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Visual Novel / PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

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How far would you go to bring someone back from the dead?

"What if you had one chance to use the secret art of resurrecting the dead? Yes, if you had the power to bring someone back to life, one time and one time only...! What would you do, <Player>?"
The Storyteller

PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a horror visual novel developed and published by Square Enix. It was released on March 8, 2023 for Windows PC on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.

In an unknown location, a mysterious old man calling himself the Storyteller decides to use his old color television to tell you, the player, a story from a past era, when color television was a new thing and people used pay phones to call each other.

Honjo, a part of the Sumida Ward of Tokyo, is known for a series of strange happenings that would become known as "The Seven Mysteries of Honjo" (though there are actually nine, but seven sounds cooler). It is said that the Seven Mysteries are connected to something known as the Rite of Resurrection, a ritual that can supposedly bring someone back to life.

In the late 20th century, four individuals begin looking into the Seven Mysteries and the Rite of Resurrection:

  • Shogo Okiie, an office worker who gets drawn into investigating the Mysteries by his occult-obsessed friend Yoko Fukunaga.
  • Harue Shigima, a housewife who is seeking revenge on the criminal who abducted and murdered her son, and hires flashy private detective Ritcher Kai to help her find out the truth behind the incident.
  • Tetsuo Tsutsumi, a police detective who is working with his younger partner Jun Erio to solve a series of mysterious deaths that have occurred in Honjo.
  • Yakko Sakazaki, a high school student who works with her friend and classmate, Mio Kurosuzu, to uncover the truth behind the supposed suicide of her other friend, Michiyo Shiraishi.

The four each encounter one of the spirits behind one of the Mysteries, and become Curse Bearers, wielders of a charm who are commanded to seek out and kill other Curse Bearers in a twisted competition to take the souls of their victims, turning them into soul dregs. Whoever completely fills up their curse stone with soul dregs will gain the ability to perform the Rite. Each Bearer gains a Curse related to their respective Mystery, which will allow them to kill other Curse Bearers only if the victim fulfills certain conditions different for each Curse. As each investigator looks into the Seven Mysteries and tracks down the Curse Bearers, they soon begin to unearth several dreadful secrets about the history of Honjo... and you are tasked with guiding them all.

Gameplay consists of a Point And Click interface where the player clicks on certain objects to interact with them. You will interact with both fixed scenes and scenes where you can rotate the screen at an angle to see different things around you. You start off guiding Shogo, then once you unlock the other three protagonists, you will be required to switch between their scenarios and make decisions that can affect the other storylines. Some decisions can also potentially lead you to death, so choose wisely. In addition, you will also have to solve several puzzles along the way, some of which require you to help the characters From Beyond the Fourth Wall.

This work provides examples of:

