Kamaitachi no Yoru (かまいたちの夜), which translates to "The Night of the Sickle Weasel," was the second sound novel created by Chunsoft after the release of Otogirisou. The game was originally released for the Super Famicom on November 25, 1994 and has since been ported to several consoles and mobile devices. The game would later spawned a series of sequels beginning in 2002 with the release of Kamaitachi no Yoru 2 on the PlayStation 2. A remake called Kamaitachi no Yoru: Rinne Saisei was also released in 2017 by 5pb for the PlayStation Vita that redid the game's presentation to be more like a traditional visual novel, with the characters being fully illustrated instead of being represented as blue silhouettes.
Aksys Games released the iOS version of Kamaitachi no Yoru in North America in 2014 under the title "Banshee's Last Cry," marking the first time the title was available in English. The localization was headed by Jeremy Blaustein, who altered the story's 1990s Japanese setting to that of contemporary British Columbia. An Android port of Banshee's Last Cry was also advertised by Aksys but never materialized and the iOS version no longer works as of the iOS 11 update in 2017.
The game follows Toru (Max in the English localization) and his girlfriend Mari (Grace in English), who are suddenly drawn into a horrible murder mystery while on vacation at a skiing lodge (in Japan in the original, and Canada in the English version). The story unfolds as the characters attempt to solve the mystery. Additional murders occur if the player is unable to find clues, and the story culminates in a number of endings befitting a horror tale.
Similar to Chunsoft's past sound novel, the gameplay involves the player reading the text from the game screen, and making decisions which will affect the path and outcome of the narrative. The choices and consequences form a big part of the gameplay, with the narrative often branching out in completely different directions depending on what choices the player makes, with even seemingly minor decisions having a big impact on how the narrative unfolds. In total, the game has over forty different endings.
When the player completes the main story with a certain number of endings, two additional stories are unlocked; the occult chapter and spy chapter. When all three stories are finished with every possible ending, two more stories that serve as self-parodies also become available. Fulfilling one final requirement allows the player to unlock a parody of Chunsoft's Torneko no Daiboken.
The additional stories cover a wide variety of themes, and are mostly unrelated to each other and to the main story. The same set of characters appear in each narrative, but the settings differ in significant ways.
After the sleeper success of Cunsoft's previous sound novel, Otogirisou, many fans mailed the company with feedback on the game. One of the most popular requests was that the next sound novel should be a mystery game. So Chunsoft sent letters to around 20 different novelists in Japan that specialized in the genre, asking them if they would be interested in working on a new title with them. One of the novelists they contacted was Takemaru Abiko, a writer famous for his mystery fiction such as "The 8 Mansion Murders," who was a fan of Chunsoft's work on Otogirisou. He accepted the invite and would go on to work with Chunsoft on the entire Kamaitachi no Yoru franchise as well as other Chunsoft titles such as Trick x Logic.
The PlayStation port of Kamaitachi no Yoru featured higher resolutions versions of the photographs used in the original Super Famicom release as well as some new graphics. An arranged soundtrack was composed for the port and rumble functionally was included if the player was using the DualShock controller. Additionally two new bonus scenarios were written for the port and an in-game color coded flowchart was added that visibly showed what choices the player had made and allowed them to jump back to specific scenes to make different choices.
Smart Sound Novel
Previously Chunsoft had released Kamaitachi no Yoru for various portable devices including the Gameboy Adance in 2002, flip phones in 2004 and Android in 2010 which were all basically ports of the PlayStation version of the game. However in 2013, Chunsoft released a new version of Kamaitachi no Yoru for iOS and Android devices as part of their "Smart Sound Novel" series. This version featured new photographs taken at the same cottage used as a model for the original game and removed all of the blue silhouetted characters. A new soundtrack and sound effects were added and the story was slightly rewritten in some scenes. While containing the same number of endings as past versions, superfluous choices that didn't influence the direction of the story were removed as well.
Banshee's Last Cry
Aksys's release of the Banshee's Last Cry is almost identical to the Smart Sound Novel version of Kamaitachi no Yoru but contains various rewrites and localization changes. The ski lodge the game takes place in was relocated to be in modern day Canada instead of 90s Japan with in-game images being edited to reflect this change in setting. All of the characters names were changed to be western English names such as the main character now being named "Max" instead of "Toru."Character's nationality and ethnicity were altered as well such as Grace (Mari in the original) now being a Caucasian with blond hair and Chase Buchanan (originally Seiichi Kayama) now being from Texas instead of a the Kansai region. The lore involving the Kamaitachi yokai was also rewritten to be based off the banshee from Irish mythology instead.
Kamaitachi no Yoru became one of Chunsoft's most popular titles with the game selling 1.25 million copies across multiple platforms as of 2002, with the Super Famicom version selling more than 700,000 units and the PlayStation port selling over 330,000 units . The game's success in Japan led to adaptations into other media, including novelizations, a radio drama, and even a live-action made-for-TV movie in 2002. Years later the game would be featured on the 113th episode of Game Center CX in 2011 and was ranked as the 6th best adventure game of all time in a Famistu reader poll in 2017 . Kotaro Uchikoshi would also state in his "Visual Novels: Narrative Design in Virtue's Last Reward" GDC talk in 2013 that Kamaitachi no Yoru was the pioneer of the visual novel genre and a direct inspiration to the Zero Escape series .
The game's popularity encouraged other developers to create similar games, with companies like Athena releasing titles like Yakochu only a few months after Kamaitachi no Yoru. The term "sound novel" also grew into its own genre outside of Chunsoft's franchise and played an important role in the eventually creation of the visual novel genre, directly inspiring the Leaf Visual Novel Series that coined the term.
Following the game's English release in 2014, Banshee's Last Cry has been well received in western media. Iain Garner, in his review published on both Yahoo and Games in Asia, gave the game a score of 9 out of 10, praising the choices and consequences as well as the story itself.
- Official English Website
- Japanese Smart Sound Novel Site
- Game Boy Advance Japanese Site
- Pension & Cottage Knulp - Website for the real-world cottage used as a model for the in-game cottage.
- Chunsoft 30th Anniversary – 2014 Interview
- Trends in the Adventure Game Series Seen by Sales (Adventure Game Research office, 2010).
- Looking back on the genre “Sound Novel” that put a stone in the industry by 小城由都 (ITmedia, 2006).
- Weekly Famitsu, Best Adventure Game of All Time Reader Poll (2017).
- Visual Novels: Narrative Design in Virtue's Last Reward (GDC, 2013).