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The Mansion of Hidden Souls (Saturn) artwork

The Mansion of Hidden Souls (Saturn) review

"I bet had a third game came into existence, SoA probably would have named it Mansion of Hidden Souls, The."

When I think back on the US Saturn's opening months and its lineup of games that were sure to give the upcoming PlayStation a run for its money*, a follow-up to a Sega CD adventure title is what obviously comes to mind. Better yet, despite being two completely different games, The Mansion of Hidden Souls shares virtually the same title as its predecessor, except the brilliant staff at Sega of America saw fit to add a 'The' for the sequel; surely this won't confuse fans victims of the original into thinking this is just a port job. I bet had a third game came into existence, SoA probably would have named it Mansion of Hidden Souls, The.

At first, I was pondering why such a game managed to get localized, especially as the whole FMV "interactivity" fade was becoming an unwelcome niche for consoles, but then I remembered: Myst happened. SoA clearly wanted in on the action, and The was the closest they had at the time. As the title implies, the sequel again takes place in a mansion in an undetermined time, place, or reality, inhabited by humans-turned-butterflies, now with transparent, talking heads for the players' sake, that wanted to escape the troubles of the world. Having no connection to the cautionary tale of the first, The features a brand new set of characters in a plot that threatens the very presence of the mansion.

While I was in no way expecting this to be a tremendous upgrade over the first one, I was actually really curious if the dev team refined certain aspects so that the experience would be less boring. One thing that hasn't changed is the act of moving nonchalantly around the mansion in first person, thanks to having to wait for moving animations to finish with each turn. Whoopee. The goal and so-called play mechanics are a bit different, however, as you must do some Hardy Boys investigating in order to unravel the mystery of the red moon on the night of your visit. So you basically enter the building's rooms, talk to their dwellers, obtain items, and use said items to haggle. This is the entire game.

Okay, that probably doesn't sound obviously dreadful at first, especially if you play RPGs or other adventure titles. Having to deal with FMV movement makes The a chore to play by default, but advancing the plot is such a pain because of the method used: enter every room until you talk to the right person, then enter every room again and look at every angle to obtain the right item, then enter every room again ad nauseam. There are some moments when you understand where to go, but a hefty chunk of your adventures involve not having a clue where to look, so you really have no choice but to check every room.

Clear-cut issues along the way also help make The particularly difficult to complete without succumbing to boredom, like having to wade through uninteresting characters babble on about things you normally don't care about. If you're going to make a game where you have to listen (there's no text) to all the conversations, because you can't skip them, then you better make them interesting. Worse, you have to make timed Yes/No decisions during some talks, and if you drift off and pick the wrong one, you usually have to restart the whole conversation. Annoyingly, too, even when you pick the obvious answer, your incompetent sidekick refuses to believe it and attempt to give you a red herring. This got frustrating towards the end when the facts were in front of us, and he still was in denial due to his underlining man crush on the culprit.

I kept playing, though, because I hoped there was going to be a payoff, and something did happen that I wasn't expecting. I was transported into a bizarre dimension... from the weird, butterfly-inhabited dimension I was already in, where an apparition appeared, then a cockroach-looking demon appeared, then the power of friendship, and then the credits. Or something like that. It was dumbfounding. I didn't think it was possible, but The triumphs its Sega CD predecessor by being the better non-game. With the first, flaws and all present, I can at least say it tried to be a game with its minimal puzzles, smarter plot-related navigation around the mansion, and even allowed you to save on the spot, which the sequel traded for a save room.


The game also lost the ambient, mystical charm of the first mansion, aided by lighting effects and a wondrous soundtrack; in their stead are brightly-lit, mundane rooms and some of the most unintentional, corniest themes I've heard in a mid-90s video game. For some reason, too, the instruction manual and the start of The made a big deal out of a tarot card deck in your inventory, so I thought they were going to be an important mechanic. In the end, they held absolutely no value other than displaying a different card in every room. Every time I opened the inventory, they're the first thing I see, and a constant reminder of how stupid this game is as an adventure title.

*Spoilers: they failed.

dementedhut's avatar
Community review by dementedhut (October 05, 2013)

Happy New Year.


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Linkamoto posted October 30, 2013:

Wait, so...they made a markedly similar game for Sega CD? I played this on Sega Saturn, and it's weird, but...I found the game strangely mysterious. Perhaps it was impressionable age (I was roughly 9-10 years old), but the tinny, hollow voiceovers creeped me out, and the disturbing laughing by a particular girl set me over the edge. I never did beat the game, but I have vivid memories of playing it.

Also, if you've played a fair amount of Sega Saturn, I'm trying to figure out the name of this other game I played all the time. It was about this, like, source marine, and he was red in color. You controlled him as he went around shooting guns at things. It had a mechanic which entailed a stopping and pivoting shooting style, and it was semi top down point of view. Ring any bells? For the LIFE of me, I can't find out what that game was, but I remember the images like it was yesterday.
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Linkamoto posted October 30, 2013:

So talking about that game again, I did some research and reviewed a list of American Saturn games. Turns out the game was Crusader: No Remorse. Wow, memory lane for sure watching Youtube videos of that game.
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dementedhut posted October 30, 2013:

Yeah, I had a review up for the first game prior to this review. I provided a link in the first paragraph (predecessor), if you wanna see that one, I guess.

Crusader is one of the games I haven't tried out yet for the Saturn. Never got around to it. I was going to purchase the game and its sequel on, but never got around to that, as well.
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EmP posted October 30, 2013:

I adored Crusader: No Remorse back in the day. I managed to nab a super cheap copy on release as the shop I worked for at the time over-ordered like mad, so got it below cost then played it like crazy. Oddly, what I remember the most is the internal e-mail system you could browse in between missions and catch up with the base's gossip, and there being this huge long-running argument about a joke someone made about a butcher shop chicken and how it made no sense.

Always been scared to offer a reply to keep nostalgia intact.
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Linkamoto posted October 30, 2013:

Yeah, the game seemed so ahead of its time. Glad someone else besides me has memories of it. :D

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