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Visual Novel / Spirit Hunter: Death Mark
aka: Death Mark

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Death Mark (死印 Shiin); titled Spirit Hunter: Death Mark in the US, is a supernatural horror adventure game developed by Experience, Inc. on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, and Steam. It is the first game in the Spirit Hunter series.

Set in H City of Tokyo, Death Mark revolves around people who bear the eponymous Mark, who are fated to die after having it for too long, and suffer memory loss in the meantime (which affects their ability to live normally). Marks are the doing of malevolent spirits, born of grudges and resentful of the living. And those who are Marked tend to meet impossibly horrific ends.

The Player Character is Kazuo Yashiki, a man who dismisses the rumors about disappearing people as stupid Urban Legends. Cut ahead to him in front of the manor of Saya Kujou, where he discovers A.) a scar on his right arm in the shape of a fanged mouth, B.) Saya Kujou herself dead, with flowers growing out of her body, C.) Kujou's life-sized doll that can talk, and D.) the unsettled man has forgotten his own memories. The doll, named Mary, helps Kazuo come to grips with his predicament of identity, before presenting him with a nasty revelation: he indeed possesses the Mark, and he will die by dawn. And Saya Kujou was on the verge of breaking her own Mark... but perished before she could pass that information onto Mary.

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Faced with the prospect of death, Kazuo chooses to fight his Mark, with Mary's assistance; but it will not be easy, for the one responsible for the Mark does not want Kazuo to live without a fight, and sends various vengeful ghosts to hinder his progress. He will have to team up with other Mark bearers to find and repel the spirits, and in doing so, hopefully find the one who gave him the Mark.

Unlike most visual novels, Death Mark has more involved gameplay akin to an Adventure Game- Kazuo must venture through each area, collecting items and using them to progress. The game is split into 6 Chapters (five main and a DLC chapter included in later releases) and an Epilogue. In each chapter, Kazuo will meet two or three different Mark bearers who can help him in his investigations, and he must choose which one to take along (as having more than two investigators runs the risk of alerting the spirits) which can impact the gameplay as you need certain characters to do certain things.

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Interspersed in between are Life and Death Choices where you must quickly choose between three options in a dangerous situation to survive, and RPG-like boss fights where you and your partner use the items you have gathered to fight the spirits, and must choose the right combinations to win. Depending on what items you choose, you can either Destroy the spirit- getting rid of it at the cost of your current partner's life- or Save it and your partner's life. Which of the endings you get depends on who is alive and dead.

The game has official Japanese site and English sites available. It is followed up by a sequel known as Spirit Hunter: NG.


Tropes:

  • The '90s: The dates line up with the last great war (World War II) taking place 50 years ago and Seiko Hasegawa's death was five years ago from the start of the story. Chapter 4 treats cell phones as more of a new invention that'll soon be everywhere.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • The boy that would become Hanahiko asked for help from the teachers at H Elementary, but they all refused out of fear of the principal. Likewise, in Chapter 6 DLC, S-ko went to her teacher to get help reporting illicit activities at Masquerade, only to be betrayed by him and tortured at the hotel.
    • Tsukasa believes in this, revealing it when he shows his sympathy for what Hanahiko went through. He does, however, soften up when he considers the player to be an actual reliable adult.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • Mary's origins and identity are left largely a mystery in the main game. However, the artbook included in the limited edition details her history. A small town, which would eventually become H City, was plagued by a curse. To suppress this, people were ritually sacrificed every fifty years, the first being a foreign girl with strong spiritual energy. Eventually, the Kujous created elaborate living dolls infused with spiritual energy to contain the curse, but the knowledge behind the dolls was lost in the war. One particular doll, resembling the foreign girl, was particularly powerful. When Mary awoke, she was fueled by the power of the curse she contained and the grudges of countless human sacrifices.
    • Red Riding Hood's true name: Sayoko Shiina, known as S-ko in-game.
  • Alternate Character Reading: The default name given to the protagonist, Kazuo Yashiki. The surname "Yashiki" here uses the kanji 八敷, but an alternative "yashiki" would be the kanji 屋敷, meaning "mansion", and Kazuo using the kanji 一男 means "eldest son". Mary was both saying his assigned name — "Yashiki-sama"/"Lord Yashiki" — and "Eldest Son who is Lord of the Mansion", since he's really Masamune Kujou, the previous head of the Kujou family prior to his younger sister Saya taking over. For an additional spin, there's the kanji 八 for the number eight and the kanji 一 for the number one — the Kujou's kanji is 九条, 九 being the number nine.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Yashiki's final line is that he's sure that the door to the mansion will swing open again one day.
  • Animal Motif: Bees for Shimi-O and spiders for Red Riding Hood.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can only bring one partner with you to investigate, because too many mark bearers in the same place will draw the attention of spirits. But that's a lie Mary told in a deliberate attempt to make the adventure as miserable as possible.
  • Asshole Victim: Half of the chapters contained at least one, with Yakishi even lampshading that it's hard to feel bad for some of them.
    • Hanayome didn't kill anyone herself, but her fiancé killed all of the gang members who participated in her rape before killing himself.
    • Kannon Soldier got her revenge on the military doctors who experimented on her and sadistically mocked her during the whole ordeal.
    • Red Riding Hood killed people who were involved in the Masquerade love hotel, which was operating mainly on high school prostitution and torturous fetishes.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Moe is a big occult fan and has always wanted to meet a ghost. She found meeting Hanahiko terrifying.
  • Big Bad: The one responsible for giving Kazuo Yashiki his Mark and creating all the Vengeful Ghosts that he must fight for his life against is Mary, the doll who pretended to be his ally throughout his investigations but is actually a sadist who thrives on the pain and suffering that comes from inflicting people with a Death Mark.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The good ending of the game. The Mark is finally cleansed from the protagonist and Mary is defeated. However, the seal will eventually wear down on Mary again and the protagonist remembers he's Masamune Kujou. Not only did he knowingly allow the risk of Mary wreaking havoc for a month so he could re-seal her, but he also lost his sister Saya Kujou as a result.
  • Bondage Is Bad:
    • Due to the compromising positions that Hanahiko tends to place his victims in, it's implied that the principal would restrain him in a similar manner while assaulting him.
    • Red Riding Hood was also restrained and blindfolded before being force-fed a spider as an experimental fetish.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy:
    • The death mark leaves its victims dazed and confused in its later stages. Also, Madoka Hiroo can be possessed by failing to pacify the Kannon Soldier, which will result in Hiroo allowing the Kannon Soldier to cut her head off.
    • In the DLC Chapter, if Hiroo survived the Kannon Soldier encounter, she will join you on your primary investigation into the Red Riding Hood ghost. She chases after Red Riding Hood, and when you catch up to her, she's suddenly taking her clothes off and trying to seduce you...
  • Bungled Suicide: Shimi-O's change into a ghost was because of his bungled suicide, so he was left alone while the rest of his cult died successfully.
  • Cat Scare: If you get a chapter's good ending, it gives you one where your partner would have died if you got the bad ending. At the end of chapter 1, your partner dropped something of theirs and goes back into the school by themself to find it. But a cold wind blows and they're taking an awfully long time to come back... If you got the good ending, they couldn't find their wallet/house key because it was too dark. But if it's the bad ending... You go back into the school to search for them, but what you find instead is their accessory in a pool of blood.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: The DLC chapter has an early conversation where Dr. Daimon Shuji, a grown man, asks for tickets to Idol Singer Ai Kashiwagi's latest concert . Madoka Hiroo assumes the worst.
