Japanese Helpful Word of the Day: “Usagi” (Plus: 2 More Horror Games!)

[notification type=”alert-warning” close=”true” ]Banner: Main menu unlocked after beating “Misao” by Sen.[/notification]

The word is usagi, which means “rabbit” and “punch me hard.” It’s also the name of this week’s featured game up for review! “Usagi” is a surreal tale of medium-to-epic-sized proportions about murdering the same person repeatedly and chilling with NPCs that look like Jessica Rabbit Usagi. We also review “Misao” and “Lonely Daughter,” to come!

USAGI, 2013

Genre: Dream Diary Engine: RPG Maker 2003 Developer: LunarRabbit

Hare today, gone tomorrow. Is it legal to punch a blogger? I hope not. Anyway, “Usagi” is a short, complete (!!!) Yume Nikki fangame released late spring 2013. Usagi means rabbit, and now you have a bachelor’s in Oriental Studies.

Crafted under the premise of being easier to navigate than most works in the genre — which it for the most part fulfills — “Usagi” is a short game by developer LunarRabbit, the German leporine enthusiast who created a Japanese game to be released for English audiences. What a time to be alive.

“Usagi” is about a girl named Umiko, who permanently sports such a frozen look of exasperation even Poniko would be impressed. Umiko roams the realm of her dreams via paintings in order to come to terms with some ambiguous tragedy from her past, collecting effects and mementos along the way. There are two possible endings to get, the weird one and the weird one with credits.

I was initially a little dubious about this game, mostly because I thought there was only room for one game which liberally borrows from general art resources in my heart. Fortunately, “Usagi” was cute enough to mostly exceed my expectations!

Remarkable Feat of This Game #1: rather unusually, I was compelled to not kill everything that moved because the NPCs were so damn cute. This is remarkable because Umiko’s weapon effect is pyrokinesis, and this is a very hard thing not to do, when you’re given the option. But the NPCs made squeaky noises — squeaky noises! — so my noble sacrifice was made a bit easier and plus you’d have to be heartless to kill a penguin or Jessica Usagi.

Remarkable Feat of This Game #2: I was penalized for not killing things because the NPCs were so damn cute. Manslaughter is supposedly then a necessary component to the plot, considering the author’s claim of “a coherent back story,” and the meticulous and purposeful placement of each character and location. You can’t buy that kind of dedication! Well, no… I guess you can. That’s why America invented China.

In any case, I would recommend this one if you’re into little gems that are relatively light on the horror aspects and feature bunnies and this one incredibly tedious maze which I admit I looked up the map file for because I’ve had enough. Not after Madoro-Mu. Never again.

MISAO, 2011

Genre: Horror Engine: Wolf RPG Editor Developer: Sen

I finally got around to playing the beloved early horror adventure from Sen, the creator of Mad Father. “Misao” originally came out in 2011 and was later translated by vgperson (all hail/hare vgperson/etc.) in early 2013. It’s also forwarded by the enticing disclaimer barring players who cannot “make a clear distinction between reality and fantasy,” so you can only anticipate nasty goodness from this one.

And indeed, it delivers! You play as Aki, a young high school girlboy who is tasked with discovering the truth behind the disappearance of Hatsune Miku Misao, the school’s token scrappy, after their school Shitsville High is thrown into a hellish void and taken over by bloodthirsty spirits. Best of all, you can rename the protagonist and thus enact your righteous reign over evil as the mighty high school tyrant Pooper Doo.

Misao is laden with clever puzzles, intuitive use of the engine, and dead people. There’s also a lot of depth to explore behind the facades of Aki’s two-faced companions through both the regular and post-game “truth” story modes.

Go get it and play it!

LONELY DAUGHTER, 2013

Genre: Horror Engine: Game Maker Developer: StarluoAngel

If you must satisfy your inclination towards masochism, perhaps pick up StarluoAngel’s 2013 Game Maker title “Lonely Daughter.” Right now only the first chapter of a promised few is available, and supposedly a non-canon online novel about the series is also in the works.

Lonely Daughter” is about two kids, Alex and Lily, who are kidnapped one day in their mysterious town and forced to play the “Trust Game” by their captor, in order to escape her(?) deadly mansion. They are briefly joined by a third victim, Jayneh, who assists them in finding key pieces, avoiding a little ghost girl with a teddy bear, and admiring paintings.

Though the soundtrack and portraits are impressive, there’s not much to be said for the sprite and environment work. Not to mention the expository dialogue shoots for cute/quirky and misses. Hard. It sounds like the candid stiffness of two friends writing a Naruto self-insert fan fiction, which is best explained by the fact the author admits the three main characters are more or less cartoonified versions of her friends, who may or may not have also been involved in making the game.

The publishing world does not much care for semi-autobiographical whimsy and I don’t imagine the gaming one does either. Can you imagine if OFF were a vague recreation of Mortis Ghost’s and his friends’ HiLaRiOuS antics? Shit. Nevermind, it probably is. Pull yourself together, Europe.

The details of the Trust Game are never fully divulged. It is implied there’s some imminent threat of death if you don’t trust your partner (what ho?!), but given the linearity of the game-play there’s no way to discern which in-game choices reflect friendship or betrayal. Instead of something like this, which, in my humble opinion, is a really nicely written puzzle,

Psychological horror at its finest.

we are faced with killer cats and bookshelves which kill the protagonist without warning upon the slightest interaction. Just play The Witch’s House again!

Post Author: plaster

Winner of Miss Best Effort seven years and counting, Plasterbrain spends her days pretending to code, writing music, and third bullet point. Her top three first dates would be hunting for slugs, writing fanfiction about Hanzo, and a joint Powerpoint presentation. Oh wait wait wait! Can I add a fourth? The fourth is Neopets.

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