):


That's what backups are for!

During his review of Kuon, Nitrorad's disk suddenly gave out within minutes of starting the game. He then whips out a backup copy and discusses how playing legitimately nowadays is shelling out more than a thousand dollars for a disk that he just showed would most likely fail to play in a decade or so. This gives a good lesson on why people keep circulating the tapes.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (24 votes)

Example of:

Main / KeepCirculatingTheTapes

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