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TGS: Imabikisou

The sound of horror.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

"This videogame includes shocking contents. This game is not recommended for audiences with claustrophobia, fear of the dark or heart problems. Please call out to one of our staff should you feel sick at any point" This was the dire warning given to attendees queuing up to catch a glimpse of Sega's latest PS3-exclusive Asian "sound novel" horror title. Colour us worryingly interested.

But what's it called? Imabikisou? What does that mean? No-one could tell us with any certainty. To a certain extent, part of the fun of the Tokyo Games Show is the voyage of discovery that comes from not knowing what the hell some of these games actually are. Bereft of English titles, and with no-one on hand to offer anything but the most broken of explanations, you're left to make literal notes to try and put the pieces back together. Such is the case for this dark and utterly sinister looking horror title that's occupying one quarter of Sega's stand, and due for release on the PS3 on October 25th by Chunsoft. That soon? That's what it says. Is is coming to Europe? "Unlikely". Oh well. That won't stop us starting the campaign right here.

Establishing its exact English title for Imabikisou certainly provided a challenge all of its own. A friendly Sega rep provided us a literal translation of the four Kanji symbols from top to bottom as "Hate, Fire, Happened, In The Plant".Whether he's correct or not, we've only got his word on it so far, while a Google translation of its official page on Sega's Japanese website refers to it as "Firedrafting". Whatever. Fire's the common link, so we'll go with the latter version until someone can come up with something better.

Pitch black

Whatever Imabikisou will end up being called (if it ever comes out overseas), Sega Japan obviously thinks it's big news, and rightly so, being one of only four games given its own portion on the mammoth TGS stand. From what we've seen of it, what initially comes across as some sort of survival horror game is evidently something else completely. A 'sounds novel', as we said, which is a-popular sub-genre pre-dating survival horror. First seen on the SNES back in 1992 as 'Otogirisou', and then followed by the Kamaitachi no Yoru trilogy and Machi, Imakibisou is billed by Sega as "the most terrifying horror ever in the history of videogames." Some claim, but one that might actually hold some water.

Sat down inside a mini auditorium in the pitch darkness, the disturbing Imabikisou trailer kicks off with a series of thoroughly unnerving sights and sounds: the panicked, desperate sobbing of a woman, with a bloody tear streaming out of her left eye, her lips daubed with black lipstick. A second later, the room is alive with red flashing lights and the sound of an insistent fire alarm. Stranger still, the screen flashes up a still photograph of three giggling black children in yellow baseball caps, holding up their hands to the cameraman to show off their black painted fingernails. Accompanied by the sound of their mirth, it's enough to make you shift uneasily in your seat.

With a monumental surround sound system providing a chillingly immersive audio backdrop, the next thing we hear is the rumble of thunder, a knock on the door, the rattle of a door handle being tried repeatedly. The flash of lightning, the smash of glass, accompanied by manic, terrified screams...of who? We couldn't tell. The audio was beyond madness, like the sound of your worst nightmares made real. Someone creeping in the dark on creaking floorboards. A phone ringing...maniacal cackling laughter. Buzzing, knackered fluorescent strip lighting viewed from below, a desperate hand reaching out of the inky gloom. A man, lying in bed (being watched?) tormented by bad dreams. A close-up of a bloodshot eye...closer still, the skin as black as coal, but damp with the sweat of fear. What the hell is this? Chunsoft presents... the first (and only) piece of English text. Charcoal sketches of a....woman? A car in flames drives off the side of a road through a crash barrier down the side of a hill, a sinister village in view.