Tag Archive: horror


year-walk1

Since time began there has been an undying curiosity found deep within every human being. A curiosity towards self; a curiosity towards the world; a curiosity towards time and space; a curiosity towards the future.

Although unknown in origin, in ancient Scandinavian folklore there existed a way to seek out visions, to see the future, called year walking. This practice, while varying on details depending on location, had very strict rules which if not followed directly could prove to not only lead to disastrous results, but to be fatal. Upon deciding to undertake a year walk certain obligations must be met:

First, a year walk could not take place on just any day; but on certain festival days such as May Day, Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve or most commonly New Years Eve.

Second, the individual must abstain from any and all food served on these holidays. A sacrifice of sorts as most of these days were usually accompanied by plentiful feasts.

Lastly, the individual must seclude themselves from all others and remain without fire for the entirety of the day. Locking themselves in dark rooms, away from light and warmth, until the hour reached Midnight – then would be their last opportunity to forgo the year walk. Once outside, there was no turning back…

A year walker’s destination would always be the church, though the journey would be anything but a pleasant stroll through the woods. Numerous supernatural entities were said to be encountered along the way such as The Huldra (a female guardian of the forest said to bring both good fortune and untimely ends), The Brook Horse (most often associated with death and drowning), The Myling (children killed very young, wandering and wailing seeking help or leaving death in their wake), The Night Raven (often associated with disease, the manifestation of an evil greedy man not properly buried) and finally The Church Grim (a sacrifice, guardian and parasite of the church) all of which would potentially cause physical, mental and spiritual strife to the year walker.

Upon arriving at the church and circling the grounds in a specific pattern the year walker would be given visions of the future as well as lure out The Church Grim. These visions could present themselves in a variety of ways such as a procession of people leaving the church, all of which would end up dying the following year or a view of various wedding ceremonies. Life, love and death would all play a part but each journey would leave the walker a changed person forever.

yearwalk

Indie developer Simogo has recreated this haunting experience in their simple yet artistic puzzle/horror game Year Walk. Starting out just before the night begins, the player discerns through a brief encounter that their journey not only lies in seeking the future but ultimately to find if they are truly loved in return.

year walkThe game itself follows much of the history that is given above, and it can all be found within the opening moments of the game if chosen via an encyclopedia. While it is not necessary to read each of the pages before beginning the journey, it adds a certain level of comprehension and depth which may not be taken from the gameplay itself. There is very little dialogue or explanation within the actual game, actually, there is not much direction given at all; but knowing the destination does not always mean knowing which path to travel.

The actual gameplay relies on simple left/right/forward/back movements in addition to clicking the mouse to interact and carry objects (yes, carry objects – there is no such thing as an inventory. Additionally, it is recommended to not solely rely on the map to get around as carrying certain objects will not allow it to be viewed). Aside from that it is basic exploration and getting to the right place at the correct point in the storyline as subsequent supernatural beings are revealed. Many puzzles and clues can be found scattered about the map as well, but not all of them will be solved, nor even make sense, until after the first playthrough. The puzzles themselves vary greatly from simple button presses and sequences to open doors and pathways to listening to distinct sound pitches to find the correct path out of a darkened maze. Oftentimes, many of these puzzles will have no immediate clues on how to solve them while others require some backtracking to discover exactly what must be done. There is a hint option that can aid the player if they simply have no idea where to start but otherwise a little bit of note taking may be all that is necessary.yearwalk6_2490317b

While the gameplay is not very intense nor intricate, the artistic flourish resonating throughout the title is what truly makes it
stand out. The dark, almost cut from a story book, visuals are like walking through a painting but it is far from the beauty one might find gazing at a quiet cabin in the woods brimming with life and quiet. It is a changing scenery emanating with an eerie stillness as nightmarish creatures take to their true forms and pristine snow becomes tainted with blood. The music that accompanies these images and puzzles is often mysterious but calm – serenading piano melodies and haunting vocal tracks blend into the background almost entirely unnoticed until realization hits that something has changed.

All in all, Year Walk is not a long game nor is it terribly involved; yet it holds within it an intriguing story rich in nearly forgotten folklore. While it is not without a few small jump scares it mostly relies on its haunting and isolated atmosphere to give its horror-esque touch. It has been recently remastered for PC (which is this version played) but originally debuted on IOS, both versions staying fairly similar but with a few additions and adaptions for PC implemented. It is a small and mostly unheard of title, but anyone with an interest in olden folklore or dark legends will surely find this one worth its price.

“To see if they would be wealthy”

“To see if they would be happy”

“To see if they would live”

“To see if they would be loved”

 

E3 2014 ~ So Far…

E3-2014

It looks awesome!

It is an event that gamers throughout the world as well as those within the industry look forward to each year.  It is an event where thousands view the conference from their homes via live streaming while others traverse the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center brushing shoulders with big name developers and playing demos of games that seem barely more than a wandering thought for most; it is a time in which all eyes focus towards one finite point. And as always, oh what a show it has been so far.

Monday marked day zero of the 4 day conference showcasing Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony and all they have in store within the coming future.

