Community Visual Novel Book Club - Spooktober 2019

Exzyleph

Dark Eroge Lord
Oct 9, 2018
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Welcome to the third MetaCouncil visual novel book club!

The third MetaCouncil visual novel book club is going to follow a somewhat different format from the first two book clubs. For Spooktoober 2019, you get to pick any horror/spooky visual novel(s) that you want to read or re-read! This is an informal book club, so there is no fixed schedule; you simply read the novel at your own pace, and share your thoughts along the way or when you are done reading. Just remember to use spoiler tags liberally.

For general information and past and future book clubs, please see the main MetaCouncil Book Club thread.


The following is a set of horror/spooky visual novels included merely for inspiration; feel free to pick something for Spooktober that is not on either of these lists. Approximate play-times are included for each suggestion, sourced either from HLTB (HowLongToBeat.com) or VNDB.

Many more English Language horror/spooky visual novels can be found on VNDB, Steam, and Itch. Please post suggestions in the thread if you know of some good horror/spooky visual novels not listed below, or post if you need suggestions for where to start.

(I will be starting with Corpse Party, so feel free to join me in reading that story)


Free suggestions



CUPID

Love is both poison and cure, both knife and remedy." Set in 18th Century France, this is a gothic romance tale about loss, revenge and the different faces of love.

(download)
HLTB: 5h



DIVI-DEAD

My name is Ranmaru Hibikiya. Today is my first day at Asao Private School...

Well actually, there was a problem. Once I arrived, I started noticing some disturbing things. There was violence and misconduct happening on campus, not the usual past times at a private high school. As I got deeper into my investigation, I came across a possible correlation between an underground society and the unusual behavior of my peers. I realized that I could not trust ANYONE.

There's just one last thing...After transferring, sometime between all the sexual escapades happening on campus, and my investigation, something horrifying happened to me. I...

(play online)

Warning: Contains sexually explicit material.
VNDB: 10-30h



Doki Doki Literature Club!

Welcome to the Literature Club! It's always been a dream of mine to make something special out of the things I love. Now that you're a club member, you can help me make that dream come true in this cute game!

Every day is full of chit-chat and fun activities with all of my adorable and unique club members.

I'm super excited for you to make friends with everyone and help the Literature Club become a more intimate place for all my members. But I can tell already that you're a sweetheart—will you promise to spend the most time with me? ♥

(download)
HLTB: 5h



Knifepoint Horror

A series of short stories, each telling a frightening supernatural tale.

The KPH set is set apart from its contemporaries by its personal, minimalist style and focus on the primal aspects of storytelling by concentrating primarily on the raw experience, cutting away all unnecessary filler which leaves us with a tightly-plotted tale whose fascination the reader will find themselves hard-pressed to escape from.

(download)
VNDB: 2-10h



Lake of Voices

Kikka the Steadfast is a sensitive and empathetic woman who uses a mask of stoicism to protect herself from the harsh world she lives in. Kikka works as an official guard for one of the many tiny villages in the region. Her most recent assignment is to travel with fellow guard Bemelle to an allied town that’s been under siege by raiders.

With an ever-present sense of urgency, the two find themselves on the shore of Sinnlos, a cursed lake of black water that is home to the Nixi; twisted creatures who take joy in drowning humans. But they are not the only ones seeking passage that night. Their guide agrees to lead them all, whilst also giving a warning that a group this large has no chance of making it across whole. Someone will be lost along the way.

(download)
HLTB: 5h



Perceptions of the Dead

The first thing you need to know is that ghosts are real.

The rest, you can only learn on your own.

Follow three stories set in a world where the dead linger, and things far worse wait beyond the veil.

(download)
HLTB: 1h



Soundless - A Modern Salem in Remote Area -

The small town of Phada is the home of a cult comprising of only 145 people, completely cut off from the rest of the world. The protagonist, Mercy, is the subject of constant religious abuse due to her "cursed" hallucinations, which cause her to see a corrupted world filled with red and black beetles. After the death of the town's 25th "Holy Woman", two new Holy Women instead of one are birthed in her place.

