Kurokishi no Kamen for the 3DO is the final game in the Ghost Hunter trilogy of first person RPGs; the first game, Laplace no Ma, was released in some manner across everything from the PC-88 and Super Famicom to the PC-Engine and X68000, although the Super Famicom port is probably the most well-known (and the most unlike the original). Thankfully for me Humming Bird Soft simplified things for the sequels, although picking the 3DO doesn’t appear to have been the most sensible format for this final entry, does it?
Well let’s take a quick detour into the realm of historical context before we decide, OK?
Kurokishi no Kamen came out early in the Japanese 3DO’s life, on the 28th of May 1994. At this time gamers were busy playing Super Metroid and Sonic 3 whilst saving their pennies for newcomer Sony’s definitely-going-to-flop Playstation hardware or Sega’s Virtua Fightin’ Saturn. So this was a time, if you can remember that far back, when CD gaming was a premium product and seeing real people in a game (as badly blue screened as they were) was still something special - or at least novel.
So while it’s easy (very easy) to laugh at acting that’d make Calculon blush and grainy FMV today it’s worth remembering that at the time this came out the 3D0 really was at the bleeding edge of gaming, and so was this game.
Everywhere you explore in this first person sort-of RPG is presented as a prerendered FMV sequence; think like D or Enemy Zero, but instead of being whisked between three or four designated points of interest in a room you instead walk tile-by-tile, like an old dungeon crawler. This approach has its ups and downs – while it certainly feels more “free” than other FMV games (as well as massively impressive for the era – imagine walking “inside” an FMV!) - on the other hand the game doesn’t actually do anything interesting with this freedom, and the technical limitation of using prerecorded footage means crucial items are completely hidden from view in all circumstances, so when you’re checking another identical desk and another identical cupboard for items you wish that maybe the game had been a bit more restrictive after all.
It’s also visually quite repetitive – nothing as bad as Septentrion (where numerous rooms are literally identical, or if you’re “lucky”, a mirrored version of an otherwise identical room) - but it’s obvious that almost every room has been decorated with the exact same desk, lamp, cupboard, etc. with maybe a unique painting or different coloured (plain) bed sheet to break things up. I’m not entirely convinced I’m being fair to the game by raising that as an issue, but with D coming out just a year later on the same system it does make Kurokishi no Kamen feel a little unambitious next to WARP’s more famous offering.
The same could be said of the RPG system which is in all honesty virtually non-existent, especially when compared to the careful stat-allocating job systems seen in previous entries Laplace no Ma and Paraclesus no Maken. The story starts with a pre-set team of four and it eventually expands to six once you’ve rescued Ed and Lisa, although these two new additions do quite literally stuff all for the rest of the game other than show up as names on the UI. Battles only occur in set locations on the map and offer no experience or items once won – a feature that could be seen as allowing players to focus on the horror atmosphere (and the item hunting) if only the battle system didn’t feel so lightweight and unthreatening thanks in part to the unlimited-use health and MP recovery items the party start with and carry at all times until the end of the game.
But while Kurokishi no Kamen isn’t really much more than a CD of the-future-of-gaming-as-imagined-by-the-nineties it was a fun enough way to spend a day and a curious little window into an avenue of gaming that’s mostly been left behind.
If you’d like to play the game for yourself you might find these maps useful.