Xbox-Logo-E3

 

Microsoft presented a succinct showing of numerous exclusive and large titles that would exhibit all that the XBox One is truly capable of. Glimpsing the first images of huge names such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Witcher 3 gameplay footage, Tom Clancy Thehalo_5_guardians-672x372 Division, Forza, and Sunset Overdrive; that alone would have been enough to keep gamers glued onto the coming horizon. Add in a few unexpected twists such as Phantom Dust, an original Xbox remake; much loved Crackdown; new title Scalebound; and of course numerous smaller titles such as Project Spark, Ori and the Dark Forest and handfuls of other Indie games that hold just as much impact and there is little more that could be asked for. Lastly, who could forget to mention the news surrounding the Halo series – Masterchief collection coming out end of year containing all the previous Halo games leading up to the much anticipated Halo 5: Guardians. Microsoft ended their conference stating that they make the Xbox for the gamers and that every gamer helps “shape the future” of the beloved brand and system.

ea-logo-dark

EA took the stage next bringing with them an entourage of sporting titles and other big names. Opening with Star Wars Battlefront and the greatly anticipated Dragon Age Inquisition (accompanied by a live musical performance) set the stage for what was to DAInquisitionGoGamercome. The new Sims 4 captured much attention with their “smarter Sims, weirder stories” demo which outlined the limitless possibilities players will have. Additionally, EA brought forth gameplay and footage of the new UFC game, NHL 15, PGA Tour (“Golf without limit”), Madden 15 and Fifa 15 to round out their sports venues. Criterion Games went behind the scenes of their newest work which, while unnamed, promises to showcase every mode of transportation and extreme adventure known to man. MOBA Dawngate and Mirror’s Edge also gained some press time. The finale of EA’s conference came with not only long minutes of gameplay for Battlefield Hardline (set on the streets, cops and criminals) but also announced the start of the live beta opening with 64 PS4s in room and directions on how to register both PS4 and PC to those at the conference and at home.

ubisoft-logo-pnggamescom-2013-line-up-gaming-cypher-ranmydne

Next on the lineup came Ubisoft, which in my opinion gave one of the most entertaining shows thus far (pre-show rules given by none other than a group of Rabbids, of course). Opening the stage with the first 5 minutes of footage from Far Cry 4, it started the show on a grand scale and kept on climbing. Just Dance 2015 followed introducing not only new gameplay footage and music but also a new way of playing the game altogether – with a smart phone. Using technology most everyone has paired with the Just Dance App allows anywhere from one to thousands of people to play together – anyone, anytime, anywhere – and of course this was demonstrated with about 30 people on stage, in the balcony and in the aisles of the conference room. Tom Clancy The Divisionac unity graced the screen next with more visual footage to aid the gameplay viewed earlier by Microsoft. As a zombie apocalypse survival shooter without the zombies, its line of “tragedy is invisible” really struck home after viewing this side of the presentation. Racing across the world and a tournament of teams accompanied more information on The Crew with an announced beta of July 23 and a November 11 release date. Next up on their list of heavy hitters came Assassin’s Creed Unity, not only giving an intense preview of the game and just what exactly it means when it says ‘unity’ but also showing an entire missions worth of live gameplay. AC Unity is set to release October 28. On another level entirely, to help gamers enjoy a bit of fitness a new game called Shape Up was introduced as well making fitness activities into a competition (and what gamer can turn down a competition, anyway?). From the talented creators of Child of Light, Valiant Hearts The Great War tore at the crowd and viewer’s heartstrings as it showed a glimpse into the story of 4 separate military personnel all accompanied by their faithful canine. For their grand finale, Ubisoft unveiled something that nobody saw coming. Showing unnamed gameplay as a co-op team of 4 attempts to infiltrate a house and recapture a hostage with tactical prowess, good aim and perma-death, audiences watched in awe as Rainbow Six: Siege was unveiled and truly almost stole the entire show.

PS4-logo-201_440

Sony ended day zero of E3 with a somewhat overly long but well done conference. As anyone who watched the conference can say, there is no doubt that Sony ever tires of stating how they bring things to gamers first and they bring it better. Destiny opened their show as well as announcing a glacier white PS4 bundle that will be available at game launch. Following this came numerous game previews and announcements to include The Order 1886 footage, Entwined, Infamous DLC, Little Big Planet 3, Bloodborne, Far Cry Destiny4 (with the ability to play co-op even if friends do not own the game), Dead Island 2, Diablo III (with last of us zombies included – hello clickers! :eek:), Battlefield Hardline, Disney Infinity 2, Majicka 2, Remastered classic Grim Fandango, Let it die, Abzu (from some of the same creators as Journey), and No Man’s Sky. A huge list of games all with great potential as well as great exclusives for playing them on PS4. Additional hardware was also shown such as Project Morpheus, the supposed future of gaming incorporating the Playstation camera. Also discussed was PSN as a whole as well as free to play games. Information was also given on Playstation Now and its hundreds of titles available on any device and even a Sony TV with a dualshock 3 controller (July 31 open beta PS4). Playstation TV will also be available later this year for a $99 price tag or a $130 bundle. Following this technology interlude it returned to what players really wanted to see: Mortal Kombat X gameplay, PS+ promotions, A new show based on a graphic novel called Powers, Ratchet & Clank movie and remastered game, Last of Us remastered, Metal Gear Solid 5 Phantom Pain footage, Grand Theft Auto V for PS4 announcement, Batman Arkham Knight gameplay and a glimpse at Uncharted 4. Phew. It was a long two hour conference for Sony, but they certainly delivered.

