Thank the maker for Aksys. The publisher of the most niche of niche visual novels has announced that it will be bringing Spirit Hunter: Death Mark II to the Nintendo Switch, PC and PlayStation in late February 2024.
Death Mark II is actually the third in the series, after Death Mark and Spirit Hunter: NG. These are genuinely intelligent, taut, and well-designed horror experiences, with some exceptional narratives and deep themes.
For example, as I wrote in my review of Death Mark from back in 2018: What Death Mark nails, however, is genuine horror. As I’ve already highlighted, the game’s images are designed to create an extreme – and lasting – shock, because and they’ve been designed to maximise a response of revulsion that stays will you long after you stop playing. Indeed, the game even plays with pacing because in some chapters you won’t encounter any of these images, lulling you into a sense that things are settling down, so that the next one, when it comes, will be eye-opening and (critically) memorable all over again. Coupled with a plot that, while simple, effectively weaves a couple of layers of mystery on top of one another, and Death Mark’s greatest strength is in the way it forces you to dwell on what you’re seeing and experiencing, and what you would likely call a “slow burn.” It’s not really, because the horrific imagery comes from the very opening moments of the game, but it feels like a slow burner because where most horror designers put the fear moments ahead of the metaphoric “beat,” here the writers have pushed everything behind the metaphoric beat, giving Death Mark a tonal quality we don’t often seen in video games.
I’m really hoping that this new Death Mark II continues on with the incredible work of the original. We don’t have too many details just yet, but from the announcement press release: “In Spirit Hunter: Death Mark II, Kazuo Yashiki is back in H City to investigate supernatural occurrences at Konoehara Academy. As in previous editions of the game, the developers have drawn on Japanese myths and folklore to create an immersive and nuanced tale of terror. Some old faces return to aid Yashiki in his quest, and a 2D side-scrolling mode offers a new way to explore locations. Be ready, for when a spirit does attack, crucial mistakes mean certain death.”
Regardless of what we get out of the narrative, what we can be sure about is that Death Mark II will feature Experience Inc’s masterful use of art, and it’s going to be filled with spirits. Oh, so many spirits.
Stay tuned, because we’ll be watching this one closely.