Release Date: December 20, 2018 (North America)
Developers: Red Entertainment / LANTERN ROOMS
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)
ESRB Rating: M (Mature) 17+
PROLOGUE (from Nightshade’s official site)
During the Sengoku Period the two main factions of ninja clans, Iga and Kōga, warred against each other for decades.
In the year 1593, Nobunaga Oda started the Tenshō Iga war, decimating most of the Iga ninjas in the process. The very few that survived were absorbed into the Kōga clan, despite their past rivalries. After 17 years the Sengoku Period finally came to an end, and Japan was unified.
Enju (Protagonist), daughter of Kandō Ueno, the Head of the Kōga clan, spends her days training diligently in hope of becoming a full-fledged ninja like her peers. At long last, she is assigned to her first mission but finds herself caught in a dark conspiracy.
ART AND MUSIC
One of Nightshade’s prominent features that’ll easily make an impression among otome fans, is its art style. The game credits non-other than the famous illustrator, Teita who’s fairly popular for her other works such as Norn9, the Juuzaengi Engetsu Sangokuden saga, and the recently released visual novel, Charade Maniacs.
I wish I could say the same for the game’s musical score. The OP theme was nice but wasn’t memorable at all. The END theme (Good End) however, “Taezaru Hana” by MIKOTO was pretty soothing that I ended up purchasing the track in iTunes. Listen to the full song below:
Nightshade honestly has the best seiyuu lineup. The voice acting was, in fact, one of the major highlights of the game. The VAs really did an amazing job portraying the character’s emotions. I was already expecting this much from their top-notch VA list, but they did more than stellar performances with this game!
Hikaru Midorikawa ♥ “Goemon Ishikawa” – Tamahome (Fushigi Yuugi Suzaku Ibun), Zenya (Sweet Pool), Ayato (Diabolik Lovers), Hanate (7’Scarlet), Yutaka Nabari (Nil Admirari)
Wataru Hatano “Gekkemaru” – Asato (Lamento Beyond the Void), Lindo (Dance with the Devils), Kotarou (Hakuoki), Sakiyama Youji (Sweet Pool), Yuuto (Storm Lover)
Hiro Shimono “Kuroyuki“ – Shou Kurusu (Utapri), Senri Ichinose (Norn9), Sou Kiryuu (Harukanaru Toki no Naka De 5), Ricchie (Black Wolves Saga), Ray Blackwell (Ikerev)
Kenjiro Tsuda “Hanzo Hattori” – Chikage Kazama (Hakuoki), Soshi Amazaki (The Charming Empire), Leonardo Da Vinci (Ikevamp), Nathan Seymour (Tiger & Bunny)
Kosuke Toriumi “Chojiro Momochi” – Hajime Saito (Hakuoki), Kagiha (Psychedelica BB), Poyo-Poyo (Period Cube), Hideyoshi (Ikesen), Lawrence (Psychedelica AH), John Watson (Code Realize)
MAIN CHARACTERS (Spoiler Free)
I must say, I love all of the characters and their routes that it was hard for me to pick a favorite. If you’re concerned with plot spoilers in your first playthrough, my recommendation would be to play the routes in the following order (from least to greatest in spoiler content): Goemon – Hanzo – Chojiro – Kuroyuki – Gekkamaru. For enjoyability, I’d recommend playing in the same order. Goemon and Hanzo were the lighter routes, Chojiro was angst from start to finish and the brothers (Kuroyuki and Gekkamaru) have more plot revelations than you’d expect. I would also strongly recommend saving Gekkamaru’s route for last, trust me when I say, this makes your last playthrough more worthwhile. 😉
- The Japanese Robin Hood
True to his name in history books, Goemon Ishikawa is the legendary Japanese outlaw who stole gold and other valuables from the rich to give to the poor. He’s very popular among the townspeople due to his ingenious thieving schemes. He is known to send prior notices to his targets before he robs them off their treasures. Goemon is also a highly skilled ninja who has the wit of a brilliant tactician.
Playing Goemon’s route first was a good choice since his story was the lightest among the bachelors in the game, plus I haven’t fallen in love with Midorikawa’s voice in a while, so there’s also that ha! I find Goemon’s story really refreshing due to his carefree personality and charismatic nature. Because of this, it was so easy to like this character from the get-go. Going down his route will let you discover a few revelations regarding Goemon’s past, where he came from and how he ended up as the notorious thief he is now. His route also offers a couple of plot twists and although it was a little predictable towards the end, it was executed really well where it didn’t feel awkward nor forced. As far as the romance goes, Goemon is a straight-up, ladykiller. It was fun to see his relationship with Enju develop all throughout his route. His playful teasing and his easy-going personality will have you falling for him in no time.
- Mr. stoic ninja
Besides, being Lord Ieyasu Tokugawa’s personal guard, Hanzo is also the Tokugawa clan’s shinobi leader. Because of his resounding title as the strongest ninja history has ever known, he is very popular among all the shinobi clans in Japan. He is normally calm and collected but will not hesitate to become ruthless for the success of his mission.
