While you might know NIS best for Disgaea or Ar Tonelico, they’ve also developed a long-running visual novel adventure series in Japan by the name of Hayarigami. The first two games in the series debuted on the PS2, and three more outings released later on the PSP. What makes Hayarigami stand out from other visual novels is that it looks a lot more gruesome than what you’re used to seeing.
There’s more to it than that though. Take Hayarigami DS, a port of the PS2 game for instance. The game has you take up the role of a police officer trying to solve the mysteries behind a series of urban legends. One case starts out with you receiving mysterious chain mails from an unknown sender’s mobile phone, who claims to have witnessed a serial killer. Another involves investigating suicides.
The catch is that you can solve each case using scientific or supernatural means. While you can solve all four cases using either one, replaying the game and solving them using the other method will give you more insight into the story in addition to a different ending. There’s also a self-questioning mode, which sounds similar to the logic system from Ace Attorney Investigations. All of these elements are an effort on the part of the developer to make you feel like you’re the one living through the terror of the mystery.
This being a Japanese game, obviously Hayarigami DS was nowhere near long enough to meet the high standards of Japan’s naming conventions. The full title is Hayarigami DS: Toshidensetsu Kaii Jiken, which as far as I can tell, translates to “Hayarigami DS: Strange Urban Legend Incidents.”
The game’s sequel, also being remade for DS, is currently in development. There are also Hayarigami movies that are listed on an English site, but there’s no way to tell if this site is directly related to NIS or if they will ever be released in English. Between the Hayarigami games and the Kindaichi Kosuke mysteries, that makes four mystery visual novels that look very cool and that someone in the West needs to pick up.
Ignition? Gaijinworks? Aksys? Guys? Hey, where’d everyone go…?
Fun fact: Kogure Souichirou, the star of the Hayarigami games, is a downloadable character in Disgaea 3!