Nintendo-logo-red

Finally, the start of Day One began with Nintendo’s pre-recorded conference and they brought exactly what people were looking for. Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U showed more depth into Mii fighting styles and techniques (to include brawler, fighter andYoshisWoolyWorld gunner as well as over 36 mixed abilities) and also gave the first view of something called Amiibo – a way of bringing toys to life (much like Disney Infinity or Skylanders). These small figures of Mario, Link, Pikachu and many more can be used to bring powerful, yet unique, characters into certain games such as Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart (among many more to come) simply by hovering the figurine over a corner of the Wii U Gamepad. The adorable Yoshi’s Woolly World was looked into as well showing the initial idea process of it to actual game play as well as a look into a new game featuring Toad called Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. A game that most everyone held their breath in anticipation for was word of  a new Zelda game for Wii U and although only a small amount of footage was seen, the promise of a truly open world and the beauty and mystery that has always surrounded the Zelda universe surely made every fan smile. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire as well as Bayonetta 2 were given some previews as well as Kirby and the Rainbow Curse and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Small interviews and footage were also shown for the upcoming Hyrule Warriors (confirming Link, Zelda, Impa and Midna as playable characters), Mario Maker (an amusing new twist on creating and playing Mario levels either in classic or more updated form) and a new ink shooter battle game called Splatoon.

Mortal-Kombat-X-Trailer

All in all, E3 2014 has been huge and there is no way to crown just one conference as the best. With major cross platform titles to exclusive franchises to unique and quirky adventures, there is something for every type of gamer no matter what system they may own or prefer (if not all of them). As E3 continues for the next two days there are still bounds of news, trailers, booths and demos to see whether it is on site at the convention center or from the comfort of home. So enjoy one of the biggest events in the gaming industry, let anticipation reach an entirely new level and know that at the end of the day, everyone is leaving as a winner!

“People don’t realize they aren’t able to choose whether or not to believe something. If they subconsciously believe something, therein lies the potential for a curse.”

Kanoe.Yuuko_.full_.1055797

The typical life of a middle school student usually consists of going to their average school, sitting through endless classes, participating in regular club activities and repeating. But what if the school wasn’t quite so average, the classes not so endless (well, maybe) and the clubs not entirely what everyone would expect?  Welcome to Seikyou Academy; a school built upon the ancient ruins of a shrine with mystery and horror strewn throughout both its abandoned and bustling halls.

Teiichi_yuuko_hold_handsWithin these very halls of the abandoned part of the school building lies the home base of the school’s small and mostly unknown paranormal investigations club – a club consisting of only a few unique members who investigate the numerous mysteries surrounding the school in hopes to uncover the truth about the greatest ghost story of all. The club members consist of Teiichi Niiya, the main protagonist and head of the club, Momoe Okinogi, an extremely enthusiastic girl always ready for the next encounter, and lastly Konoe Kirie, the remarkably less enthusiastic member. Then there is Kanoe Yuuko who just so happens to also hang around the club room and help the team explore the paranormal occurrences and find clues throughout the school. Yuuko does have at least one unique thing about her though and that is that only Niiya and Kirie can see her…oh, and she also happens to be the star character in the most famous ghost stories surrounding the academy.

These stories are said to originate from an event that happened in the old abandoned school building some 60 years ago. A story clouded in mystery involving a catastrophic epidemic and a young girl abandoned and left for dead below the new paranormal investigations club room. It is in that closed off room that Niiya first meets Yuuko and there begins their own story as they work to uncover the truth of what happened to Yuuko; because, as it turns out, Yuuko has no memory at all of the events.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia is a supernatural anime encompassing a wide variety of genre from comedic romance to horror andtasogare otome x amnesia suspense. Yuuko may be dead, but her main persona is that of the happy, loving girl she was before her death; however, where there is light, there is shadow and darkness as well. The happiness Yuuko exudes on a daily basis is the complete opposite of the shadow who stalks the very same abandoned halls emitting negative emotions and memories – something the Yuuko everyone knows and loves, lacks.

The anime revolves around a story that has been done numerous times, yet it accomplishes it far better than many. It is a ghost love story with a darker, more tortured twist that checks nearly every emotion off the list as it goes through its 13 episodes. The beautiful art style mixes a sense of haunting dusk and gothic light and is easy to fall into its mesmerizing gaze. Additionally, the music accompaning the episodes as well as the opening and ending themes are fitting and help add to the overall atmosphere and setting.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, or Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, is a supernatural/love/horror/comedy that will surely catch and hold attention, though not to the point of keeping you awake for endless hours. Horror fans will surely find more intrigue later on in the show as the main mystery is deeper uncovered, yet it is an enjoyable experience throughout. Unlike Yuuko’s memories, it may just end up being something you would rather not forget.

Yuuko_tasogare

“Mysteries become dull once they’ve been solved.”

My Beauty, My Love…Anna [PC]

“I hoped I had forgotten you forever…”

anna

The human psyche can be a delicate creature; a creature that should be kept safe from the world’s horrors and told that monsters simply do not live in dark places nor come out into the light. But there always comes a time when the pieces seem to fit together just right and we go against all common sense and knowledge to follow a faint, yet sorrowful, curiosity. A lost love, a forgotten memory; will these lead you to the answers you seek…or to regret?

The psychological horror adventure game Anna, by Italian game developer Dreampainters, takes you to the remote location of an old sawmill. Lead by photographs you have no memory of taking and distant thoughts of a woman held dear; you must make your way through the abandoned building to recover the lost fragments of memories.

As many adventure titles go, Anna maintains the core concept of collecting any and all applicable items for use in furthering your journey and uncovering dark secrets. However, while this may be a staple to the genre, Anna‘s use of these items leaves much to be desired. A journal, a lighter and a few other random items adorn your person from the beginning…yet their use and significance is left rather unexplained and some even untested. The plethora of other items you encounter and pick up all have a purpose either of their own accord or when combined together…but that, in itself, often leads to another bout of frustration as you traverse the decrepit mill house.

