Some extra details about Paranoiac from Uri's site. Obviously spoilers, and to be read after you beat the game.
- About the Title
"Paranoiac" is a term for those suffering from paranoia. This most obviously indicates Miki's aunt, but depending on your interpretation, Miki could also be the so-called paranoiac.
- About the Atmosphere
I tried to go for a Japanese horror film's kind of scariness. I was dedicated to having not much background music and making do with only sounds.
- About Miki
I like the Japanese horror film Loft, so I based her name off of the actress, Miki Nakatani.
Miki made a debut in pure literature, but it didn't sell, so she's reluctantly made a name selling romance novels. It seems the cause of her depression is her mother's hysteria and the stress of the aforementioned.
It may be that they are codependent, which is why Miki is unwilling to part from her mom despite her cruelty. While she is rather mean to Miki, she still calls and sends her luggage, so she does care in those regards. And Miki doesn't want to abandon her emotionally-unstable mother, so she in fact becomes dependent on her.
By the way, mom got divorced, so it was just her and Miki living together at home. It seems to me like this kind of relationship puts a lot of pressure on the minds of both people involved.
- About Miura
At the very beginning, when he helps Miki with her luggage despite his wounded arm... well, okay, duh, he likes her. Watching some LPs, people have pointed out that he likely has ulterior motives to his actions. And they're exactly right. I leave it to your imagination what happens between Miki and Miura after the ending.
- About Mom
I imagine that the most incomprehensible thing in the game is mom's heartlessness toward auntie and Miki.
As mentioned in auntie's diary, Miki's mom/aunt lost both their parents in their school days. It's not given any detail in the game at all, so it's totally backstory, but mom gave up on the college she wanted to go to and got a job for her sister's (auntie's) sake. She was nervous to begin with and felt a great responsibility, but she worked hard to keep her sister from being unhappy and to get her to college. But despite it being her goal, once she saw her sister enjoying her school life and not having to work, she gradually developed hysteria.
Marrying a coworker to give birth to Miki, her hysteria got increasingly worse, and she started to despise auntie. She somehow felt that Miki was similar to her sister, so she began to treat Miki coldly as well. But this combined with her strong obligation to support her own child brought about her unstable mental state.
In the "violently aggressive" sense, mom could very likely be considered to have paranoia as well.
Also, the only real translation note I have for the game (EDIT: only applies to original version) is that the safe password was originally a number, which you could get by converting "Saeki" to some kind of hiragana counting system. There was really nothing good I could replace that with, so I just flat-out made it the name, as it was already a text input. (In the remake, the puzzle was modified and provided enough of an in-game hint with the kana chart that it could go unchanged.)
The following sections were added in June 2019 with the release of the remake version.
- About the Remake
In the Mermaid Swamp remake, the characters' lines and the story were hardly changed from the old version, but PARANOIAC's remake makes various changes to dialogue and the story. This was to provide more detailed explanations for things which I'd left out of the original out of a desire to emphasize the atmopshere.
For instance, the question of "why did Miki forget she liked her aunt?" There was no explanation given in the old version, but in the remake, there's an added monologue from Miki about how seeing her aunt's corpse traumatized her, so whenever she thought about auntie, the face of her corpse came to mind, thus she tried not to. Besides that, there are other scenes that make understanding the story easier, like a depiction of Miki worrying while being stuck on her work, and a conversation where mom talks her down with logic-based arguments. I took care not to be redundant, but I'm sorry if it ended up too depressing...
Also, as for changes to the story, I'll make note of Miki going outside. After all, in the old version, I imagine players were thinking "you could just escape outside," or "just live somewhere that isn't that house." And indeed, I had seen that opinion around. Truthfully there was a proper reason, but as I said before, I forwent the explanation. The reason Miki herself doesn't think of leaving the house is mainly due to not having the monetary freedom to live somewhere else, plus the fear of her mother getting mad at her, but there's actually another reason lurking in her subconscious. The unconscious guilt she feels about her aunt is keeping Miki locked in that house. That's why the tagline for this game is "I can't escape the cage of this house." (Incidentally, this tagline was also used in the bonus room in The Sandman that showed my other games.) As self-punishment for letting her aunt die, Miki voluntarily won't leave the house. Saying that may prompt a retort of "The doors outside won't open when the monster's chasin' her! That ain't voluntary!", but I'd like to respond "Well now, do you think those doors... really can't open?"
