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The Mansion Of Hidden Souls (Sega Saturn) Review


Ok, let’s begin!

Mansion of the Hidden Souls (TMOHS) is a Sega Saturn game and a game in my opinion that’s better experienced if you know as little about it as possible so this is your only warning beyond this paragraph there are going to be SPOILERS that may diminish the effect this game has on you whether that be a good or a bad thing is entirely up to you. TMOHS is actually a sequel to the first TMOHS on the Sega CD which goes by the same name in English but actually, they have different titles in Japanese namely Tale of the Dream Mansion been the Sega CD one and Real Dream Mansion: Someone Behind the Door… which is the Saturn version. As the TMOHS we’re talking about in this review is a sequel this means there are actually many callbacks to the original game but it’s not a requirement to know the plot of the first game to understand this game. There isn’t a lot of information on the development team behind TMOHS. In the credits, S.S.D. is credited for computer graphics, music and sound effects although many sites credit System Sacom as the developer so whether this was some sort of game development team within System Sacom is anyone’s guess as it’s hard to search for an obscure reference when it has the same name as a common garden hard drive. However, I can tell you that Tomohiro Kondo AKA Mu was the director for the game and the following year he’d go on to become the head of Team Andromeda. Team Andromeda, been the people who developed the critically acclaimed Panzer Dragoon series so it’s got that going for it. Another curiosity too, while searching for the developers of this game came when I looked at the back of TMOHS manual and found several patent numbers upon searching it would appear to be a patent taken out by one Alpex Computer Corporate titled “Apparatus for Controlling the Video Display of a Standard Television Receiver” first filed in the UK on 11 March 1976. For those who aren’t aware Alpex Computer Corporate are the fathers of cartridge gaming and this patent I suspect is for that original Fairchild Channel F home video game system with interchangeable games (Cartridges). I found this quite funny as although this is a nice bit of video game history it’s interesting that the Sega Saturn a disk-based console would still using patentable technology from the 1970s. Side note I also found this patent number on the back of the Sega Megadrive's Sonic 3 manual as well so clearly this was an important patent to be in use so long in video game history. I think I'll have to keep an eye out and see if it shows up elsewhere.


Plot


You are a butterfly with a human soul that goes by the name June, see what I meant about spoilers. You and your friend Mike have been summoned by Elder, one of the residences of the mansion to investigate the mansion for any strange goings-on Elder you see is concerned as he’s had a foreboding premonition brought on by the blood-red moon. As you move around the mansion you’ll see and talk to the many residences of the mansion who are also butterflies like yourself there spirits manifesting themselves in the form of a faintly transparent talking head. There’s Raymond the former adventurer who talks of the old days, Cathy a playful child whose parents got broke up, Sean a rather sickly and terrified young teen, Nasumi an Asian stereotype with a fixation on trade, Danny a gun nut with a criminal past, Jossie a mystic who reads tarot cards and Elder who is the Elder and has been in the mansion longer than any other spirit. As you wander the halls and visit the residence clues will be gathered and events will start to transpire out of all the residences Jossie is perhaps the most helpful as her tarot will guide you to a specific residence. Eventually, you will discover that one of the residences is seeking to leave the mansion and are willing to do anything even murder to escape the mansion, yes murder is possible as the butterfly forms are physical bodies that house these spirits.


Pros


The mansion itself is a cool concept and they do a lot to make this place drip with atmosphere and mystery. It’s quite clear from the off that the mansion acts almost like a Tardis in its construction as all the rooms are clearly tailored for the individual inhabitants. Danny’s room has a shooting range in it, Eldar’s is like a library and Sean’s is stark and hospital-like. Each room has its own theme tune adding to the residence personality and presence. Yet leave the rooms and you’ll appear in the main hall of the mansion with nothing but the ticking of the grandfather clock permeating the air. The Story itself also rises in tension as the mystery deepens and it pulls at your heartstrings and addresses some darker and more complex themes as the residence open up to you more about their pasts and indeed begin to suffer from the terrible goings-on in the mansion.


The investigation of TMOHS is very rewarding for the most part with the talking to residence the working out as to which card each resident represent inJossie’s tarot and the secrets in TMOHS from the ways that the story can end and how you can inexplicably be killed within the mansion. They’re quite diverse for a game at the time and indeed my memories of this game note that I once died to the grandfather clock in the main hallway but I have yet to replicate it in my more recent playthrough. There are others around the mansion but my advice is to be very wary of Sean in the game, how you treat him may end your game very quickly.


Cons


TMOHS has not aged very well there is no such thing as lip sinking and the characters faces will just freeze in place when the audio stops. This is because the animation for the residence is usually the same animation loop and when it does change it can be instant and rather jarring as their face suddenly takes on a different expression. The mansion itself can also look rather grainy at times especially with objects in the distance. I’d even say that for the time the game can look a little bad when compared to say other games on the Saturn like Virtual Fighter, but this could also be a little unfair as TMOHS is trying to render realistic human features and surroundings.


TMOHS is a walking simulator for the most part and suffers from the same problem as all walking simulators, that been once you’ve played it then there is little reason to come back to it. The game itself can be played in less than an hour if you already know what you’re doing and unless you get very stumped which you probably won’t thanks to the tarot cards then I’d say you could probably complete the game within the 3-hour mark in not less. It does have some secrets but most of them are just ways you can actually end the game quicker AKA bad endings.


Nerd O Metre Rating

Low 3 out of 5

Final Thoughts

TMOHS is a game very close to my heart even though I know it’s not really what many would call a good game it’s slow and plodding with lots of backtracking through the grand hall but this game just has so much dripping atmosphere and so much personality in these flappy mouthed floating spirit heads that I find it really hard to give it it’s low rating. Would I recommend TMOHS? No, not really, as a game it has very little to offer and I think the main enjoyment factor of TMOHS is when you know next to nothing about it. It has a weird world, interesting lore and such a strange presentation that stick in your mind but once you’ve played it through there is very little reason to go back to it. If the game had some skill elements more changing puzzles to solve and maybe a longer and more complex story in general then it would possibly get a higher rating. However, I feel I can’t mark it too low because for a game for ages 3-10 it actually talks about some rather complex and harrowing issues such as divorce, criminality, death and the meaning of a good life. If you’re a Saturn fan then yes this may be a good shout as an early look into the walking simulator genre of video games but for those who are just fans of the genre, then there are probably better and cheaper ways of getting your fix in the modern world of gaming.



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