Sadly, one of the most cumbersome aspects of this game lies within its controls. While certain options can be toggled to your fancy, the majority of this title relies on basic movement (which is at an alarmingly slow pace, making backtracking and exploration a time consuming ordeal) as well as mouse clicking and grabbing. Doors provide an exceptional focus in that you do not merely click on them to open and shut, but must push and pull them at just the right angle in order for them to open enough to glance inside or move through. Additionally, when combining items together, many of the combinations must be done in an exact order at the right time; or you are merely given the inner thoughts of yourself calling you quite crazy for even thinking the two would ever work out.

On a positive note, Anna did accomplish a dark and haunting atmosphere that leaves you questioning just what really occurred within those decaying walls; and oftentimes make you regret staying put for any longer than you have to. Without notice, unannounced specters, sudden shadows, inanimate objects hurled around the room, and alarming screams and crying pierce the darkness and leave your mental state a tad worse off than it already was. Even without the supernatural occurrences, the dim candlelit rooms and disturbing images that occur due to your involvement add to the overall suspense and you scour every inch of the mill house for items, clues and puzzles.

Additionally, the music and sound effects do add a considerable depth to the title. From soft ambiance to climactic swells to the muffled words and arguments of those who resided in a time long gone; the dark mood and atmosphere of the game remain in tact, if not enhanced, by not only what is seen, but also heard.

Anna is a game based off quite an intriguing premise and even despite its numerous flaws, does incur some shining moments. One such moment for me, without giving away too much, involves a somewhat disturbing ritual mask and a black mourning dress and veil. The feeling of being thoroughly and demonically watched has never been so strong and it is a feeling and image that has stayed with me long after playing it.

In the end, the game wants to accomplish its goal of fear, suspense and intuitiveness – but just misses. Three distinct endings give players a chance to see as much of the story as they wish to reveal and may even offer multiple play-throughs should they so wish. Only taking about three hours to complete the first time (and getting the final and longest ending), Anna is certainly worth playing at least once…for the right price that is; though I would truly only recommend it to those who are avid fans of the adventure or psychological horror genre. Otherwise, you may be better off letting this one slip back into the dark and haunted crevice from whence it emerged and carrying on with your life as if nothing ever happened.

Dead End ~ [Mirai Nikki]

mirai nikki

Survival. It is a will of human nature; an inescapable drive to prolong life for as long as possible. For some, the journey through life is simple as a walk through the park; but for others…they may find themselves in a desperate fight until they draw their last dying breath.

Although it may not be given much thought by most, the world maintains its equilibrium through the upholding of the laws of time and space. However, time is something that not everyone has enough of. In particular, the god who controls this continuum, Deus Ex Machina, is quickly nearing the end of his existence and must find a suitable replacement before all order falls to chaos and the world is destroyed.

May 2  11:33  [Inside School]

Other side of hallway explodes.

It’s guesswork, but she’s aiming at us for sure.

mirai nikki 12To do this, he creates a survival game made up of 12 unique contestants. Their identities kept hidden within the audience chamber so they can only vocalize briefly with Deus and each other; though in all reality, all participants live within close proximity. What draws these twelve individuals together in this game is not only the rule that whoever is left standing at the end will become a god; but a now enhanced hobby that all of them separately share: a diary.

Their regular daily diaries have now been changed into “future diaries” and allow the user to see entries they have yet to even write, although their purpose is as unique as the individuals themselves. This feature allows the user to see a short glimpse into their upcoming future, however, as most people know, the future can change in a heartbeat. As such, each diary will instantly update as soon as their current future is altered and each participant must then adjust their plans accordingly upon hearing that signature sound. After all, this is a game of survival and finding the identity of the other diary owners is only the beginning.

May 2  12:10

Yukkii told me how he really felt.

You were lonely, Yukkii.

The diaries themselves come in many forms as well: from scrolls to voice recorders to picture books, however the most common device is the user’s cell phone. One stipulation that comes with being a future diary owner is that it is not only the user’s life that must be looked out for, but also that of their diary. Should their cell phone or other device be broken or torn, so too will that end the diary owners life and they will be eliminated from the game and thrust into nothingness. One other unique feature is that each diary is classified according to the type of diary entries the user made previous to it becoming enhanced. A terrorist uses her escape diary to ensure her flawless get away; a police officer views his investigation evidence; and two lovers keep track of each others actions and whereabouts, knowing of harm long before it has chance to strike.

Of these twelve participants, two main protagonists emerge: Amano Yukiteru, holder of the random diary, and Gasai Yuno, holder of mirai-nikki-live-actionthe Yukiteru diary. These two quickly become a powerful duo, mostly due to Yuno’s strength and action but also due to how their future diaries work together. The random diary allows Yuki to view what is happening around him at all times; however this has its flaws as well, as it only records things according to Yuki’s views and beliefs. Yuno’s diary tracks everything that is happening to Yuki, so she has first hand knowledge of what is to come concerning him. Together, they make a team that can thwart most turn of events; and it is a good thing, as these two find themselves dead center of it all straight out of the gate. From the termination of a serial killer to a school terrorist bombing to the over rising of followers in the Sacred Eye cult to the end of days; Yuno’s love and protection for Yuki gets them through most everything, although not always via a method that Yuki prefers. Friendships, betrayals, sympathy, jealousy and insanity all run rampant between Yuki and Yuno as well as the other diary owners and select friends who offer their alliance and help to the situation.

