Nightshade: A Weak Port of a Robust Visual Novel

Visual novels are an idea that would seem great on the Switch as the choice for the gamer on the go. Games such as Pokemon Let’s Go or Super Mario Odyssey may lend themselves more to docked gameplay to take advantage of better visuals or control options. This is in where Nightshade by Otome shines, a fan favorite port of a 2017 PC release. The genre lends itself to break times at work or school and short commutes in public transportation due to its narrative focus. Even with the boons of the genre behind it, Nightshade carries its own share of problems.

Nightshade has the player take the role of the daughter of Kando Ueno, leader of the Koga ninja. You are a fledgling ninja with a strong bloodline, who is undertaking her first official mission after the end of the Sengoku Period. The main focus of the game is to build a relationship with one of the five love interests. The personalities of these men are charming and vary from a gentleman thief type, to your assigned protector in this post-Sengoku era drama. During the mission your interactions with these men will set you on a storyline path with the one you show the most affection to. These open up stories with choices that culminate in either a good or bad ending for each character. The game also offers a quicksave and load option to help you reconsider your choices in the moment should you not want the given outcome. This is all presented with beautiful anime artwork that breathes life into each character.

Though the game offers a robust amount of stories with colorful characters, the overarching narrative of Nightshade is very predictable and weak. This becomes apparent through multiple playthroughs of which not even its high-quality art can’t save. While character illustrations are colorful and at times are able to create a great atmosphere, some characters have no art to portray them at all. This leads to immersion breaking moments that feel almost out of place in the already weak story. There is also a lack of dynamic splash pages or animations to convey powerful moments which serves to cheapen their effect on the story. These glaring problems, along with the lack of any sort of tutorials for newcomers could make Nightshade difficult to approach. One may end up learning the hard way that there is no autosave feature in the game!

The Good: Fun and exciting characters with colorful and expressive anime portrayals. Good and bad ending for each companion. Great game to play on the go for the Switch.

The Bad: Weak and predictable overarching narrative. Minimalist effort on dynamic art and animation. No formal tutorial for the wide array of options the game offers.

The Bottom Line: Nightshade is a polarizing game, to say the least. There is a lot in it, with a great cast of characters who interact well with the player and the rest of the cast. The anime art style is high quality and each companion offers a different story, which will have you coming back to see it all. Though these boons, along with ease of portability cannot save Nightshade from its many flaws. From lacking impactful art assets, to the lack any sort of tutorial for the many options given, this port of Nightshade is only for the dedicated fan.

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