When one thinks of murder-mystery visual novels, two behemoths often come to mind: Ace Attorney and Danganronpa. Loved for their quirky characters, mesmerizing music, and complex mysteries and puzzles that leave you only wanting more, the genre has stagnated a bit after the controversial Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, both of which haven’t seen a new release in nearly five years. Other franchises in the genre such as Zero Escape haven’t seen a new release in quite some time too, and while the latest Nintendo Direct featured a remake of the Famicom Detective Club series, PC players are left in the dust.
For fans of this genre, there is a small saving grace in the form of an unassuming free 200 MB game that can even be played right in your browser. Made in RPG Maker MV and from the mind of Japanese manga artist and video game developer Nankidai comes Your Turn to Die -Death Game by Majority- (YTtD).
Released in episodic parts, with the latest release at the time of writing being up to Chapter 3 part A, YTtD also features a localization done for free by the talented vgperson. While the game definitely lacks a production value that other series in the genre possess, it more than makes up for it with wildly original characters, ideas, and concepts. It also wears its inspirations on its sleeve and takes the best from its peers and crams it in a lovingly crafted, spine-chilling visual novel.
This review will feature minor spoilers for the game.
Your Turn to Die -Death Game by Majority- is available for free on vgperson’s website as either a free download or in-browser.
Story – Winner by Majority
Visual novels live and die by how good their stories and characters are, doubly so for murder-mysteries. Thankfully, this game doesn’t disappoint in the slightest.
You play as Sara Chidouin, a high school girl with a headstrong attitude. She’s often described as having a “samurai” attitude by her friends, and she fits the glove, tackling her problems and stepping up to lead the group of survivors despite her being one of the youngest participants. On the way home one night from school, Sara and her best friend, Joe Tazuna, were captured and forced to participate in a death game along with a colorful cast of characters stuck in the same situation as them.
With clear inspiration from Danganronpa, YTtD still manages to keep things fresh and original without retreading old ground that fans of that series might dread rereading.
Characters – Just as Quirky as you Would Expect
Perhaps the sole reason murder-mystery visual novels maintain such a strong cult following are due to their lovable, quirky, yet deep characters. Komaeda Nagito from Super Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Phoenix Wright and his wide cast of female assistants who lovingly tease and chide him, Clover or Santa from Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors; these characters all are larger than life and feature their own motivations, interests, and ideals.
YTtD continues this expectation and goes above and beyond, with some characters in here becoming among my favorite characters in the genre. Sou Hiyori, Joe Tazuna, Sara Chidouin (Note: searching these characters online will lead to spoilers), the game features an extremely strong cast of characters and doesn’t fail or disappoint on developing each and every single one of them, something other games in the genre often fail to do.
Dialogue between the characters range from tense to face-flushingly wholesome, and it never drags on. Characters speak to each other as if they were real people, and not just exposition machines or going on long monologues. This makes dialogue snappy and to the point while still conveying all the necessary emotions and information.
YTtD also handles character death and reactions to said character’s death better than any of its peers. Deaths in Danganronpa often just feel unavoidable and almost never have such lasting impact on the story or characters, which isn’t the case at all here. Without going into major spoiler territory, deaths are extremely impactful and aren’t static, and can influence the direction and route of the game, so choose wisely.
Graphics & Audio – Strange, Beautiful, and Minimalistic
The art direction of the game is a strange, almost vector-like style that’s reminiscent of many older point and click titles from the ’80s or ’90s. While it does often work to the game’s advantage, the art style may prove jarring and disconnected for some.
The sprites and portraits are nothing short of beautiful; expressions are varied and poses contain just the right amount of personality for each individual character. From Keiji Shinogi’s laidback and relaxed poses to Joe Tazuna’s jittery and anxious stances, the stellar sprite work is only rivaled by the beautiful CGs. Nankidai’s usage of color and line art is so unique and identifiable, and gives the game that much more of an edge with an instantly identifiable artstyle.
As for the audio, aside from a strong soundtrack as shown below, there’s very little in the way of sound effects and the game lacks any voice acting.
Music – A Techno and Dubstep Fever Dream
Even with a strong story, premise, and characters, the real star of this game is the music. The soundtrack fluctuates between adrenaline-pumping dubstep to somber tear-jerkers, and none of it feels out of place. YTtD features a superb soundtrack that has many different variations of the same track, making the entire soundtrack feel like one long song.
The deadly serious death games with characters bickering and arguing with their lives on the line as tracks like “Seme-KS” or “Samurai Woman” play are the highlights of the game. On the other spectrum, tracks like “Clown’s Song” set a somber tone and atmosphere. Many of the tracks sample each other as well in their various variations, further adding to the cohesion of the soundtrack.
Be warned that looking up the soundtrack will lead you to major spoilers.
Gameplay – Not Without Fault
While the game does a lot of things right, it’s not quite perfect. The game features some puzzles outside of the main trial phases and while most are good, one or two have asinine and nonsensical solutions which bog the game’s pace to a crawl. In addition, some puzzles seem tacked on for no real reason other than adding more game time.
The game also features a lengthy segment consisting of a wide variety of minigames with difficulties ranging from “My grandma can do this” to “I want to throw my computer out the window”, and was easily the low point of the game.
Thankfully, the puzzles never last for too long and the hardest minigames can be easily cheated, but just make sure to save often; this game doesn’t have autosaving, and failing some puzzles or minigames is an instant game over.
(“Samurai Woman” track uploaded by Necro San?.)
Your Turn to Die -Death Game By Majority- was previewed on PC.