Suspicious figures sighted by the rear –

Chasing him down with fellow followers.

Mirai Nikki (The Future Diary) is an anime depicting a psychological bloodbath for survival. Whether the participant’s goal is simply to live and create a better world or to become a god, it truly makes little difference as there can only be one true victor in the end. As alliances come to pass and break apart, diary owners not only find themselves relying on each other instead of being enemies but also find reinforcement within the police, high school friends and even other support systems. Perhaps none of the diary owner’s lives have been picture perfect, but oftentimes knowing struggle and hardship can only make one fight harder in the long run.

mirai-nikki-13Running 26 episodes, Mirai Nikki is one that will not only instantly draw you in with its captivating and action-packed story line  but also with its vast myriad of characters that you will come to both love and hate. There are many intriguing personalities, especially the diary owners, that will catch and hold your attention effortlessly; yet even so, there is not a single character that I can recall supporting throughout the entirety of the show. Even the main protagonists, who you should follow and support in victory and defeat, have their own psychotic and selfish moments that turn them into the bane of everyone’s existence. Alternatively though, there are characters that also make quite the opposite turn around and end up shining through in unexpected ways.

13:10

Mar is fighting 2nd.

The knife comes toward the left side of Mars head!!

Be Careful!!!

Aside from the characters and story, the music, mood, and design of the series also make it stand out among others. The soundtrack provides empowerment, somber empathy and mystique to an already emotion gripped ride. From addictive opening and ending themes to fully orchestrated and vocalized character themes, the music only stands to enrich this anime more. Gore, violence and horrifying situations occur to a generous amount of the cast and there is very little left to imagination throughout the series; however, as if to add just the right balance, there are plenty of happy, carefree moments mixed with emotional ones to truly draw you into its grasp.

July 17  20:19  [east research building -> west research building]

I go down the slope and get to the west research building. No enemies around.

The ability to see the future may very well be a gift and a curse. In the end though, nothing is ever certain. The future in sight might change in an instant and every action causes reaction…whether it be on the desired course or not.

tsubakitsubaki arms

When the blood and tears finally stop flowing and the game reaches its end; the only question that remains is: what future still awaits?

…and was it worth it?

A Village Shrouded in Death ~ Shiki

“Death is terrible for anyone. Young or old, good or evil, it’s all the same. Death is impartial. There is no especially terrible death. That’s why death is so fearsome. Your deeds, your age, your personality, your wealth, your beauty… They are all meaningless in the face of death.”

Crosses, stakes, garlic, sunlight – these are the instruments of destruction and safekeeping that were once thought only to exist in fairy tales. But what if all the stories held some semblance of truth? What if monsters aren’t simply shadows of the mind, something kept far from causing us harm and danger? What if…Shiki.full.223876

In a small, desolate mountain village most known for its shrine and burial rituals, there remain many people comfortable with the way life is. The village doctor tends his patients under strict family practice guidelines carried down through his lineage; a young monk and novelist upholds his duty to the shrine, following in his fathers footsteps; and children work hard at school, studying for exams in hopes of either following into their parent’s footsteps or even perhaps to one day get far, far away from the somber place of their youth.

However, nothing ever truly stays hidden or the same.

When a young couple and child move into the old European style mansion on the hill (far out of place in a village of this measure), the locals look on in wonder.  Their big city style and mannerism is unheard of and not to mention that nothing good has ever come from that mansion since it creation. It was just what drew villagers away and drove some too it at the same time.

One particular villager, a young fashionista girl by the name of Megumi, became enamored by the couple; and earned her place among the first of many deaths that would occur over the next few months. Day  by day, more and more villagers fell to this strange illness. Rumors of a summer cold gone instantly severe and incurable crept through the clinic and thoughts of an epidemic were told to be kept under the strictest of secrecy.

Shiki 03It’s not long before suspicions arise of a force beyond the control of humans; something reigning from a realm far more supernatural of nature. Shiki, roughly translated to “corpse demon”, are vampiric in nature from their unprecedented strength and aversion to sunlight to their desire and need for blood. As more and more villagers die from unknown ailments the problem is no longer what is causing this plague nor how to cure it; but rather how many will rise up after their death and join the enemy’s ranks.

Shiki is a 22 episode anime that follows the transformation of a small quiet village through its untimely downfall into the mouth of hell. As two polar opposite protagonists, Natsuno, a young loner with few acquaintances and even fewer close friends, and Toshio, the village’s most trusted and only doctor, begin to follow their instincts into an unlikely possibility; they find that their efforts may have begun entirely too late.

Vampire series often follow a similar trend, yet it is how they stray from the norm and portray themselves differently that truly can make one stand out above others. Shiki excels in this category not only through a wide character cast but also through the overall mood and presentation of the storytelling. Certainly, going into this series most will have a generous idea of what is to come; yet many will not be able to predict exactly how each twist will turn out or even the surprises lurking within each twist.shiki1

At first, everything seems very predictable; and to a large extent, it is. However, the story unravels in a way that leads the viewer to soon question those very suspicions. Characters that never seemed to have much significance or depth begin to take on a whole new role. The lines between good versus evil are not clear cut; black and white meld into a shade of gray that leaves you feeling torn and emotionally attached to certain characters no matter what their affiliation. Whatever stance you take on the story at the beginning may not hold through to its end and that is something that makes this series truly gripping.

