|Platform(s):||Windows '95, Mac, Sega Saturn, PlayStation|
Dark Hunter (ダークハンター) is an adventure game that is the second entry of Shibusawa Kou's "English Dream" series -following the three-part entry, Emit. The purpose behind both projects is to teach Japanese people the English language with the help of a thrilling narrative. Each game has English consultants with a dual language and subtitle option for players. While the English Dream series has been largely forgotten, both titles appeared on Koei's 2003 Winter Thanks Rare Campaign with cheap and forgiving prices.
This game was released as two separate parts, the first part being Strange Dimension School (上 異次元学園) and Demon Forest (下 妖魔の森) is the second. Character designs were made by Atsushi Kamijo with Naoyuki Onda for line cleanup.
A strange set of violent crimes hit Tokyo streets. The young perpetrators state feeling no remorse for their ruthlessness and the cases pile up at an alarming rate. Within the city streets, Mariko experiences a chain of vivid hallucinations after her father's remarriage. Her new mother sends her away to attend Jigen High School, the exile for "special youths" ostracized in society. During one of her daily commutes, she meets two mysterious people: a stoic young man and a beautiful woman. Mariko's encounter with them is tied to her adventures of the academy's true colors.
At the start of the game, the player can choose to view the story from one of three scenarios. Each story focuses on the three main characters' perspective of events. Playing through all three of them is required to see the game's final chapter. The basic structure for a typical story is as follows:
- Watch - the story is told through a series of fully voiced animated clips. During these sequences, the audio and subtitles can be switched to the player's preferences. After each box of dialogue, the player can access their viewer menu to analyze what was said. For those who grasp English text but cannot comprehend it vocally, they can switch the audio to reiterate in Japanese text. People who are challenged with the opposite issue may additionally access an in-game dictionary to help translate the harder words into comfortable Japanese. If so desired, the game may be read and heard entirely in either of the two languages. Scenes may be stopped and replayed if the player needs it. The option to revisit previously earned scenes throughout the characters' stories is also available.
- Play - during certain sections of the story, the player will need to interact in move-and-touch mini games. These games test the player's reaction time and serves as a break from the exposition. Crosshatches mark targets that need to be hit by the player's cursor and highlight if the points match. During the short moments of contact, the player needs to press the game's confirmation button. Should the player fail to succeed, an option to retry or go back to the original scene can be made.
- Choose - every so often, the player has the choice of seeing two different options of dialogue. Although these don't exactly have a big effect on the story, they unlock more words for the game's dictionary.
While the games are short, it is a funner version of the standard English teaching program with a fantasy horror twist. Dark Hunter features complicated, science fiction terms for the interested Japanese audience, a contrast to the simpler, conventional Emit. The first title mainly focuses on Mariko's discovery while the second title goes more in depth with her saviors.
Humans at Jigen High
- Mariko Kayano (萱野真 理子)
- Voiced by: Yuko Minaguchi (Japanese), Alison Lester (English)
- Mariko is a sheepish yet polite teenager who feels she doesn't have the power to defy what is set for her. She left Tokyo without protest, though she struggles to understand why she was sent to Jigen High. As she is just fitting in, she encounters Ran and Cher, each telling her that the school's faculty and students are inhabited by parasitic creatures from another dimension. Jigen High is their base of operations. In spite of the creatures attacking her and her school, Mariko is fearful of the truth shattering her sense of mediocrity and tries to stay within a state of denial.
- Left with the keepsake of Ran's mother, Mariko is surprised to see her teachers revile the blue stone's glow. Realizing that her teachers really are savage creatures, she begins to trust Ran. When imprisoned by the creatures underneath Jigen High, Mariko learns she is the designated host for the creatures' holy matriarch, the Dark Mother. Her hallucinations turns out to be her powers of precognition awakening, a power which she uses to break free and escape the academy. Since she has no safe home, Mariko decides to live a new life by herself.
- Ran Mashimo (真下 蘭)
- Voiced by: Akira Ishida (Japanese), Michael G. (English)
- The mysterious young transfer student to Jigen High, Ran claims to have lost all of his human emotions. Though he has a wild appearance, Ran is a talented psychic who is gifted in telepathy, fire manipulation, and psychometry. Not wanting to see another victim, Ran has an innate desire to rescue those who are endangered by the creatures. He is the one who reveals more details about the creatures to Mariko.
