Spirit Hunter: NG Switch Review – Spirit Battling Horror Visual Novel

Spirit Hunter NG nintendo switch review

Spirit Hunter: NG is the second game in the Spirit Hunter series after Death Mark. It’s a horror visual novel developed by Experience Inc. who have made many a dungeon crawler RPG until starting the Spirit Hunter series. Within the first 15 minutes of playing NG I could tell this was a massive improvement over Death Mark, as text boxes had more style, the story seemed far more fleshed out and there’s a new ‘Judging System’ where you pick your response out of 5 expressions to certain things such as a glamour spread of an idol. An hour later it comes up in conversation and I got teased for liking the gothic lolita idol (I decided to change my usual video game behaviour of being as much of a turd as I can to NPCs and actually be nice for a change).

Sorry guys, you don’t see anything.

A delinquent who loves his sister, a yakuza mob boss’ son and an occult obsessed idol walk into a bar… 

That bar just happens to be your aunt’s, as you get tangled up in a spirit’s cruel game after she spirits away your beloved sis. The game involves saving or destroying spirits who are clinging to the world seeking vengeance for their own gruesome, wretched ends and will happily kill any foolish living humans who cross their path. In NG you’re warned that destroying the spirit will leave a lingering grudge, resulting in one of your buddies meeting a horrifying demise. The story is completely unrelated to Death Mark with just the odd reference so you can start your Spirit Hunter adventures here.

Killing indiscriminately isn’t cool spirits.

As the developers; Experience Inc. are experienced in making dungeon crawlers, the adventure part of NG like its predecessor features ‘dungeon’ crawling, this may be exploring a haunted park or a creepy abandoned mansion.

That’s about it for that s labyrinth.

There is far more story in NG than Death Mark and far less ‘dungeon’ crawling. This is a positive from me as the characters personalities really come to light with some fantastic dynamics between them, this time round actually cared whether characters lived or died whereas in Death Mark they were just tools to help you achieve your goals. Plus while exploring you aren’t endlessly searching for that one missed item or piece of information. It’s Metroidvania style approach is a simple but effective one. For instance, you want to take a boat out to cross to an island. You figure the oars are locked away, you re-search the area for items that can be used as a lock pick and get the oars. Now you can row across to the island, a simple back track across 3 tiles and search all available points, pick the two items to use as the lock pick, problem solved. Usually if you’re stuck, reading the item descriptions will be all the clues you need. There are a few times when you really have to wrack your brain to solve a puzzle, leaving you feeling like a supernatural Albert Einstein.

I think Seiji is scarier than the spirits.

When in the dungeon crawling, adventuring, investigation part of the game, you traverse tiles on a map, armed with your trusty flashlight fine combing your way over every single scene for those crucial flashing dots with hopes of finding important objects and information to solve the mystery of how a spirit died and why they hold a grudge against the world. Sometimes you’ll have to swap the buddy accompanying you to take advantage of unique skills. Periodically during your adventure ‘Crisis Choices’ will come up giving you a timer starting at 1000 that counts down while you have to choose between 3 actions. The countdown is almost pointless though as every crisis choice it resets back to 1000 and almost every wrong answer results in game over and you just retry.

Important decision.

The atmosphere is perfect with many moments that’ll send a shiver down your spine, especially with the new bloodmetry feature whereby the protagonist can touch a blood stain and see how that stain came to be. This allows you to witness some horrifying scenes, albeit as a static picture with text but play with the lights off and headphones on and tell me you weren’t shocked by their gut churning nature.

Who wants to investigate the creepy doll?

The spirit battles have been massively improved since Death Mark with them taking place across multiple map tiles and you having to use your surroundings to your advantage not just aim your collection of random trash items at the spirit. In these fights, one wrong move and you’re dead as you carefully choose the items needed to soothe or destroy their soul. 

That’ll show the digusting spirit who’s boss.

The characters and backgrounds look hand drawn and look great but everything is just static and unimportant characters don’t even have head portraits appear in text boxes when talking to them. However, I love the facial expressions in NG, even though each character only has a few they never stopped cracking me up the whole play through, I’ll let you decide whether that’s a positive for comedy or a negative ruining the spoopy mood. Then again some of the faces were creepier than the actual story. An awesome feature for horror games is choosing how scary it is, but it only seems to affect mini jump scares that flash up occasionally, not really adding anything to the actual creepy part of the game: the atmosphere.

Poor doggy.

The soundtrack is chilling with the perfect blend of quiet, background cicadas, wind howling, stereotypical eerie music and chilled out jazz. The sound effects add nicely to the emersion such as fences rattling as you climb them, car wheels screeching as well as many other hair raising ambient noises and otherworldly moans and groans. You get alerted to anything even remotely important by a doorbell type sound which I was in two minds about. My favourite effect was the pages turning as you click through text, as this is a ‘visual’ novel after all. Unfortunately as in Death Mark, there is almost no voice acting, only a few greetings from characters.

Solve the riddle and get some info on spirits.

NG is a huge improvement over Death Mark on every way and a really enjoyable horror adventure. It took me a little under 20 hours but has little replay value unless you’re a diehard fan and want to see the small differences if certain characters die or not. It’s a little hard to recommend because NG suffers from niche game syndrome, in that it’s a full price release for a game that feels rather budget. This didn’t stop me thoroughly enjoying NG and looking forward to what Experience Inc. come up with next for the 3rd chapter of the Spirit Hunter series.

The sink is in the top of the toilet, what will the Japanese think of next.

Spirit Hunter: NG is available both physically and digitally on the eShop 10th October for £44.99/€49.99/$49.99. A huge thank you to Aksys Games for providing the review code.

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