Release Date: January 21, 2021 (North America)
Developers: HuneX, Dramatic Create
Publishers: HuneX, Dramatic Create
Platforms: PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
STORY (From Ephemeral’s Official Website)
Fleeting, yet beautiful. The world of darkness…
The main protagonist, Cloé lived in a secluded town. Surrounded by wire fences, it felt like she was trapped inside a cage.
Zombies were the only residents in that town, and she wasn’t the exception.
Many took their own life rather than to age away, but they were otherwise living a peaceful life. One day however…
As Cloé was hoping to see the outside world, she received an invitation.
An invitation to attend a prestigious, diverse school only the most talented and skilled could join.
ART AND MUSIC
The first thing you’ll probably notice in Ephemeral – Fantasy on Dark is its astonishing character design and overall artwork illustrated by Japanese artist Kinami Nagahara. I’d like to add that the background art in this game was also really pretty. Other projects done by this artist were: “Secret Crush: Kataomoi” (from a mobile app called, My Lovey: Choose your Otome Story), HuneX’s Ephemeral Garden (a spin-off of the original game, set in the same universe with new characters), and the Chibi character sprites for Ticolity Eyes.
Fun Fact: Kinami Nagahara also contributed to Otomate’s Sephiroth card collection game where she previously illustrated a few of our favorite bois in Hakuoki, Diabolik Lovers, Collar x Malice, Wand of Fortune, Nil Admirari, Code Realize, Cafe Enchanté and more!
Check out the links below to some of her works! 👏🏻
I’ve also enjoyed Ephemeral – Fantasy on Dark’s soundtrack. The OP song in-particular performed by artist, Mao Uzuki, was pretty catchy! Composer, Maruyama Kimiyoshi and studio, Project Lights were in-charge of arranging and composing Ephemeral’s OSTs including it’s BGMs. Their other works includes the soundtrack for the following otome games: Steam Prison, and Ozmafia!! Vivace.
Takashi Kondo “Shiba“ – Kogitsunemaru (Touken Ranbu), Subaru (Diabolik Lovers), Mahoutsukai (Dot Kareshi -We’re 8-bit Lovers-), Hirashima Yoshichika (Harukanaru 7), Satou Tsugunobu (Birushana Senki)
Shun Horei “Nagi” – Okubo Toshimichi (Destined to Love: Ikemen Samurai Romance), Gerard (Angelique Retour), Himuka (Olympia Soiree), Todoroki Kazumi (Himehibi Another Princess Days -White or Black-)
Kazuyuki Okitsu “Ray” – Epilogi (Cafe Enchanté), Kyrie (OZMAFIA!!), Keith Knight (Iris School of Wizardy), Rin Korei (Jakou no Lyla), Kazuma (Spiral Memoria), Serigano Manatsu (Ayakashi Gohan), Tsukuyomi (Olympia Soiree)
Toshiyuki Toyonaga “Natsume” – Orlok (Piofiore: Fated Memories), Mozart (IkeVamp), Totsuka Takeru (Kamigami no Asobi), Seiji Kobayashi (London Detective Mysteria)
There’s no specific route order in this game, so by all means pick any character you want to start first. I played and enjoyed mine in the order suggested by HuneX, which was: Shiba – Nagi – Ray – Natsume. Natsume’s route was somewhat a little *darker* compared to the other bachelors, so if you want to start with something lighthearted, maybe avoid picking his route on your first playthrough.
- soft tsun
Shiba is Cloé’s werewolf classmate. He is energetic, good-natured, and friendly to the heroine. He prides himself on his strong sense of smell, an ability the werewolf race genuinely possesses. He’s very easy to read and rather slow in the noggin, which makes him the butt of the jokes most of the time, during the group’s silly little squabbles. He enjoys playing pranks and tricks to his classmates, particularly to Ray and Natsume, though these so-called pranks usually backfire on him.
Shiba ultimately gave me Mineo (CxM) vibes from the start, and this was perhaps what motivated me to do his story first. I admit I enjoyed playing his route a lot because Shiba was naturally such a simple-minded character. 😆He’s honestly quite amusing, to say the least. Shiba can also get tactless & sometimes stupid, which makes him the comic relief of the bunch. His “Romance” segment was adorably funny that it made me laugh and 😂 wheeze countless times, out of random. His “Lovers” segment, however, was probably my least favorite in the game because of how his character completely soured my genki opinion of him during his last three chapters. While his ending was still good, I felt like the forced angst in his “Lovers” route (from ep.7-10) was completely unnecessary.