  • The '80s: The game's setting, as evidenced by several characters' fashion and hairstyles, social issues such as sukeban, the occult interest boom, and the use of phone booths and fax machines.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Is Ayame actually the reincarnation of Nejima's lover Shino, or was she a normal baby that Nejima deluded himself into believing otherwise? If it's the latter, was Ayame his and Shino's birth daughter, or another baby that Nejima simply found abandoned like he claimed at his arrest? Both Tsutsumi and Ayame believe Nejima is the latter's real father, but considering the supernatural environment of the story, it's not completely certain.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different:
    • Much of the game focuses on its rotating cast, but the route of "???", or Mayu Chozawa, acts as a single chapter addition that shakes up the main narrative.
    • In Ending 5, you briefly play as Erio while piecing together the origin of the Seven Mysteries with Mio.
  • Anyone Can Die: Almost every character in the story dies in at least one route or ending.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Curse Stones are netsuke carvings that have been imbued by powerful curses. Those who wield a Curse Stone can kill people using those curses, filling the Curse Stone with soul dregs to power the Rite of Resurrection.
  • Asshole Victim: Michiyo's victims are absolutely horrible people. Jonouchi is a sexual predator who assaulted Michiyo and blackmailed her into shutting up about it. Iwai is a complete lowlife who routinely abused his wife and stepdaughter, later forcing them to take part in kidnapping and murdering a child in order to satiate his greed and petty grudge against the police. As such, no one in the audience feels bad when Michiyo kills them from beyond the grave. Somewhat downplayed in the case of Namigaki. While not as bad as the other two (Ayame did need to talk him into participating in the Rite of Resurrection at the very least), he still did cause Michiyo's death via his own negligence and took an unnamed person's life while seeking the Rite of Resurrection. And also he's just generally a huge dick.
  • Big Bad: Fumichika Nejima, the ex-con Curse Bearer holding the One-Sided Reed, is the mastermind behind the Feast of Shadows and the Deadly Game the other Curse Bearers are forced into who intends on getting revenge on everyone who put him away and causing a massacre in Honjo to revive his dead lover... or so it seems, until it turns out he was being used by the real mastermind, Yoko Fukunaga, who wants to revive her ancestor Lady Ashino and bring glory back to her bloodline.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The true ending. Yoko is killed before any of the game's conflict can truly begin, and for the most part this is a good thing, for Harue and the detectives especially, but consequently, the general events of the majority of the game don't happen. Mayu doesn't receive the same closure for Hajime's death and how much Richter will be able to find to amend that is unclear, Erio doesn't learn about the paranormal so he's more suspect of Tsutsumi's secrets, and the detectives (aside from Mio) don't seem to become friends with Yakko like they do in the "main" route. In addition, she wasn't killed before she could off Hajime, Mayu's fiance, meaning she will still need to deal with the pain of her lost love.
  • Bookends: In the first branch at the beginning of the game, Yoko dies and Shogo collects soul dregs to resurrect her. That doesn't end well, and the Story Chart opens up to a different route. Yoko is revealed to be the Big Bad at the end of the main story, and the secret ending is achieved by returning to the route in which she died.
  • Buddy Cop Show: Tsutsumi and Erio are every bit of the classic "wise-guy and straight-man" detective duo.
  • But Thou Must!: While playing as Shogo, the Whispering Canal will still activate even if the player intentionally avoids pressing the "Curse" button. It's actually a case of Gameplay Story Integration, as Shogo himself is choosing to activate the curse, not the player.
  • Collection Sidequest: There are twenty Mocking Birds stickers hidden throughout the game. Finding them is optional but will unlock achievements as you find more.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: The main ending, Conclusion. Yoshimi's murder remains unsolved, Tsutsumi sacrifices his life to get the talisman from Ayame, and Shogo is still dead, but Erio and Mio discover how to perform the Rite of Cleansing to fix everything... only for Yoko to reveal herself as the mastermind, kill them with a curse, and get away scot-free with nobody left to oppose them. That said, while Erio and Mio can't perform the Rite, there's nothing saying ''you'' can't perform the rite yourself.
  • Death of a Child: Harue's storyline revolves around her seeking out the truth of her son's kidnapping and subsequent murder while also pursuing the Rite of Resurrection as a way to bring him back.
  • Deliberate VHS Quality: The game uses grainy VHS effects to emphasize the framing device of the player watching the events unfold on an old color television.
