Hermitage: Strange Case Files Review
I should have never done that ritual.
Available on: Steam/Console
Genre: Mystery Visual Novel
Publisher: Giiku Games
I actually somehow came across Hermitage: Strange Case Files long before it got translated, around the time it originally released. While I can’t read Chinese, and the only part that was in English too was the title, I found it interesting. Staying on brand, the visuals really interested me and the screenshots showing some gameplay (away from the usual odd lines to draw you into the visual novel) looked interesting as well. So I wished for an English translation to happen, along with some others that managed to find it as well. And well, you can imagine how happy I was when one day, I had the urge to look up Hermitage again, only to find that there are now two listings; with the one unreleased being the official English translation. Now that it has finally released, and that I finally read through the visual novel, how is it and did it live up to how interesting I found the visual years ago?
In Hermitage: Strange Case Files, you will mainly read from the perspective of the mysterious man only dubbed as “Store Manager”. Poor guy doesn’t have his own name, but as his title suggests, he’s the store manager of the equally mysterious bookstore called Hermitage. While Hermitage is pretty hidden and not obvious that the building is indeed a bookstore, those looking for it and needing help will find it with enough persistence. Now why is it so hidden, wouldn’t bookstores want people in buying books? Well, Hermitage is a unique case as it holds strange, unique, and old valuable books that dive into subjects that not a lot of people will be interested in. Not to mention that some are hard to understand, either by how it was written or not being translated and are linked to paranormal, horrific activities, or even Lovecraftian horrors that no one but those that were unfortunate to come across or know. Though if you do go in needing help, even if it’s more than just finding a book (and trust me, he’ll know), he will help you out as much as he can.
Throughout all six chapters, Store Manager will be doing just that, helping out the few people that manage to come across the bookstore and need help with their dilemma. Like the first case, which is present in the demo, where you learn about how terrible Cecile, a young school girl, is being treated at her school and that she found herself at Hermitage. While her problems are in part because of the bullying, she’s also having these strange dreams that feels so real, to the point where she feels like she was there herself, after her friend lights some special incense. But with some digging from Store Manager, and Cecile helping with anything requiring leaving the store, they will find out how to solve the problem. You won’t know what’s going on at first, but as you get more information things become clear.
There is also an overarching mystery that is hinted at from the beginning and will be solved by the time you reach the end. Giving you more of a reason to keep reading. You’ll find yourself asking why Store Manager can’t leave Hermitage, what’s his real name (if he even has one), who is the owner of Hermitage, and who’s that mysterious buff figure that showed up here and there? Every so often, Store Manager also gets a visit from a mysterious man who drops off books for him to sell. Granted, Store Manager doesn’t as he’s quite suspicious of him, but they strangely link to what’s happening. To the point where they actually help him figure out what they’re going up against and how to defeat it. So, who is he really?
To help with gathering information, there are a couple avenues you can take outside of the visual novel sections. Between the visual novel story sections, there is some downtime for Store Manager. While you’ll be getting clues naturally by just progressing through the story, there will be some that you’ll have to find yourself. There is a bookshelf that he will visit, holding the books the mysterious stranger drops off, that you can go and get a summary on what it’s about and some of them will give you a clue. There is also an old computer that you can check posts on an internet forum, which you can read to see what’s being posted or to see if there are any clues to get (though, I wish it made it obvious which replies are new to the post). There are also times where you can have Store Manager ponder over his thoughts, see what’s on TV, or visit his clue board which links everyone by relationship (with some having their own bio for you to read) as well as important sequences for you to watch again.
You’ll then put these clues to action to piece together what’s happening, to prove the Store Manager’s deduction. He’ll write down at least four questions/doubts that he has throughout the chapter and eventually it’ll be time to figure it out by piecing together the clues you gathered. All you have to do is drag the clue pieces you think is correct and submit them to see if they are. Though, I didn’t really like this aspect as much as I would like. This may be due to the translation or just how the game just is, but these are quite hard to figure out. There are some that I did know (or know mostly) what to put, but some are weirdly worded making it seem like you’re supposed to be deducing something else entirely or not being that obvious on what the answer could be based on the clues you have and what you’ve been reading. Some are even to the point where I’m sure I never would have thought, or guessed, was related to the question.
Luckily, you do have three tries to get the deduction right (and there is a guide on what clues are correct), but getting it wrong all three times will cause you to go down the bad ending path. There are also a few choices (both dialog and what you want the character to do) that does determine what ending you’ll get as well, which you won’t suspect as they don’t have any affect normally, but some of them are based on information you were told earlier. Otherwise, just do what you think is best.
In terms of the translation, I’m sure many are worried on how good it is. Well, don’t worry about it. Aside from some words being misspelled and a few sentences not making sense, the translation here is actually pretty good. This can be quite wordy at times, often describing too much or basically saying the same thing twice, but it is good and was able to bring out the character’s different personalities quite well.
While Hermitage: Strange Case Files does take a while to pick up, can be a bit too wordy at times, and some of the deductions can be hard to figure out due to the weird wording, the story here is pretty great. I also found myself really liking the characters here, and I’m glad they’re reoccurring characters that help you out rather than being a one and done deal. Once Hermitage gets going, it really gets going. Making you sit at the edge of your seat as the characters plan out what to do, execute that plan, and see the result. For those looking for a visual novel in the paranormal mystery genre, this is worth picking up and sticking to just for the story alone.