When classes end the next day, one calls out to Mercy.

"I can see it, too."

(download)
VNDB: 2-10h
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Non-free suggestions



Corpse Party

A group of friends unknowingly perform an occult ritual that traps them in an otherworldly elementary school. Here, the vengeful spirits of young children threaten their lives and their sanity, and the only hope of survival is to uncover the chilling details behind the murders of those trapped before them...

(purchase)
HLTB: 11h



Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni

Marie is trapped in a horrible situation. She's being constantly tormented by her classmates and regularly molested by her teacher. With nowhere else to turn, she finds herself asking for supernatural help from one of the seven demons of the seven mysteries of her school. All she desires is the death of her cruel classmates and teacher. How far will Marie be willing to go in order to achieve the murders that would free her from her living hell?

HLTB: 5.5h x 2 parts



Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

The story takes place during June 1983, at a fictional rural village called Hinamizawa, which has a population of approximately 2000. , Keiichi Maebara, moves to Hinamizawa and befriends his new classmates Rena Ryugu, Mion Sonozaki, Rika Furude, and Satoko Hojo.

Hinamizawa appears to be a normal, peaceful, rural village to Keiichi. However, the tranquility abruptly ends after the annual Watanagashi Festival, a celebration to commemorate and give thanks to the local god, Oyashiro-sama. Keiichi learns that every year for the past four years, one person has been murdered and another has gone missing on the day of the Watanagashi Festival.

Keiichi himself soon becomes drawn into the strange events surrounding the Watanagashi Festival and Oyashiro-sama.

(purchase)
HLTB: 10-15h x 8 parts



Neighbor

Sometimes, in life, there are places where the rules of reality just don't apply.

Sometimes, it's the one place where you ought to feel safe. Like your house.

Freelance designer Yuuki Kae has just moved into a new apartment. On her move-in day, she decides to introduce herself to her new next-door neighbor... but something isn't quite right. Static over the intercom... A violently rattling doorknob... And a ghostly pale hand reaching out through the crack in the door...

They said the apartment next to hers wasn’t for rent. It was supposed to be empty.

(purchase)
HLTB: 4h



Saya no Uta / The Song of Saya

Rot. Decay. A wasteland of twisted, pulsing flesh. Sakisaka Fuminori survives a terrible accident only to find himself trapped in a nightmare with no escape. His friends offer him comfort and support, but their warmth cannot reach his frozen soul. Then he meets a mysterious girl named Saya, and little by little, his madness begins to infect the world.

(purchase)

Note: Sexually explicit content has been toned down in the Steam version of Saya no Uta; the original, uncut version, as well as an 18+ patch (non-free) for the Steam version, can be purchased from JAST USA. The unpatched Steam version is an excellent choice for those who want to experience Saya no Uta, but don't want the sexually explicit content.
HLTB: 5.5



Spirit Hunter: Death Mark

A strange rumor is spreading through the shadows of Tokyo's H City: a mysterious disfigurement has been appearing on the bodies of certain individuals. Anyone who receives the Mark will rapidly die of unknown, horrifying causes. The countdown to death has already begun...

(purchase)
HLTB: 11h



The House in Fata Morgana

You awaken in a decrepit old mansion.

A woman with eyes of jade stands before You, informing You that You are the Master of the house, and she Your Maid. However, You have no memories, no concept of self—or, indeed, any certainty that You are even alive.

The Maid invites You to join her on a journey through the mansion's lifeless halls, to behold the numerous tragedies that have befallen its residents. She suggests that among them, perhaps You will find some trace of Yourself.

(purchase)
30h



The Letter

In the outskirts of Luxbourne City stands a 17th-century English mansion, rumored to be haunted by vengeful spirits. After reading a letter discovered inside on the day of its open house, seven people find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of madness plaguing the Ermengarde Mansion for centuries. Will they be able to free themselves from it, or will they become another casualty?