  • Deuteragonist: Each of the playable charactersnote  is accompanied by a partner throughout their route. Shogo is accompanied by Yoko (Even if she spends most of it dead), Harue is accompanied by Richter, Tsutsumi is accompanied by Erio, and Yakko is accompanied by Mio.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: During the first scene in Yakko's plotline when she and Mio use the spirit board, they ask the spirit if it knows Mio's name, after which Mio's following remark is translated as "it even uses that weird character you use to spell your name." This is doubly nonsensical because not only were they talking about Mio's name and not Yakko's, but the "weird character" in question is the を/ヲ (wo kana, which is pronounced the same as the お/オ o kana) which has no equivalent in English, rendering the comment untranslatable, particularly since the localization changes the original spirit board scene from the Hiragana syllabary and Kanji numerals to the Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Erio and Mio can meet someone at Kinshibori Park acting uncharacteristically repulsive, asking the duo if they want to buy food trash for 10,000 yen and saying they're going to start a picnic right where they're standing. It's almost as if Yoko is deliberately trying to get the two to leave, thus triggering the Whispering Canal's condition. Sure enough, Erio and Mio drown to death not ten seconds later, unveiling Yoko as the real mastermind.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Before the story starts, a television news report reveals that Shogo dies by drowning. He dies at the end of the prologue chapter after saving Yoko. It's later subverted; after the main story, the player has the knowledge to prevent Shogo's death and get the secret ending.
  • Foreshadowing: It's a mystery VN, so there's plenty:
    • Richter warns Shogo against giving out his personal information like his name and age or his occupation, saying that it's more valuable than he might think. The One-Sided Reed's condition is fulfilled by the bearer having specific information on the victim such as their name and age, their occupation, their address, and their current location. In short, the exact kind of information most easily handed out carelessly.
    • Yoko's freaked out by something behind Shogo. When he turns around, he doesn't see anything. That's because she's tricking him into turning away so that she can kill him with the Whispering Canal.
    • The first time you meet Richter, he asks Shogo if he's carrying a lighter despite seemingly not being a smoker. He's working for Harue, who bears the Haunting Clappers which kill anyone carrying a source of fire, and he's checking if Shogo is vulnerable.
    • When looking around the park while talking to Takumi, Shogo can see what looks like a mysterious Will-O-Wisp. Takumi blows it off as being someone else's Curse Echo, but nobody else is around. No other living person, anyway. It's the Curse Echo of the Beckoning Light, which belongs to you at that point.
    • Harue, Tsutsumi and Yakko start their journeys by having visions of ghosts commanding them to kill, then finding themselves with a Curse Stone on their hands. Shogo, instead, finds a Curse Stone near Yoko's corpse and only then has such a vision, indicating that he wasn't that stone's Curse Bearer. It also indicates who was the actual Curse Bearer - that is, the person fallen right next to the Curse Stone.
    • Mio describes possession as a spirit subtly influencing someone's decisions, and that someone who's possessed may not even realize they're acting out of the ordinary. It's no coincidence that she's discussing this with Yakko, who's currently unknowingly possessed by the spirit of Michiyo. Near the end we also learn Mio can see the player when you start following a point of view character, so she knew she was talking to a doubly-possessed person at the time and was helping you recognize that’s what you were doing to help them avoid bad ends.
    • When Mayu acquires the Beckoning Light Curse Stone, it's the only time we see where the Curse Echo doesn't command the bearer to kill, unlike the other times we see when someone acquires a Curse Stone. This is the first indication of the true nature behind the Beckoning Light's Curse Echo and how it wants to stop the Rite of Resurrection.
    • The Storyteller's opening monologue has wording that's very important to later parts of the game, such as specifically saying to use the voice volume "if there is a voice you would prefer not to hear" when talking about the settings menu (hinting at how to stop the curse of the Foot Washing Mansion). More significantly, he mentions "devices such as [a color TV] that do not exist in the age you are from", seemingly referring to the modern age and its more advanced TVs but actually referencing how Seiman, the Player Character, is from long before they were invented. The Storyteller even speaks as if he was asked about the TV by Seiman.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: One that takes almost the entire game to reveal itself. Throughout the game, the Storyteller is seemingly a Fourth-Wall Observer who directly addresses the player, but a late game twist reveals he was speaking to Seiman the whole time.
