As someone who's very present in the “Danganronpa” roleplay community, it's to be expected that I absolutely adore everything from murder mysteries to plot twists to visual novels with darker elements edging on horror, but not quite. When a couple of my friends started playing “Kimi ga Shine,” or “Your Turn To Die” in English, I, at first, didn't think much of it. After all, when I was told it was a browser game, I had my doubts regarding its quality — bias, of course, leftover from sites like itch.io or Steam, where games are downloadable. I hadn't touched a browser game since middle school.
On a whim, I opened the site. “Your Turn To Die,” while originally in Japanese, has been ‘unofficially’ translated by vgperson. It's stated as unofficial simply because, despite giving consent for the game's translation, the original developer doesn't know English well enough to verify the translation's accuracy. The game's page has a list of content warnings, every one of them well-deserved, as “Your Turn To Die” is labeled as “negotiation/horror/adventure.” The list contains the following:
"Many depictions of death with blood and some gore.
People dying to all kinds of deathtraps.
Characters dealing with death-related trauma.
Characters having hallucinations from trauma.
A few moments involving a character being stalked.
An optional and easily-avoidable bad ending involving mindbreak.
Some elements of body horror.
An interesting accessibility feature that appealed to me during my first playthrough was the fact that you don't actually have to download the game. While I was skeptical at first, the game offers two options regarding playability: You can either download the game to your PC, or you can play it on your browser. On the browser, it runs just like it would on a PC, save files and all — just don't clear your cache. And, perhaps best of all? It's free. I simply opened the browser and started playing.
You play as high-schooler Sara Chidouin, heading home from school one night with best friend Jou “Joe” Tazuna. Though Joe doesn't admit it, it’s implied that he walks home with Sara because of her stalker. It's dark when they leave the school grounds, and when they run into Sara's stalker, the two make a break for it. When they finally arrive at Sara's house, however, something's wrong — the lights are out.
The two end up kidnapped and forced into some kind of twisted "game." Trapped in a facility with 10 other individuals, Sara finds herself solving puzzles and attempting to uncover the why behind this sick, sick situation — all while their captors tease a "main game," where characters will have to pick one of their own to die.
Needless to say, the plot is a gripping and complex one, with a fascinating, overarching mystery and several twists of its own. The translation is excellent and flows naturally, to the point where it doesn't even feel like a translation. The pacing is really good, and I can't recall any points where the story seemed to go too fast or too slow without turning out to be an intentional choice by the writer for plot purposes.
Another aspect of this game that I love is the characters. Though there isn't very much in ways of diversity, as the game is set in Japan, and the characters are overwhelmingly Japanese, there's an advantage to a smaller, 11-person cast. Unlike in, say, “Danganronpa,” you get to know each character far better before your favorite folks inevitably kick the bucket. It doesn't hurt that characters vary in age, either, ranging from children to adults.
Speaking of kicking the bucket, can we talk about how each character handles grief? I've played games where characters died and were immediately forgotten, or were grieved and then the other characters just got over it. It's frustrating, but you won't find any of that here. “Your Turn To Die” handles grief differently from character to character, and it's depicted as the raw, destructive, utterly heartbreaking emotion that it truly is. When someone dies in-game, they're gone, but not really gone. They aren't forgotten or brushed aside. Characters still talk about them; they're gone but not forgotten, and it's honestly refreshing to see and highlights this game's breathtaking writing.
While the art style might come off as "retro" or even old-fashioned to some, giving the game a bit of an aged vibe, it is by no means terrible. The style actually feels gritty enough to make sense for the game's aesthetic and overall image, and in my honest opinion, has a sort of charm to it. While the user interface doesn't stand out as anything extraordinary or groundbreaking, it doesn't need to. It’s a functional U.I. It does its job and I can respect that.
My only complaint isn’t even really a complaint. At the time of this review’s writing, the game’s unfinished, and only goes up to the end of the second chapter. With chapters releasing every now and then, it can feel like a bit of a wait, but I’d say it’s worth it.
Overall, I couldn’t recommend “Your Turn To Die” enough. You play as a girl surrounded by figurative ghosts and the guilt of her own choices, so it’s by no means a bright, happy game, but it just feels fulfilling to play. It’s dark, it can get disturbing, but it’s full of heart. If you’re into adventure games with negotiation and horror elements, open the site and give it a go. It’s worth it, I promise.(Try the game yourself at http://vgperson.com/games/yourturntodie.htm.)