Best bits of 2023: The 100-yen lighter in Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

We’re celebrating our favorite gaming moments of 2023. Today, we explain why smoking kills, but lighters can occasionally save…
By Edward Price

In this series, the Square Enix Blog team looks at some of our favorite moments from throughout the year and why we think they stand out. To be clear, we're not declaring them to be the pinnacle of the game, merely one of many moments that stand out. So don't get cross at us if you disagree, okay?

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is an incredible adventure with twists, turns, thrills, and spills. It’s a visual novel that’s, well, novel.

While that adage applies throughout the entirety of the frankly incredible story that unfolds before you (one I’m still thinking about long after completing it), there’s one early part of the game where this is most exemplified.

And it’s all thanks to a cheap lighter.


What happens in the prologue of the game?

The opening of Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a tour de force of spooky storytelling. Shortly after you’re introduced to Shogo and Yoko and their quirky midnight date inside a park, you become witness to its foul end.

In the aftermath, you discover a curse stone that promises a chance to rectify the disastrous date at a dangerous price. This vow compels you on a journey through Tokyo’s Sumida Ward to prepare a feast of souls.

There’s one major hindrance in Shogo’s plan: you’re not the only would-be killer stalking the streets of Sumida on this starry night.

Other curse bearers are skulking around, and they know that collecting enough soul dregs from their victims will allow them to revive someone of their choosing. And the hope of bringing their beloved back from the dead has driven some to the depths of depravity.

Each curse can only be activated by a specific condition, and while you know how to activate yours - you can use it whenever someone turns their back on you - you don’t know how others are triggered until you run afoul of them.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to the 100-yen lighter. Completely unassuming at a glance, a cheap tchotchke to a non-smoker, and on its last drops of fire-giving fluid, you’d be hard-pressed to wonder how such an item could ever save your life. Yet, it does. Twice.

The first occasion is a fairly simple conundrum wherein you spot a mystical, floating entity down the street, and do what any person should when confronted by such a sight: go right up to it and investigate. Turns out that this decision is quite unwise, and Shogo will be dragged into a darkened building.

If you’re unprepared, you’ll be set upon by a curse holder. However, if you happen to have a certain item on your person, then let’s just say the solution is quite illuminating.

With that situation over, you move into another park, where you’re suddenly approached by a seemingly kind lady who refuses to tell you her name, or anything about herself, only giving you a short countdown until she enacts her curse upon you and takes your ill-gotten soul dregs. Should you reach the end of the countdown before deducing her curse, then your journey will burn out here.

The gears begin to turn. You think about all that you know, and think back to what’s happened so far. Hold on, when you were killed by that curse, wasn’t there someone familiar in the background?

Let’s backtrack for a second.

Earlier in the prologue, you meet a very pleasant if overdressed private detective called Richter. Initially you think nothing of it, until you remember his parting question: do you have a lighter on you?

Then it all clicks together. You go back to the countdown. “What do I know that my character doesn’t?”. You go into your inventory. You examine the lighter, its purpose fulfilled…?

You now have the option to throw it away. Shogo wonders why he’s suddenly compelled to dispose of it. You know why, but your character doesn’t. The 100-yen lighter is hurled across the park, and your captor’s face turns to one of shock and horror. How did you know her curse allows her to set fire to anyone with fire or a source of fire on their person? She attempts to flee, allowing you to enact your curse and fill your curse stone with the souls she’s taken.

All this for 100 yen.

It’s here that Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo makes clear the premise of its puzzles, and this one is simply fantastic.

It subverts expectations

As an avid adventure game veteran and visual novel aficionado who’d mastered monkey-filled islands before he’d even hit a double-figure age, it’s easy to think that you’ve seen every kind of puzzle that the genre can offer. It’s such a common occurrence that items you’ve used for a solution stay in your inventory that you can’t be blamed for thinking that you’ll never need to worry about the lighter ever again.

In its opening chapters, Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo took me on a journey I was not prepared for, and still think about regularly since seeing off all of its varied endings.

These series of puzzles were when I realized that we were dealing with something absolutely special, and that leaving preconceptions at the door was the only way I was going to see everything the Sumida Ward had to offer.

It explains the game’s conceit perfectly

It’s rare that a puzzle can explain an entire game’s oeuvre so perfectly. The first time it all forms in your mind, you’ll question yourself every step of the way, and when it works, it feels like you’re throwing away every rule with the same vigor that Shogo hucks the lighter.

Suddenly, the game’s philosophy is laid bare before you: you know what you need to do, but the characters do not. Thinking like a hero of the story won’t get you anywhere, but thinking like an outside observer, aware of the medium in which the story takes place, will take you places you’ve never seen, and that you’ll seldom believe.

Throughout the rest of the game, you begin to think about problems in a whole new dimension, and you will feel like an unmitigated genius every time “can I?” becomes “I can!”.

You’ve seen nothing yet

What if I told you that this isn’t even Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo’s greatest puzzle, and that there are even greater surprises that await you? That there are moments awaiting you that will make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about visual novels? That discovering every ending will require you to hone that philosophy to the hilt?

You’re now playing by a new set of rules, and as long as you adhere to them, you will continue to be surprised and delighted.

As you can see, these puzzles left a marked impact on us, and helped us fall in love with Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo. There are plenty of other amazing moments, but we dare not spoil them for you.

If you want to solve the mysteries yourself, the game is now available on Nintendo Switch, Steam, iOS and Android:

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