I finished recently (yesterday) Higurashi When They Cry. I enjoyed most of the 90h-ish it took me to finish, so this will be more my impressions than a review. Higurashi When They Cry is a long Visual Novel, available on Steam and Mangagamer. It was created by a dõjin circle known as 07th expansion, and written by Ryukishi07. The themes are friendship, kids, murders, and the paranormal. It is cut into several chapters, which are each a version of the story, taking place in the little Japanese village of Hinamizawa in June 1983. First chapter is free on Steam, go try it!
Before starting the game, you should go towards the mod, which adds music and voice acting from the console versions. It makes the experience much more enjoyable and often, I would put the game in auto instead of bashing my mouse/enter key to read the dialogues. This visual novel contains no meaningful choices. Although it can rebuke some, I think it’s for the best and the quality of the writing and the story makes up for it.
The mod also contains (I think) the french translation made by Pierre Bancov (https://twitter.com/pbsaffran). I missed that this mod existed and played the first chapters in English, so I couldn’t enjoy it in French. Maybe next time!
The visuals, depending on which version you chose to play range from DIY to normal professional quality.
Found on this tumblr
Music is also okay, not much to say, songs are fitting to the scenes. Sound is very important for some passages and gives a tone to the whole scene. Combined with sprite, it can really make an impression on you. Higurashi is a very good example of why Visual Novels are not inferior to books. Scary sprite, sound effects and strong words made my heart beat faster in a new unexpected way. (The first Time Rena accuses Keichii of lying, I had trouble sleeping). Similarly, upbeat passages with silliness and big “Keichii moment” had a really sweet and exciting taste. This is really something that took me by surprise and I enjoyed it a lot. Of course, it’s in the title, but I will not hear cicadas the same anymore.
Characters are all, in my opinion, well written. I have favorites (I wanna take her hooooome. hau~), but I loved each of them, the club of kids and the adults alike. All the chapter focuses on different characters and while it is centered around Keichii at the start, the stories are then written with alternating protagonists.
First chapter contains rather dark themes with a lot of gruesome murders, torture and paranoia. To balance this, you have very sweet slice of life silliness, otaku humor and even a tiny bit of romance. Higurashi starts to become a very spicy candy. The structure of the story being repetitive, you start to wait for the Watanagashi festival with anticipation and excitment (The festival marks the end of happy days for our protagonists). Although there is dark themes, it never go into the edgy territory nor goes for torture porn. The hardest storyline in Higurashi (for me), revolve around child abuse. This passage is extremely well done in my opinion, conveying the rage and helplessness of it and steal treating the issue with respect. This was maybe the biggest surprise Higurashi left for me. A big part of the story also revolve around traditional beliefs and mythology and despite not being versed into Budhism or Shinto, I didn’t feel like I was missing keys to understand or appreciate the game.
The visual novel is nicely written, and even though you’re repeating a bit the same passages/events again and again given the structure of the story, it’s always enticing and easy to read. Some passages drag for a bit too long, but those were too few to really annoy me. The story goes a lot in paranormal, murders and violence at first, shift towards softer themes and being more grounded in reality. The story goes in all directions at first, opening dozen of plot points and leaving breadcrumbs that you and the author can use to complete the story. If you want a story with a big plot twist that goes “ahah”, or read media to feel smart about yourself, you could feel disappointed with Higurashi. This kind of writing technique is something I experienced before in other medias (One Piece/Doctor Who ect…) so I knew to manage my expectations. You’re advised at the end of each chapter to try to guess what will happen and resolve the mystery yourself, like an Agatha Christie book. While this is fun, the story will hold the most important breadcrumbs for the end, rendering your efforts useless. And it’s fine. Ryukishi07 is in total control of his story and I let him be. After watching Twin Peaks season 3, I learned to stop my expectations be in the way of my enjoyment of a piece of media. Although I would have preferred to have a bit more mystery, I’m very satisfied with how Ryukishi07 wrapped everything up. Every plot point is addressed and everything seems coherent. Ryukishi07, at the end encourages you to rewrite his story for the ending you want, picking up his breadcrumbs. I might do that in the upcoming year, Hinamizawa living in a corner of my head.
If you can put yourself in the backseat and relax, Higurashi will give you an amazing trip. I am proud to have experienced Higurashi and enjoyed it until its final stop. (Although apparently there is a ton of bonus chapters on console releases ? I will leave Keichii, Rena, Mion, Satoko, and Rika rest for a bit before I visit them again. Surely.)