Hanzo is the oldest among the bachelors (and I absolutely love him!) He is, I believe 33 years old, making quite an age gap between him and the heroine Enju, but LOL this is Toyotomi-Tokugawa (Edo 1600’s – 1800’s) period we’re talking about, where huge age gaps among couples are very common… But age aside, let me tell you… Hanzo’s route completely took me by surprise! I have no words! *Breaths heavily* I guess, I was already eyeing this character from the start since Kenjiro Tsuda voiced him. But I wasn’t expecting his arc to be this good that it literally caught me off guard. He ended up becoming my favorite of the entire game!
At first, he started as the very straightforward stoic kind, who’s only doing his master, Lord Tokugawa’s bidding. But after a few encounters where he teams up with the heroine and helps her survive, he begins to slightly soften up, giving us a glimpse of his true adorable fluffy nature. Both Hanzo and Enju go through tremendous character development in this route, especially the heroine. I just love seeing Enju prove herself time and again how much she wanted to make it as a true shinobi while she constantly faces hardships every step of the way (she’s freakin’ cool!) I also love seeing Hanzo unexpectedly supporting her through her struggles. It’s as if, rather than saving her all the time, he wants her to learn to depend on herself instead; and to me, this relationship was truly very refreshing, not to mention absolutely heartwarming. Expect a lot of badass back to back action scenes in this route, where Hanzo and Enju kick some ninja ass!
- Big Brother
- Angst! Angst! Angst!
Chojiro is the son of the late leader of Iga, Tanba Momochi . After losing his family and clan in the Tensho Iga War at the age of five, he joined the Koga clan along with the other Iga survivors. Chojiro is also the heroine’s cousin as well as her mentor/trainer. He is a man of a few words and he completely devotes himself to his missions without questions.
I made a mistake playing Chojiro’s route earlier in the game as I wasn’t ready for a sudden whirlwind of angst! At the start, Chojiro’s personality was very closed off, its almost as if he has built a wall before him to keep others away. Because of his tragic past, he doesn’t want to get attached to anyone, afraid he’d lose them at the blink of an eye just like how he lost his parents when he was young. This makes his relationship with Enju a little less intimate from the beginning. As the heroine tries her best to get a closer reach of him, he waves his feelings off because he’s conflicted between succeeding his missions as a shinobi versus his own desire to help Enju and stay by her side.
Chojiro’s route was also the most tragic in the game!😭 Ya’ll better prepare those tissues! Romantic wise, his story was not my favorite. The drama just out-weights the romance on this one. I do love the writing in his route though. It seriously gave me an emotional breakdown I wasn’t prepared for. 😅I suggest playing his route in the middle to get the angst out of the way. This, also kinda gives you more room to recuperate from the heavy drama before jumping into an even more dramatic finish as you do Gekka’s route last.
- clever, cunning
Kuroyuki is Gekkamaru’s younger brother. Right after he was born, both boys became orphans and were taken in by Enju’s family. He was sent away on an extended mission when he was eight, by the heroine’s father Kando Ueno, who’s also the leader and head chief of the Koga clan. Kuroyuki is also the same age as Enju (16).
Not much is revealed about this character other than he is Gekkamaru’s brother who was sent on a secret mission when he was eight years old. Where did he go? What was he doing for the last eight years he was gone? It was rather questionable how his character (in other routes) always comes and goes sporadically in the plot.
I couldn’t really expound more on Kuroyuki’s arc without entering spoiler territory but going down his route will let you discover one interesting revelation about him and the game’s overarching plot. It was quite satisfying to play Yuki’s route because finally! we get to fill in some plot holes. I fell in love with his story for the same reasons some people are calling it out for. It wasn’t light nor easy-going as Goemon’s or Hanzo’s, it wasn’t tragic as Chojiro’s or Gekkamaru’s. It was dark and I probably wouldn’t have it in any other way. Kudos to Hiro Shimono for breathing extra life into this character!
- best boi
- puppy eyes
true route ish?
After losing his family at the age of three, Gekkamaru was adopted by the heroine’s parents along with his younger brother Kuroyuki. Gekkamaru was assigned as Enju’s trusted bodyguard when they were young and has proven his loyalty and devotion through time by sticking to his role as Enju’s protector. He is wholeheartedly committed to his master (Enju) to a point where he becomes too overprotective of her.
So after going through all kinds of heaps and hooplas of playing
and suffering each of the character routes in the game, I’m finally down on my last one, Gekkamaru. I know you can just play his route whenever but I chose to do his story last for the experience. ohoho!
