Higurashi was not the kind of game I was expecting it to be. I didn’t really know much about it going in other than it being a horror series. Based on that I had assumed there would be a lot of murdering going on, but in reality it was more of a slice of life comedy with an occasional murder and some mystery elements thrown in.
As anyone reading this probably already knows, Higurashi was already released several years ago by MangaGamer. So why are they releasing it again?
There are three major changes here compared to the original English version. First off, the most immediately noticeable one is the new character sprites. Compared to the originals they’re higher resolution and more… normal looking. I personally prefer the old sprites, because in spite of being rather weird looking they kind of grew on me after a while. I think they have a certain charm to them that the new ones lack. Luckily the game lets you switch between them at any time. The backgrounds, however, remain the same old “photos run through a watercolor filter” style. I think they look decent enough but it would’ve been nice to see new background art or maybe higher resolution versions of the old assets.
The second change is the translation, which while not completely new has been significantly reworked to improve the quality. I haven’t played the original release to compare but the current state of the script seems pretty good to me, with no weird Engrish lines or anything of that sort.
The last major change is on the technical side, with the game being ported to Doddler’s custom Unity based VN engine. My favorite feature here compared to the original is the text rendering, instead of being fixed at 640×480 and getting upscaled into a blurry mess in fullscreen mode it looks nice and sharp at any screen resolution. I really love this feature and hope it becomes a mainstream feature of other new VN releases at some point. The other nice thing about the engine port is that the game now has Linux and MacOS versions. The intersection of Linux users and VN players is probably one of the world’s smallest market niches, but as a long time Linux user I’m glad to see it being served. I even got to be the Linux tester for this game, which I thought was pretty cool.
While it hasn’t changed at all from the original release, I think that the sound design was one of the game’s stronger points. There’s no voice acting (and there never was in the Japanese version), unfortunately, but the background music, ambient noises, and well chosen moments of silence did a good job of establishing the atmosphere of each scene.
This is all really just the first chapter of a much longer VN, though. So I think it’s fair to judge it by whether it made me want to keep reading or not rather than as a stand-alone story. It’s very short by the standards of a “full” VN, but also quite long for being a single chapter. There are no choices in this game but there is enough of a mystery to keep you thinking. There are plenty of unresolved plot threads by the end, so I’m hoping future chapters deal with those and answer the questions posed. And ultimately the game did leave me wanting to read more, so I think it did its job as an opening chapter quite well.