Nightshade: The Route Report


Since Nightshade offers visual love clues and an affection gauge, I had no problems landing on my routes of choice and snatching the best ending right away. Since all routes are available from the get-go, I could indulge in playing them in the order I wanted. I saved the best for last, as usual in such cases; and so, dear fellow gamers, here’s my very own route report for your enjoyment.



Chojiro: My my, what a hardcore opener that route was. All your friends die a painful and cruel death, you’re played like a puppet by your own scumbag of a father, and you have to deal with the guilt of lusting for your first cousin. Is that the writers’ not-so-subtle way of saying that incest is bad? Anyway, both Enju and Chojiro have to overcome a ton of mental and practical hurdles to get together; and blimey, I cannot help but think that they completely deserve romantic happiness after that. 

Chojiro is the resident ice queen, and you know I usually don’t fancy that trope (cue Dante, Van Helsing, Yanagi and Shidou) ; but this time around, I really enjoyed it. I’d wager it’s because you can see the heart beat under the ice in Chojiro’s case, which makes you anticipate the moment said ice will break. It does break allright, in a sober (ice cannot transmute into fire, after all) yet sweet and fulfilling way. Thank you, writers, for reconciling me with the ice queen trope if only for a single game.



Hanzo: Nighshade’s take on that most famous shinobi reminded me nicely of my lovely man Kaze in FE Fates; needless to say, that made me very partial towards Hanzo. His route didn’t disappoint me: the way he both protects and lifts Enju up is the stuff wholesome relationships are made off, and Enju herself brings him some much-needed peace of mind by helping him come to terms with his torturous past. 

Hanzo being the sombre, hardly expressive type, his route could easily have been brooding and boring. But the writers, them geniuses, managed to avert that obvious trap by sneaking in cute little digressions about Hanzo’s smile and hairstyle, as well as a nicely steamy yet not overdone Huddling for Warmth sequence. Those moments remind us that Hanzo is human first and foremost, before Hanzo himself remembers it and chooses Enju over his shinobi duties at the end of the route. 



Goemon: With his strategically revealing clothing, his sultry smile, his bedroom eyes and his libertine label, Goemon is totally the game’s sexy b*tch. He’s really a libertine in name only, as he only has eyes for Enju from the moment she enters her field of view; but let’s face it, his slutty persona is quite masterfully handled. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also pretty hunky as far as otome beaus go; not only does that hunkiness really show in CGs, but there’s also a steamy narrative thread that involves Enju drooling over his large hands.

On top of being lascivious, Goemon is playful, cheerful and a sheer optimist; factor in the happy ending that sees all of Enju’s friends make it alive, and you get the most light-hearted route of the whole game. Still, Goemon’s route boasts more than enough suspense and tension to keep one on their toes. I’m obviously referring to the whole ‘He betrayed me, he betrayed me not’ arc, in which Goemon regains the lead of the Fuuma clan. As it happens quite late in the story, one cannot help but pray Goemon still has Enju’s back, and that the whole thing is but an elaborate setup whose purpose will be revealed soon. That’s a pretty basic narrative trick, but it works beautifully nonetheless; and boy, was I relieved when Goemon finally put Enju’s mental agony and mine to rest.



Kuroyuki: My meagre Japanese knowledge tells me that ‘Kuroyuki’ can be translated as ‘black snow’. If that’s the meaning the writers went for, then it’s true genius; because Kuroyuki is indeed a pure boy who’s been stained beyond repair by his gruesome upbringing. Man, that route hit me hard. Granted, I fully expected Kuroyuki’s chirpy personality to be but a mere mask; but I really couldn’t have guessed how much despair and pain were hidden underneath. The description of Kuroyuki’s ordeal was chilling, and my soul wept for the poor boy.

