Jisei/Kansei/Yousei Review

Title: Jisei
Release date: 2010-06-08
Developer: Sakevisual
Publisher: Sakevisual

"Jisei" is the first game in Sakevisual’s mystery trilogy that also encompasses "Kansei" and "Yousei". It was released four years ago and relies heavily on supernatural detective tropes.

The story starts with our nameless protagonist waking up in a café, where he fell asleep after imbibing a generous helping of coffee. It doesn’t take long for him to get an urge to visit a little boy’s room, and, surprise surprise, he finds a dead body in the women’s restroom. Before you ask what he was doing in a women’s toilet, the answer is decidedly unpervy – the door was open and the body could be seen from the hallway. This event starts, what can be described as a closed location murder mystery. The action never shifts outside of the café and the people inside become the suspects while waiting for the police to arrive. The main characters present in the game are a barista, a college student, a businesswoman, an off-duty cop who cannot correctly pronounce his own name and you, this game’s protagonist.
I'm a disembodied voice in your head. Dah.
As far as protagonists go, the unnamed narrator is only one step away from a blank slate. Basically you as player step into the shoes of an amateur detective in order to find the killer. Why the hell would you do that? I’m glad you asked! It’s because you found the body, someone drew the wrong conclusions and accused you of being the killer. Go figure… Did I forget to mention that you are an ESPer with an ability to experience the last moments of a dead person and there is a mysterious voice in your head guiding you?

The premise is actually quite good, but the execution if fairly terrible. The cop who cannot pronounce his own name decides that, as you are the most suspicious, you should do the investigation while he stands around and twiddles his thumbs – maybe you will be able to find the killer and he won’t have to put down his doughnuts just to do his own damn job! So, you question the suspects, search for the evidence, and the police completely fail to arrive before the game is finished. *sigh* This game is like a badly acted show in a theater with street level performers trying to imitate professionals. Everything about what happens is so unrealistic that it completely broke my suspension of disbelief.
Place your bets for a corporate conspiracy.
Not to mention that ESP plays such a small part within the game that the concept might as well have not been there. Of course, this was the first installment in the eventual trilogy, but a bit more fleshing out of the setting would have been appreciated.

When it comes to characters, I have already labeled them as "street level performers". They are as wooden and cliché sounding as possible. They are all basically stereotypes with little characterization and their only job is to advance the plot of the VN, which is dreadfully short. There is basically only one true ending, however you can encounter a bad end if you mess up during the investigation.

The one notable thing is the voice acting. First of all, voices are already rare in OELVNs and secondly, they are not as bad as one expects. Sure, they are very amateurish and Chance the Barista is almost painful to listen to, but it could have been worse. Plus the game actually has a sung OP and the song itself is pretty nice, though the excerpt we listen to is way too short (you can actually listen to the full song on Youtube).
The Usual Suspects
Graphically the game doesn’t look that hot, even though at first glance it might seem pretty. The backgrounds are few but, at the very least, the main background for the cafe interior is quite detailed and good looking. On the other hand, the sprites are so undetailed that they look like literal cardboard cutouts in relation to the backgrounds. And why the hell do western producers insist on employing such an animesque art, when it just doesn’t work in the given setting?! I personally just wanted to take a rusted spoon to Chance’s perfectly round eyes every time I had to stare at them. Sorry, just no.

The final rusty nail into the game's coffin is the interface. As someone used to calling menu with a right mouse button, I was unpleasently surprised I couldn't do it here. The whole layout is counterintuitive and it takes way too many clicks to reach important functions (like "Load", for example).

All in all, "Jisei" is a short, unrealistic and, actually, ultimately predictable detective story with a graphical presentation which should have been faded out of OELVN business by 2000. Though to be fair, if this was a free novel it would be a passable effort. I’m mostly disparaging it due to it being a paid product. Definitely not worth the price being asked.

Title: Kansei
Release date: 2011-07-11
Developer: Sakevisual
Publisher: Sakevisual

Boy am I happy to say that "Kansei" KOs "Jisei" in terms of quality. It’s an all around better game with more polish and an actual less sucky plot.

