Suhoshin is the debut visual novel from French studio No More 500. Set in Joseon-era Korea, Suhoshin sees a series of strange and brutal murders shatter the peace of a quiet village in the countryside. It’s up to protagonist Yuri (and you) to unveil the truth.
The story begins with Yuri riding back to the small village where he grew up after training as a civil servant in the capital. On the last night of his journey, he stumbles upon a lone woman in the countryside. She gives him no name but insists he take a mysterious pendant. When he wakes, there’s no trace of her, and Yuri wonders if the exhaustion from his travels caused him to dream the whole thing. He’s eager to settle into his old home and see his friends: his neighbor Soo Ah and village guard Yun Bok. Yuri spent his time in the capital learning to investigate crimes, but surely his assignment in such a small and peaceful village where everyone knows everyone will be far less exciting. But when a murderer strikes with shocking and gruesome results, it falls to Yuri to unmask the culprit and stop the bloodshed.
Suhoshin follows the typical visual novel format with Yuri and his friends’ fates determined by your choices. There are bad endings, but a handy flowchart makes it easy to jump back and try a different path. The overall structure is an enforced route order, as some choices won’t be available on your first playthrough. Initially, you’ll leave with more questions than answers, and subsequent playthroughs build the central narrative. Your choices do determine which of the two final endings you get: the normal ending or the true ending. However, the main ideas are similar, and both are fitting conclusions to the story.
Art and Music
Suhoshin’s biggest strength is its art. Character artist Kageyoshi, known for Raging Loop, did excellent work using facial shapes and features to differentiate the characters and bring their personalities to life. The Joseon era clothing is colorful and detailed without becoming busy. 10 main characters (including Yuri) have full-body sprites with multiple facial expressions, and minor characters have partial sprites (sometimes reused) that appear in the corner of the text box. The latter is a nice touch of detail most visual novels lack. The background and event CGs likewise have an impressive amount of detail and a coherent visual style. My one nitpick is that every murder scene uses the same bloody hand CG, and it gets old quickly.
The music and sound are similarly excellent. Tracks range from the cozy folk melodies of Yuri’s hometown to dissonant droning as the horrific reality of a murder sinks in. Sound effects like cicadas chirping and boots crunching through a forest are crisp and realistic. Suhoshin is particularly effective in its deployment of silence. Suspenseful scenes often start without music, leaving even Yuri’s quietest footfalls to echo like thunderclaps, as they would to him as he tries to move quietly while a killer lurks in the shadows. And when the action does kick into high gear, the music is right there to support it with driving intensity.
Story and Writing
Suhoshin’s narrative is event-focused with brisk, workmanlike prose. The pace never drags, and there are few lulls in the action. This style effectively builds and maintains suspense, especially in the scenes where Yuri heads out to investigate or patrol. There’s a real fear the killer could strike at any moment, and anyone could be next, even Yuri. The downside is that, while exciting, the writing doesn’t pack much emotional punch. Characters quickly move past what should be shocking and emotionally charged events, though fortunately the music picks up some of the slack here. Nor is there any of the inertia that can create a slower but deeper sense of dread.
While Suhoshin’s premise makes it sound like a murder mystery, I experienced it as more of a thriller. Despite his training in criminal investigations, Yuri isn’t particularly clever. Rather, his strengths are his iron will and calm under pressure. Furthermore, much of the information Yuri needs is handed to him rather than discovered through his investigations. In fact, the overall construction of the mystery is more Supernatural than Sherlock Holmes. Suhoshin doesn’t do much in the way of leaving a trail of clues (unless perhaps one is knowledgeable about Korean folklore), and the twists serve to shock and excite rather than build an intricate web of intrigue. It’s a fun ride, but there were moments where I thought Suhoshin was subtly setting up to do something that never paid off. In particular, the final climax could have used a bit more oomph or one last swerve.
UI and Extras
Suhoshin was made with Unity, a more difficult choice for a first-time visual novel developer than the popular Ren’py. No More 500 seems to have struggled with some of the UI design, and while there have been improvements since the demo that we previously looked at, the final product is still lackluster in this regard. Much of this is missed opportunities. Title cards announce day and location changes but are simply text on a plain background. If Suhoshin isn’t going to add any decorative flair, then better to stick to a simple fade to black. Similarly, Suhoshin sprinkles in some Korean words, but most could have been replaced one-for-one with English words or easily explained in context via the text. Instead, you’ll need to look them up in an index. You also need to load a game before you can access the flowchart or the CG gallery, an unnecessary step not found in most visual novels.
The one technical aspect that is a significant issue is the skip function. There’s no option to skip unread text, and all animations play while skipping. Since characters frequently come and go and locations change, skipping is quite slow in practice. Fortunately, Suhoshin’s built-in flowchart means you likely won’t need to do much skipping. The exception is if you got the normal ending and wanted to go back to get the true ending since this depends on several choices spaced throughout the game.
Suhoshin offers an exciting and suspenseful tale of murder supported by excellent art and music. There’s not a ton of depth to the mystery, and the UI design needs some work, but overall Suhoshin is good fun.
SUHOSHIN IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to the publisher No More 500 for a PC review code for 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.