Mystery game review: SHINRAI – Broken Beyond Despair

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I was actually thinking about my first mystery game review being of Ace Attorney but I finally decided to choose Shinrai, a game that was recently released. I won a copy of it together with the OST and was very happy about it, I very rarely win stuff so it was awesome and am very grateful; thank you GosatsuVNs! Anywho, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Shinrai takes place in a secluded mountain resort, where a group of ten classmates reunite to celebrate a Halloween party. The protagonist is Raiko, a quiet and reserved girl who was somehow forced to go to the party because of her best friend, Nobara, who’s a real scaredy cat. When they arrive at the resort, they chat a little with their classmates and start enjoying (sort of  😆 ) the party. However, at a certain point in time, one of the party’s attendants is found dead. Will Raiko solve the mystery?

Note: This review contains HUGE spoilers (culprit is revealed!) so read at your own risk. If you want to avoid them, though, just jump to “conclusive thoughts”.

Before the game came out, I actually played the demo and thought it was a tad slow. Many of the dialogues were pretty fun, especially the ones with Nobara, but sometimes it dragged a bit too much. I also remember thinking that it would have been great if the murder took place at the end of the demo but, after actually playing the complete game, I think it was a wise choice not to include it, since it wouldn’t have been that simple. What I still believe, however, is that the game truly does go slow at certain parts. For instance, the prologue itself isn’t that lengthy, but chapter I, with all of the characters’ introductions, seemed endless. Some parts could have been shortened but it still was an enjoyable introduction of the story.

Shinrai’s gameplay inevitably reminds one of popular mystery titles like Danganronpa and Ace Attorney, especially the former. Nevertheless, the story itself is completely different (with Halloween being the main theme and all) despite the characters also being japanese and high schoolers, much like Danganronpa. I was pleasantly surprised that each one of them had its own distinct personality; some were a tad exaggerated, but it worked.

shinrai-characters
The main cast

As regards the art, it suited the style of the game very much. The coloring did seem a bit strange to me, at first, but I ultimately got used to it. The sprites…the sprites are so good!! I really love a lot of expressions the characters have; like Raiko tilting her head, Rihatsu (Raiko’s mom) laughing, Nobara hiding behind Raiko, Taiko getting angry, really, many were great and very original. Also, the GUI with the little bat on the dialogue box was so cuuuute!! I loved how the bat changed expressions whenever it got scared or surprised. There were also enough save slots and the investigation icons were easy to follow. A suggestion I would make, though, is to add a log button in case the player clicks too fast and misses part of the dialogue. I realized afterwards that I could go backwards with my mouse, but doing so with a keyboard key would prove much easier, in my opinion. As for the OST, I liked it quite a bit (the creepy tracks were especially scary!). My favorite themes were Tranquility of the Conscience, Carefree Days Drifting and Conviction ~Rush~.

Even though I’m a huge fan of murder mysteries, I have to admit that I tend to overthink who the killer might be and sometimes end up reaching a dead end  😆 . I remember I was really suspicious of Runa at first but, in the end, all started pointing out to Momoko as the culprit. Also, the twin sisters from the horror story that Runa and Momoko disguised as, actually reminded me of Mion and Shion from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni; I wonder if that was done of purpose? It was pretty cool!

The writing is what shines the most in Shinrai. Sure, it’s a bit slow at parts, but when it gets you hooked on the mystery, you can’t stop playing the game. The dialogues, especially the serious ones, were great, I loved how there’s not much mercy for Raiko when she says something stupid  😆 , and the way Taiko was made to be really stubborn, made the confrontations very interesting. At first it seemed like Taiko and Raiko would be the ones to solve the murder but, ultimately, it was Raiko alone since she was the only one who kept an objective mind and tried to consider every possibility. Nobara was a bit absent on the second part of the game regarding the investigation (which was a pity considering she looks so serious on the promo art, which made me think she’d do something cool), but I guess it made sense since she’s not really a brainy type (and quite the scaredy cat). Back to the point, the case resolution wasn’t as overly complicated as it seemed; something that Raiko points out at one time when they’re trying to figure out something about a door, and I loved that. Even the best mystery story books show many times that the crime itself wasn’t that complex, what’s the most complex is the people involved. This doesn’t mean that the mystery was easy, not at all, the culprit wasn’t obvious. What I mean is that the mastermind actually used rather simple stuff to plan the crime, and that itself was GREAT; especially because it’s really common to overthink mysteries, believing that the solution is going to be something super difficult when, in reality, the answer is right in front of us and we can’t see it. Again, the complexity is in the characters.