- best boi
- a good boi ❤
Nagi is an Invisible Man, a race who’s one of the lowest ranks in the “Classes of Darkness” hierarchy. As an invisible man, he can conceal his presence completely, though, despite his rare ability, he receives unfair treatment due to the crooked hierarchy system at hand. As such, he gets bullied so often by other students. Nonetheless, this setback did not deter him from focusing all his efforts to studying and learning. Just like Shiba, Nagi is one of the friendlier LI’s to the heroine. He’s very bright & knowledgeable, but seems to carry sadness in his eyes, unnoticeable yet unforgettable once you see it.
At first glance, I thought Nagi was going to be my least favorite since I’m normally not a fan of the soft-spoken, shota-looking love interests (laughs). But, damn! Did his route surprised me! Nagi was probably the only route I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in Ephemeral, from start to finish. I was unexpectedly plowing through his route, savoring every minute of it until I realized it was all over.😢 I loved how natural his relationship with Cloé developed. It never felt forced nor overdone, and their romantic bond together felt very genuine. It was surprisingly good! Nagi’s story was also the only route that touched up heavily on the heroine’s family background. It was honestly, very interesting and I admit, I even shed a few tears on both of his happy endings.
Ray belongs to the vampire race, the second-highest rank in the “Classes of Darkness” hierarchy system. He possesses an insufferably arrogant personality and remains blatantly ignorant of the world around him. As a vampire, Ray is extremely fond of beautiful things. He tends to handpick the victims he feasts on, only taking blood from those with beautiful appearances. He initially takes an interest in the heroine due to her beautiful face.
Ray started as a very rude character in his “Romance” route. I’m not kidding when I say he’s literally ‘insufferable’ – because the guy can be a real jerk sometimes (＃`Д´). Just like any other vampire anime trope, where a lot of girls flock to mr. vampire-sama, begging him to suck their blood, Ray’s route wasn’t any different. Of course, let’s not forget the fact that because Ray is Cloé’s supporter, the heroine gets a lot of hate from his so-called fanbase, too. This made his story stereotypically cliché, and it probably took me around eight chapters to actually learn to like him! ha!😏 Despite this, Ray pretty much redeemed himself in his “Lovers” segment, where his character made a complete 180, and I was even shook, how much I’ve enjoyed this turnabout myself. ٩(♡ε♡)۶ Romance aside, I’d like to note that the heroine had a couple of buffoonery moments in this route, which gave me plenty of laughs. 😆
- mum-my issues (pun intended) 😂
- y*nd*r e
Natsume is a very collected and reserved individual. He knows how to draw a line between himself and others. He rarely mingles with his classmates and normally puts up a barrier between them, making sure they can’t get too close to him. Although he is a mummy of low-class, he somehow stands out in the crowd and mysteriously has an air of elegance around him.
Natsume was probably a good route to play last, since his story had a lot of revelations concerning Ephemeral’s overworld. His route also tackled a few affairs involving the “Classes of Darkness”. Natsume’s character was very complex per se, but I believe this was carefully explained in his route; why he acted the way he did, and why he had such psychological trauma regarding his past. Although I liked Natsume’s tragic background, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about his romantic relationship with the heroine. At one point, the romance got a little bit shoehorned… but oddly enough, I kind of just accepted it in the long run. lol😅 I did enjoy both his happy endings though, especially in his “Lovers” segment. Toyonaga’s voice was also such a delight in this route, so if you’re a fan of this seiyuu, I guess that’s at least something to look forward to in Natsume’s story!
CLOÉ (Main Heroine)
Cloé is a curious zombie girl that has lived her entire life in a secluded town for her race. She is absolutely clueless about the outside world and is unfamiliar with the hierarchy of races. Zombies are merely classified as the lowest ranking class in the pyramid, so just like any other low-ranked race, her kind gets treated unfairly. As a zombie, her body is fragile and delicate to a point where it’ll take almost three weeks to heal a simple wound such as a papercut.
