English Title: When the Seagulls Cry
Game Type: Doujinshi Sound Novel
Developer: 07th Expansion
Story Arcs: Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch, Episode 2: Turn of the Golden Witch, Episode 3: Banquet of the Golden Witch, and Episode 4: Alliance of the Golden Witch
|The DVD cover of the first four episodes|
|Beatrice and Lambladelta|
What makes the game unique is the each episode is a different story arc. Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch introduces the player to the rather large cast, and their complex relationship amongst each other. Beatrice’s existence is implied, and her presence leads to the murder of the Ushiromiya family. Episode 2: Turn of the Golden Witch follows the events of the first story, and it features the first battle of wits between Battler and Beatrice in a parallel world. This episode continues with the family meeting and has the family members murdered in a different manner, while including some magical elements. Episode 3: Banquet of the Golden Witch has a different character taking on the mantle of “Beatrice” who subsequently starts killing off the Ushiromiya family and introduces even more fantastical magical elements. It expands the cast with the introduction of the demon servants and several new witches. Episode 4: Alliance of the Golden Witch centers on none other than Battler’s little sister, Ange, who did not attend the meeting in 1986 due to an illness. She is taken care of by the sole survivor of the Rokkenjima incident who treats her with disdain, isolated and saddened by her lonely world, Ange Ushiromiya tries to explore the world of 1998 to determine what killed her family. The storyline shifts between the incident in 1986 and Ange’s time in 1998. The expansive narrative and its unique shifting focus makes for a great experience.
|Eva Beatrice, looking|
A game can have a wonderful storyline, but it needs an equally compelling cast of characters to keep them interested. There are eighteen characters in the Ushiromiya clan or work for them in the island that are trapped in the Rokkenjima incident in 1986. They are all compelling in their motivations and their personal dynamic. The head of the family is Kinzo Ushriomiya, the aging charismatic leader of the family. He is on his deathbed and the family is meeting to determine how they will spread his wealth. His four children Krauss, Eva, Rudolf, and Rosa are all wealthy members of the upper class, each with different financial situations, family problems, and sibling dynamics. During the family meetings they squabble, fight, and try to position themselves for power. Their children, the cousins, are all very close with each other. Jessica is the energetic tomboy, George is the older brother of the cousins, Battler is the hotheaded main protagonist and he is exceptionally intelligent, Ange is his little sister that was too sick to attend the family event, and Maria is the creepy younger cousin with a fascination with the occult. On the other side are the witches, demons, and various other supernatural being that inhabit the parallel world where Beatrice is challenging Battler’s logic of the murders. Beatrice is the Golden Witch, who supposedly gave Kinzo his gold to turn the Ushiromiya family into one of the most powerful families in Japan. She serves as the main antagonist over the course of the first four episodes. Several other witches eventually pop up that twist the story in unique and interesting ways. The cast for the series is expansive, and their relationships are very complex. Some of the biggest plot twists in the series comes from revelations about these relationships.
|Battler and one of the iconic|
7 Stakes of Purgatory
|Here is how the dialog moves |
This game is a doujinshi game, so the production values are not exceptional. The character designs have a unique feeling to it that is very polarizing, some may hate it and some may like it. It was initially off-putting at first, but I gradually learned to love the characters designs for the sound novel. Say what you will about the designs, but the clothing for the cast of characters are top class. The Ushiromiya family looked like they walked out of a fashion magazine; they look very sharp and fashionable. Each of the witches has a unique design, from Beatrice’s elegant Victorian-era dress to Lambladelta’s decidedly unique twist on Halloween style. Each of the outfits is iconic in their own way, from the Ushiromiya family to the seven Stakes of Purgatory. Each outfit is accentuated by the single seagull wing design that is used by the family. It is quite an awesome design, and how it is incorporated in all the outfits is brilliant.
Overall, Umineko no Naku Koro Ni one the best experiences you can read on the computer. It is a very intelligent and beautifully written story that is near the top of the video game world. It is hard to believe that a professional game developer does not write such a great story. There are several negatives, the character designs has a unique polarizing character to it, the text moves very slowly, and the production values are below most standard visual novels. What negatives there the game has are outshined by the positives, it is wrapped up with a fast paced, intelligent storyline, a top class soundtrack that puts most games to shame, and a wonderful character dynamic that sucks in the reader. Umineko really does deserve all accolades and honors that are bestowed upon it, it is a really amazing experience.
Kris Zoleta, B.A., M.B.A., started working in Anime Expo as a staffer in Manga Library. He worked in Staff Service in Anime Expo 2006 and became the manager of Manga Lounge from Anime Expo 2007-2010. He was serving on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation as Treasurer and Interim CFO for the 501(c)(6) non-profit behind Anime Expo, and he was Co-Chair of Anime Expo 2012. He works in the con world and is one of the most recognized cosplay photographers in the West Coast.
Witch Hunt Translation Project
Umineko Japanese Page
Umineko Rondo PS3 Website
Umineko Chiru PS3 Website
Digital Download Website
NIS America - Umineko Anime USA release