...So that was how it was, but I reflected on how it was difficult to pick up on that after all, and added a part where Miki escapes outside but ends up coming back to the house in the end. By setting foot in that house again after 3 years, her guilt toward auntie rises out of her subconscious, takes shape, and follows her around. In other words, that monster isn't haunting the house - it's haunting Miki, so to speak. So whether she tries to leave the house or not doesn't make a difference. Even if she escapes outside, without resolving the core issue, she ends up wandering back to the house. I hope having the monster chasing her even outside allows players to understand what's going on there.
Come to think of it, another big change is that the "monster" became a "shadow"! I always wanted the monster to feel like a shadow, but I didn't have that kind of technical skill when I made the original. So I just used some borrowed zombie-like character sprites.
Speaking of the shadow, the difficulty of the hide-and-seek was greatly reduced. The monster was so speedy in the original that it was more like tag than hide and seek, but the shadow moves slower in the remake, and the hiding spots are easier to see. Though I did balance it a bit to not be too easy, having the shadow flicker and become hard to see, and having it chase you through obstacles.
So really, with all the various changes, I think my summary would be that the remake is quite a bit kinder to the player than the old version. But only players who experienced the original version would know this, so I'm a little unsure how it'll feel for new players.
- About the Bad and Good Endings
If you choose "it's just a delusion" in the ending branch choice, it gives the bad ending, and choosing "there's really a monster" gives the good ending. But this is not simply to be contrarian (delusion → actually a monster, monster → actually a delusion). In either case, the truth remains the same, but I won't state it decisively. Well, though if you read the previous part, you've probably figured it out already.
The remake changed the contents of the bad ending. Originally, it only showed the article about Miki's death, but the remake adds a monologue from Miura. Actually, I planned to set this scene elsewhere at first. Miura was the first to discover Miki, so it was going to be a scene where he was being questioned at the police station. Miura would insist "There's no way she'd die like that if it was suicide. It has to be a murder," then a detective tells him something, and he's shocked... That was the plan, but limiting the truth like that felt boring, so I changed it to solely be Miura pondering. He's angry at the article like "it couldn't possibly be suicide," but also talks himself into "if she were under terrible duress, maybe she could have taken to extreme self-harm?" In the end, whether Miki's death in the bad ending is a suicide or the work of a monster remains unclear, so it doesn't necessarily deny the "delusion" choice.
In the good ending, Miki has a monologue saying "a psychosomatic doctor at the hospital I was taken to checked me, and told me they suspected I had schizophrenia," but that's not necessarily saying Miki had schizophrenia. It's strictly "suspected." That hasn't changed from the old version, but to emphasize this, I mentioned that in her bonus character bio. In other words, it isn't simply being tied up as "contrary to your "really a monster" choice, the monster was entirely a delusion."
It's gotten extremely muddled, but what I ultimately want to say is the same as Miki: "whichever one it was, I don't really mind." When Miki meets the bad ending, it's because she became convinced it was her fault auntie died, and strongly blamed herself. The difference in the good ending is whether she could remember the affection she had for her aunt, sleeping even deeper than her guilt. Her remembering that the root of that oppressive guilt was the strong affection she had, and that someone loved her despite her mother's inhospitality and her own inability to love herself, is the key to the ending branch. Whether that shadow was a delusion or a monster isn't the problem; again, as Miki says, the important part is what comes next. She decided she'd visit a psychiatrist to confront her own weakness, and vowed to convince her mom to get help even if it meant having a dispute. Her battle with herself and those close to her begins here. Miki's realization in the good ending is what gives her the courage to fight it. So whether she obtains the resolve and strength to keep living or not is the important difference between the ending branches.