(purchase)
HLTB: 37h
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Kvik

Spooky Councillor
Dec 6, 2018
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I wanted to read Higanbana .... :02sad:

I'm in for Saya and Corpse Party, though. Let's see if I can get started on it tonight. :02peek:
 
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Exzyleph

Exzyleph

Dark Eroge Lord
Oct 9, 2018
329
504
93
I wanted to read Higanbana .... :02sad:

I'm in for Saya and Corpse Party, though. Let's see if I can get started on it tonight. :02peek:
You should definitely read Higanbana if you are interested in it.
It's a nice collection of spooky stories involving yokai, ranging from funny to really disturbing.


I started Higurashi chapter 3 yesterday. It is a horror VN, isn't it?
Yes it is. It is even listed among the suggestions in the OP ;)
 
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Kvik

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Downunder.
You should definitely read Higanbana if you are interested in it.
It's a nice collection of spooky stories involving yokai, ranging from funny to really disturbing.
I've heard that it's quite good, yeah. I need to track down the download version first since Mangagamer lost the license or something?
 
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Exzyleph

Exzyleph

Dark Eroge Lord
Oct 9, 2018
329
504
93
I've heard that it's quite good, yeah. I need to track down the download version first since Mangagamer lost the license or something?
It is not clear exactly what happened, but it is my understanding that MangaGamer stopped selling the Japanese titles once they acquired the English license to Higurashi and Umineko. Unfortunately, and I did not realize that before, it also seems that no other websites sell the digital version of Higanbana.

You can of course import physical copies (that's what I did), but a more realistic option is probably to look elsewhere cough
 
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Kvik

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Downunder.
You can of course import physical copies (that's what I did), but a more realistic option is probably to look elsewhere cough
A cursory look on Amazon.jp revealed that there are some copies of the DVD version for both games available. Sadly they won't ship to my arse end of the world. :02sad:

Using my freight forwarder will cost me another $40 via EMS to ship it out here. :02cry:
 
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Exzyleph

Exzyleph

Dark Eroge Lord
Oct 9, 2018
329
504
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As I said in my first post, I would be reading Corpse Party.
I've been more busy than expected, and also got distracted by the release of Ciconia, but I've still managed to read the first 3 chapters:


Corpse Party is a hybrid visual novel, probably on the edge of what can be considered a visual novel, with some light puzzle elements and can basically be thought of as a walking simulator. The plot centers around 9 students who find themselves brought to a decaying building, after they carried out an occult ritual, and the horrors they experience there. How did they get here, what is this place, who are the ghosts, why are they here, and why are they killing endlessly? Some of these questions have been answered, yet others still elude me.



While the graphics are rather simple, the game does a great job of evoking a sense of dread through those, the music, sound-effects, and voice acting, and I typically end up playing it for longer than intended when I pick it up. The main theme in particular does a great job of setting the tone:



However, there are also some negatives. The puzzle-elements are not particularly great and mostly involve walking to one corner of the map, finding some item or person, and then walking across the map to use that item, and/or find whatever changed after talking to that person or using that item. Most of the puzzles are fairly straight forward, with the biggest time-sink being how long it takes to find whatever it is you are to interact with next. While I would gladly recommend this game, I would not hesitate to recommend keeping a walkthrough close by in order to cut down on the backtracking.

And while the graphics work well for the game, the resolution is tiny (640x480). To get around that, I've been playing with the Lossless Scaling app, which neatly solves that problem.


I'll post my overall thoughts and (probably) some more spoilery comments once I've finished playing it.
 
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Kvik

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Downunder.
I've finished my first game, The Song of Saya last night. I was going to write down my thoughts then, but one thing led to another and I ended up reading ML Alternative, saw a couple of episodes of Vinland Saga, and so on.

Anyway.

Jast USA has done a good job with the Steam release. The CG looks crisp, the sound effects and music are now in a higher bitrate, and of course, being able to share screenshots (If I wanted to) is very nice to have. I boosted the colour contrast a bit with ReShade for fun and it actually works too. The walls of flesh now have deeper shades of red.

