Review – Kansei: The Second Turn HD
The appeal of a murder mystery has existed for centuries, ever since Cain slew Abel and God was like “How the hell did this happen?” It’s a fun and mysterious way to prove that not only are people capable of killing their friends and family, but that you’re smarter than them and everyone else. There’s probably something to be said for the fascination of solving violent crimes and the decline of Western civilization, but I’m too focused on enjoying the latest season of SVU to give a non-opinionated answer. But what if we stepped up the bar and made it a murder mystery that also incorporated in a number of mystical elements that pulled back the curtain to show a world of psychic adjacent abilities that people possess? Pretty cool, eh? Now, how about we make it so those abilities mean nothing to actually solving the crime? That, unfortunately, is my takeaway from Kansei: The Second Turn HD.
Blackness. A memory of a dream from a life long gone by. You awaken on the sofa of someone who clearly knows you, but you don’t know them. Kansei: The Second Turn HD sets up the player quite well into a world of intrigue and questions. You don’t seem to remember your name, so you’re given the title Kangai, as you’re apparently one of the lucky few who possess kansei, or the ability to feel others’ emotions.
Everyone who has kansei seems to utilize it differently: some can sense lies, others can interpret mood from some distance away. You can, to some extent, read thoughts, but only when people want you to read them. You apparently work for the criminal investigation unit, and you’re quickly roped into a strange murder at a rich and fabulous estate. Working together with other kansei operators (and the usual skeptical hardass police detective), you must find clues, ask the right questions and unravel the mystery of who – or what – killed Mr. Auten.
Coming to us from indie house SakeVisual (and published by Ratalaika Games), Kansei: The Second Turn HD gives a fully voiced approach to the whodunit style of gaming. You have to navigate from room to room, talking to people and also taking chances to explore the items that are around you. If you’re lucky, you’ll notice something and investigate further, prompting your character to jot down a note in his notepad that’ll unlock further interactions.
Throughout the multiple rooms of the house, you’ll chat with the full range of a rogue’s gallery, slowly chipping away at the veneer to see who is capable of murder. I did run the game a couple of times and got the same ending twice, but I can’t say for certain that it’s static: I had my suspicions that someone else was responsible, but the true killer never changed. Kangai is a decent enough investigator, but the number of changes in the conversation based off my own choices didn’t really vary.
Players might be attracted to try Kansei: The Second Turn depending on one of two influences. If you were a fan of SakeVisual’s first game (Jisei: The First Case) and wanted to keep the party going, then you’re in the right neighborhood. You’ve got some solid anime-influenced character design, a surprisingly great English-only fully voiced experience, and plenty of space to snoop around, find clues and make your accusations. If, however, you’ve come from games like Phoenix Wright or the more recent Famicom Detective Club, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening in what makes those games fundamentally different.
First and foremost is the aforementioned disappointment in the whole kansei system. You’ve got this opportunity to have your character be a human lie detector, or at least use the influence of the other characters (including the shockingly OP Li Mei) to break a person of interests’ facade. Instead, it’s hearsay (“Aki says you’re acting like this”) and you act as a post owl to deliver the different information that others give you to other suspects.
There’s nothing wrong with the setup, but there’s something implied by the entire preamble that made me believe my powers were going to be more prominent. In effect, they become nothing more than the same function as having a hunch, and I could have done that in any detective game. Also, since you’re just taking notes and not actually picking up items, it further invalidates the kansei system. Like, if you’re just going to jot down what you think is the answer instead of having something tangible, why not just gamble your powers and make wild accusations all the time? It’d be more fun, trust me.
Secondly, the interface is a nightmare. Kansei: The Second Turn HD was developed for PC first, Google Play second and the Nintendo Switch third. The result is both a button and touchscreen interface, but neither works as well as you’d like. The buttons and control stick are great for conversation, but snooping around a room or moving between areas of the house means using a floating mouse cursor to point to where you want to go. It’s pretty sluggish, and imprecise when playing in handheld mode.
The touchscreen is a tad better, but it’s difficult to go in and out of menus because the locations of exit tabs keeps shifting between what you’re doing. It’s more of an annoyance than anything else, but something that could have been better considered in this port. Again, we have some incredibly high quality detective-esque titles on the Switch, and they may cost more than Kansei: The Second Turn HD, but they are still well known and available. If you’re going to jump into the same pool, make sure you’re wearing good swim trunks.
Lastly, there’s just something flat about my overall takeaway from the game. It’s so hard to put my finger on, but there’s just a middling feeling that comes throughout Kansei: The Second Turn HD. It’s well written in that the game is grammatically solid, but there’s not as much emotion in the writing as I’d like. The voice cast, once again, does a banger job of bringing the characters to life, and I sincerely appreciate that. However, that doesn’t make Kangai an interesting enough protagonist: about the midway mark the tone shifts and you start wondering if maybe he doesn’t have amnesia and he’s just really bad at remembering what he’s done with his life.
Also, no one seems to really be that worried about Mr. Auten’s death. Oh sure, you’ve got the house staff who’s been in love with him forever, but his actual family doesn’t care, which is why I spent so much time convinced that the punk with the tattoos did it. Yet it doesn’t feel like a misdirection: it comes across like SakeVisual considered that route, discarded it, but forgot to clean up the bread crumbs. It’s just messy at times, and it makes for a humdrum move, especially the second time around.
Kansei: The Second Turn HD isn’t a bad game, but it also isn’t that great of a game either. Here’s what I’d say: if you’re the type of person who consumes this sort of pulp-grade mystery story, then you’ll have a fun time. There’s enough meat here to spend a full day with, the ambience of the voices and music are good, and the first time through the pieces make sense. If you’re looking for a long-time investment with a game, you seriously need to look elsewhere. I think I’d prefer it if, when the third game is released on Switch (Yousei), we see a full bundle to track the adventures of Kangai and get more of him in a single purchases. Until then, however, players need to be ready for a charming but ultimately limited ride.
Well drawn sprites and pleasing backgrounds, though that trailer made me think it was even better.
The classic investigation and discovery formula is marred by the wonky interface.
Good voice acting and a captivating soundtrack keep you engaged even if the dialogue doesn’t.
In such a limited environment with a lack of variety, I wasn’t compelled to keep playing when I was done.
Final Verdict: 5.5
Kansei: The Second Turn HD is available now on Google Play, Xbox One X/S, PS 4/5, Steam and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Kansei: The Second Turn HD was provided by the publisher.