I have to commend the writers (again) for creating an obsession-themed route that doesn’t feature a complete psychopath. Sure, Kuroyuki is no angel; but his ruthless killings are justified by both his shinobi work and his twisted training. He also ditches his manipulative ways as soon as he realises that he doesn’t need them to gain Enju’s affections, and it’s pretty clear that said ways were only a mean to an end and not a core part of his personality. (And heck, can you really blame a shinobi for being manipulative?) 

Kuroyuki is the resident childhood friend, and he’s probably the best one I’ve ever seen in an otome. You can feel the bond between him and Enju; I swear, the description of their childhood antics reminded me of my own childhood antics with my cousins. There’s a sweet, endearing, childish complicity between them, and it’s unique to their relationship. Not only that, but their lifelong bond actually serves the story instead of being a mere fan-servicey trope: it makes perfect sense that Kuroyuki should remember Enju and only her, because they’re the exact same age and have basically never known life without each other. Gee, the intensity!



Gekkamaru: Kuroyuki was intense enough already; but oh my, does his aniki Gekkamaru top him off. Look, I’ll bare my heart here: I kinda fell in love with Gekkamaru myself, and his route can now claim the honour of being my favourite otome route ever.

Gekkamaru’s route has everything: the mutual devotion, the tenderness, the lust, the gallantry, the suspense, the thrill and most importantly, the pure, unadulterated love. Heck, we’re even treated to a poignant ‘Ai shiteru’ from the boy! And jeez, that Moon and Sky quote was stupidly intense I swear, it made me blush a little. The plot twist was stellar, and the way Gekkamaru overcame the two spells battling for the control of his mind through his deep, genuine, homegrown love for Enju made me all mushy inside. 

But the jewel in the crown of that route is the physical chemistry between Enju and Gekkamaru, which roars to life as soon as they hug each other for the first time ever. That very sequence is already ardent enough as such, with all those mentions of melting into each other and becoming one heck, you can really feel the chemistry taking over here. But the fact that the two are reeling with the desire to do it again as soon as it’s over really did me in, as I’m a massive sucker for all things Repressed Lust and Can’t Keep my Hands to Myself in fiction. Gekkamaru’s and Enju’s interactions are deeply erotic, yet also wholesome as heck; and their intense, fulfilling love is most definitely the stuff canon routes should be made off.   


Long story short: I loved every single route in Nightshade, so much so that I actually went for a second helping and replayed them all. The fact that all routes share the same core structure and tell similar events didn’t bother me in the slightest, because I loved that whole Battle Royale affair the game had going. Not only that, but having a similar story for all routes neatly emphasizes the differences between the beaus and Enju’s relationships with them. That game is a pure, dazzling gem to my eyes; I wouldn’t take anything out of it, and the only thing I’d add to make it more impossibly perfect would be a love story between Ennosuke and Kyara. I shipped these two hard, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Anyway, my work here is done; I’ll see you soon with fresh run reports, dear fellow gamers. In the meantime, keep playing and take care!     



The Great Vita Digital Blowout


Hullo, dear fellow gamers! Hope you’re doing fine, and gaming like the wind. I am myself; and if you’re wondering how the OWOG system is working out, I’d say it’s working mightily well. Yet you cannot see it because alas, I can hardly find some time to write my weekly gaming reports these days. Things should settle soon enough; in the meantime, I’ll try to keep posting as often as I can. Stay tuned! ^^

For now, I’ll treat you to a meaty, many-for-one play report. See, I finally got round to taking care of all my Vita digital games once and for all. Many of these titles have been purchased on a whim during PSN sales, and most of them have been sitting in my gaming library for years. As I have more games to play than ever and don’t give a crap about digital stuff anyway, I decided to give them all a chance to shine before ousting them from my memory cards. There were many casualties, and few survived the ordeal. Without further ado, here are all the games that didn’t make the cut so far, and why they didn’t make it. 