  • From Beyond the Fourth Wall: Several puzzles require the player to do something outside of the confines of the main game interface. For example, the first such puzzle is the first confrontation with Yutaro, who has a curse echo that kills anyone who hears it. The solution is to go in the menu and turn the otherwise-useless Voice setting to 0. Another puzzle requires you to save the game manually.
  • Genre Shift: The first two hours are a sort of death game where the player, acting as Shogo, is pitted against various curse bearers in order to bring Yoko back from the dead. After Shogo does so and subsequently dies, the player is able to go back and undo Yoko's death. Shogo then dies again, and from that point on the game turns into a mystery that follows the previously-encountered curse bearers.
  • Human Sacrifice:
    • As a prerequisite to performing the Rite of Resurrection, a Curse Bearer needs to fill their Curse Stone with the soul dregs produced when someone is killed with a curse. Killing a Curse Bearer yields significantly more soul dregs than an ordinary person, meaning Curse Bearers are the most ideal target.
    • In an attempt to bring his lover Shino back from the dead, Nejima attempted a resurrection spell that required the murder and dismemberment of a young woman. He attempted to use this spell four times, resulting in the serial killings known as the Nejima Murders.
    • The kidnapping of Shuichi Shigima was done in an attempt to use the boy as a sacrifice in order to use a Black Magic spell that would restore youth.
  • Inspiration Nod: The game's style and aesthetic is highly reminiscent of Famicom Detective Club (and, by extension, The Portopia Serial Murder Case), reflected not only by these general notions, but by one rather spoilery detail for any who realize this: In all of these games, the very first person you see when you start the game proper, who starts out acting friendly and helpful towards the protagonist, is revealed in the endgame to be the Big Bad.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Haunting Clappers Curse Stone allows its Curse Bearer to kill anyone who has a fire or some sort of fire-starting device on their person. Weaponized by Harue in one ending, when she lights Ayame's dress on fire while she's still wearing it to trigger the Curse's condition. After all, they just need to possess fire - it doesn't matter how they got it.
  • Luck-Based Mission: While most of the Mocking Birds stickers can be found by examining the environment, two of them can only be found when Richter goes to Candy Shop Sennoya to try out the lottery. Every time you examine Richter during that scene, there is a chance that he may find one of the stickers.
  • Mad Artist: What Ayame ultimately becomes should she succeed in her goals.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Carelessness will get your controllable character killed in any number of horrible ways courtesy of the Curse Echoes. They can drown on land, spontaneously combust, be crushed by a gigantic foot, have their stomach torn open, be pummeled by an invisible taiko drum...
  • Mugging the Monster: Nejima manages to avoid capture at Komagata Bridge by taking Tomoe hostage after spotting her in the crowd, preventing Tsutsumi from intervening. Not realizing that the woman he pick up is a fellow curse bearer, he ends up getting beaten to death and having his cursed stone stolen as a result.
  • Multiple Endings: In addition to the main ending and the numerous deaths, at more than a few branches in the story a character can definitively achieve their goal, unlocking a new ending complete with credit rolls. There's also the secret ending, unlocked by putting together clues from throughout the game after seeing the main ending and performing the a certain ritual.
    • Obligation Fulfilled: Shogo successfully collects the soul dregs required for the Rite of Resurrection. When he attempts to activate it, he's seemingly killed by his own curse.
    • Harue's Legacy: Harue murders Ayame with the Haunting Clappers and takes her curse stone. With the requisite soul dregs attained, she resurrects her son. After a timeskip, Richter is shown working at his agency reminiscing about how supernatural legends were real after all.
    • Ayame's Aspiration: Ayame murders Harue for her curse stone. It turns out that due to how long ago famous ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai died and the lack of a body, she needs far more soul dregs to resurrect him than for anyone who died recently. To compensate, she uses the One-Sided Reed she stole from Nejima to go on an unsolvable killing spree via finding their information from phone books - starting with Tsutsumi. Soon after the killings stop, a female ukiyo-e artist bursts onto the art scene introducing herself as the Mysterious Mad Paintress and is quickly hailed as a modern reincarnation of the great Hokusai.
    • Nejima's Reminiscence: Nejima escapes from Tsutsumi and Erio on the Komagata Bridge after having threatened to commit a massacre. True to his word, at sundown he uses the One-Sided Reed to slaughter half of the students of Komagata High School and Tsutsumi's daughter as well. The killing sets off a chain of panic that plunges society into complete and utter pandaemonium. Unable to bear the blame of the people, Tsutsumi quits the police. Nejima gets away scot-free, having successfully destroyed Tsutsumi. Though it's unsure what he used his soul dregs for, later reports indicate he devoted himself to his master, a woman called Lady Ashino.
