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Visual Novel / Parascientific Escape

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Parascientific Escape is a Visual Novel/Room Escape Game hybrid series developed by INTENSE and published by CIRCLE. If the combination sounds familiar, it's because this series is a budget-priced homage to games like Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. They are set in a world where humans with psychic powers are becoming more commonplace and revolve around protagonists with these powers. There are three games in the series, each of which has a different story that connects to the overall plot:

  • Parascientific Escape: Cruise on the Distant Seas (2014)
  • Hitomi is a not-so-Ordinary High-School Student who is unusual even among psychics: She has two psychic powers where most people only have one. She is a clairvoyant and a telekinetic; her best friend Chisono is a telepath. She's also a Happily Adopted girl who never knew her biological family. However, she one day receives a mysterious letter from a person who claims to have information on her biological family and invites her to a swanky cruise to receive it. She and Chisono follow through on the letter only to find themselves trapped on a sinking ship! They must escape with the help of two other young women: A half-Russian psychic named Merja and a non-psychic singer named Misaki. To make things worse, Merja has a bomb strapped to her body that will go off in four hours if they don't deactivate it!
    • Psychic Mechanic: Hitomi can look use her clairvoyance to look into boxes and other hidden spaces to see what's inside of them, then use telekinesis to manipulate them in puzzles similar to "Rush Hour."

  • Parascientific Escape: Gear Detective (2017)
  • Kyosuke Ayana is not a natural-born psychic, but he was in a horrific accident that cost him his arm and his eye. He was outfitted with special prosthetics that allow him to use a rare and powerful psychic power: chronokinesis, the ability to look back in time and (slightly) change the past. He used this power to become a detective. One day, a mysterious girl named Tsukiko comes looking to hire him. A serial murderer is afoot, and Tsukiko fears she may be the next victim. She wants Kyosuke to protect her, and to catch the killer! With the help of his assistant Mari and his rich best friend Yukiya, Kyosuke sets out to track down the murderer and save Tsukiko from becoming just another statistic.
    • Psychic Mechanic: Kyosuke can use his chronokinesis to look into specific date/time combinations in the past and figure out what happened at those times. He can also change the past, but only in very small ways (such as hiding a key).

  • Parascientific Escape: Crossing at the Farthest Horizon (2017)
  • In the conclusion to the trilogy, both Hitomi and Kyosuke meet up in the Central European country of Witsarock, previously in the grip of a deadly civil war. They are both there to learn the truth about what has happened to them recently—Kyosuke to learn more about his cybernetic arm and eye, and Hitomi to finally meet her sister. Their paths and those of their friends will cross as they finally learn the truth about what happened in Witsarock, their own psychic powers, and the fate of all psychics in the world.
  • Psychic Mechanic: This game re-uses Kyosuke's Chronokinesis. Despite being a major character, Hitomi does not use her psychic abilities in any puzzle sections.

Tropes in the series:

  • Art Evolution: The second two games have a much more detailed art style than the first one, which is softer and more Puni Plush.
  • Anti-Villain: Every villain in the series is this to an extent. In the first game, Misaki is a thoroughly nice person who was corrupted by the Ghost of Witsarok into performing an evil act and she immediately came to regret it. In the second, Tsukiko is a tortured former human test subject who is desperate for the attention of her Only Friend, who just so happens to be a megalomaniacal madwoman. And in the third, Ritsu is crazy, but she's also being manipulated.
  • The Atoner: A running theme in the series is the villains of each game realize their villainy and then attempt to make up for it near the end.
  • Benevolent Boss: Despite never being seen, Evsej Amabishi is always implied to be this. Yukiya is this too, though he tends to make his niceness a secret.
  • Chromosome Casting: Every character with a speaking role in the first game is female, except for the Ghost of Witsarok, whose identity is unknown. Later games reveal her to be Ritsu, meaning every character in the first game truly is female.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Mari firmly believes herself to be Kyosuke's future wife, and hell be upon you if you try to dissuade her. In the Good Ending to Gear Detective, Kyosuke decides to marry her anyway.
  • Disappeared Dad: A running theme in the series:
    • Poor Hitomi has this twice over. She never knew her biological father, and her adoptive father was a rescue worker who died trying to save someone's life.
    • Similarly, Kyosuke was also an orphan, and his adoptive father was murdered.
  • Ditzy Genius: Merja can come off as a little spacey at times. She's also brutally intelligent.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Tsukiko in Gear Detective. In the Bad Ending, she's successful.
    • Iori in Crossing at the Farthest Horizon.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Even Merja is surprisingly willing to forgive Misaki for being the one to plant the bomb on her. However, Misaki is both repenant and was manipulated by the Ghost of Witsarok. Misaki later turns herself in once they escape the cruise.
    • In Crossing at the Farthest Horizon, Tsukiko is allowed to roam free despite the fact that she's a murderer. In the Good Ending, she is allowed to forgo jail in favor of heavy supervision by ZENA and IXG, as she may be useful.
  • Episodic Game: The three games form a distinct story with plot threads running throughout. Playing all three of them gives a complete story, and they don't really stand alone very well.
  • Gene Hunting: Cruise in the Distant Sea's plot is kicked off by Hitomi being promised information on her biological family. Notably, she loves her adoptive family very much, but she is very curious about where she comes from. Especially about her biological sister, whom she never knew.
  • "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Played with. The villains of the first two games do go to prison despite their repenant nature—in fact, they turn themselves in. However, Misaki is eventually found not guilty by a court of law because she was threatened and coerced. Tsukiko is also eventually freed from prison and allowed to live a somewhat normal life, however, it's also implied it's under heavy scrutiny from law enforcement and ZENA. Iori also technically never committed any crimes.
  • Happily Adopted: Both Hitomi and Kyosuke. Hitomi was adopted at a young age and loves her family utterly. In fact, her grief over her adoptive father's death makes her reluctant to help Merja at first, because he perished trying to save another's life. Similarly, the death of Kyosuke's father lead to him receiving his PSI-using arm. Ritsu and Tsukiko are aversions, however, as their adoptive mother is a Manipulative Bastard.
  • The Heart: Hitomi is this in spades. She's the one who is most insistent about saving Merja, and she inspires the others to keep going when things seem most hopeless. She laments the fact that everyone's always "protecting" her without realizing that she's inspiring them. In the second, Mari has this role as well.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Merja just happened to bring a computer-interfacting card writer with her on her cruise. Why? Because she's a programmer, duh.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Evsej Amabishi, the CEO of the Amabishi corp and Merja's father, is implied throughout the series to be a wholly decent man who inherited an absolute mess. He refused to spoil his daughter and encouraged her to find passions so she'd be able to work for a living, he would take a salary cut of his own before docking the pay of any of his employees, and he doesn't approve of his company selling weapons to be used in civil wars.
  • The Jailbait Wait: Kyosuke will not marry Mari until she graduates high school.
  • Karma Houdini: While most of the villains get punished for their acts, Iori gets off scot free in the Good Ending to Crossing at the Furthest Horizon. The justification is she never committed any actual crimes, only planned to, but said villain is still not a nice person.
  • Lesbian Subtext: In comparison to Hitomi and Chisono, it's more directly implied that Tsukiko has unrequited feelings for Ritsu. At one point, Tsukiko directly states that she wants Ritsu to "be hers," and in the second game, she refers to Ritsu as "the one that I love." This also makes them Not Blood Siblings.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The main theme of the series is a sad but lovely little piano number.
  • Meaningful Name: Hitomi's name means "sight," and one of her psychic powers is seeing the unseen.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Yukiya, with the classic Mr. Vice Guy sin of greed. He wants to make loads of money and is very cutthroat in the business world. He's even willing to bargain with the megalomaniacal Ritsu as they both stand to profit from it. But he still wants to do the right thing.
  • Multiple Endings: The first game doesn't have them, but Gear Detective and Crossing at the Farthest Horizon do.
    • Bad Ending:
      • Detective: Tsukiko kills herself in a warehouse fire and Kyosuke feels he's failed her, but life must move on.
    • Good Ending:
      • Detective: Kyosuke talks Tsukiko down from her suicide attempt and she turns herself in, with the promise that Kyosuke and Mari will keep in contact with her in prison. Kyosuke and Mari get engaged.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Tsukiko is implied to have feelings for Ritsu. Ritsu is also her adoptive sister. However, that's a fairly recent development.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: When Tsukiko asks Kyosuke who he wants to marry, one of the possible options is Yukiya. However, choosing this prompts Kyosuke to frantically try to think of someone else before he stops and thinks that love comes in all forms... though he still doesn't want to marry Yukiya.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: Merja spends the entirety of the first game in a frilly white nightgown.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: How can you tell that Merja's Russian? She's got blonde hair and icy blue eyes.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Chisono. She initially opposes the idea of helping Merja, figuring that if they do they'll all be doomed anyway, and helping her plays directly into the villain's hands. She is, however, outvoted, and eventually comes to agree with Hitomi and Misaki.
  • Pseudo-Romantic Friendship: Chisono and Hitomi can give off these vibes at times. Certainly they're extremely devoted to one another. Chisono even gets a little bit jealous when Hitomi starts hanging out with Merja!
  • Psychic Static: Certain sonic frequencies can disrupt psychic powers, and more than once in the series you'll need to dismantle PSI-jamming speakers.
  • Spell My Name With An S: The small European country important to the game's plot—is it Witsarok or Witsarock?
  • Stoic Spectacles: Chisono is a Rare Female Example. As opposed to the usual anime glasses girl stereotypes, she is extremely calm, calculating, and even a little bit cold.
  • Tele-Frag: Ritsu uses this as a method to "destroy" inconvenient things.
  • Uncle Pennybags: Yukiya is willing to use his wealth to give his old buddy Kyosuke a leg up here and there. (He was even willing to offer him 1 billion yen, but Kyosuke knew he couldn't accept it.)
  • Undying Loyalty: Chisono can come off as a bit cold at times, but she will never, ever abandon Hitomi. She's even stated that if she dies before Hitomi, she'll stage a coup in Hell to come back to life for her.
  • Walking Spoiler: Ritsu, the true identity of the Ghost of W.
  • You Are Worth Hell: When Hitomi feels bad for dragging Chisono into her messes, Chisono directly tells her that she would literally go to Hell for her.