The game is a direct sequel to its predecessor and continues on the very next day after the events of "Jisei". Our nameless protagonist is temporarily staying with the other ESPers, when the director of "Auten Engineering" – the company mentioned during the murder investigation in the previous game – decides he wants to hold a meeting with the people involved in the case. Thus our protagonist with the other supernatural detectives, Aki, Naoki and Li Mei, drives to the director’s country estate. It’s obvious, that being a murder mystery, this game can not do without a murder. So, Mr. Auten dies under suspicious circumstances and the investigation once again falls on your shoulders.
Truer words have never been spoken.
Unlike the completely unbelievable events in “Jisei”, “Kansei” presents semi-plausible explanations for the set-up. Mr. Auten’s high-tech house goes into a lockdown after his death and thus no one of the present people can leave. Moreover, the estate is deep in the countryside and it will take some time for the police to show up. On the other hand, detective Gurski is once again thrown into this mess and refuses to do anything at all, because "it’s not his jurisdiction". Sure, it’s so much better to let a bunch of kids with a rap sheet run around the estate trying to investigate things on their own </sarcasm>. It cannot possibly go wrong!

At the very least, the said kids, and our protagonist for the matter, actually have personalities this time around. Main character, who is finally given a temporary name of Kangai by Aki, is much less of a blank slate and even gets a background with certain things of his past coming to light. Aki and Li Mei only appeared at the very end of the first game and play a prominent role here. I was especially fond of Li as I’m always attracted to mysterious quiet girls, not to mention that her voice actress is probably the best of the bunch. Aki and Naoki are actually much less interesting and detective Gurski is as useless as ever. However, this time there are more suspects as everyone had a motive to kill poor old William Auten. His housekeeper, prodigal son, a journalist and the IT administrator are all quite interesting and all of them have something to hide.
Loitering in the lobby here is a usual event.
The investigation in "Kansei" is more active than in the previous VN, as the game actually introduces movement between various locales and even "point and click" segments where you have to look for hidden clues. In that regard "Kansei" starts resembling an actual adventure game. Not to mention that the game has three possible endings that depend on what clues you manage to find, with the true ending being locked until the other two are obtained. Sadly, once you obtain one of the possible endings, the other endings are much less exciting, as they are not diverse enough to justify multiple routes and the true ending itself looks like a mixture of consepts from the other two ends.

Despite being better than "Jisei", this VN is by no means a particularly well made game. The main problem is that the protagonist is in the observer role and all the events just sort of happen to him without him being an active participant. There simply is no sense of accomplishment upon solving the mystery. Kangai seems to just be running around without purpose and suddenly rushing headlong into the finale with little actual effort on his part. Not to mention that the mystery itself is lackluster with quite predictable culprit and a distinct lack of "oomph".
Ain't you a tad defensive.
Graphically the game shows a visible improvement, especially regarding the character faces, as they have become more realistic and less cardboard-like. Still, the bodies are lacking in details and the backgrounds suffered a dive in regards to the café environment from "Jisei"; the outer estate looks especially ridiculous. As far as the sound goes, I cannot say much about BGM, but the character voices are mediocre to good. Yeah, I almost liked the voicing in "Kansei", even though Marissa should return back to voice-acting school. And I’m never gonna let the voice actors live pronouncing Mikolaj Gurski’s name incorrectly down. For fuck’s sake, if you give your character a Polish name, learn how to spell it! The game originally had an OP sung by "Aural Wave" just like "Jisei", but due to compatibility reasons it has been removed from the later versions of the game (you can still see it on Youtube if you want).

Despite many drawbacks (including the same sucky interface), I found myself surprisingly enjoying "Kansei", even though its prequel was a total dud. Maybe the third game will be a genuinely good game... One can hope.

