Friday, February 21, 2014

The Cat's Eye

妖しく Cat's Eye
magic play is dancing
we get you… mysterious girl
"Cat's Eye" (杏里)

Bewitching Cat's Eye
magic play is dancing
Bask in the moonlight
we get you... mysterious girl
"Cat's Eye" (Anri)

I had already played often on a borrowed SEGA Dreamcast before, but I bought my own Dreamcast in 2009, when I had just arrived in Fukuoka. It provided me (and other people) with many, many hours of entertainment and I still play regularly on it. A used Dreamcast isn't expensive at all, and the games go for pretty low too. Sometimes too low. When I first bought the machine, I bought some obvious choices like Crazy Taxi and Shenmue with it, but also a game I had never heard of. It was very cheap. And it appeared to be a detective game. Now, in 2014, I've finally played that game.

Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko ("Web Mystery - The Cat With Foretelling Dreams") is an adventure game released very early in the life cycle of the Dreamcast. You follow Tsuda Keisuke, a programmer/designer, who is supposed to meet with a client at a net cafe. His client doesn't show up, and after becoming friendly with Mio, the girl behind the bar, Keisuke tries the computers out in the cafe (it's 1999, so internet is still relatively new). He is led to a mysterious website called Cat's Eyes, which shows him images of a man being killed. Keisuke and Mio are both surprised, but think little of it until they discover the following day that the man in the images had really been killed. And what's more, they saw the website even before the murder had happened. More and more images are sent through the site, and Keisuke and Mio try to stop the murders, find out who it is, and figure out what the secret is behind Cat's Eyes in an international adventure that will also bring them to South-Korea and Hong Kong.

Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko is also the worst game I've ever played. Heck, the words 'game' and 'play' don't even really apply to this! And the story being completely crazy doesn't help either.

Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko tells its story through FMV (full motion videos), sound novel parts (where dialogue is 'written' out on the screen accompanied by still pictures) and through a virtual desktop environment, where Keisuke (= the player) can check his e-mail and surf on the web. The problem is, the player has practically nothing to do in this game. 99% of the story is told by the FMV and sound novel combination. So most of the time, you are either watching barely acceptable acting or just reading little bits of dialogue (and for some sinister reason, they only show about three lines per screen, so it takes ages to read something). Unlike a game like Kamaitachi no Yoru, you're not allowed to make decisions in these parts, so you can only passively 'enjoy' the story, rather than deciding your own destiny.

The only time you can do anything is when Keisuke does something on the computer. You enter a virtual desktop environment and can now read e-mail or browse some websites (there's a large amount of 'webpages' about a variety of topics you can access through a portal). Problem though: the websites don't matter at all (you only have to read three websites or so over the course of the game, and they tell you when). The only thing you have to do to progress is to read an e-mail. Sure, there are lots of e-mails sent to you each time, but there's always just one important one, and the story continues if you read that one. So the only, the one and only thing you can decide in this game is the order in which you read e-mails. Making use of all the possibilities of games as a medium.

Let me repeat that: the story is set, consists mostly of FMV and clicking through dialogues and the only time you get to do anything is when you read e-mails. Walkthroughs of this game just consists of 'read mail 1' -> (exit desktop) [Watch FMV] -> 'read mail 2 -> (exit desktop) [Watch FMV] ->  etcetera etcetera.

With the title Web Mystery and a collection of faux webpages, I had actually hoped this would be something like Flower, Sun and Rain. That was admittedly a flawed game, but the way the hints to all puzzles were hidden within the pages of an island tourist guide was fantastic: I had hoped that Web Mystery would also have me digging through seemingly unrelated webpages to discover clues to continue. But no.