The game itself is still a good read after all these years. Reading these intense scenes, late at night and alone is definitely the recommended way to read it. The shock effect has been softened somewhat since this wasn't my first reading, but I can still feel a pit in my stomach during Saya's/Yoh's rape scene. It's definitely a difficult scene to read.

I always wondered when Fuminori has actually lost his humanity. When he lost his normal senses after the procedure? Or after he met Saya, or perhaps when he killed his neighbour, Suzumi? When you lost the ability to recognize human form, will it warp your sense of morality too? If he hadn't met Saya, I don't think he'll be able to stay sane, let alone keeping his sense of morality intact.

I like the way the true origin is Saya was kept hidden from the player. It's something I really appreciate in horror stories since it added into this sense of mystery that is greater than we can comprehend as humans. I also find it interesting that as inhumane and amoral Saya was, she was capable of love, like any human. Reading Dr. Ogai's final notes makes me wonder what would happen if Saya didn't meet Fuminori. Perhaps humanity is doomed either way.

It's hard to say which of the three routes is the "true" ending. If we think about how Koji left alive and alone with a PTSD, or the fall of humanity, leaving Fuminori in an Asylum probably has less body count compared with the other two endings, but letting Saya loose on this world didn't feel right either. I suppose there wasn't any "good" ending in The Song of Saya, only tragedy.

And while the graphics work well for the game, the resolution is tiny (640x480). To get around that, I've been playing with the Lossless Scaling app, which neatly solves that problem.
There is a resolution selector in-game, though? :02think:



By the way, how did you find that lossless scaling app thing? Does it work for other VNs with sub-1080p resolutions? Like Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning, or Kindred Spirits on the Roof? :02notes:
 
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Exzyleph

Exzyleph

Dark Eroge Lord
Oct 9, 2018
329
504
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I've finished my first game, The Song of Saya last night. I was going to write down my thoughts then, but one thing led to another and I ended up reading ML Alternative, saw a couple of episodes of Vinland Saga, and so on.

Anyway.

Jast USA has done a good job with the Steam release. The CG looks crisp, the sound effects and music are now in a higher bitrate, and of course, being able to share screenshots (If I wanted to) is very nice to have. I boosted the colour contrast a bit with ReShade for fun and it actually works too. The walls of flesh now have deeper shades of red.

The game itself is still a good read after all these years. Reading these intense scenes, late at night and alone is definitely the recommended way to read it. The shock effect has been softened somewhat since this wasn't my first reading, but I can still feel a pit in my stomach during Saya's/Yoh's rape scene. It's definitely a difficult scene to read.

I always wondered when Fuminori has actually lost his humanity. When he lost his normal senses after the procedure? Or after he met Saya, or perhaps when he killed his neighbour, Suzumi? When you lost the ability to recognize human form, will it warp your sense of morality too? If he hadn't met Saya, I don't think he'll be able to stay sane, let alone keeping his sense of morality intact.

I like the way the true origin is Saya was kept hidden from the player. It's something I really appreciate in horror stories since it added into this sense of mystery that is greater than we can comprehend as humans. I also find it interesting that as inhumane and amoral Saya was, she was capable of love, like any human. Reading Dr. Ogai's final notes makes me wonder what would happen if Saya didn't meet Fuminori. Perhaps humanity is doomed either way.

It's hard to say which of the three routes is the "true" ending. If we think about how Koji left alive and alone with a PTSD, or the fall of humanity, leaving Fuminori in an Asylum probably has less body count compared with the other two endings, but letting Saya loose on this world didn't feel right either. I suppose there wasn't any "good" ending in The Song of Saya, only tragedy.
The endings in SnU are quite interesting.
While the asylum ending is a bit disappointing in terms of the plot, it also reflects the possibility that Fuminori retained some part of his humanity, and that he never gave up hope of finding a cure.