Title: Yousei
Release date: 2013-02-01
Developer: Sakevisual
Publisher: Sakevisual

It’s gratifying to finally get my hands on the third part of "Jisei" trilogy, where the graphics do not suck hairy arse balls for the first time ever. By saying "graphics" I, of course, mean sprites. They finally are able to meet the standard where it is not painful to look at them. Paper dolls in "Kansei" were not bad, but they lacked proper detalization and were basically faces attached to cardboard bodies. "Yousei" does not have such a problem anymore. On the other hand, backgrounds (at least the outdoor ones) appear to have gone worse with every installment and are the worst yet. Seriously, who painted them? I have seen better artistry among primary graders… or Sakevisual just ran out of budget and actually outsourced backgrounds to a primary grader. However, indoor backgrounds are passable - it's like a different artist did them.
Good bye, Li Mei.
As a murder mystery "Yousei" is both better and worse than its predecessor. Our protagonist Kangai with the twin psychics and Li Mei go undercover in an Edgewater University in order to perform investigations into the affairs of Mr. Auten, thus continuing the plot line started in "Kansei". It doesn’t take long for a murder to happen… in a bell tower no less! A famous researcher Dr. Johansen has croaked it and it's your time to shine. This time the game has quite a large cast and the murderer is not readily apparent at the first glance. It's a real shame that not counting our main characters and maybe Jupiter, all the others are bland and uninteresting. An actual characterization was actually better handled in "Kansei" where people behaved like people.

"Yousei" also introduces a map movement and you can walk through the campus in order to question students regarding the incident. Everyone has secrets and might have had a reason to kill the good doctor. In the previous games your investigation was almost completely separated from that of your partners and it didn’t feel like you were actually cooperating with the twins or the police. This time the partnership is much more prominent and you can perform certain actions only with the help of your comrades, which is an improvement over the prequel. Sadly, "Yousei" also takes a few pages from the book "How not to make a good adventure game" and lets you perform certain actions only in a specific order, even if there is no reason for this. For example, you can only ask for everyone’s alibis after you have already talked to them all and than conversed with detective Gurski. It’s like Kangai does not have enough brain cells to realize he can to ask for alibis himself! This design problem creates a ridiculous amount of backtracking, which is frankly there only to artificially lengthen the game. It becomes especially ridiculous during subsequent playthroughs.
War Stars? Sounds like a football team.
"Yousei" has four possible endings, but three of them are basically glorified gameovers. Not that it’s a bad thing, as they give us some additional information regarding the setting and characters. The actual bad thing is that there is just not enough new material to justify multiple endings. Once you played through the game once, every of the other possible endings takes only about 15 minutes to get and majority of that time is spent on skipping.

"Jisei" and "Kansei" felt like self contained games even if they were parts of the whole. Not so much with "Yousei". The game ends on a cliffhanger note and there has been no talks of a possible sequel. Sure, the murder is solved, but the overall mystery regarding Mr. Auten’s research has been brought to the forefront and left hanging there. It’s a bit annoying, because we still cannot see the goals of the villains and thus we have no idea why the murder in "Yousei" was even committed.

The best thing about the game surprisingly is the interface. The previous two games had an absolute crap for one and it required way too many clicks to reach important functions. "Yousei" finally puts all the useful functions within the text box as small icons and for the first time allows you to use a right mouse click to bring up the menu. The game definitely can be praised for that.
Beautiful friendship.
The cast still remains fully voiced and the voices range from good to bad, but I have nothing really to say about this aspect of the VN. Oh, except for the fact that Michael’s actor tries way too hard and fails miserably, thus sounding ridiculous. His lines were the highlight of unintentional narm.

Strangely, despite being the third game in the series with the largest budget, this is the first game without an opening video (taking into account that "Kansei" lost its OP due to compatibility reasons). It’s quite a shame, as I liked the first two OPs.

In the end, "Youisei" is still not a particularly good game, but it’s obvious that Sakevisual tried hard and the VN is an improvement on its prequels (even though the improvement in regards to the second game is only a slight one).

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database links for Jisei, Kansei, Yousei
Lemma Soft forum threads for Jisei, Kansei, Yousei
Jisei official site
Kansei official site
Yousei official site
Desura page for Jisei, Kansei, Yousei
Buy a Jisei/Kansei bundle at MangaGamer
Sakevisual development blog
Sakevisual DeviantART page

Final Verdict: Jisei 49%
                        Kansei 63%
                        Yousei 64%


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