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You’re so right, Raiko!

As for the characters themselves, they all have their charms about them. I really liked how everyone had their positive traits but also their faults, making them well-balanced. The only one who was a tad unbalanced to me was Hiro, since we only really get to know his bad self. He does have an extra chapter, after you complete the true ending, where a friend of him tells Nobara about his background; but even though that explains why Hiro’s a jerk, I would have liked to see more of it in the actual game. As for Momoko, I felt a bit sorry for her but couldn’t sympathize 100%; ultimately, the girl had gone crazy (like the game says: broken beyond despair) and, like Raiko said about Hiro on her diary (that she kind of understood him now but that still didn’t excuse what he had done), the same applies to Momoko, in my opinion. After all, she did kill a person and tried to blame it on her best friend. Still, as a character, Momoko’s great and you can really feel her madness when Kamen explains how angry she got after misunderstanding what was really going on.

Taiko seemed like he would be a princely type of character but I was pleasantly surprised to have been proven wrong. Gawd, the guy was like a fireball whenever he got angry  😆 . His sense of justice was one of his best qualities, but also his biggest weakness, since it could blind him from the truth. I remember how I got some facts wrong here and there at times, and the dude would be totally pissed  😆 . Rie was great, it was very heartwarming to see how much effort she put in making a great party for her friends, and how she would defend Runa when she was accussed by Taiko. Runa was so kind I felt kinda bad for suspecting her  😆 but really, a very nice friend. Mika was hilarious with her pranks and even Kotoba with his perverted side, lol, though I admit I would have wanted to know them a bit better.

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lmao, I love Taiko’s expression x’D and the bat is surprised too!

Kamen is one of my favorite characters in the game, such a sweetheart. Like the game and that famous saying say: one shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. I loved how Kamen made up with Raiko, after having been helped by her, and, YES, I SHIP THEM. As for Raiko and Nobara, they were awesome, I liked them a lot!! I was neutral to Raiko, at first, but she improved IMMENSELY as the story advanced and I eventually got to like her very much (definitely among my favorites too). Still, I’m very curious about her past. The only thing we know, so far, is that her older sister died and she blames herself for that. What could have happened to make her lose her previous cheerfulness?

The epilogue heavily suggests there’ll be a sequel to this game, something I truly hope so; I wanna see the characters again!! And I don’t mean only the main ones, I also mean new characters that appeared solely during the epilogue. Something else is definitely going on and it seems Nobara’s dad is involved in the matter. Can’t wait to know more!

Conclusive thoughts

This game was fun!! It’s been a while since I’ve played a fresh murder mystery and barely the second one with a female protagonist. The only other “detective game” with a female lead in charge of an investigation is Ace Attorney, which has Athena (who’s not even the main character). Why am I bringing up this topic? Because I think it’s a very positive aspect of Shinrai to have a female lead. In general, the world of mystery, and especially the world of games, is heavily oriented towards the male customers. Almost every single time, the protagonist tends to be a man. Luckily, this has been changing throughout the years (mainly with indie games) but, sadly, it’s going at a very slow pace. Take for example RPGs, how many can you name with a female lead? Not a lot of them, right? And yet the world is full of girls who play them. The same applies to mysteries. How many games can you find with the protagonist being a woman? Not to mention that there’s a lot of recycling when it comes to the world of Sherlock Holmes, but let’s be honest here: Sherlock Holmes isn’t the only detective on earth and girls can be detectives too.

Anyway, back to the topic, the game is very enjoyable. I especially loved the dialogues between all the characters. Also, plus points to the writer/s for having managed to make each of them talk in a different way! That is definitely not an easy thing to do. The art and the music also fitted Shinrai very much, even though I’m not a real fan of the coloring style, but nonetheless it was nicely done (especially the sprites!). The weakest aspect of this game would have to be the pacing. Ironic, because the writing is also the best thing it has to offer, but sometimes it can take a little while to get to the point, making you a bit impatient. HOWEVER, once it gets you hooked, you can’t stop playing until the mystery is solved.

As I mentioned in the review, the game’s epilogue suggests there’ll be a sequel in the future. I can’t wait to see more of Raiko and Nobara! And I really hope a certain someone returns the feelings of another certain someone 😉 Looking forward to playing more of GosatsuVNs!

What do you think? Did you play this game? Do you like mysteries? Do you also think there should be more female leads? I’d love to know, please comment! 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the ride! See you next post! (≧∇≦*)/

PS: I hope this was alright, it’s my first mystery review ;w; hehehe.

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