By William Haderlie / July 13th, 2016
|Title||Higurashi When They Cry Ch. 2 Watanagashi|
|Release Date||November 15, 2015|
|Genre||Horror Sound Novel|
|Age Rating||All Ages|
So here we are, back in Hinamizawa, for the second chapter of the Higurashi When They Cry series of Sound Novels. In my review of the previous title, what started out as a fun school days slice of life ended up punctuated by murder. But it was still well written and well made. So I ended up giving it a recommendation, particularly for fans of the horror genre. Would the sequel hold up, or would it suffer a sophomore slump? That was the primary question that I had on my mind going in.
One thing that became abundantly clear right off the bat, this is not a sequel to the previous story. This is an alternate take on the setting and characters. So all of the characters are the same, with the addition of one new cast member. But even discussing that new cast member would get into major spoilers if I actually revealed who she is, so I’ll just avoid it. Being a horror mystery novel means that one of the main reasons you would be playing in the first place is to unearth the unknown. But, as for characters, I won’t go into detail as I did in my last review. You can look here if you want to play this one first for some reason. But I would recommend against that decision. This story starts after the main character, Keiichi Maebara, has already established a relationship with the other characters. And they are not introduced in the same manner that they were in the last story, so it seems to take as a given that you already know their relationships.
Even more so than the first story, the town of Hinamizawa features prominently as the other character in the story. Whereas the last title was a bit more of a personal story of a group of friends whose lives are upended by a sleeping evil within their environment. This one is much more about the environment itself. And, let me tell you, that environment has a very noxious underbelly. The last story played out almost more like a crime procedural, only mixing in elements of the supernatural, small town Japanese culture, and school slice of life. This one is the horrible offspring of H.P. Lovecraft’s grim fairy tales, especially The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Shadow over Innsmouth. So add that in place of the crime procedural and then combine it with the other elements, and you have a good impression of this story.
This title ended up being quite the roller coaster ride. It goes even darker and more horrific than the first one did, but it also starts out even more fun. A lot of that is down to not only the actions themselves, but the quality of writing. Even though they skip some of the character introduction phase of the last title, they more than make up for it by giving them a better variety of things to do and ways to interact with each other. And that ends up with an even longer experience than the first game, which was about 7 hours, whereas this one clocks in at over 10. However, that is where one of my criticisms comes in. Even with the better writing this story was rather emotionally manipulative. They put the characters in certain situations and get you to care about them specifically to make sure that the dagger will hurt more when it goes in. That criticism is not a damning one; it is very much a very subjective thing to say about a story. But that was one of my major takeaway feelings.
Now, I’m going to have to get into minor spoiler territory here. I will attempt to be as vague as possible, though. But the entire raison d’être of a Sound Novel is its story. Once again, there are no choices, there is no action displayed, and there is minimal sound input. This is basically a book with background visuals and music. But one thing that turned me off a bit about the story is similar to a complaint I had over the first one. I won’t reiterate my position on the violence versus sex discussion, but I will say that this story gets even more violent by quite a ways than the first one did. In fact, I do not think most of the people I’m friends with would be able to stomach the content of this title. That is not to say that people who enjoy these stories are wrong, or should be ashamed, just that there is some content here that many people will find extremely disturbing. So I need to warn people; not only does this title contain a lot of violence, but also gruesome torture, including the death (by torture) of young girls.
But that also brings into play the age old issue with gaming. Does it have to be fun in order to be valuable? While this story did start out with a lot of laughs, it did not end up to be fun at all. More than likely, some people ended up with nightmares over this one. But the horror genre exists not simply to give a horrific ride only to give you a happy ending. Granted, many of my favorite horror movies have a happy ending, but not everyone is looking for that. So if you are just looking for a well written story and a journey into the depths of human depravity, this will probably be right up your alley. But if you need your games, or your stories, to be enjoyable, you may want to think twice about putting yourself through this one.
You will be hard pressed to find a better written or translated example of Visual Novels. So if you can stomach the horror, this is an experience that is well worth having. That being said, there was one major quality issue that I was having, and that was game crashes. I don’t know if it’s specific to Windows 7 or not, but the game repeatedly crashed on me. This happened at least 10 times, so I just had to use the Quick Save function as much as possible. While some of the music was still on short loops so still got a little annoying, that is one aspect they definitely improved on for Chapter 2. There is more music this time, and it’s of a higher quality than the first one. The updated visuals are the same, so I won’t need to discuss that again, other than there being new locations for them to visit in the town. The sound effects are the same this time around as well. So really there were two good changes (the writing and the music) and one bad one (far more crashes than the first one). And in the end, the bugs were the thing that held it back from being scored higher, not any opinion on the content in the story. There are indeed different strokes for different folks, so just make sure you know what you are getting into with this one. For $7.99 you are very unlikely to find a better written, or more horrific, Visual Novel experience.
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
07th ExpansionHigurashi When They CryHigurashi When They Cry Ch. 2horrorMangaGamerSound NovelWatanagashi