How can we be expected to love those that kill? To feel pity for those only following their instinct? Perhaps there is no correct choice; and in the end, that might just be what makes us who we are.

“Is it so bad that I want to live? Is that my sin?” 

Limbo

How far would you go to save someone you love?

The side scrolling monochromatic game Limbo, by game developer Playdead, begins as a young nameless boy searches for his lost sister – awakening to a darkened, decaying forest strewn with horrific deaths, traps and puzzles which never appear to be quite as they seem.

As the boy travels deeper into Limbo, the scenery shifts elegantly from secluded forest to a passing tribal village to an underground city of rampant mechanisms. The traps and puzzles divert as well to match their surroundings – trees, water, bear traps and arachnids give way to electromagnetic switches and gravity defying feats. Every puzzle within this journey comes with a painstakingly acute lesson…and a heavy price.

Unlike most games in the puzzle and problem solving genre, this one stands out from the rest. Eerily beautiful and horrifying both in visuals and sound, Limbo keep players on edge as they ever so warily (…or not so much, if you’re the more brazen, ‘I’m ready to die!’ type) make their way through the haunting atmosphere; eying each new challenge with enthusiasm and disdain. Additionally, players are not met with a secluded “get out of this room” kind of puzzle, but rather, each challenge fits into the journey’s succession – never once breaking the overall atmosphere.

Towards the beginning, the puzzles themselves range from simple timing exercises (jumping, dodging, activating sensors and switches) to basic box maneuvers; all of which represent fundamental concepts that will not only allow passage through the conflicts themselves but will also be instrumental in surpassing the challenges ahead if applied correctly.

If there is one thing to prepare yourself for on the first play through it is that death is inevitable; and you will be reminded of this lesson repeatedly. In fact, the developers actually classify this style of game play as “trial and death” as most traps are not entirely apparent until it is far too late. Luckily, you can die an indefinite amount of times to overcome the obstacle as there are no game overs and you simply reset to your most recent checkpoint.

From start to finish, the game can be played through in about 3 hours; however, just because a game is shorter in length does not mean it has less to offer. Aside from simply beating the game, if you are up for an additional challenge, try getting all trophies/achievements. One trophy in particular, called “No Point in Dying”, stands as a worthy challenge in itself as it involves completing the game in one sitting with five or less deaths. Let’s just say that I wish I had kept track of how many times I died my first play through; Unfortunately, all I can attest to is that it was more than five….way more.

With plenty of ways to play this title (PC/Xbox/PSN), there is hardly a reason not to give this one a try. It may not be your generic puzzle, horror or adventure title, but it is an intriguing experience that stands out none the less.

So leave reality behind, and take the first step into Limbo…

What is it that makes us fear things from the very depth of our souls?

There is just something about the Japanese style of horror that leaves a lasting, and sometimes scarring, impression on people. A psychological brand of horror where oftentimes it is what you don’t see, rather than what you do, that you should fear the most. There certainly is no denying the terror of someone running at you with a chainsaw; but when you manifest a fear so deep and pure, it stays with you long after the fact – far beyond anxiety, past paranoia.

Although the topic of horror stretches to far out reaches, one aspect often used is through the concept of dolls. Dolls often represent a symbol of beauty and childhood; a toy played with leisurely or an elegant shelf piece adorning a young girl’s room. They are a picturesque effigy in porcelain with pristine clothes and impenetrable eyes that see everything and nothing. A human personification that stands to show us just how fragile we really are. Although there are many instances of dolls inclusion in horror and other dark genres, here are but a few marked examples:

So I think to myself: ‘Something different; a precious present for a precious person.’ The most suitable thing would be you yourself.

Black Butler

This may have been but a small arc within the anime, but it managed to stick out for me none the less. When young girls begin to disappear from the city at an alarming pace with the only evidence left behind being a small doll of their likeness in an old shop, Ciel and Sebastian begin investigating the case. It seems just like any other task from the queen, however, things become much more personal when Elizabeth falls victim as well. Locating where she is being held, they discover the whereabouts of the other missing girls…at least what is left of them.

No longer human, the girls have all been turned into reanimated dolls, following every command by the strings of their puppet master. As battle ensues and the girls fall in defeat, they do not bleed but rather sawdust, straw and other inanimate materials come apart from their seams. Their humanity left only as a memory. When they finally find Elizabeth held away in a tower, relief floods over them as they find she had not been completely transformed like the other girls. But all is not right in the world as Elizabeth mercilessly attacks Ciel, still being manipulated by invisible strings and unable to control her own actions. These episodes not only show the fragility of dolls but also the terrifying likeness to their human counterparts; or in this case, where they become one in the same.

“The dolls…dolls are hollow, you see. Completely hollow in body and soul. That void connects them with death, but hollow things seek to fill their emptiness. Don’t you feel as though this place is drawing something out of you?”

Another

From the very beginning, the opening of this anime signifies just how beautiful yet breakable a doll can be. Broken, battered, entangled, and distraught – the dolls paint a beautiful and tragic portrait. One of the most intriguing places and scenes in this anime to me by far took place in the doll shop “‘The Hollow Eyes of Yomi at Twilight”. The setting was already mysterious, but this added another level of cryptic darkness to it all. The dolls found within are all effortlessly beautiful but what really stood out was their design and display. Some were posed specifically, some haphazardly sitting or with hanging limbs off of a shelf, and some laid out as if for a funeral viewing;  dressed in elegant attire holding a beautiful flower while others sat aside, forgotten and in disarray.

