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You play as Kazuo Yashiki (or whatever name you wind up choosing), a man with a mysterious mark on his wrist. Soon after its appearance, he gets an invitation to Kujou Mansion, where he finds a woman who has been studying the mark. Too bad she dies before he arrives, which will also be Yashiki’s fate if he doesn’t figure out how to remove the mark by dawn. He’s joined by others who have the same mark and must work together to fight the restless spirits who have cursed them. If only they could remember who it was.
I love the way Spirit Hunter – Death Mark looks. It’s moody and dark and creepy and oddly beautiful. There are many grotesque images, but many of them are also pretty in a weird way. For example, the first chapter involves a ghost who causes roses to bloom out of their victims’ bodies. Sure, that’s a gross way to die, but the imagery was pretty. Or I’m just weird.
There are some minor jumpscare like scenes. There’s nothing that comes flying at you, but while exploring a apparition may be uncovered in a darkened corner and then fade away. Or something might be waiting when you enter a room. I never got truly scared by these, more of a WTF was that?! type of reaction.
The spirits you face are also varying levels of grotesque, creepy, and disturbing. Most of them you never see until the final battle, but you may get glimpses of them as you explore.
Sound Effects + Music:
Spirit Hunter – Death Mark has excellent background music and sound effects. In fact, I found the background noises to be more creepy than the visuals. There’s the typical groaning, moaning, and giggling you’d expect from restless spirits. But there’s also other atmospheric noises like wind, creaking floors, doors slamming, and the like which can be hiding even more disturbing sounds!
There’s very spare voice acting in Spirit Hunter – Death Mark. None of the dialogue is fully voiced, but you’ll get the occasional word or phrase from a few of the characters. As a visual novel, that was expected. I like reading, so I didn’t feel like anything was missing there.
Gameplay + Controls:
Spirit Hunter – Death Mark is a visual novel with point-and-click elements. For the most part, you’ll be reading a lot of dialogue and making a few choices. Some choices aren’t important, but there are some Live or Die situations, which can give you a Game Over if choose incorrectly. You’ll also lose Spirit Power the longer you take to answer a question, or if you choose a wrong but safe answer.
The rest of the gameplay comes in the form of exploring haunted locations in order to defeat the spirits residing there. You don’t actually walk around, but you get static images of the areas and can move from one room/spot to another using the arrow keys. Then you’ll shine your flashlight around the area to find spots to interact with. You’ll find various items that can be used on different areas or on the ghosts. I didn’t find any of these puzzles to be as convoluted as in other point-and-click games. Everything seemed straight forward enough with some logical thinking.
There are even boss battles! These take the form of turn-based combat where you get the chance to use all of the objects you found on the haunting spirit. As you progress through their area, you’ll add information to your journal, which can be accessed during the battle to give you hints on what to do to defeat them.
Of course, there are also good and bad ends. Or rather, Normal and Good ends. Although the normal ones are pretty bad in a way. I’m very “bad” at visual novels, so I only got one Good end for a chapter. You will need all five Good ends to unlock the DLC chapter.
Other than achievement hunting, I wouldn’t necessarily play Spirit Hunter – Death Mark again from the beginning. When you Game Over, you can choose to restart from the decision you got wrong to choose again or pick up from your last save point. This makes it easy to go back and get things to missed without starting over. Make sure to make multiple saves so you can get the different endings though!
It took me about 12 hours to finish Spirit Hunter – Death Mark which actually flew by! I was really invested in this story and couldn’t wait to explore new locations, or revisit old ones, to uncover more spirits. I did like the ending, as I felt smart for figuring out some of the twists. It was also nice to get updates on the characters that survived. That actually made me want to go back and replay those boss battles to get the good ends, so I can find out what becomes of those characters.