Aksys Games has released Spirit Hunter: NG for the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita and PC. A hybrid of a visual novel and adventure game, we tested it on a Vita.
About a year ago, Aksys’ Death Mark was a very pleasant horror-themed surprise for Vita owners, just in time for Halloween. Somewhere along the line it’s been renamed Spirit Hunter: Death Mark, and thus it’s probably no surprise that Spirit Hunter: NG is directly tied to it. It’s not a straight up sequel as it features a different cast of characters, but you might remember that Death Mark was also somewhat episodic in how it told individual stories so it makes sense to not have returning characters.
Dubbed volume 2 in the Spirit Hunter series, Spirit Hunter NG follows a familiar pattern but plays out in a different setting. You play the role of a young protagonist called Akira, who has to try and save his younger sister Ami when she gets taken away into a dark realm by someone called Kakuya. Kakuya then acts as both antagonist and a kind of narrator in sending you on quests to deal with vengeful spirits.
Building on that setup, Spirit Hunger: NG plays out very much like Death Mark did, with episodes/chapters that ultimately lead to a confrontation with a spirit. During these chapters, you work with an ally and try to find clues and objects in the game world to help you understand and eventually defeat the spirit in a way that takes away its very existence. This is often tied to the spirit’s time among the living, and you have to do a little detective work to make sure you don’t leave any open ends when you face off with the spirit, or its vengefulness will transfer to your ally, who will then certainly meet a gruesome end.
With so many visual novels either going in the direction of anime tropes or the romantically inclined otome subgenre, it’s wonderful to see Aksys deliver another quality game that uses horror as its central theme. It’s what made Death Mark such a pleasant surprise last year, and although Spirit Hunter: NG is very similar in terms of gameplay its fresh new take on the narrative makes it every bit as enjoyable. The fact that you’re not just doing this to get rid of a “death mark” on yourself but trying to save your sister also makes the overarching story more engaging, at least from my perspective.
Despite the similarities, the game doesn’t re-use assets or locations, instead offering great and sometimes gruesome artwork and offering players for more outside locations to explore than Death Mark did. The stories are all new as well, and the quality of the writing is definitely good even if it’s not up to the level of some of the true visual novel classics like Steins;Gate. The subject matter, however, makes up for a lot if you’re a fan of horror and ghost tales in particular.
With so many Vita games now being budget-priced ports of often existing games, it’s nice to see Aksys stay loyal to the handheld with their Spirit Hunter series. If you enjoyed last year’s Death Mark then you’ll definitely want to pick this up as well – it’s got everything that made that game enjoyable in terms of writing and gameplay and has some brand new ghost tales to tell.