When Koichi finds his way downstairs he is startled by Mei, who emerges unseen from behind a small coffin. Mei is a character very otherworldly and doll-like in her own sense, and standing next to an almost identical looking doll gives one the feeling there is much more to it than simple coincidence. Mei explains that the beautiful doll is only a half representation of her, but says no more at that time. Even as they take in the remaining scenery and dolls of the small room, an eerie calm yet unrest settles around them. Although the dolls in this series do not cause fear directly, the imagery and ideals they represent add to an already anxious and suspense ridden storyline.

“Didn’t we always used to promise each other, that we would stay together?”

Fatal Frame

This survival horror series holds a special place in my heart and throughout every game the concept of dolls has played an integral role in some way or another. In the original game, dolls may not have been a major aspect of the story but there is one particular room of Himuro Mansion I am sure most people remember: the doll room. At the beginning of the second night, Miku awakens into a room filled with dolls. As you inspect them closer a doll’s head will roll off unexpectedly, a small puzzle must be solved, and a larger doll on a special pedestal in the back of the room is hard not to notice. This is only the beginning though as a child’s laughter soon breaks through the silence and Miku is thrown into battle with the child’s spirit.

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly offered a much larger concept of dolls through one particular arc/area known as the doll makers residence. The basic story of this game is that in an ancient village, the townsfolk believed that to appease the gods they had to make a human sacrifice – but this sacrifice was something unlike any other. In this case it would involve identical twins, where deep underground at the mouth of Hell, one twin would kill the other and then the sacrifice would be thrown down into the pit. The remaining twin would go on living, though many would suffer extreme psychological illness and duress.

The doll maker’s two daughters were chosen for the ritual one year and after it was done the remaining twin, Akane, fell into a deep depression over the loss of her sister. Their father, torn with grief, built a life size doll of Azami and it wasn’t long after that Akane returned to her usual self – never separate from the doll. However, she became so attached to the doll that a malicious spirit took control and began to possess Akane. When her father realized what was happening he aimed to destroy the doll and the spirit within; but upon finding out about his plans, Akane, in her possessed state, killed her father in order to save the doll. Exploring this area of the game pits you against Akane and Azami at the same time, yet only one can take damage from the spirit camera. A very sad and haunting story. No matter how keen the resemblance, a doll can never replace a life.

Fatal Frame 3 also uses dolls as a means of representation and sacrifice. Wara Ningyo are a type of Japanese doll often used to represent a person or particular aspect and it is believed that a person could become cursed if a doll in their likeness is nailed to a sacred tree. In Fatal Frame, this practice was used through numerous rituals of various levels from only using a doll to transfer sin and misfortune to the other world to sacrificing an actual person through an impalement ritual in which the villagers sins would be taken with that person to the spirit realm.

Lastly, in Fatal Frame 4 a particular type of doll, called a hozuki doll, can be found throughout the game and photographed for completion of a lengthy side quest. These dolls  were made by parents who had lost a child and are generally considered to be extremely unlucky and bring disaster. Although merely used to represent the dead, the mere presence of these dolls adds to the overall feeling of dread as the player explores the island and slowly uncovers its bloodstained history.

Whether the story be one of horror, suspense or simply unnerving at times, there is no denying the effect certain elements can put into play. Dolls may not necessarily bring terror about instantly, but rather do so gradually…psychologically. Barely seeing a distinctly human-esque figure out of the corner of your eye in the darkness, knowing what meaning lies behind certain dolls, a reasoning for their presence; it isn’t that they are necessary terrifying unto themselves, but rather the thoughts and imagery that manifests within our subconscious that brings about a true horror. It is the same tactic that places us on alert in dark situations and similarly can make even the bravest of men jump at mere shadows.

Beautiful. Enchanting. Tragic. Terrifying.

Calamity – an event that brings terrible loss, lasting distress or severe affliction.

It all began 26 years ago when a terrible accident, its causes still unknown, occurred resulting in the unfortunate death of a popular honor student at Yomi North Junior High, 9th grade class 3. Distraught over the student’s death, the teacher and students continued on as if the dead student were still present; they left an open desk in class and even a seat at graduation. No one could ever explain how the dead student showed up in their graduation photo at the end of the year – a mystery that would eventually lead to malice, grief, and death.

Since then, every 9th grade class 3 has had to take special precautions to prevent the calamity from re-occuring. So long as the rules are strictly followed, the year will pass without occurrence…

However, when “another” student is added to the class or things that do not exist are tampered with, events begin to take a turn for the worst. Once the curse is activated, a student or family member will die every month of that school year until graduation. They say that the additional student is actually dead, but even they themselves do not know it and there is no physical way to tell who the extra or dead student might be. Although there are many rumors surrounding this curse, little is actually known except that it is a very real situation for those in class 3.

Transferring from Tokyo, Koichi Sakakibara is scheduled to start 9th grade at Yomi North Academy, class 3. Unfortunately, due to a lung condition, he is forced to start school a month late. Seemingly unrelated at the time, Koichi meets a strange girl with an eye patch in the hospital elevator. As the elevator finally comes to rest at the morgue, the girl gets off, pausing just long enough to answer that she is giving a doll to someone who is staying there.