    Daimon: I'd like to go as well (to the idol concert). It's a rare opportunity.
    Madoka: You're a little too old for idols... You have a thing for girls?
    Daimon: I'm a connoisseur of music. Idols have nothing to do with it.
    Kazuo: (...A subject change right now would be wise.)
  • Character Select Forcing: Partners who play an important story role in later chapters will always be among those that cannot be used to defeat that chapter's vengeful spirit, and therefore cannot be killed in the event that you destroy the spirit instead of pacifying it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A big example is your choice of partners in Chapter 4. Ai Kashiwagi may be The Ditz, but the character profiles make it a point to tell you that even though fortune teller Tomoko Yasuoka and researcher Madoka Hiroo are both very well-learned, neither of them have any ability to play music. Yasuoka and Hiroo are very helpful while investigating, but only Ai can play the piano required to defeat Miss Zoo.
  • Convenient Coma: Masamune Kujou was in one for half a year while abroad. During this time Saya was made the head of the household.
  • Creepy-Crawly Torture: The final spirit is Red Riding Hood. She was used in a torture session where a live spider was lowered into her mouth. This was a sexualized reenactment of a witch trial where swallowing the spider is the only path to an innocent verdict. It's implied she swallowed it, but the ordeal left her mentally broken and she committed suicide. She returned as a jorugumo with control over normal spiders.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Hanahiko's biological mother doted on him and happily played along with her son's interest in makeup and dressing as a girl
  • Downer Ending: The bad ending of the game, where at least one Mark Bearer dies. The protagonist fails to properly seal Mary and she comes for him at the end.
  • Down the Drain: In Chapter 4, you end up going down a sewer in Manhole Street. You come back in Chapter 5 to find and explore a hidden military research lab housing many questionable experiments, most notably the Kannon Soldier.
  • Due to the Dead: Shows up in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue if certain characters don't survive. For example, if you get the bad ending of Chapter 5, Banshee Itou moves out from the underground shelter, but occasionally returns to pray for Hiroo. Also if Satoru Mashita doesn't survive Chapter 2, then Shou Nagashima decides in the epilogue that he wants to become a police officer.
  • Eerie Anatomy Model: Subverted. There's an anatomy model in the preparation room in an abandoned and haunted school building. It is filled with snakes, but otherwise it is a regular plastic model. This is despite the fact that the building is home to Miss Zoo, a one-woman Cult Mad Scientist, who slaughters and dismembers humans and animals (except snakes) alike as offerings and For Science!. The anatomy model itself stands right next to a cabinet displaying preserved human body parts. But the model is just a model.
  • Epic Fail: If anyone tries to play the piano besides Ai Kashiwagi, all they can do is slam their hands on the keys and make a Scare Chord.
  • Eye Scream: Hanayome will eat the eyes of anyone that says they saw her blackmail photos.
  • Fan Disservice: There are plenty of attractive women in various levels of stages of nudity in this game... as the ghosts are slowly killing them...
  • Flower Motif: Hanahiko has this motif with making his victims sprout flowers out of their bodies.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Mary states that coming face to face to the spirit that gave a person their mark tends to accelerate the amnesia caused by the mark. The protagonist seems to forget his name just as he met Mary.
    • When Moe and Tsukasa first arrive at the mansion, they ask about the protagonist's relationship to Saya. He can say boyfriend, relative, or disciple. If relative is chosen, Moe guesses that he must be her older brother, considering their appearances and resemblance. This turns out to be absolutely correct.
    • In chapter 1, the second floor of H Elementary School is blocked by snakes, which don't really fit Hanahiko's motif. The school returns as the main setting of chapter 4, where Ms. Zoo turns out to have been residing.
    • An one-off line by Ai has her joking that the bunker under North Street in chapter 4 is a lab. Chapter 5 reveals she was very much right.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The default name for the protagonist is "Kazuo Yashiki", but players can give him a new name at the start.
  • Heroic Dog: Seiko Hasegawa's dog Genta chased after the truck of the gang that kidnapped her and was killed in its chase.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Mary is defeated by several death marks being carved into her body, with the protagonist guessing it was from her victims.
  • Hot for Teacher: S-ko was this for N-mura, which unfortunately lead to her death.
  • How Unscientific!: The trope name gets quoted in Chapter 5 by Madoka.
  • Human Ladder: Used in "Chapter 3: Hanayome" to retrieve a dog collar from a tree. Whether you're on the top or the bottom of the ladder depends on which partner you've chosen: If you're with Suzu, she'll climb on your shoulders. If you're with Eita, you'll climb on his shoulders. Christie will refuse to participate.
  • Leitmotif: Downplayed. Every Chapter introduction screen has a sound effect that relates to each spirit.
    • Hanahiko's is a child's laugh.
    • Shimi-O's is bees buzzing.
    • Hanayome's is a telephone ring.
    • Miss Zoo's is a piano Scare Chord.
    • The Kannon Soldier's is a Japanese war cry.
  • Love Hotels: The hotel Masquerade in chapter 6 DLC is an abandoned one that doubles as a Hell Hotel.