…and I have no regrets!😭 Gekkamaru’s route started with pure dramatic fluff as expected. It was just so precious and endearing to see how far this man would go for the sake of the heroine. His loyalty and dedication for Enju was such a pure bliss that it even pains me to see him doing too much😭. His route was a combination of action, romance, a side of humor and a whole lot of drama as he and the heroine struggled to survive by each other’s side. I thought to myself, “This story couldn’t get any better or worse, could it?” but then angst hits the fan through plot twists after plot twists (during the last chapters) and this was where the story really picked up. I was at loss for words. I felt really sad, angry and confused. His route put me through a tidal wave of emotions, I had to pause the game for a while, sit in a corner to get my head straight, and my breathing in check! lmao! Gekkamaru’s route is like a slow burn, heart-rending gut punch and I absolutely loved it.
ENJU UENO (Main Heroine)
Enju is a strong heroine and I adore her to bits. Unfortunately, her potentiality to become an even better shinobi was wasted in some routes because of the whole damsel in distress scenarios, with the exception of Hanzo’s and Gekkamaru’s route ~ these were probably the only arcs where Enju was able to hone her skills as a ninja and showed her true strengths.
Enju Ueno was literally, thrown to the wolves when she got caught up into this despicable game of survival, out of the blue. Not only that, but the ordeal she went through of betrayal, loss, and sorrow was absolutely too much to handle for someone her age. Still, despite all the hardships, she chose to live and survive. I was thoroughly impressed by her determination which I believe was one of her strongest points. YES, this is one badass heroine right here folks!
Ennosuke (Left) – The fastest ninja in the Koga clan. He’s not romanceable, and I don’t think I’d want him as a dateable character either, heh. I love his friendly banters with Kyara.
Kyara (Right) – Proud, graceful, responsible, and badass on the battlefield. Her weapon of choice is a “chigirigi” which is similar to the “morning star” in medieval age weaponry. I ship her with Ennosuke. Also, Saori Hayami voices her, so this to me was a plus!
Kasumi (Center) – the cutest, most adorable ninja…ever! She’s the youngest of Chojiro’s disciples. Looks up to Enju and Kyara as her older sisters. I love her so much! *must protecc*
SYSTEM AND LOCALIZATION
I purchased the physical copy of Nightshade (proxy shipped) which lets you choose three language options to start the game with (English, Chinese, Japanese). I can say, that the localization was fairly decent. I didn’t play the PC version, but I asked a few people who owned both PC and Switch copy and as far as their answers go, D3Publisher did not change the English translations for Nightshade on the Switch. They changed the fonts though! D3Publisher is known to deliver decent game localizations. They’re not the best but they’re not disappointing either. I’ve spotted a couple of minor typos in the game, but it’s NOT something that would ruin the whole experience for you.
The Switch system was very comfortable and very easy to navigate from the jump. They even offer a “rewind” option for you to backtrack scenarios, which to me, was a saving grace. This way, making the correct save files became a piece of cake. The Nintendo Switch version also contains the game’s DLC “Special Content”. These are extra fluff episodes that happened in the middle of a character’s story. They also come with a special CG (one for each story).
OVERALL THOUGHTS? (ﾉ´ヮ`)ﾉ*: ･
It took me a total of 30 hours to finish the game, and none of these 1800 minutes spent were wasted. Yes, I loved every bit of it.
Although the story was set in the Sengoku “Warring” period of Japan. Instead of the usual cliche battleground premise, that’s normally used in Sengoku themed animes and VNs. Nightshade’s story focused more on the darker side of politics during the said period. The indirect “battle royale” theme, I admit, was quite bracing and very well-paced, at that. It was something I never expected to actually work in an otome game.
Besides Nightshade’s gorgeous artwork, I wanted to compliment the game’s stunning special effects, such as the leaves falling in the BG, flower petals scattering about (whenever Enju uses her ninjitsu), and the moving sprites (which played exceptionally well during fight scenes). The voice acting for Nightshade blew me away and I couldn’t have wished for a better seiyuu lineup. I guess my only gripe here was Enju’s inconsistency as the heroine. In some routes, she’s badass while in others, she’s weak and very dependent. Her characteristics as a whole seem to vary depending on who’s the guy she’s with. I still love her as the main protagonist though!
While I’ve enjoyed playing all the routes in Nightshade and their respective stories, the ones that made an impression on me were Hanzo’s, Goemon’s and Gekkamaru’s. Chojiro’s was good but it was too angsty for my taste and while Kuroyuki’s story drove me to the edge of my seat, this is the route where Enju is at her weakest.
Do I recommend this game? YES
This is the first-ever English otome game in the Switch that I would no doubt recommend to everyone at the drop of a hat. I’m so glad I’ve waited for this port, despite all the STEAM sales that have gone by the previous years 😂 (laughs). To be honest, I was even quite sad when I finished it, and wished there was more content for me to explore. If you’re having second thoughts about whether or not it’s worth shelling out 48 bux to get this game in your Nintendo Switch Library. Here’s my advice: GET IT! This one’s definitely a gem and imo, almost up to par with the big titles (like Code Realize, Hakuoki, CxM). If you want an otome game with an impressive storyline and characters you can’t ever get enough of, I can’t recommend Nightshade enough!