Meanwhile the Koji ending is probably the more traditional ending, in the sense that it follows a lot of Lovecraftian stories in its narrative: The heroes confront some unspeakable horror, and despite possibly suffering losses they managed to defeat it or at least escape with their lives. Afterwards the survivors reflect upon what they have seen and how it changed them, sometimes leaving behind journals discovered by the protagonists of the stories. Classic examples of this would be The Call of Cthulhu and The Dunwich Horror.

The Saya ending is rather different from this, in that it is a cataclysmic ending unlike any of Lovecraft's stories that I can recall, and just about the only visual novel that I can think of where the villains winning is treated as a proper ending instead of merely a "bad end". I also don't recall any of Lovecrafts stories that ends like this, though a few do paint pictures of possible post-apocalyptic futures if I recall correctly. Despite its non-traditional nature, this ending does include the (doomed) journal-writer common to Lovecraftian stories, in the form of Dr. Ogai and his research notes, and even an explicit reference to one of Lovecraft's lesser known stories ('Through the Gates of the Silver Key').

Reading Saya made me want for more Lovecraftian visual novels, but sadly there are not a lot of them and most of those have not been translated.



There is a resolution selector in-game, though? :02think:



By the way, how did you find that lossless scaling app thing? Does it work for other VNs with sub-1080p resolutions? Like Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning, or Kindred Spirits on the Roof? :02notes:
There is a resolution selection in-game, but for some reason I could only get it to go up to 700-something width. But that was probably just me being stupid.

Lossless Scaling works quite well for visual novels in my experience.
I haven't tested on those novels specifically, but here is AIR as an example (without and with anti-aliasing enabled):
Without AA said:
With AA said:
Note that the app creates a (borderless?) fullscreen view when you activate it, which is why the screenshots have black borders.


EDIT:
I tried changing resolution in Corpse Party again, and it turned out that I could in fact select higher resolutions .. I just had to click right 14 times to increment the resolution once (I counted!), since the game kept repeating the same refresh rates for some reason. I think I'll just stick with Lossless Scaling, since that lets me toggle the higher resolution on the fly.
 
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Kvik

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Lossless Scaling works quite well for visual novels in my experience.
I haven't tested on those novels specifically, but here is AIR as an example (without and with anti-aliasing enabled):
Thanks for sharing. It looks good, I prefer without AA, personally.

Note that the app creates a (borderless?) fullscreen view when you activate it, which is why the screenshots have black borders.
Hmm, I think AIR is originally in 640x480 resolution. So, if your TV/monitor's native resolution is 1920x1080, with an integer scaling factor of 2 it would be scaled to 1280x960, resulting in the black borders for all sides. If you have a 1440p monitor, it can be 3x scaled to 1920x1440, resulting in a pillarbox.

EDIT:
I tried changing resolution in Corpse Party again, and it turned out that I could in fact select higher resolutions .. I just had to click right 14 times to increment the resolution once (I counted!), since the game kept repeating the same refresh rates for some reason. I think I'll just stick with Lossless Scaling, since that lets me toggle the higher resolution on the fly.
Yeah, it was a pain changing resolution in this way. Maybe there's an .ini file to edit the game settings directly. :02think:
 
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Exzyleph

Exzyleph

Dark Eroge Lord
Oct 9, 2018
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Finished up Corpse party and overall it was a really good read despite its flaws.
The story managed to keep the tension up all the way up to the end, despite throwing some mildly annoying game-play elements at the player along the way.

I will say, however, that I found one aspect of the ending a bit of a let-down, namely how the exorcism of Sachiko was handled. Considering how much of a malevolent entity she was built up to be, it was a bit anti-climatic that simply handing her a couple of MacGuffins was enough to exorcise her, especially when one of the two basically hadn't been mentioned before (the plushie); or did I somehow miss that?. On the other hand, the fact that tongues being cut out of the 3 victims was tied back to Sachiko own demise was a nice touch.

After the main story came a handful of short stories, none of which really managed to catch the feel of the main story.


Would I recommend reading Corpse Party?
Absolutely, just be aware that it is a game best played with a walkthrough, so as to minimize the time spent fruitlessly wandering arounding looking for the next story trigger.
 
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