I tend to be a voracious consumer of visual novels. My Steam wish list is flowing to the brim with them (and flowing to the brim period, but that’s neither here or there). I’m also a sucker for anything with mystery and horror elements. So naturally, Magical Eyes – Red is for Anguish seemed like something that’d be right up my alley. So when a review copy came it, I couldn’t say no.
The crux of the story lies in a rash of bizarre crimes and incidents, chief among them being a shopkeeper’s claim that a doll attacked him and lopped off his arm. On the surface this just sounds like a preposterous claim, especially with the lack of witnesses to corroborate his story. However, an organization called the Disobeyers gets involved in the investigation when the police suspect the actual cause falls beyond their purview and that Variants may be involved. Variants are humans (or objects, which are referred to as Material Variants) who have been given powers through extraordinarily strong emotions experienced at death. The plot starts off a bit slow, with some establishing characters and world building and such. I like that kind of stuff so I didn’t mind it, but others might find it drags things down. However, it does pick up, especially once the investigation really gets underway and more leads are found. I kept wanting to see what was behind the mysteries that cropped up. While Chiharu’s sort of set up as a deuteragonist (with what her being given her own “side” and having her own timeline in the menu screen), she didn’t really seem to actually be given much to do beside fawn over Yuu, which is a little disappointing, though it’s possible that could be remedied in later installments. Though it could be argued that she’s there to represent the normal side of Yuu’s life as a contrast to his duties as a Disobeyer. Most of the other characters are interesting, with one having a particularly compelling character arc that makes me hope he shows up again in future episodes. While there is a teaser for the next episode at the next, the story presented here does get a full resolution. There were occasional typos (e.g. “but that not the surprising part” “fiver years ago” “hearing you say complain about them” “I’m feel sure”), and while they stood out when they came up, they weren’t egregious enough to affect the readability of the text.
The overall presentation is fairly polished. Character portraits and story stills are drawn, and the art style looks rather nice. The opening animation is well done, and the accompanying theme is catchy. The shadow play that plays the first time you load up the game is nicely presented, and the figures are expressive despite only depicted in black. The backgrounds and maps are modeled in 3D, and while they sufficiently serve their purpose, they’re not as aesthetically pleasing as the 2D art. Most of the buildings on the maps are blank white buildings, though the places you actually visit do get a unique model. The soundtrack is generally easy on the ears. In particular, the tracks that play during fight scenes amplifies the intensity of those scenes. Every character has voice acting except for Yuu, which I found odd because the game makes it seem like both Yuu and Chiharu are the main characters (given they each have their own “side”), and the latter has voice acting. Voice acting for the previous line keeps playing even if you click to advance to the next line unless you let it finish before doing so, which is a bit jarring when you’re used to the voice acting just going to the next line if you press the button to advance.
The game proceeds by choosing a place on the map and viewing the story scene within. Places marked with exclamation points contain main scenarios required to advance the plot and unmarked places being optional sub-scenarios. Note that sub scenarios vanish if you choose a main scenario before viewing them, so make sure to view everything else before going to the main scenario. Story scenes play out from either the perspective of Yuu, Chiharu, or other characters (labeled Yuu Side, Chiharu Side, and ??? Side). There’s three maps you can switch to, though the game kindly starts you on the one with scenarios available and will note if there’s scenarios available in other areas (though I just checked every map myself anyway to make sure I didn’t miss anything).
As you view scenarios you acquire glossary terms and keywords, the latter of which are used in Reasoning Mode. Reasoning Mode consist of questions (later ones contain more questions) about the events and information revealed in prior scenes. Obviously, the more scenes you viewed, the more keywords you’ll have to choose from. As long as you’re paying attention, it’s not too hard to choose the right keywords for the corresponding questions (though of course there’s always the option of reloading a prior save if you flub a question). Getting all the questions right nets you an S rank, which unlocks some materials in the extras menu (mostly descriptions and pictures of places and such) and an S scenario that plays out right after you finish that Reasoning Mode. They remind me of the end of chapter quizzes in Hotel Dusk and Trace Memory and act as a way of summarizing what you just learned. I wish there was a way to check what keywords you’ve gotten, but the lack thereof is not much of a hindrance.
The story unfolds in a mostly linear fashion (the only real input you get is during Reasoning Mode), so there’s no multiple endings to unlock. You can unlock extra scenarios in the, well, extras menu after beating the game, as well as a theater to watch the opening and ending videos and the shadow play. The extra scenarios occur after events in the main story and act as either a sort of epilogue or expansion on earlier events. They also seem to set up potential plot threads that could be picked up in future episodes, so they’re worth watching. It’s also worth it to try to unlock the S scenarios as you’re playing, because they depict events you’d otherwise hear about only in passing or not at all (and besides why would you not try to see everything there is to see?). An art book is included with the game, which was a neat bonus given how nice the game’s art is, and there’s discussions about some scenes and what went into design choices. I’d suggest waiting until you’ve finished the game before looking through it, as some of the content contains spoilers. A soundtrack would also be a nice extra, as I really liked some of the tracks and would want to listen to them again (there’s no sound test mode in the game, sadly). Overall I enjoyed my time with the game and hope we also see the next episode that was teased at the end of this one.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Magical Eyes – Red is for Anguish is a solid visual novel with a tightly paced story. It does initially starts a bit slow, but once it picks up it’s a compelling ride to the end. The presentation is polished, with aesthetically and aurally pleasing art and music. There’s some typos here and there, and while it doesn’t detract from the overall text readability, they stick out like a sore thumb when they come up. I’m glad this got brought over here, and I hope future episodes get localizations as well.