Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Dark Hunter: Shou Kotojigen Gakuen (Saturn)

I am cheating a little bit here, as this isn't actually a game. It claims to be an interactive learning tool to help Japanese teenagers learn english. It comes in the forms of what is essentially an OAV about various
supernatural goings-on occuring at and around a boarding school at the top of a steep hill. It was made by Koei, who released five such things on the Saturn, two in the Dark Hunter series (of which this is the first), and three in the EMIT series.
THe educational element comes in the form of the language options. You can choose to have the story play out with English or Japanese voice acting, as well as English or Japanese subtitles, in any combination. You can also choose to immediately repeat scenes with different language options, and certain words and phrases in the subtitles will be highlighted, and these phrases can be selected, which will show the selected phrase in the opposite language.
Also, at certain points in the story, the player/viewer can choose which character the story should focus on or choose the next line a character might say, making it slightly ahead of Dinosaur Island in terms of interactivity, and the fact that there's an English language option makes it a lot easier and more enjoyable. There are also short "quizzes", in which the player will, for example be asked to identify ten things in the room, by clicking on
them and choosing from three options the correct english name for that item. Dinosaur Island definitely has the edge over Dark Hunter in terms of animation, though. Despite using a similar system of giant sprites over FMV, Dark Hunter's animation is very limited, with a lot of shots of people standing or sitting around, people talking with their faces out of shot and so on. I think it's safe to assume that this is down to the fact that this release comes on a single CD, and still has room for two full voice tracks. And the bilingual nature of the disc could also explain a lack of fluidity in the lip sync, making it sort-of match both languages could have been a preferable solution to concentrating on one and having the other look much worse.
As for the story itself, it's not great. It really could be a low-budget mid-90s OAV, with a slightly awkward sounding English dub also typical of the era. There's a lot of "mystery" which really feels like an excuse to have not a lot happen. Come to think of it, the "language tutor" aspect of the software is also a pretty
reasonable explanation as to why a lot of the story is made up of conversations. THe fact that you can save which scene you've watched up to and come back to it later is nice, too.
IN conclusion, this isn't really a game, but it is kind of interesting, and it could be thought of as a weird pre-DVD example of a bilingual anime release. I wonder if this series (and the EMIT sister series) ever had a small western fandom for that reason? If there was such a fandom, it must have been tiny, since I've never heard people talking about either of them.

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