And just when you think Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko can't get worse, you realize the story is just crazy. Protagonist Keisuke has everything you'd expect from a chuunibyou-esque character (dark coat? Check. Traumatic past? Check. Nemesis? Check. Irresistable to the ladies, including a popular idol? Check. Genius programmer? Check), the whole plot about the images from the future makes no sense (you know your story is bad when even after saying 'it's magic', it still makes no sense) and as a detective story.... I guess Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko kinda feels like on of those two-hour mystery dramas, with Keisuke accidently getting involved in a case and him traveling to South Korea and Hong Kong, but considering there are practically no hints for the player and the story has a chaotic structure with different kinds of plots running through each other (some of them supernatural), it never feels like the player is given a fair chance.

I've played many games for as long as I can remember, and I usually try to find something good even in a bad game, but I really have nothing for Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko. The webpages are a fun idea, but none of them are really interesting (save for creating a world setting for the game). Not even the music is particularly good (which is also why I am surprised they released a soundtrack...). You can get Web Mystery - Yochimu wo Miru Neko for almost nothing now, and it's one of the Dreamcast's few mystery games, but please, stay away from it. Please.

Original Japanese title(s): 『ウェブミステリー予知夢ヲ見ル猫』


  1. Hi,
    I'm a PhD italian student who research on Japanese Detective Novel and play Sega Dreamcast. So I just wanted to tell you that your blog it's like the Holy Bible for me ;)
    Thank you and keep up with the amazing work

    Luca Guadagnuolo
    PhD candidate at University of Naples "L'Orientale"

    PS: I strongly suggest you to play Virtua Striker a.k.a Best game ever

    1. Thanks for the praise!

      (Still have a huge backlog of games for the Dreamcast (and other systems), so it might take a while before I'll get to VS. I did start a detective game recently on the Dreamcast, so hoping that'll turn out to be a fun game.)

  2. Hello,

    I enjoy reading your reviews especially the reviews of Japanese detective novels. Your reviews make me want to learn Japanese language so that at least I can READ Japanese detective. I don't mind if I could not SPEAK Japanese.

    Could you please give me a suggestion, where(online) is the best site to learn how to read Japanese? What book(dictionary and grammar of Japanese language in English) is suitable for me?

    Thank you so much for your help.

    Have a great day!

    Best Wishes,

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for reading my blog!

      As for your question, we used the textbook MINNA NO NIHONGO at my university to study Japanese. It's an okay textbook, and you'd need the main book (just Japanese texts) and the grammar book as a bare minimum (the kanji supplement books are less important).

      If you're not into textbooks, I've heard people about AJATT (All Japanese All The Time), which basically says go learn the very basics of Japanese, and then immerse yourself constantly in Japanese so you 'naturally' pick it up. Some people might prefer this (See:

      Once you have studied the bare basics, you can start reading manga like Detective Conan to dive more quickly into more 'difficult' stuff, as well as study genre-specific words. FWIW, I started with reading Conan about two months in my studies, armed with a dictionary, a grammar book and a loooooooooot of patience. But it did help me learn the genre-specific words quickly and while I hadn't learned all the grammar yet, seeing it 'in real Japanese' did make it easier for me to understand what they meant.

      Hope to have given you an idea of how to start, and good luck!

    2. Thank you so much for your suggestion.

      I've decided to buy the books listed below:

      1) A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar by Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsuisui.

      2) Kodansha's Furigana Japanese Dictionary (Kodansha Dictionaries) by Masatoshi Yoshida and Yoshikatsu Nakamura.

      and 1 Japanese Detective novel to practice.

      One person has told me that I don't have to worry too much about Kanji because it takes a longer period to master. He said I will pick up the meaning along the way of learning. However I must memorize Katakana and Hiragana.

      Those 3 books are available in Kinokuniya bookstore in Malaysia.

      I have all the Detective Conan mangas from Volume 1 until Volume 78 and all Kindaichi mangas in Malaysian Language. I have also downloaded all the live actions and animes of DC and Kindaichi. I prefer Kindaichi than DC because of the complex plots. I also have some translated mystery novels written by Japanese authors,

      I will follow your suggestion by trying to read DC in Japanese online.

      Thank you once again, Ho Ling.

      Have a great day!