Romancing SaGa 3 & Romancing SaGa 2: I gave the former the mother of all college tries, as I promised to do many posts ago. I picked Katarina this time, and things started auspiciously: the whole stealthy sequence in the castle was great fun, and Katarina’s tale was nicely engaging. Alas, things unravelled as soon as I was allowed to fight. I’m sorry, but SaGa 3’s combat is just too darn slow for my taste; and RSG 2, which I tried right after, suffers from the same issue. I really cannot get over those molasse-like fights; maybe I’ll try my hand at the original SNES games one day, but the remakes are a complete no-go.

Neko Buro – Cats Block: Puzzle games are usually not my cup of tea, but I thought the kitty factor could make this one palatable. It did for a while; however, I quickly grew bored and ditched the thing without regret. I’d rather replay Aqua Kitty DX to get my fill of cute felines, thanks very much. 

Dragon Fin Soup: I could deal with the oversized sprites, the approximative physics and the gloomy colour palette; however, DFS lost me when it started punishing me for destroying breakables. What sort of darn c*ck teasing is that, game? Heck, it’s like setting a plate of macarons under my nose and slapping my hand when I try to take one. Keep your destructible-yet-not environments; as for me, I’ll take my mashing urges to another ARPG.

Sumioni – Demon Arts: It looks great, it plays great, it’s a great game overall. But it’s a Platformer, and Platformers are anathema to me especially a Platformer in which I have to draw the darn platforms myself. Heck, it’s already complicated enough to land on them, let alone to draw them! Multi-tasking is not my forte, and that game requires ample amounts of it. Drawing platforms, jumping on them, fighting enemies, unleashing special attacks; my hands and brain begged for mercy, and I was more than glad to humour them by dropping Sumioni

Spectral Souls – RotEE: A.k.a. the Loading Times from Hell. Now lookee here, game: you’re actually running on my Vita from a digital file, not on my PSP from an UMD; so you have absolutely no excuse. And since you also look like a giant turd full of shitty shades of brown, I had no qualms about ditching you before the end of the first fight.


Undertale: That indie title is so critically acclaimed that I grew curious, despite the fact that I fancy neither indie games nor games that try to deliver a meta-message about gaming. Undertale is both, and it bored me stiff after an hour of play. Not only is the gameplay tedious as heck, but the guilt-tripping is seriously annoying. The last thing I want is a game that tries to patronize me b*tch, I’ve had mixed feelings about killing foes in games since I stomped on my first Chibobo in Super Mario Land. I’m acutely aware of the ambiguity of gratification through eradication in games, and I fully accept it nonetheless. 

Cladun – This is an RPG! & Cladun x2: The series' last instalment had failed to enthral me already, and those first two did as well. I really cannot describe precisely what I don’t like in the Cladun games; they just don’t click with me, period. I could tell you I don’t like the over-pixelated graphics, or that I get that persistent feeling that those games are trying too hard to be meta and witty; but really, the bottom line is that I cannot get into Cladun no matter how hard I try. 

The 3rd Birthday: The PSN description promised me an ARPG; yet what I got was much closer to a Tomb Raider-y action game, and a seriously gloomy one at that. Combat systems that require actual motor skills are the ban of my life; and so, it should surprise no one that I gave up on that game after the first (failed) fight. 

Croixleur Sigma: I actually liked that Hack 'n' Slash at first, for its great physics and frantic fights; yet it’s so repetitive that I dropped it after a couple of stages. Mind you, I like repetition and mindless A-button mashing in my real-time combat; yet even I couldn’t help but grow bored of those tiny circular fighting arenas that all look the same. That game has nothing to offer but waves after waves of pesky foes, and it gets old very quickly. 

Hatoful Boyfriend: Budget otome that tries way too hard to be edgy, and forget to tell a good story or a story, full stop. That game is little more than a bunch of VN and otome tropes mashed together; alas, the final product never quite gels. It could certainly do a fine job as Baby's first otome, but it's clearly not meaty enough to satiate a veteran. 

