Spirit Hunter: Death Mark 2 Review – A Japanese regional gothic story

Reviewed February 18, 2024 on Nintendo Switch


PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5


February 15, 2024


Experience Inc., Aksys Games


Experience Inc.

Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Fatal Frame—these renowned game series all share one similarity: they belong to the Japanese horror genre. Much like the infamous reputation of Japanese horror films, Japanese horror games have also managed to send shivers down the spines of many horror enthusiasts, presenting masterpiece after masterpiece.

While Silent Hill and Resident Evil gained worldwide attention due to their more Westernised settings, many Japanese horror games take a more localised approach. They go back into their cultural roots, presenting stories from Japanese regional folklore and urban legends. The Spirit Hunter: Death Mark series is a prime example.

In Death Mark II, Kazuo Yashiki, an experienced spirit detective, is summoned by the headmaster of Konoehara Academy in a suburb of H City, Tokyo. The school is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths. Yashiki, familiar with such supernatural phenomena, delves into the urban legends and dark history surrounding the school.

Teaming up with both old mates and new allies, Yashiki starts on a quest to uncover the truth behind the spirit’s anger. His investigation leads him through the haunted corridors and cursed lavatories of Konoehara Academy, where every corner holds a clue to the spirit’s origins and motivations.

With each piece of the puzzle he gathers, Yashiki inches closer to unravelling the mystery shrouding the school’s grim past. Yet, time is of the essence as more lives hang in the balance with every passing moment.

While this new Spirit Hunter game is called Death Mark II, story-wise it bears little relevance to its predecessor. There are no more death marks nor further explanations of the previous story, which is a bit of a disappointment for me since I believe that many aspects of the previous game were left unanswered. However, Death Mark II is not entirely detached from the previous story. All the characters encountered in the previous game reappear. You can also team up with these characters and investigate the supernatural events together once more. This might be great news for nostalgic gamers.

Like its predecessor, Death Mark II is a visual novel with outstanding visuals and art. The gloomy character design and dim, dark environment complement each other well, bringing out some terrifying regional gothic stories. At the same time, Death Mark II does not hold back in presenting some absorbing gory scenes. These might be a little too disturbing for some, but still stunning.

“The gloomy character design and dim, dark environment complement each other well, bringing out some terrifying regional gothic stories.”

I would not recommend playing this game via speakers. Headphones are a must for the most authentic experience. In my opinion, the sound design in Japanese horror games has always been top-notch in this industry. Silent Hill is another perfect example of how to use simple sounds from environmental interactions to create an immersive and terrifying experience. Death Mark II has inherited this from its predecessor and perhaps presents one of the most terrifying environmental sound designs among recent horror releases.

The soundtrack choices align with the overall flow of the story. The dark academia style fits seamlessly with the gothic narrative and you can also find some tracks from the previous game.

While Death Mark II manages to absorb and maintain all the great aspects of the previous game through its sound and visual design, the developers were clearly not satisfied with simply presenting another Death Mark. There’s an aim here to bring some new approaches to this already beloved IP. 

One of the biggest changes is the introduction of new side-scrolling elements. As a visual novel, it seems like Death Mark II is not content with just simple point-and-click mechanics but aims to give players more freedom to control their characters and explore Konoehara Academy. While this might sound promising on paper, the actual gameplay somewhat undermines the atmospheric buildup, making the game a little less immersive. In the original Death Mark, while the exploration and environment interaction mechanisms were simple, they were extremely effective in immediately heightening the player’s tension. Imagine this: in front of you is a semi-still picture of a dimmed hallway, with creepy noises playing in the background; what could it be? Can I run away? All you can do is look at the screen with alarm and try to pick up every small change in the environment while waiting for the horror to unfold in front of you. This experience is something Death Mark II fails to fully deliver. The developers must have invested a ton of effort in implementing this side-scrolling feature, but unfortunately, the shift between first-person and third-person perspectives has made the side-scrolling feel somewhat disconnected from the rest of the game.

Another significant change from the original is the reduced difficulty in combat. Spirit Hunter: Death Mark earned a reputation for being one of the most challenging horror visual novel games, largely due to its combat mechanics. While players may refer to the challenges posed by spirits as combat, it is more akin to a riddle of the Sphinx situation. In the first game, players need to gather as much information as possible to answer the spirits’ questions correctly. This requires a detailed and careful search through the scenes. Any missing details would result in a failed attempt at defeating the spirit and progressing with the story. In my 25 hours of playing the original, around 6-8 hours were spent roaming between scenes and trying to find one last piece of information. However, in Death Mark II, while the combat mechanics remain largely the same, the spirits seem to be in a more lenient mood, asking simpler questions in their “questionnaire.” Interestingly, I wasn’t aware of this change until later in the game. I simply thought I was lucky to have found the key information rather easily. As such, Death Mark II feels considerably more inviting and less distressing. That may or may not be a good thing depending on your hopes for this title.




  • Great story that explores Japanese urban myths
  • Amazing visuals that guarantee a scare
  • Immersive sound design


  • Unnecessary shifting between perspectives
  • Simplified combat with little death penalty
  • Little connection with the previous story

Spirit Hunter: Death Mark II is an excellent game, a love letter to gamers obsessed with urban legends and regional gothic lore. Like its Japanese horror counterparts, Death Mark II offers players a unique audio-visual experience with remarkable sound and art designs. However, there appear to be some missteps in exploring the combat and gameplay mechanics in this release. While I wish that developers had retained these aspects from the previous game, I appreciate their ambition in not settling for merely reproducing the same game but instead exploring new avenues.