The girl’s name is Mei Misaki, an enigmatic figure that doesn’t seem to be completely in touch with this world. Having spoken with Mei and a few classmates already, Koichi is soon thrown directly into the center of confusion and mistrust: no one will tell him what is going on, why people are horrifically dying, or anything involving the terrifying calamity that has begun. Everything soon rages out of control as students and family members begin to succumb to gruesome accidents and blame is thrown back and forth in anger and in fear. Nobody knows how to stop it; but if they don’t figure something out, it is uncertain who will survive to graduation…if anyone.

Another is a horror/mystery anime containing numerous elements of my hearts contentment. I somehow knew that I would enjoy this one, but then again I simply love anything within the horror category from utterly terrorizing to completely cliche. Horror, mystery, curses, strange relationships, death, violence, gore, blood, dolls and intriguing characters all make up this cruel story of unfortunate events. As the series progresses you will come to question nearly every character and their motives; never knowing who, if anyone, can really be trusted.

How far would you go to save a life?…to save your own life?

I know Another isn’t perfect, I will say this straight from the start, but I really did enjoy this one. The first few episodes set the mood and scene so well, you cannot help but begin feeling the dread and anxiety of the situation. The characters of the series also add a certain level of depth as you will not only begin to empathize with many of them, but it also enhances the overall fear and creates a more prominent impact when their lives come to such horrid ends. It is a bit slow in revealing what is actually going on, but at the same time this adds to the overall tension the series aims to create.  It is also more of a survival horror anime than a mystery series (not that I am complaining ^^), although the clues are there if you know where to look for them and can drag your eyes away from the numerous death scenes.

As for the ending, it is probably one of the most critically looked at parts of the series. It is not terribly difficult to discern where the final showdown will be taking place; but the actual climax and revelation of everything happens quite abruptly and ends with about as much flair. There are a few unforeseen aspects that add a nice touch to the overall bloodbath and chaos; and watching the students paranoia and complete collapse of sanity, even in the most sturdy of characters, truly adds to an atmosphere already filled to the brim with panic and suffering.

Despite its flaws, my love for the genre and everything it encompasses still places this anime high on my list. Another possibly unrelated note is that much of this show also reminded me of one of my favorite game series, Fatal Frame, in which I found many similar elements shared between them and perhaps also contributed to my instant attraction to this piece (“I wonder how long it’s been since my brother and I began to see things other people can’t see“, dolls, calamity, violent death…the list goes on and could probably be formed into a post all by itself).

If you are fan of this type of story then I would definitely recommend watching this. Be warned though, there is a great deal of blood, death and violence and absolutely nothing is left to the imagination. It may not be perfect, but see what you think for yourself.

After all, it’s only a fight for survival against a horrifying unseen and unstoppable force. Do you think you would make it out alive?

Death is not kind. It’s dark, black as far as you can see, and you’re all alone.

All alone…

Yes, but it’s no different when you’re alive, is it? No matter how many relationships we seem to have, we’re all alone.

Elfen Lied

“The ones that aren’t human…are you!”

It all began to form into one horrific disaster.  Precautions were taken, guards were posted, and not one movement was  made within the research facility that wasn’t monitored. But on this day, a creature with the potential to destroy human kind has broken through the barriers of her confinement.   Guards and armed sentry’s throw themselves in her way, but doing so guarantees nothing but their own death.  Blockades do not stop her. Bullets do not touch her. As she finally exits the facility only the blood and dismembered bodies remain to tell tale of her escape.

If the opening episode of Elfen Lied is any indication to what may come, prepare to become immersed in a very violent and bloody spectacle. However, despite the numerous action and fight sequences, the emotional level strewn throughout the 13 episode series will make you laugh, cry, grimace, smile, and scowl.  It is not a show everyone will want to watch, and some probably should not watch it, period. At the same time though I would still highly recommend this title – just don’t go expecting that bubbly happily-ever-after feeling. While some scenes are adorably funny, most of the content plays on the darker side of human nature. A side where no remorse is considered, where children are cruel beyond all regard, where tragedy prevails, and where lives are torn apart before they can ever really be considered living.

It is a story of two ordinary teenagers, Kohta and Yuka, whose lives drastically change upon finding a young girl with pink hair and two cat-ear like horns coming out of her head. Upon getting her out of the rain she is completely oblivious to everything considered “normal” such as wearing clothes, talking, and even acting human.  Unable to get her to speak anything except the words “nyu”, they decide to call her just that.  They have no idea of what she truly is; that this adorable and innocent girl is the very same escaped killer from the laboratory. Even as people hunt her down, Kohta and Yuka remain clueless of the dire situation and only try their hardest to protect her from any and all harm.

The truth is that she is a mutant race called a Diclonius, recognized easily by the two horns coming out of their heads. A less noticable feature is their invisible vectors, basically invisible arms and hands that can range from 2 to 26 in number and have a range of at least 5ft out. Vectors are a Diclonius’ weapon of choice – a weapon causing painful, malicious, and near instant death to anyone who falls within range of them.  Even being momentarily touched by a vector implants the Diclonius gene within the subject, essentially passing on the trait to any offspring the subject may one day have.

Split personalities, child hood memories lost, and additional characters whose intentions may or may not change flow throughout each episode of the series.  There are moments when you wish you could look away and others where you can’t keep from smiling.  But this is a story without any heroes. Every character has their own reasons and their own story – who is really to decide if they are right in their decisions or not? In the end, all anyone ever wants is to protect the ones they love…no matter what the cost.

Opening theme: Lilium (also music box version)

Ending theme: Be Your Girl ~ Chieko Kawabe

~*~ Interesting fact: Elfen Lied is German for “Elf Song” and is also the name of a poem written by Eduard Morike~*~