Kamaitachi no Yoru (かまいたちの夜 lit. "The Night of the Sickle Weasels" ) is a sound novel developed and published by Chunsoft. The game was first released on November 25, 1994 for the Super Famicom. It became available on the Virtual Console in February, 2007 for 800 Wii Points. The story-line was written by Takemaru Abiko and production was directed by Kazuya Asano and Kōichi Nakamura.
Kamaitachi no Yoru was the second sound novel developed by Chunsoft, and its popularity brought a myriad of other companies to develop similar games. The term "sound novel" was originally a registered trademark of Chunsoft, but is now regarded as a whole genre of its own. The game sold close to a million copies (including remakes and ports), making it a financial success as well.
The game revolves around Tōru and his girlfriend Mari, who are suddenly drawn into a horrible murder mystery while on vacation at a skiing lodge. The first part of the games develops as a crime-solving adventure. Additional murders occur if the player is unable to find clues, and the story culminates into a horror movie-esque ending.
When the player completes the main story with a certain number of different endings, two additional stories (the occult chapter and spy chapter) are unlocked. When all three stories are finished with every possible ending, two more self-parodical stories also become available. Fulfilling one final requirement allows the player to unlock a parody of Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon.
The additional stories cover a wide variety of themes, and are completely unrelated to each other and to the main story. Though the same set of characters is used throughout the game, the character settings differ significantly in each story.
The game plays similarly to a gamebook. The player reads the text from the game screen, and makes choices which will affect the outcome of the game. Like most visual novels, the gameplay involves the player reading the text from the game screen, and making decisions which will affect the path and outcome of the narrative. The choices and consequences form a big part of the gameplay, with the narrative often branching out in completely different directions depending on what choices the player makes, with even seemingly minor decisions having a big impact on how the narrative unfolds. In total, the game has over 40 different endings.
Though the concept of the game is simple, it is rather difficult and time consuming to finish the game with every single different ending. Clues are often misleading, and in scenarios where the player must point out the villain, solving the mystery is nearly impossible without fully understanding the trick used in the murder. Hints are often hidden in seemingly obscure or ridiculous statements made by Tōru and other characters.
Real pictures were used in the game background, most of which were taken at the "Knulp" lodge, located in Hakuba, Nagano. Exceptions are the background for bathrooms and the wine cellar, which were taken using miniatures. All in-game characters are animated silhouettes.
Composed by Kōjirō Nakashima and Kōta Katō, the game music gained significant popularity and was often reused in television shows concerning Aum Shinrikyo, which was at the center of the Japanese media during the 1990s. The background music for accusing the murderer continues to be used in related television shows in Japan. Two of the songs, "Sequence" and "Two People Return Alive" were orchestrated for Orchestral Game Concert, vol. 4 of the Orchestral Game Concert series.
- Tōru (透 Tōru ): The main character of the game. He was given the name Tōru Yajima (矢島 透 Yajima Tōru ) in later instalments, but was simply referred to as "Tōru" in the original version. He has a one-sided crush on Mari, and was overjoyed when she invited him to go on a skiing trip with her.
- Mari (真理 Mari ): The heroine of the story. She was given the name Mari Kobayashi (小林 真理 Kobayashi Mari ) in later instalments, but was simply referred to as "Mari" in the original version. She attends the same college as Tōru, and her uncle owns a ski lodge in Shinshū. It is yet to be known whether she has feelings for Tōru.
- Jirō Kobayashi (小林 二郎 Kobayashi Jirō ): The owner of the ski lodge, and Mari's uncle. He opened the ski lodge Spur (シュプール Shupūru ) after quitting work as a salaryman. He is also a very good cook.
- Kyōko Kobayashi (小林 今日子 Kobayashi Kyōko ): Jirō's wife. Dislikes quarreling with others. Unlike her husband, she is a disastrous cook.
- Seiichi Kayama (香山 誠一 Kayama Seiichi ): A company executive from Osaka. He is portrayed as the stereotype of someone from the Kansai region. He can be quite cowardly at times.
- Haruko Kayama (香山 春子 Kayama Haruko ): Seiichi's wife. A quiet, thin, and attractive woman.
- Toshio Kubota (久保田 俊夫 Kubota Toshio ): A sixth-year college student working and living at the lodge. He spends most of his time skiing rather than studying.
- Midori Shinozaki (篠崎 みどり Shinozaki Midori ): A young woman also working and living at the lodge. She appears to be in her 20s, and is in a relationship with Kubota.
