Suhoshin is the upcoming debut visual novel from studio No More 500. While the full game doesn’t have a release date yet beyond sometime this year, a demo consisting of the first few chapters of this mystery visual novel will be out soon. That’s what I’m taking a look at today, so without further ado, let’s dive in.
The Long Ride Home
Set in Korea’s Joseon period, Suhoshin begins with a young man named Yuri returning to his quiet hometown in the countryside. Yuri spent the last three years studying in the capital to become a civil servant, and while he’s grateful for all that he learned and experienced, he misses the simpler life he left behind. On the last night of his eight-day journey home, Yuri encounters a mysterious woman. However, he decides to chalk up his strange experience to exhaustion and continues on, eager to see his old friends. Soo Ah, his neighbor and childhood friend, Yun Bok, a village guard and something of an older brother figure to Yuri, and Mr. Kim, Yuri’s aristocratic patron, are all happy to see him well after three long years. Yuri figures he’ll settle back into the peaceful days of his past. That is, until a disaster strikes, one that promises to irrevocably change Yuri’s life and hometown.
Suhoshin’s demo clocks in at about an hour and mostly serves to introduce the setting and characters. You see a few of the important locations in Yuri’s hometown, and the text introduces some Korean terms and concepts. These are highlighted in red the first time they appear, and Suhoshin features an index of Korean words you can refer to from the menu at any time. There’s not enough time to dive too deeply into the characters, but you do get to see their demeanors and roles in the community.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The most effective part of the demo is the way it juxtaposes Yuri’s cozy homecoming against an aura of foreboding. Yuri might be happy to laugh with his friends, his strange encounter the furthest thing from his mind, but it weighs on you. Likewise, while the shocking event that shatters Yuri’s peaceful life could have an unextraordinary explanation, you get just a taste of the idea that something larger and more horrific might be afoot. It’s enough to whet the appetite and build intrigue for the full story.
The atmosphere is enhanced by the way Suhoshin uses its music and prose. The countryside and village are set to the chirping of insects and leisurely pastorales–until they’re not. Silence, like that of nature before an oncoming disaster, is your first clue that something is subtly out of place. Yuri, meanwhile, is friendly and upstanding, which manifests in his direct and unembellished speech. It complements the ominous mood well. Suhoshin doesn’t need to emphasize the unsettling with long descriptive passages. It trusts the events, sounds, and visuals to make its point clear.
Look and Feel
I quite like Suhoshin’s art too. Artist Kageyoshi, known for working on Raging Loop, has a distinct style that stands out from more traditional anime illustration. The historical outfits exude color and flair without overwhelming you with small details, and characters have distinctive facial features that complement their expressions. Yun Bok’s rounded face emphasized his disarming smile, while Yuri’s sharper features give him a piercing gaze.
Suhoshin is a bit rough around the edges when it comes to layout and features. The game was made with Unity rather than the more commonly used Ren’py, so the controls might take a little adjustment if you’re a visual novel veteran. Title cards announce location changes but are simply text on a plain background. The options are similarly minimal. You can choose from two text speeds and change the music and sound effect volumes. And while Suhoshin has the aforementioned index, a gallery, and a flowchart, you can’t access them from the main menu. You have to first load your game.
Speaking of the index, there are quite a few Korean terms in the demo, and looking them up is a little unwieldy. You have to first pull up the menu then navigate to the index and scroll down to the relevant entry. When you see several new words in quick succession, this breaks up the flow of the narrative. It would be nice if Suhoshin added a hotkey to pull up the index, or even better, allowed you to access entries by clicking on red words in the text box. In addition, some of the entries are terms that could easily have been translated without loss of meaning and are used more for flavor. While I don’t mind this, I would have liked to see said entries more fleshed out. The index is terse, and if all you’re going to tell me is that a jumak is a tavern, then just use the word tavern and save me the trouble of looking it up.
Suhishin’s demo intrigued me with its unsettling atmosphere and budding mystery. While I thought the main pieces of Suhoshin – the writing, art, and sound – all seemed promising, the interface, presentation, and extras could use a little spiffing up. Even so, Suhoshin is worth keeping an eye on, and I’m excited to see what the full release will bring.
Many thanks go to No More 500 for early access to the demo of this title.
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A veteran of Oregon Trail and Battletoads, Wes has been playing and talking about games for as long as he can remember. He’s down to try almost anything, and he especially enjoys games with gripping narrative experiences.