- After his parents were killed, Ran was looked after by his older brother, Yoku. To guard his brother from the creatures in their home, Yoku cuts off ties with an eleven-year old Ran and tells him to escape. Two years later, Ran hears from a mysterious figure that Yoku was murdered by a man named Shogen Kuji. He spent the following five years hunting Shogen down and dispatching creatures to avenge his loss. Though Ran isn't with Mariko and Cher at the end of the game, Mariko believes Ran survived due to one of her visions.
- Cher Mulligan (シェール・マリガン)
- Voiced by: Minami Takayama (Japanese), Kimberly Forsythe (English)
- Posing as a resident in the dorms, Cher is actually a CIA agent from Washington DC. Her mission is to complete three main objectives: demolish all creatures before they further contaminate society, blow up the building, and dispatch her partner, Charles Kuroda. Cher rescues Satoshi during her adventure and promises to look out for the child. She spends the first part of the story learning the school's premise while being rescued by a mysterious figure. To combat the creatures in her way, Cher is armed with various firearms.
- In the second game, she resolves herself to finish her mission in spite of any personal hardships. Cher has a highly dangerous time bomb ticking away in her dorm room, forcing everyone in the premise to speed up their desired objectives. She helps Mariko's escape from the school and decides to head back to America with Satoshi after her successful mission.
- Satoshi (サトシ)
- Voiced by: Shuichiro Miyamoto (Japanese), Brian Saffell (English)
- A young boy who can barely talk, Satoshi is a normal boy who was saved by Cher and Ran. He lost his family to the creatures and hasn't really spoken since due to shock. Before he heads to Cher's promised rendezvous point, he wanders the grounds of Jigen High to search for his missing cat.
Known as "creatures from another dimension", these plant-like creatures take three years to mature into this realm. They are vile, malicious beings with heightened senses far superior to normal humans. If they are desperate, they can possess smaller animals, but the creatures prefer to feed off humans. Their human hosts have an agonizing death as their brain loses function of their own body and their conscious is whittled to nothing. Once the creatures have fully inhabited their human bodies, they remain with the hosts' memories. The creatures use their human disguises to continue acting as the originals. From time to time, their matured states are released into normal society to attack the nearby populace.
They are eerily united under their divine leader, the Dark Mother. Their ultimate goal is to bring the Dark Mother into this world and decimate the human race in a destructive holy crusade.
- Shogen Kuji (久慈 将現)
- Voiced by: Daisuke Gōri (Japanese), Robert Belgrade (English)
- Shogen is the school's headmaster who is the one responsible for letting the creatures into our dimension. He is one of the first to be infected and is therefore the master planner for the rest of the creatures. During the second title, he returns to the school to hold the ceremony for the Dark Mother. Shogen tells Mariko that the psychics who were sent to Jigen High make the optimum hosts for the creatures. Knowing they would be harder to find on an individual basis, he offers Jigen High as a "sanctum" for other psychics. In the past, he performed the same offer to Ran and his family.
- Yoku Mashimo (真下 翼)
- Voiced by: Kenji Nojima (Japanese), Brian Saffell (English)
- Yoku is Ran's older brother who dies seven years before the game's story. He was attacked by Shogen and possessed by the creatures once inhibiting Shogen's body. As he felt his life ebbing away, Yoku developed a hatred towards humanity since they were the ones who killed his mother. Therefore, he banded with the creatures to create a new utopia on the planet. He uses his reasonings to appeal to Ran yet is upset when his younger brother defies him. The brothers fight one another and Yoku appears to have the upper hand. When their mother's keepsake glows over Ran's neck, the stone pendant emits a brilliant light to Yoku and his creature tentacles. Ran throws the pendant to Yoku and he explodes in a blinding light.
- Shuzo Yabe (矢部 修三)
- Voiced by: Ginzō Matsuo (Japanese), Dean Harrington (English)
- Mr. Yabe is the vice-principle of the school and the second-in-command for the creatures in the headmaster's absence. Before he was completely taken over, he chose to resign himself to the creature rather than save himself. He felt the creature's abilities to be too appealing to destroy. He is the one who cleans up any evidence of the creatures' rough-housing and keeps their activities a secret from society. Aware of the CIA's efforts to eliminate the creatures' operations, he quickly deduces Cher and Charles' true identities.
- Capturing Cher after she burns Charles, he expresses his mutual grief in losing one of his own kind and offers Cher to join them as a creature. He agrees to her "last request" for a single cigarette yet is unaware of Cher's ruse to gain access to another one of her weapons. She pinches the cigarette to shoot explosive ash into his mouth, his head exploding seconds later.
