The Game That Lied To Me
A look at the enigmatic Gaijin Charenji, a creepypasta cartridge come to life.
Developer overGame Studio might just be one individual, and their name might be Youenn Thirion, who may or may not be located somewhere in France. To be completely honest, I’m not sure, and I’m still not sure what to make of this studio’s first release on Xbox One titled Gaijen Charenji 1: Kiss or Kill.
The name alone is spooky and controversial, even before getting into the actual contents of the game itself. Described by its creator as a “Punk Narrative Shoot-Them Up”, this is an experience which is mind-bending within and beyond the game itself. My experience with it was an existential roller coaster that was as entertaining as it was terrifying. To be completely honest, I still can’t rationalize what parts were real and what parts were fiction.
When the PR sheets and review copies were sent around, I raised my hand thinking this would be a quick retro game review I could complete over the weekend. This has been my preference as of late after writing about games for over a decade now: to pick simple retro style indie games I feel naturally inclined to write about. Back then when I accepted the review assignment I had no clue what I was signing up for.
The editor boss handed me the download code and the press release, and I habitually read up on it only to discover, to my unbridled joy, that the game was a Dreamcast prototype completed for Xbox One. As a lifelong SEGA fan, things like these compel me like nothing else, and the connection between Xbox and SEGA is a niche I have documented for a long time as a fan. This was quite simply my dream indie game, and when I completed my first run of Gaijen Charenji 1: Kiss or Kill, the credits sequence even showcased footage of said Dreamcast build running on actual hardware.
Except none of it was real.
As overjoyed as I was to play something so unique, I couldn’t help but admit some things didn’t quite add up consistently. The more I looked into the game’s marketed backstory and reflected, the more it dawned on me that perhaps the Dreamcast backstory was just part of the game’s meta-lore.
What made the lie so engrossing was the idea of how the game wasn’t finished on Dreamcast because the original creator, Yoshiro Takahashi, had died during development. The version overGame Studios completed was based on materials provided by Takahashi’s now adult son.
The story sounded like a touching tribute, but then after seeing the footage during the credits sequence and some insight from friends and other players… things just weren’t adding up.
Needless to say, I was conflicted.
I remember the night before my review went live, I shared this discovery with the editor and he also admitted realizing the same thing. I built my entire review narrative of the game on the premise of it being a Dreamcast game finally making it to Xbox One, playing on the interesting history between Dreamcast, SEGA, and the Xbox brand itself.
I asked if it was worth scrapping and rewriting my entire review just to call out on the whole ruse, but then the editor gave me a simple solution: if the official press release claims the backstory is legit, then that’s what we need to stick with. I was actually a bit relieved, because a big part of me didn’t want to admit how none this was real, and so in my heart I went along with it too.
Once the review went live, I had an interview lined up with the developer with all the questions written on the assumption of the press release being 100% true.
I thought surely now this enigmatic creator will pull the curtain and go “ta dah!” to reveal how this had all been part of the game’s creation process. Except they didn’t, as all the questions were answered impartially… but never quite fully. Despite the dodged nature of some of their responses, there was still something genuinely enigmatic about this person, who revealed very little of their past in video games… except their background in psychology.
Gaijin Charenji 1: Kiss or Kill is a mind-trip of a gaming experience, and certainly not for the faint given its shocking cultural and political imagery.
What’s more — the most unnerving detail of all is that the entirety of the Night of the Living Dead film is tucked away behind a single pixel. The entire film is in there, and this spooky discovery led me on a chase to learn about the interesting copyright journey of the movie which had placed it in perpetual public domain. Still, discovering the film for the first time in the game’s code was a haunting experience.
That’s ultimately what Gaijin Charenji 1: Kiss or Kill feels like: haunted. There’s been urban myths and creepy pastas on mainstream video games, but this is a video game innately designed and created to be haunted in the most metaphysical terms. This is as close as we are ever going to get to the proverbial haunted cartridge.
Whether it is the meta-lore surrounding the game or the actual spooky contents within the game itself, this is a video game experience which demonstrates how easy it can be to fabricate a convincing reality. Part of me doesn’t want to admit how none of it is real… but sometimes ignorance and denial are total bliss.
Written by Jahanzeb Khan for Vista Magazine.