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European box art
Kuon (九怨) is a survival horror video game for the PlayStation 2, developed by FromSoftware. Kuon is based on an ancient type of Japanese horror story called a kaidan. The game is set in a mansion in Kyoto during the Heian Period of Japan.
In Kuon, the player moves their character by tilting the analog stick in any direction. The player can also make their character move faster by running; however, this both drains the character's health and attracts any nearby enemies. The player can use meditation to restore their character's health (while they are standing still), as well as use herbal medicines and holy water containers from the menu.
There are two types of attacks in Kuon: physical attacks and magical attacks. Physical attacks are performed with the character's weapon, be it a knife (Yin phase), a fan (Yang phase), or a spear (Kuon phase). Magic is divided into two types, attack and summon, both of which are performed with magic cards. Attack spells include various fire- and ice-based spells. Summoned beings perform a variety of tasks, from attacking creatures for you to trapping them and causing a one-hit kill. The player may also summon creatures to serve as bodyguards as well.
Setting and characters
Kuon is set in Heian-era Kyoto, Japan. Most of the game follows the protagonists as they explore a feudal Japanese manor at night, as well as an old mountainside temple. The main antagonistic forces of Kuon are various forms of undead, including ghosts and resurrected corpses, the latter of which include horrifically mutated monsters created from fusing several dead bodies together.
- Utsuki (浮月), protagonist of the "Yin Phase", is a shrine maiden. She, with her sister Kureha (暮葉), travels to the Fujiwara manor to find their father, exorcist Doman Ashiya (蘆屋道満 Ashio Doman).
- Sakuya (咲耶), protagonist of the "Yang Phase", is a female exorcist and one of Doman's disciples. She and her fellow disciples also enter the manor to search for Doman, as well as investigate the strange events occurring there.
- Abe no Seimei (安部晴明), protagonist of the final "Kuon Phase", is a master exorcist who enters the manor last.
Throughout the game, the characters encounter a pair of mysterious twins, often found singing a dark aria. The player eventually learns that they are the manifestations of two evil mulberry trees—one in the manor garden, and one at the temple.
In Kuon's Yin Phase (Chapter of Shadow), Utsuki and Kureha arrive at the Fujiwara mansion to find their father. At the same time, during the game's Yang Phase (Chapter of Light), Doman's disciples, including Sakuya and her older brother, enter the manor to investigate the strange incidents occurring there. Utsuki and Sakuya become separated from their respective groups, and occasionally cross paths with one another.
As the story progresses, the protagonists learn of Doman's true evil nature. The strange occurrences are a result of Doman's attempts with performing the forbidden Kuon ritual. which involves fusing a person with other corpses inside of a massive silkworm cocoon. Once this is done nine times, the person is "reborn". Doman sees his disciples, the manor residents, and even his daughters as expendable in his pursuit to form the Kuon cocoon.
One by one, Sakuya's fellow exorcists died and resurrect into undead monsters. Meanwhile, Kureha, revealed to have died before the game's events, merges with Sakuya's older brother, becoming a hideous abomination. Later, Utsuki and Sakuya separately enter the underground area beneath the manor, where Doman is working to perform the Kuon spell. Utsuki becomes fused with other corpses eight times; slowly driven mad, she attacks Sakuya.
In the Kuon Phase, Utsuki comes to her senses and releases Sakuya. Utsuki begs Sakuya to get away from her, but the latter vows to find a way to save her. At this time, Abe no Seimei arrives. After meeting with Sakuya, and later with a deformed Utsuki, Seimei finds and battles Doman, who seeks to use Seimei's body for the final cocoon. After Seimei kills Doman, Utsuki, unable to stop herself, drags Doman's body away and locks herself with it inside a wicker basket, thus beginning the final phase of the Kuon ritual. Sakuya convinces Seimei not to kill Utsuki, and the master exorcist reluctantly decides not to.
During the ending credits, Sakuya coaxes Utsuki—now reborn as a young girl—out of the Fujiwara mansion grounds. Amazed by the outside world, and thrilled with her newfound freedom, Utsuki leaves the mansion behind with Sakuya.
In 2012, Justin Graham of the Operation Rainfall fan movement wrote an article on Kuon, saying that he found the game entertaining. He praised the audio, visuals, and subject matter for setting the atmosphere, but criticized some of the outdated game mechanics.
Due to its limited release outside Japan and poor sales, it is one of the rarest games on the PlayStation 2, averaging over 300 dollars.
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