- Jun Miyato (宮戸 剛)
- Voiced by: Hisao Egawa (Japanese), Robert Belgrade (English)
- Mr. Miyato is one of the school's teachers who tries to attack Mariko at the end of the first title. She is rescued by Ran, who leaves a permanent scar over Miyato's right eye. To cover up the incident, he wears a single tinted lens of his glasses over it. Spotting Satoshi on the school grounds the following morning, Miyato uses the cat as a lure to convert the boy. Ran sees through the guise and kills the creature posing as the cat. Enraged by the psychic's taunts, Miyato rips apart his human skin to reveal his true form as a gigantic, green-haired spider. Ran defeats his adversary, burning the creature to death with his powers.
- Mitsue Sugitani (渋谷 光江)
- Voiced by: Makiko Mizogami (Japanese), Lucy Craft (English)
- Ms. Sugitani is the school's English teacher who is attacked by Ran during the first title. Though wounded from the encounter, she escapes to take Mariko captive through the underground area of the school. Her real form resembles a long-nailed gorgon with human legs. While Ran fights Yoku, Sugitani pursues Cher and Mariko. Distracted by Charles's hand on her leg, she is burned to death by the agent's flamethrower.
- Charles Kuroda (チャールズ・黒田)
- Voiced by: Hideo Ishikawa (Japanese), Brian-Matt Uhl (English)
- Charles is a CIA agent posing as a teacher within the school. In the past, he met Cher on the CIA training grounds and taught her various Japanese customs. They fell in love and were engaged to be married after the destruction of Jigen High. Once he learned he was infected, he took the X antibody but was already too far deep to be saved. The medicine was able to save his human conscious, however, so he continues to secretly aid Cher's mission. Acting as a mole of sorts, he tries to keep Mariko out of danger.
- In the second entry, he appears before Cher and tells her he is beyond help. Following his debriefing of the creatures' plans, he asks her to save Mariko in his place. During his tussle with Yabe, Charles pleads Cher to kill him so he can die with human dignity. In spite of his charred state, he apparently saves his lover for the last time from Sugitani.
- Yuichi Ito (伊藤 裕一)
- Voiced by: Hideo Ishikawa (Japanese), Brian-Matt Uhl (English)
- Mariko's classmate who is infatuated with her. He constantly looks after Mariko and tries to be near her at all times. He claims to hate science fiction novels since he once snapped into a deadly rage after reading one. Jealous of Ran's impact in Mariko's life, Yuichi confesses his feelings of loyalty to her and tries to denounce Ran to her. When he spots Ran investigating the entrance to the secret basement of the school, Yuichi attacks the psychic with an electric bat. Before he could deal the finishing blow, his upper body was blasted apart by a psychic blast from Yoku. Yoku later admits that Yuichi's devotion for Mariko was proving to be a nuisance to his plans.
- Yuriko Mashimo (真下 百合子) and Gozo Mashimo (真下 剛三)
- Voiced by: Emi Uwagawa (Japanese), Alison Lester (English); Voiced by: Ichirō Nagata (Japanese), Brian Perkins (English)
- Ran and Yoku's parents who passed away years before the game's story. Yuriko was a scientist who developed the X antibody, a medicine that can eliminate the creatures in their early stages of infection. As a psychic who possessed the powers of precognition, she saw far into her sons' futures. Knowing she wouldn't live to see them grow, she gave her sons two pendants adorned with blue stones of pure X antibody. When her psychic abilities were exposed to the public, her reputation was ruined and she was killed by a group of anti-psychic fanatics.
- Gozo tried to support his children until he was taken over by one of the creatures. He was killed by Yoku in self defense.
- Phil Dawson (フィル・ドーソン)
- Voiced by: Yasunori Masutani (Japanese), Brian Perkins (English)
- Phil is Charles and Cher's superior within the CIA. He first sent Charles to deal with the creatures yet is worried when his agent didn't return. Realizing that his agent could have been taken by the creatures, he sends Cher to finish the task.
- Mariko's Stepmother (真理子の義母)
- Voiced by: Minami Yamamoto (Japanese), Lucy Craft (English)
- A somewhat cold woman, she is the one who presses for Mariko to enter Jigen High. She is well aware of her stepdaughter's powers of precognition and is the one who convinces Mariko that they are mere hallucinations. The second entry states she graduated from Jigen High ten years before the game and reported Mariko's powers to Shogen.