Mod Aria again, talking about more dating sim shenanigans! Today I’m going to discuss a game that was released fairly recently. The company Otomebu translated and brought to Steam a Japanese otome, game originally titled Hyakka Hyakurou Sengoku Ninpochou, under the name of Nightshade. I’ve played through the entire game, and I must say that it’s my favorite dating sim of the year (so far)!
Nightshade is a visual novel set towards the end of the Sengoku era of Japan. You play as a young and upcoming ninja named Enju Ueno (you can change her first name), the daughter of the Koga village chief. Enju and the other members of her clan are hired on a mission in Kyo (known as Kyoto today) to help the Toyotomi catch the infamous thief, Goemon Ishikawa. However, things take a sinister turn, and suddenly Enju is the being hunted down by all kinds of shinobi for a heinous crime.
The plot in Nightshade is quite interesting. It can be a bit predictable at times, but there’s was always one plot point here and there that really took me off-guard. This gave the individual routes such creative twists that I was always eager to see what new route had in store. Also, it helps that each individual guy that you can pursue has their own personality and quirks, which definitely influences how Enju grows and progresses.
Speaking of the guys, there are five romanceable men in Nightshade that Enju is able to chase after. Three are ninjas from her own clan: there’s her bodyguard Gekkamaru, Gekkamaru’s brother and troublemaker Kuroyuki and her sensei Chojiro. The other two are fictionalized historical figures: the famous ninja, Hanzo Hattori, and Goemon Ishikawa himself. What’s even better is that, despite the route lengths, I actually felt like all the guys really loved Enju by the end of it. Some games I’ve played really force the romance in the routes by making the two characters fall in love quickly, but Nightshade did not fall into this trap.
Personally, I enjoyed most of the routes for different reasons. Some had characters I liked, but the plots were weak in comparison. Others had great story, but the characters weren’t my favorite. Some of the routes are very dark, others not. So I can’t fully say which routes are definitively better or worse than the others. It’ll depend on your own personal tastes. Though I will say that my favorite guys are Goemon and Hanzo. But let’s not forget Enju! As a heroine, I enjoy her in comparison to some otome games I’ve played. However, she sometimes falls into that faux action girl trope. She has some scenes where she’s a great fighter, but others that get set up just so the main guy in the route can act cool and save her.
When it comes to Nightshade’s staff, fantastic choices were made. The art is vivid, with deep colors and gorgeous character designs. I love the models for Gekkamaru and Hanzo the most. But all the outfits are sharp and really fit the characters. The artist, Teita, also worked on NORN9, which was localized by Aksys Games in 2016. They are a truly gifted person. Same goes for the composer, MIKOTO. The music is so beautiful that sometimes I just left the game at a certain spot to hear it play. And I’m definitely going to get the opening and ending songs on my iPod as soon as possible. The Japanese voice cast is star-studded; they’re all brilliant. But to be frank, I really feel like Wataru Hatano and Hikaru Midorikawa really got to showcase their acting chops here. There are hardly any localized otome games with them in it. I hope that changes!
Another thing I really enjoy about the game is that it has the feature that let’s you know whether or not you picked the right answer when it comes to a choice; a little melody will play and flowers will bloom on the screen. There’s also an affection meter to help you track where you stand with the guys, which is nice; but I’ve always found it to be a bit useless for people like me who are hunting for the good end their first time around.
And now for my complaints: mainly, these are technical issues. There are hardly any typos in the game, but Otomebu used some really outdated software to get this game ported to PC, and a lot of people have really had to wrestle with their computers in order to even get the game to launch. It might have just been easier to localize it physically for the Vita, but that costs more than it would on PC. That’s challenging for a small indie company. But if you’re able to get the game working, this doesn’t really become a problem after that.
One more issue I had with the game is that there is no mode that lets you easily move onto another route after completing the common route for the first time. You have to backtrack and fast-forward through scenes that you’ve seen a million times before. The first couple of times is kind of fun because you get to see new stuff, but when you have only one route left to go, it can get frustrating.
Lastly, the routes in Nightshade are good, but fairly short. It really makes me sad because this would have been a great game to have nice, long routes for. It’s well-written, there’s hardly any plot holes, and most of the characters are great. But the stories are over right when the characters finally get their happy ending. There are extra scenes that you can see after each route is over, but it’s not enough to satiate you. I haven’t heard any news of D3P planning a fandisk, and that really disappoints me. This game would have been worth it.
All in all, I think Nightshade is a great experience. It reminds me a lot of Hakuoki, though I feel like Hakuoki is a bit more in depth with the plot of the game. If you like otome games that have a lot of Japanese history and a bit of tragedy, I’d definitely recommend picking up this game. Otomebu’s hard work (thought not imperfect) paid off, and this is a right step for D3P and Red Entertainment.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this you guys! I hope you’re waiting for more great NWG content!