[review] Jisei (demo)

Jisei (demo)
Jisei (demo) screenshot
genre murder mystery
creator Sakevisual
summary Psychic boy investigates a murder in a coffee shop.

Story

We find our main character sleeping in a coffee shop. His name is never revealed, not even to the reader even though we get to see his thoughts. What reason he could have for hiding his name isn’t explained in the demo either.

The protagonist remains nameless throughout.

Shortly after waking up he ‘senses’ someone nearby has recently died. MC (let’s just call him that) is psychic and can relive the last moments of a recently deceased person by touching them. He can apparently also sense death itself, although it’s not entirely clear if he senses the moment of dying or if he can detect any recent death. He goes to the bathroom, discovers a dead woman and touches her to relive her final moments — horribly incriminating himself by leaving his DNA/fingerprints, being the first to discover the body and not immediately calling for help.

An off-duty police officer just happens to be at the coffee shop at the time and he starts the investigation. Murder is apparently not a big deal in town as no additional police officers bother to make it to the coffee shop for the next half hour (the length of the demo).

It’s all adventure game style past the intro.

MC starts interrogating the other people at the shop, no-one finds this odd. Eventually the detective — who talks to everyone once, then gives up and guards the corpse — gives in and lets the prime suspect take over the investigation. Why is everyone OK with this?

At this point, absurd coincidences and unlikely responses have finally guided the plot to the intended situation — psychic dude investigates a closed-room murder. Time to patch up the ol’ suspension of disbelief and just roll with it.

After this visual novel-style intro, Jisei turns into a very basic detective adventure game. Simplistic to the point where there’s no inventory, and the only thing besides talking is moving from room to room and an examine room button. The plot is advanced by interrogating the others and reporting any suspicious statements back to the detective. This then unlocks new interrogation options, rinse and repeat. Why can’t MC continue questioning the same person as long as he has leads?

Switching between people and topic so often makes the investigation seem unfocused. You’re not chasing a lead or trying to figure out some specific question and it quickly devolves into blindly pressing buttons until there are none left. The characters are all fairly bland, the lead is a mopey kid.

From the demo I get the strong feeling Jisei consists of only this one case. If so, that would make for a pretty short game.

Presentation

The sprites look quite nice, but they really only have one pose with various facial expressions pasted on. I say one pose, but at least each character gets an arm position variant functioning as a secondary half-pose.

You may have noticed all screenshots in this review share the same background image. It’s not something I did intentionally, but I wouldn’t call it a coincidence either — about 90-95% of the VN takes place in the main area of the coffee shop. You’ll be seeing that one background a lot. The entire demo only contains three backgrounds, one full event CG and a handful cut-in images. The art is nice, but there isn’t very much of it.

In a few occasions, sprites slide in/out the scene (a common effect, for example Katawa Shoujo also does this). Strangely, this was sometimes accompanied by significant slowdown — perhaps from loading a new image during the animation. Using the rollback function during these transitions can cause sprites to get stuck in the wrong position.

Jisei’s opening movie isn’t terribly impressive. The extensive use of uncolored line-art makes it look more like a teaser video for an in-progress VN with unfinished artwork and I absolutely can’t stand the vocals.

One thing really makes Jisei stand out from its competition — it’s fully voice acted. Well, almost. The main character stays mute for some reason. There are reasons not to voice the main character (when the reader is supposed to be the protagonist), but these don’t apply to Jisei. The voice acting is rather well-done aside from a mysterious voice speaking directly to MC’s mind which sounds a little too jolly for a supernatural mind voice during a murder investigation.

Maybe as a consequence of the voice acting, the background music volume is very low. This isn’t something easily fixed; music volume is already 100% on the preferences screen. The music itself is fittingly moody but, as with the artwork, there isn’t very much of it (3 tracks).

Conclusion

Jisei is very polished, but lacks in breadth and depth. The scale is simply too small — only three suspects and everything takes place in a coffee shop. You never get that detective game feel of chasing a lead or figuring out the mystery for yourself. It’s basically a linear story underneath a detective game’s makeup.

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