I have been in love with this series of Nippon Ichi Software's games ever since The Firefly's Diary. While it received mixed reviews, I was captivated by its innovative game design. I anticipated every release from the original Yomawari: A Night Alone to this year's Rose and the Old Castle of Twilight. Could Yomawari: Midnight Shadows live up to the legacy of its predecessors?
Unlike the original Yomawari: A Night Alone, in Yomawari: Midnight Shadows you play as two protagonists. These are best friends from elementary school; Yui and Haru. The girls are separated and try to find each other out alone on the night time streets of Japan. A flashlight is their only defense against the various ghosts and spirits who inhabit their town.
Gameplay revolves around avoiding ghosts and steadily making your way between each phone or statue on your search. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows improves upon the structure of the original by using Yui's dog, Chako, as your guide. You can choose to explore the town, or follow Chako to the plot's next main area. The areas here are more clearly defined and memorable too. Whether it's the library, where no running signs must be strictly adhered to, the haunted mansion where the house itself plays tricks, or the long maze like sewers, each area is clearly defined.
While the basics, like structure have been improved greatly since the original, the world building and sense of horror are Yomawari: Midnight Shadows true strengths. The main characters are truly vulnerable, both dying in just one hit. Enemies are often aggressive, and with no weapons and only a small amount of space to maneuver, there will be many near misses as well as countless deaths. The isometric viewpoint will be tricky to navigate at times as you have more space on one side to move. However, this is only a minor design niggle.
The sound design is crucial in Yomawari: Midnight Shadows. There is no music. Instead you are constantly reminded of the emptiness of the streets and your loneliness. However, this is still a game best played with the sound on. Not only does each ghost announce its arrival with a distinct cry, but sound really helps add an ominous feel to the game. There are a few jump scares added in, which may feel a little cheap, but not enough to become obnoxious.
The world building runs through every aspect of the game. The menus, diary, and item descriptions are all childlike in their aesthetics. The dialogue is very well written, simple and innocent. All of these small aspects work together to help you view the world through the eyes of Yui and Haru. This gives Yomarwari: Midnight Shadows its unique horror atmosphere. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows improves upon almost every aspect of Yomawari: A Night Alone. Several scenes in the original felt a little fiddly or unfair. In Yomawari: Midnight Shadows this is never the case. The tightening of design has eliminated this. You are always tense, moments from death, and yet somehow managing to scrape through.
This is why you play Yomawari: Midnight Shadows. The sense that you are barely making it through each scene is how the tense horror atmosphere is created. There are plenty of clichés here. Ghosts made of body parts, rooms leading to repeating hallways, and trails of blood are all common, but they are all used effectively. You are aware that these are all common horror tropes and yet you are so absorbed by the atmosphere that it never feels cheesy.
The story is a lot more cohesive here than in the original too. While some concepts like the red strings of fate may be lost on a Western audience, the message of developing ones own independence is universal. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows' story is touching and had me thinking about it long after I had finished.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows does not redefine the horror genre. While there were a few unexpected or surprising sections, it stays firm to typical horror tropes. Instead of breaking the mold it sticks to refining and perfecting the basic aspects it has. Gameplay is tightly designed with varying strategies to use. The atmosphere created by all its aspects is creepy, tense and yet charming. Everything is held together with a heartwarming story.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is a game perfect for fans of various genres. Fans of the original will find a perfectly executed sequel which improves on the first while maintaining the mood. But fans of horror, story driven games, exploration and adventure will find something to enjoy here too. If any of this sounds good to you give Yomawari: Midnight Shadows a try. It's sure not to disappoint.
Our Yomawari Midnight Shadows review was conducted on PlayStation Vita with a Japanese copy purchased by the reviewer. The game is also available on PC via Steam and PlayStation 4.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows mixes a creepy cute art style, atmospheric sound design and a heart warming story to create a comfy horror experience. A few jump scares aside, it captures the scary ambiance perfectly.(Review Policy)
- Creepy Cute Visuals
- Show Don't Tell Storytelling
- Great Horror Atmosphere
- Jump Scares
- Camera Makes Maneuvering Difficult