A while ago I released a post telling people about the huge sale on the visual novels, now I’ve read the first one and I’m ready to talk about it! More people would have watched the anime instead of reading the novels due to the pay wall in the way so I will be more focussed on the light novel simply to explain what happened.
I want to answer the question “should you buy this light novel in particular?” not the rest of the series as a whole. I have to say that the answer to that question is a definite no unless it’s on sale for 5p like it is now on steam. The simple reason for this is that the whole thing, including bonus content took me 9 hours to read and it was the exact same as the first four episodes of the anime. The only difference being that there was a greater amount of slice of life scenes in the novel.
I already thought that the opening four episodes of the Higurashi anime were stretched out but seeing it in this visual novel is just overkill. Most arcs in Higurashi are four episodes long and with 50 episodes in the series, the books need to get through roughly 12-13 arcs at the least! And I’m pretty sure that the anime didn’t even include the final two novels! That means that there’s a huge amount of content which is going to receive such a negligible amount of attention in the future when we wasted so much time here. Online it says it takes about 50 hours to read the whole series and 1/5 of the series was spent on just one individual arc!
And yes I’m calling this “game” a book because it is a book. It might have a lot of pictures, sound effects and music but there is no interactive element besides reading which is what you do for a book. I normally call visual novels games because they have choices which change the outcome of the ending but this book does no such thing. I know that Higurashi has a set story but many series’ such as the walking dead game and the Telltale stuff allow you to make choices which ultimately have no effect on the ending and change very little. The game Doki Doki Literature club demonstrates this effect really well, you make decisions and you feel like you have a choice in the game but it will always end in the same place. It’s this lack of interaction which makes me not like this game as much. I would have found it a much better experience if you could make decisions even if they really meant nothing in the end. Because you will inevitably decide to do one of the things the game wants you to say at some point and it will feel like you made a change.
I do like the idea of choices but I also like the idea of Higurashi being its own story which is similar to everyone else’s experience. That’s why I think this would have been a good compromise for the series. It’s like in Zelda when you have two choices: “Hell yeah!” or “Ok” you basically have no choice but it does make you think for that moment and it’s interesting. Another thing is when you might make up your mind but they tell you the information anyway. In Pokémon Silver your mum will ask you if you want to know how to use a telephone whether you answer “no” or “yes” she will say the same thing. The difference is that the first time it feels like a rushed explanation just in case and the 2nd time it feels like she’s doing what you asked. In both of these cases the player can feel like they’ve made a choice. That’s what I think this game should have been because it would have actually made it feel like a game.
So what extra content does the visual novel add? Well they added about three hours of the characters just playing games in between themselves as bonus content. You might spend half an hour reading them play dob or endlessly agonise against games that ultimately don’t matter. And if they do I’m not really sure if I want to read a book where the final mystery is based on whoever wins at Cluedo or not. At one point Keiji loses big, am I really supposed to believe that whoever has the biggest lost is going to die next? To me the only point of these slice of life segments is to establish a false sense of security to scare the reader later and make the final moments feel more tragic.
Now let me talk about the difference in the tragedy between both shows. In the anime we get a short series of events that led up to Keichi’s eventual death. In the game this feels a lot more drawn out and the events happen a lot more slowly. This gives you more time to contemplate what’s going on but it also means that everything takes longer, the days seem to last longer and Keichi’s impulsive mistakes in the show feel like complete stupidity as soon as we hear his internal monologue.
Keichi had a big decision to make. He could either tell the detective everything and then die or try and appease his classmates not telling the detective anything. Doing a mix of both is the worst possible decision as neither side is happy. Oishi had no evidence for the murder and Keichi’s classmates needed to kill him. I got the impression that if Keichi was on the complete side of his friends then he’d be ok. This just got worse as soon as he started keeping the secret since everyone seemed to know what he was doing anyway. This is true for the show but I had more respect for the anime Keichi than the vn Keichi.
Besides that it’s everything you would expect. It all plays out in the exact same way. I expected this to be true, I thought they’d be very similar but would have each arc short enough that I didn’t really mind. Spending too much time repeating something I saw already in 80 minutes for 9 hours was just a bit excessive in my opinion. I expected to see multiple shorter arcs of this series and I thought this recap would be interesting.
So I wouldn’t recommend this book however if the next one sorts it’s pacing out I can see it working very well because when you consider the bad pacing and lack of choices it was actually quite entertaining for what it was and I’m surprised it wasn’t a completely terrible experience as I would still give it a 6 since there were parts that I enjoyed.
For one the novel has updated visuals to show the more anime like models instead of the others. As well as this the sound effects and music do add a nice atmosphere to the series. It also provides a catalogue of tips which can help you with the understanding the difficulty of the story. It’s good for easy access to information and extra help with solving the mystery so it does some things right. It’s more that the product I got wasn’t what I was expecting and after watching the anime it felt massively stretched out. At the point where Keichi was taken to the garbage tip was when I was ready for him to die very soon, and I spent the remaining 6 hours waiting for that moment, remembering extra details from the show as I went.
So basically skip this one if you don’t like the sound of it and I’ll be reviewing the 2nd one as soon as I’ve completed it and can recommend that one as well! I hope the next one will be better just because they have to fit in a lot of arcs in the same period of time!