Jisei: The First Case HD
Publisher: Ratalaika Games S.L.
Genre: Visual Novel, Cult Classic, Mystery
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 12/16
Release Date: 22/07/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Jisei: The First Case HD is not a new game. It’s a port to Xbox One (also to PS4 and Nintendo Switch, although I don’t mention those versions in this review) by Ratalaika Games S.L. of the first game in the Jisei series, created by SakeVisual and released in 2010. Originally the game was available on a variety of operating systems for PC. I didn’t play the first release; therefore, I had no preconception of how the game should look or play. However, did it feel like I was playing an old has-been that should have been left buried, or has the port to a console given the title a new lease of life?
The Intrigue Begins
As soon as Jisei: The First Case HD begins you are plunged into the middle of a mystery. You play from the point of view of a male, teenage character whose name you do not know but to whose thoughts you have intimate access. Your character has a special ability which is revealed at the beginning of the game, you must use this and your powers of deduction to help you solve a macabre puzzle: find out who killed the woman in the bathroom (and clear your character’s name in the process).
A Story and an Investigation
Jisei: The First Case HD begins with you simply reading and following the story but evolves into a more interactive experience. You must decide who to question, where to go and what to examine within the small café where events take place. Your character’s special ability will only get you so far towards finding the killer, so you must collect and evaluate evidence as the plot develops. You can review past conversations in ‘history’ in the pause menu. I could see this being useful if you saved and came back another day. However, I didn’t use this feature when playing through in one session.
From the moment I began playing Jisei: The First Case HD I found myself drawn in by the storytelling style. I was genuinely interested in the plot and eager to find out more. Whilst it’s a familiar storyline, the manner in which it is told doesn’t feel dated at all; I thought this could easily have been a new release.
A lot of the story is delivered through conversations between characters, the rest through the protagonist’s thoughts and descriptions of events. I think the dialogues seem natural and accurately reflect each of the character’s personalities. Each time you question them, the characters are gradually fleshed out by their responses. These conversations also provide evidence pointing in several directions, which keeps you guessing whodunnit for a decent length of time.
Not having played the original, I don’t have anything to compare the images in Jisei: The First Case HD with, but I found the anime art-style beautiful. Each background and character is drawn with an impressive level of detail and using vibrant colours. I often found myself pausing to take in the artwork as the story progressed. I appreciated the little touches such as characters blinking and folding/unfolding their arms when you speak to them. When combined with the mostly realistic and well-timed sound effects, it helps to create a fitting atmosphere.
In addition, there are a good variety of different scenes within the café. You don’t get stuck looking at the same background as the story unfolds since you need to move around the different areas regularly. Also, when something pivotal happens, there is often a new scene to view which breaks up the more familiar backdrops. In my first play-through, I played with voices muted but I went back for another go and played with them on. I enjoyed the addition of the voices in my second play-through as they were expressive and the voice-acting was good overall.
The Xbox controls are user-friendly, although it’s not hard to see why the game was originally more suited to point and click on the PC. However, from the point of view of someone who plays far more console games than PC, the controls seem well-adapted to the Xbox One controller.
The achievements in Jisei: The First Case HD are accessible; most are dished out through the natural progression of the game. Other collectibles include ‘sketches’ of different scenes which you also accrue as you make your way through the story.
A Deeper Investigation
I was interested to find out that in Japanese, Jisei means death poem. To me, it seems that the whole of Jisei: The First Case HD is an homage to this type of poetry. I found this cultural link fascinating; I think it creates a more meaningful gaming experience. It also left me reflecting on the overall message the developers were aiming to deliver.
In comparison to other visual novels I’ve played, Jisei: The First Case HD seemed quite short. Whilst the mystery of the murder was resolved by the end of the game, there were several questions left unanswered. This meant that it felt much more like the first part of the story rather than a stand-alone episode in a series.
In a Few Words
Jisei: The First Case HD is a short, sharp blast of the supernatural tinged with melancholy, all wrapped up in an engaging mystery. If you enjoy visual novels with a hint of the unearthly and unusual, give this one a whirl.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy Jisei: The First Case HD for the Xbox One in the Microsoft Store.