Jisei, Kansei and Yousei, are a series of fully-voiced visual novels in which the biggest mystery for you to solve is that of yourself: a teenage protagonist, who remains nameless throughout the entirety of the first game. You’ve returned to his home town to face his past, and while unearthing the deep, murky supernatural history that Sakevisual has crafted is mostly a good experience, design quirks, occasionally poor writing and continuity errors do detract from the series’ immersion.
First, I will that say that crazy things happen when a team of people dedicate themselves to a project for a prolonged period. Steady improvements are a given when you put in the time. And with each game in the Jisei visual novel series (JKY) developed and released roughly a year apart, experiencing the improvements upon the already competent narrative-foundation spawned in 2010, is enjoyable.
Though, I’m glad that these games are chapters instead of a conclusive trilogy, because three years later, there is still room for improvement.
In the novels, individuals with Kansei are people who are highly attuned to the emotions of either themselves or those around them. This premise introduces a cast of characters who are immediately likeable. At first, it’s due to their intrinsically empathetic nature, but as each of the four young adults (that you spend the majority of your time solving mysteries with) begin to open themselves up and reveal snippets of their past, they become more endearing – kind of like real people.
It sometimes seems silly to sate, but it is worth noting. Some visual novels flatten their characters to the point where you could swap them between entirely different series, and their behaviour would still make sense. Thankfully JKY doesn’t suffer from this pattern.
The youngest of the core characters, Li Mei (left), is a soft spoken girl with the blessing/curse of feeling surrounding peoples emotions all the time. Aki, and Naoki (header image) are fraternal twins. Aki, the elder of the two, has the ability to plant emotional seeds of inspiration in those around her, and if her target is particularly sensitive, she can even clearly speak into their mind from a distance in a kind of one-way telepathy. Naoki commits all that he sees and feels to memory, perfectly and instantly. His ability comes in handy in many ways, including recreating crime scenes. And yes, JYK is most certainly about crime.
Bad things seem follow the protagonist (who eventually snags the nickname Kangai (right)) like flies to garbage, which makes his ability to relive the moment of a corpse’s death when he touches it, an awfully fortuitous sixth sense. I say fortuitous, because none of them know how or when they acquired their powers. It’s up to you to put the pieces together by working your way towards each chapter’s various endings.
JYK, like many visual novels before it, is best experienced in its entirety. Figuring out exactly which conversation you need to have – and the time to have them – or figuring out what piece of key evidence needs to be found before moving on is often logical and rewarding. Not only are you able to talk to a variety of people and learn more about their character, but you’re also able to find pieces of information that offer clues about the overarching plot of the Jisei series. They might not have any immediate relevance to an individual crime, but they add a substantial amount of depth to the world.
Jisei, Kansei, and Yousei, took me on a journey down the beginning of a serious and thoughtful mystery story
Having information segmented in separate routes works to JYK’s advantage most of the time, but on multiple occasions, I found that less crucial details were altered or missed entirely depending on what path you decided to take. A character might reference an object in a room and expect you to know what they’re talking about, yet the room in question might only be accessible via an entirely different story route.
It strikes me as a mild slip in quality assurance. Many of these errors would have been easy to write around, but they might not even appear depending on how you play the games. I can see them being missed in testing.
These are little things, but they can breed confusion at worst, and they break the immersion at best. A few moments in Jisei and Kansei also feature some cringe inducing lines of dialogue that derailed my mystery-solving train of thought. Lines like, “If he’s not doing something illegal, I’ll eat my motherboard,” might not rub other people the wrong way, but they certainly got to me. What compounds these goofy miscues in the writing is the fact that (except for Kangai) every line from every character in JYK is performed by voice actors.
Like many aspects of JYK, the vocal performances all get better when you jump to the next novel – though they were never bad to begin with. However if you force even the best voice actor to read a shoddy line, it will stand out from the rest of the well-written and natural script. I do want to emphasize the improvement-curve again though; by the time I reached the end of Yousei, the writing had smoothed out almost entirely, and as you might expect, the third game was the strongest of the three because of it.
Following a similar trajectory to the voice-work and writing, the user interface and artwork of the novels improved with each release. JYK runs on the Ren’Py visual novel engine, and as usual, you won’t find any major technical issues with the audio cues, background transitions, text advancement or saving. But even though things like quick saves and mouse-wheel menu scrolling are eventually implemented in Yousei, poor arrow-key tracking for onscreen options and movement sequences, and a noticeable lack of keyboard shortcuts for things like skipping and auto-advancing, made replaying the novels a bit more arduous than I’d prefer.
Other than those quibbles I’ve mentioned (and an infuriating, hour-long wall I hit in Yousei that required me to uncharacteristically examine an obscure object in order to progress) Jisei, Kansei, and Yousei, took me on a journey down the beginning of a thoughtful, mystery saga. The novels’ execution isn’t perfect, but the ride is fun enough to makeup for any shortcomings you might notice.
(All three novels are available for Mac, Windows and Linux. The Jisei + Kansei bundle is half price on the Dischan Store for or $9.99. Yousei is also half price at $7.49 on the Dischan Store. Their sale ends tomorrow though, so act fast!