The word "umineko" is the name of a kind of seagull known as a Black-tailed Gull. Naku means "to cry" or "to make a sound" (鳴く), referring only to sounds made by non-humans when written with that kanji; no kanji is provided in the series logo, however. According to Ryukishi07, the red Na (な) in the logo is an official part of the title.
The Umineko no Naku Koro ni games are the first four games in the series which are meant to give the player a sense of the world where the story takes place and introduce the mysterious circumstances surrounding Rokkenjima and the legend of the Golden Witch. Each arc in this series contains all the previous arcs.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni is a murder mystery game described as a "sound novel" by 07th Expansion. A sound novel is similar to a visual novel, though the gameplay requires no player interaction as the game is composed entirely of text dialogues. While a visual novel's basis would be the visual aspect, as the name suggests, a sound novel's basis takes more care in producing an atmosphere via the music, sound effects, and the story itself. As such, the original Umineko games have a simple-looking art style, which stays consistent over the course of the series' releases. The original releases contain no voice acting for the characters.
While during gameplay, the TIPS Mode can be viewed via the game's internal menu, which also includes save and load functions. These TIPS allow the player to read various supplementary information on the characters and story that may or may not be useful in solving the mystery. These are updated according to the progression of the story, so it is recommended to view the TIPS every once in a while. The ultimate goals of the gameplay involve solving the multi-cased mystery, determining where the gold is hidden, figuring out a solution in which ultimately everyone survives, and to solve the whole case by determining who the true murderer is in each chapter and whether it is due to supernatural events or human actions. An in-game feature from Turn of the Golden Witch onward known as "Red Truth" states something to be true in red text, offering clues to the reader to both create theories as well as to break them. In contrast is "Blue Truth" from Alliance of the Golden Witch onward, which is used to bring up theories on what is truly going on while abiding by the Red Truth, and has the possibility to become true if not countered by Red Truth. There is also "Golden Truth" introduced in End of the Golden Witch which can only be used by the Game Master and, depending on how it used, can be either inferior or superior to the Red Truth.
When an episode is completed for the first time, an additional short epilogue called "Tea Party" becomes available to play, offering crucial plot points that advance the overall progression of the story. When that scenario is completed, a second epilogue called "????" also becomes available to advance the story. After all the scenarios in a given game copy have been completed, a Music Box section becomes available on the title menu, enabling the player to listen to any of the music used throughout the game.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni takes place primarily in the year 1986, during the time frame of October 4 and October 5 on a small, secluded island named Rokkenjima 10 km around owned and lived on by Kinzo, the head of the wealthy Ushiromiya family. Kinzo is near death, and eight of his family members arrive on the island for the annual family conference, where the adults plan to discuss how Kinzo's assets will be divided once he is dead. Also on the island are three family members who live there, five of Kinzo's servants, and his personal physician. After the eight family members arrive, a typhoon traps them on the island, and shortly after, strange things start to happen and people start dying.
The main character of the story is Battler Ushiromiya, son of Kinzo's second son Rudolf. Battler has not been to the annual Ushiromiya conference in six years due to living with his maternal grandparents ever since his mother Asumu died, and even took his mother's maiden name instead of Ushiromiya. When his grandparents died, he went back to living with his father, his second wife Kyrie, and their daughter Ange, his half-sister. Once on the island, Battler once again becomes acquainted with the legend of the golden witch Beatrice who supposedly lives in the naturally dense forest on Rokkenjima. A portrait of her lies in the entrance hall of the Ushiromiya family mansion, and a puzzling epitaph is written below the portrait. Rumor has it on the island that Beatrice gave ten tons of gold to Kinzo in the past to restart the Ushiromiya family after being crippled in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake. It is said that whoever solves the riddle of the witch's epitaph will receive the gold and be the next successor to the Ushiromiya family.
Once the typhoon hits, a ghastly game begins, starting with the murder of six people on the island. If the witch's epitaph cannot be solved, people will continue to die in mysterious deaths, following the outline given by the epitaph itself, until the witch Beatrice ultimately revives. After this comes to pass, Battler is the only one left alive who does not believe in witches or magic, and as such the door to the "Golden Land" (as stipulated on the epitaph) cannot be opened. Beatrice takes Battler and herself to a parallel dimension, Purgatorio, which is able to oversee events on Rokkenjima. From this point on, Battler and Beatrice are locked in a game of twisted logic where Battler must attempt to explain all of the mysterious events on Rokkenjima from the standpoint that they are caused by a human, and Beatrice attempts to explain everything with witches and magic. One of the recurring motifs is use of the locked room mystery, and several logical arguments are presented to explain the mysteries including the devil's proof, the raven paradox, and Schrödinger's cat. If Beatrice can get Battler to ultimately surrender and accept witches and magic, Beatrice wins.
Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch
The Ushiromiya family gathers on Rokkenjima for their meeting, presenting the background of the story including the history of the island, family, and Beatrice. Being the introduction of the series, this chapter familiarizes the player with the island's 18 residents (the family itself plus the servants and staff), and gives the implication that one of them is posing as a 19th resident, Beatrice, and carrying out murders. The story is mostly narrated by Battler, and presents the first "bad end" of the series, since all the island's residents are either killed or labeled as "missing".
Episode 2: Turn of the Golden Witch
This chapter revolves around the first direct confrontation between Battler and Beatrice, both of whom are granted an alternate, independent existence to participate in the events of the story. Unlike the first chapter, Beatrice plays a direct role in the game and greatly hints on supernatural existences, including hidden powers of some of the island's residents and the introduction of the Seven Stakes of Purgatory. The chapter is narrated by several characters, including an omniscient narrator, and presents information on the relationships between Jessica and Kanon, George and Shannon, and Maria and Rosa. Shannon's past is also heavily mentioned.
Episode 3: Banquet of the Golden Witch
For this chapter, the residents of the island focus more on solving the riddle of Beatrice's epitaph rather than on who is carrying out the murders on the island and how, which leads to the introduction of a new character who interferes with the game between Battler and Beatrice. Other new characters include Ronove, Virgilia, and Chiester Sisters Imperial Guard Corps, all of whom contribute to the development of magical details. This chapter sheds light on the pasts of Eva and Beatrice, and is the first to feature one of the island's residents surviving the murders.
Episode 4: Alliance of the Golden Witch
This chapter is told mainly from the perspective of Battler's sister Ange and her life twelve years after the massacre on Rokkenjima. The story constantly shifts focus between 1986 (the time of the murders) and 1998 (Ange's time period), and provides even more backstory to some of the characters. The existence of magic is once again heavily implied, and more hidden powers from the Ushiromiya family are revealed. New characters introduced are Gaap, Chiester 00, Sakutarou, and a number of humans including Amakusa and Kasumi.
|Umineko no Naku Koro ni|
|Legend of the Golden Witch | Turn of the Golden Witch | Banquet of the Golden Witch | Alliance of the Golden Witch|
|Main Series||Umineko no Naku Koro ni (Chiru • Tsubasa • Hane)|
|Remakes||Rondo • Nocturne • Portable|
|Side Story||Ougon Musou Kyoku|