- Kanako Watase (渡瀬 可奈子 Watase Kanako ): One of the three OLs staying at the lodge. She has long hair and an outspoken personality.
- Aki Kawamura (河村 亜希 Kawamura Aki ): One of the three OLs staying at the lodge. Short haired, and wears glasses.
- Keiko Kitano (北野 啓子 Kitano Keiko ): One of the three OLs staying at the lodge. Slightly chubby, and loves to eat. She chose the lodge as the vacation spot because of Kobayashi's exceptional cooking.
- Yōsuke Mikimoto (美樹本 洋介 Mikimoto Yōsuke ): A tall, bearded cameraman. Very sociable.
- Ichirō Tanaka (田中 一郎 Tanaka Ichirō ): A suspicious man wearing a trenchcoat with a hat and sunglasses at a ski resort.
- Jenny (ジェニー Jenī ): A cat kept at the ski lodge. Was missing when Tōru and Mari first arrived.
This competition was announced in the official guidebook for the game, which was published shortly after the release of the Super Famicom version, and called for readers to write their own story-lines based loosely on the events in the game. Unfortunately, only a very short period of time was allotted for submissions, and many readers were unable to finish their story-lines in time. The 10 best story-lines (including those in short story and game book format) were published in a book titled Anata dake no Kamaitachi no Yoru (あなただけのかまいたちの夜 lit. "Your Own Night of the Sickle Weasels" ). The book was a great success, despite the fact that it only targeted readers who had played the game and read the official guidebook. Prize money was awarded to the writers' whose compositions made it into the book.
A similar competition was started upon the release of Kamaitachi no Yoru 2. Anata dake no Kamaitachi no Yoru went out of print after several years, but was re-published following the release of the game sequel.
Kamaitachi no Yoru has been ported on the PlayStation as "Kamaitachi no Yoru Tokubetsu Hen" (December 3, 1998) and the Game Boy Advance as "Kamaitachi no Yoru ~Advance~" (June 28, 2002). It has also been released on the J-PHONE as "Kamaitachi no Yoru mini" (April 1, 2002), and on PC as "Kamaitachi no Yoru internet" (July 1, 2002). i-mode began its own release in January 30, 2004. The main story was also included in the PlayStation 2 sequel Kamaitachi no Yoru × 3, with minor changes made to the script.
- A flow chart was added, and choices were colored according to whether they had been chosen in previous playthroughs. The player may also replay past scenes.
- Vibration added.
- Two more additional stories were added.
- Changes in unlocking the extra story-lines and parodies.
- Improved graphics.
- Added background information on characters.
Game Boy Advance version (comparison with PlayStation version)
- The main character's name is changed to "Tōru Yajima" following the changes made in Kamaitachi no Yoru 2. Mari also becomes "Mari Kobayashi."
- A commercial message for the sequel can be unlocked.
- No vibration.
- The two extra stories added in the PlayStation version were not included due to lack of cartridge space.
- Some minor changes in the script.
A radio drama version has been released on Compact Disc. The characters are the same, but the story-line is completely different, involving biochemical weapons. Hikaru Midorikawa voiced Tōru, and Yumi Tōma voiced Mari.
The two-hour drama version was produced by TBS, and aired on July 3, 2002. Kamaitachi no Yoru 2 was set to be released on July 18 of the same year, and the first edition of the game contains a bonus DVD of the entire drama. Like the radio drama version, the TV drama is not a rendition of the actual game (the premise is that fans of Kamaitachi no Yoru had gathered to shoot a film based on the game, when one of the cast members is mysteriously killed). The drama does attempt to recreate the tense, mysterious atmosphere of the game.
Banshee's Last Cry became one of Chunsoft's most popular titles; the combined sales of all editions, including ports and remakes, totals nearly a million copies. The game's success in Japan also led to adaptations into other media, including novelizations, a radio drama, and a television drama film.
The game's popularity encouraged other developers to create similar titles, expanding the concept of the "sound novel" into a burgeoning genre, now known as visual novels.
Following the game's English release in 2014, the game has been well received despite its age. Yahoo and Games in Asia gave the game a score of 9 out of 10, praising the choices and consequences ("Go upstairs and spend time in your room, accept or reject a job offer or ask your companion to marry you? These are some of the choices that impact the plot far more than you may initially realise") and concluding that it has a "Great story, interesting story and perfectly" timed music, making "this one of the most terrifying horror games" in "years." [www.gamesinasia.com/banshees-last-cry-review-text-based-terror/]