Brandish – The Dark Revenant: With its fiddly physics and yucky graphics, that relic should have stayed safely tucked in the ‘90s where it belongs. It’s an historical curio, that much is sure; but it’s better studied from afar than played. Sorry, Nihon Falcom: I’m totally your b*tch, but I won’t suck up everything with your name on it. 

Elminage Original: An old-fashioned FPDC à la Wizardry. Being the total FPDC whore I am, this game could, and should, have made the cut. Alas for EO, I already own a crap ton of prettier, more modern, physical FPDC starting with a much better series with the same initials.



That’s all for the rejects, folks! As for the ones that made the cut, I promise to play them seriously in the upcoming weeks. Here’s the list for future reference:


Monster Monpiece

Danganronpa 3

Trails of The Sky SC

Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy IX

Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen

Corpse Party: Blood Drive


Let me tell you: I feel mightily better after settling those games’ cases for good. This kinda shows that as far as shearing one’s backlog goes, the feeling of being done with a game is crucial, and totally independent from the actual playing time. With that said, I’ll see you soon with fresh run reports, dear fellow gamers. Until then, keep playing and take care!



Nightshade: The Love Story That Nearly Never Was


Indeed, I came dangerously close to missing on that game entirely; and my, what a pity that would have been. This is simply one of the best otomes I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, a game that ticks all the boxes to qualify for perfect otome in your truly’s eyes. 



I’ll come to these boxes in a minute; but first, I have to explain how and why Nightshade nearly didn’t join my precious collection. See, my tepid experience with the Hakuoki series made me wary of all things Feudal Japan; add to this the fact that I’m not fond of works based on historical facts as a rule, and you’ll understand why I was very reluctant to import a copy of Nightshade. Oh wait, did I forget to mention this? The only way to get Nightshade physical is to import the Japanese version, which supports English. That’s a good thing as a rule, and I can only wish more games would emulate this; but in Nightshade’s case, it was yet another reason not to bother with that game. So why did I change my mind? Well, let’s say the glowing reviews and the splendiferous, gorgeous-beyond-belief art swayed me. 


One Ebay order later, I was playing Nightshade and falling freakin’ hard for it. And now’s the time to mention all the Perfect Otome boxes ticked by that game. To quote Britney Spears (again), the gripping Battle Royale-ish story is a must, and Teita’s dazzling character design is a plus; and so are the lush soundtrack, the stellar voice acting and the convenient affection meters and clues. But most importantly, Nightshade is an otome with wholesome romance. It’s not an Otomate offering, which means no confinement route, no fruitcake and no wolf in sheep’s clothing and my, is it relaxing not to have to worry about the MC’s fortune (and your own sanity) for a change. 



Talking about the MC, I really fancied her. Not only does she have very memorable looks, but she’s nicely fleshed-out and undergoes some very subtle and well-handled character development. It’s worth noting that said character development is partly influenced by the guy she wounds up with, which is both very believable and highly interesting. I have to admit I don’t quite agree with the many reviews describing her as your typical damsel-in-distress and mourning her lack of agency and badasseness. Far from being a helpless crybaby, she's a humble and mature young woman who's aware of her limitations and tries to overcome them whenever she can. Not only that, but her attitude is perfectly consistent with her background. Sure enough, she’s a shinobi; but she’s also been sheltered and protected her whole life, and she has to face an ordeal that would basically break anyone. Can you really blame her for leaning on someone in such circumstances? Not only that, but she’s no Rey Skywalker, i.e. a natural prodigy whose innate talents come from her blood; her parents were regular shinobis, which means that she has to work hard like everybody else to progress. And pray tell, how much progress can she expect to make during a couple of weeks on the run? Not much indeed; and yet, she does manage to progress still in most routes. 

Talking about the routes, I’ll see you soon with a dedicated report. After that, I’ll sail away from VN shores for a while; not only do I have my fill for the time being, but my gaming instinct now craves more engaging offerings. Until next time, dear fellow gamers, keep playing and take care!