  • Multiple Endings: Each chapter has alternative endings depending on who you partner with and what item you use to either appease or defeat the spirit. Generally, appeasement results in a "good" ending. Defeat, on the other hand...
  • My Car Hates Me: In true horror genre fashion, this occurs while fleeing from Shimi-O in chapter 2.
  • No Body Left Behind: All partners that die. Hanahiko reduces them to a puddle of blood, Shimi-O abducts them, Hanayome leaves behind a single eyeball, Miss Zoo reduces to Ludicrous Gibs, and the Kannon Soldier decapitates and vanishes with the corpse. This is likely done to avoid having to redraw various death CGs for each partner- the sequel, which has significantly less partners, averts this and shows their corpses in full detail.
  • Noob Cave: H Elementary is the first area in the game and the one that serves to teach the navigation and other game mechanics. It is a rather simple area where one is unlikely to get lost.
  • Old School Building: Chapter 1 revolves around H Elementary, where the spirit of Hanahiko dwells. Chapter 4 returns to that same building, where Miss Zoo dwells on the second floor.
  • Plot Armor: Downplayed as some characters need to survive till the next chapter, thus they can't be used in the climax of the current chapter where they could potentially die.
  • Point Build System: Each character has a number of points in four stats: Power, Intelligence, Spirit Power, and Dexterity. They're mainly just for looks, but sometimes they allude to which partner will be the most helpful in a specific situation.
    • Christie has the highest Spirit Power of everyone in Chapter 2, and only she can deal with the spirits that block your path by offering prayers to them.
    • In Chapter 4, Yasuoka has a higher Intelligence than Yashiki and Ai. If you take her on your first investigation into the 2nd floor of H Elementary, she offers additional insights that Ai doesn't. She can read words that were wiped off the surface they were written on, and she knows enough about chemistry to tell you that you can use acid to destroy a piece of metal being used to jam a door shut.
    • Banshee Itou of Chapter 5 has a much higher Spirit Power than everyone else, and he straight-up tells you that he has special powers. If you take him as your partner, he can tell you what was on the posters that used to be on the walls. Which is important because they're Japanese war slogans, and you have to repeat them to the spirit of a general that mistakes you for a new recruit or else you die.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The military surgeon in chapter 5 who worked on the Kannon Soldier says he hates working on women because they squeal like pigs.
  • Post-Final Level: Most of Chapter 5, the last chapter, takes place in the Underground Shelter where the Kannon Soldier lies, but after defeating the spirit, Kazuo travels to Kujou Mansion to fight the mastermind. The battle starts almost immediately after he shows up.
  • Red Herring: The game strongly hinted since Chapter 3 that the cause of the protagonist's mark is the grudge of the Buddha statues that were stolen from the H Shrine, only for chapter 5 to reveal it's false and Mary is the actual cause of everyone's misfortune.
  • Red String of Fate: Red Riding Hood uses this as one of her motifs.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: Shimi-O in Chapter 2 kills his victims with a drill and turns them into human beehives. He's also covered in hundreds of bees.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: It's implied that Hiroo and Daimon got their Marks because they're the grandchildren of the survivors of the Kannon Soldier's first attack and their Marks were passed down when the soldier reactivated.
  • Slut-Shaming: Red Riding Hood has tendencies of doing this, with most of her Live or Die tests for the protagonist making it so he has to pick the least suggestive options.
  • Undying Loyalty: Seiko Hasegawa's dog Genta is this towards his owner and her fiance. After it died trying to save Seiko, it willingly became a spirit to guide Hanayome to the afterlife where her fiancé was waiting.
  • Vertical Kidnapping: This is how Red Riding Hood kills you if you fail her first two Live or Die events, where she evaluates your character by asking you personal questions and then has a Brainwashed and Crazy Hiroo try to seduce you.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Underground Shelter serves as this for the main game, as it is the setting of Chapter 5, the last chapter, and where the endgame reveals start to happen. Like most levels, it is maze-like and has some puzzles and Live or Die choices in your way.
  • We Are Not Going Through That Again: Some partners politely bail after surviving their respective chapter.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye:
    • Chapter 1: The security guard that you meet outside H Elementary. He goes inside and is Eaten Alive by Hanahiko's roses. His corpse shows up again in Chapter 4, claimed by Miss Zoo.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The ending in Chapter 5 tells what happened to each of the surviving Mark bearers.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The artbook mentions that H City is located in Western Tokyo (Tama area).
  • The Worsening Curse Mark: The titular Mark is a bite-shaped tattoo that a Vengeful Ghost curses its pray with. Over the night it becomes red and starts draining the victim's memories and stamina so they would panic and become more "delicious" before the spirit attacks them in person. The protagonist's Mark is unique, in that it syncs up with other Mark-bearers nearby and instead of disappearing with a spirit's purification it resets to stage 1. The Big Bad who created his Mark reveals they have control over its speed and places six of them on him after they decide they've stalled enough.

Alternative Title(s): Death Mark

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