    • Michiyo's Grudge: Michiyo, possessing Yakko, lures Namigaki to a bridge and tells him he's "too late." It's implied she kills him, and due to her subsequent absence Nejima uses the One-Sided Reed to commit mass murder. Yakko is never heard from again.
    • Conclusion: The main chapter, unlocked by seeing the story to its... well, conclusion.
    • The Secret Ending / True Ending, received after the player is not satisfied with the "conclusion" ending and takes matters to their own hands.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Though they are called the "Seven Mysteries of Honjo," there are actually nine mysteries. Yoko mentions that "Seven Mysteries" flows better for most people than "Nine Mysteries," which is why the name persists despite the inaccuracy.
  • Occult Detective: An interestingly executed instance of the trope across the various characters it covers; Tsutsumi and Mio quickly reveal that they are affiliated with a section of the police force known as the Paranormal Affairs Bureau which deals with supernatural threats, but whose existence is kept secret from the public and most other sections of the force. Tsutsumi quickly identifies the story's events as relevant to this department, leading him to fill Erio in on these circumstances so he can be better prepared. There is also Richter, who acts as an independent investigator for mundane cases, but quickly comes to accept the reality of the situation when Harue tells him about her Curse Stone and her intentions of using the Rite.
  • Ouija Board: Yakko and Mio use a spirit board to try and communicate with a spirit to discover the truth about Michiyo's supposed suicide. It turns out the spirit they contacted was Michiyo herself.
  • Player and Protagonist Integration: You are an unseen advisor to the protagonists. They will remark on actions that they wouldn't have thought of by themselves. Regarding the Curse Stones, your input doesn't matter much because some of them will use it anyway and others will not. It turns out you are the mind of Seiman, and you have the biggest influence on Shogo (a descendant of Seiman with a strong spirit sense) and Mayu (the bearer of the stone with Seiman's Curse Echo).
  • Player Nudge:
    • After each death, the Storyteller will give you a hint on how to avoid that fate again. If you're having a particularly difficult time and die repeatedly, he'll give you more explicit advice. This is especially useful in the first confrontation against Yutaro, as the solution to avoid being killed by his curse is the first of several fourth-wall breaking puzzles, and if the player does not realize it at first, the Storyteller will more blatantly hint at the solution.
    • While playing as Chozawa, the player needs to learn how to fix a dried up pen. This information can be found earlier in Tsutsumi's route by talking to Erio. If the player missed it, the event will still light up on the story branch, indicating that it's not fully completed.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: At the end of the first branch, you are given access to the Story Chart in order to undo Yoko's death. When you reach the story's conclusion, the Storyteller says you know what to do if you're not satisfied with the ending, so you return to the branch where Yoko, who's been revealed as the Big Bad, dies and perform the cleansing ritual. The storyteller points out that you, the player, are traveling through time to control these outcomes.
  • The Seven Mysteries: True to the trope and real life, Honjo actually has nine mysteries, but "Seven Mysteries" just sounds better. Each mystery has a well known public version passed down from the Edo period, with some being so ordinary the real mystery is why they are even counted as mysteries. However this is due to people changing the narrative due to fear of divine retribution, and the real stories behind them are much more gruesome and, associated with a deadly curse. It's eventually revealed that all nine mysteries are connected to each other through the machinations of the evil onmyoji Lady Ashino.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Yoko uses cocktails as a way to quantify someone's spirit sense, the more liquor they can handle the more spiritually gifted they are. Tsutsumi later uses an identical comparison when explaining paranormal abilities to Erio.
  • Symbiotic Possession: Yakko and Michiyo. As the two of them are genuine friends, Michiyo's possession of Yakko was far more seamless than most other cases, to the point that their consciousness almost fused together.
  • Took the Wife's Name: Harue's husband took on her name, Shigima, because the family is renowned in the police force.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The fact that the main bulk of the story follows the characters encountered by Shogo is actually a pretty novel twist if you go into the game completely blind, although this requires that you don't pay close attention to any of the game's promotional material.