For the most part, I think Cloé’s cluelessness was justified due to her living in seclusion all her life. However, she can get too ditzy at times, to a point where her lack of common sense can really get on your nerves. Her characteristics seem to change depending on which route she’s in, too. I like that she was highly proactive in Nagi’s route, but I’ve also enjoyed seeing her as a bumbling idiot in Shiba and Ray’s route. This heroine is a walking slapstick comedy at its finest!😂 I also admire her motivation in Natsume’s route despite having a few gripes with their relationship. What’s consistent about Cloé was that she’s utterly hilarious in pretty much all the routes. Like, she knows she’s not the brightest, but she doesn’t shy away from wholeheartedly admitting her shortcomings (sometimes in a funny way), and this was one of her admirable traits that really grew on me. Embrace your flaws girl! All in all, not the best protagonist out there but totally not detestable in any kind of way either.
SYSTEM AND LOCALIZATION
The Nintendo Switch port for Ephemeral was quite comfortable to navigate. I like that it offers a scene rewind option – this made selecting the correct in-game choices and going back and forth with it, such a breeze! There’s also an option for you to turn on the ‘affection effects’ – this basically gives you hints which ‘ending’ on a route, you are currently heading to.
One gripe I’d like to bring up was that the cast interview (Roundtable Chat 1&2) in the EXTRA section was NOT translated. This can be REALLY disappointing, especially if you’re someone like me, who’s literally a simp for seiyuus. I would’ve love to know what my boi Toyonaga-kun was laughing at during his interview. (｡•́︿•̀｡)
I have never played the STEAM version of this game, so I couldn’t give any comparisons if the English translations have improved. But as far as the switch port goes, I still see a handful of grammatical errors here and there, and the dialogues can get a bit stilted at times. The typos didn’t bother me since I read pretty fast and I was still able to enjoy the game despite these TL mistakes. But I can definitely see how this can be immersion-breaking for others.
I was also quite surprised that the heroine’s default name was not voiced. I’m not sure if this was the same case for the STEAM version. This probably isn’t a huge deal, but I’m kinda used to leaving the protag’s name by default so I can hear the LI’s say it in the game. ┐(‘～` )┌
My gameplay for Ephemeral – Fantasy on Dark was rather short. It took me a total of 12-15 hours to finish the entire game. This includes unlocking all the endings and playing the untranslated interviews in the “EXTRA” section (laughs).😅 Each route has two segments:
Romance – this story follows through the prologue after the heroine chooses an LI as her supporter. This part has two endings: one ‘Happy Ending’, which canonically is the best ending for the route, and the ‘Normal Ending’, which still gets the heroine and LI together, just not as happy as the latter.
Lovers – this automatically unlocks after finishing the ‘Romance’ part of a character. These are mostly short romantic stories (divided into chapters) of the heroine and her chosen love interest’s day to day lives as lovers. This segment has two endings: one ‘Happy Ending’, which again, is technically the best ending for the route, and one ‘Bad Ending’, which can sometimes end up *tragically* (read: very sad) for both the heroine and her LI.
Because this title was “Romance over Plot” (and was initially written for mobile platforms), I was already setting my expectations low before I dove into this game. To my surprise, I’ve actually enjoyed this title more than I expected! The plot is silly and logically does not make a lick of sense, but I’ve got to say, the world-building was pretty on point. The game did not shy away from giving you specific details about Ephemeral’s overworld. Such as the hyperbolic, made-up hierarchy system for monster races. Yes, it was ridiculous, but it was definitely interesting enough to keep me invested. I’ve also enjoyed Ephemeral’s coherency in literature’s most common themes in fables. A few examples were: Vampires’ saliva having healing properties (Cirque du Freak series), mermaids being very jealous and possessive creatures (Peter Pan, The Sea Lady, etc.), and of course the infamous ‘pact with the devil and get one wish‘ shebang.
Most of the stories were notably predictable to a T, and some routes weren’t that memorable as others. Nagi’s story was perhaps my favorite because it involved a lotta scenes of him and the heroine being proactive together as a team. Shiba’s character was such a delight, except that his last three chapters just didn’t do it for me lol. Ray had some cute fluffy moments going, while I’m just a little ‘ehh‘ with Natsume’s route altogether ╮( ˘ ､ ˘ )╭ (shrug). I’ve also enjoyed some of the side characters in this game, particularly the heroine’s best friend, Erica. What an awesome friend! I wouldn’t mind a BFF route where I get to spend time with her doing girly things like shopping for clothes, trying out some sweets, or just plain ol’ kiki-ing with my best girl!
Do I recommend this game? YES.
If you’re looking for a nice short otome game with beautiful art, an awesome cast of voice actors and very fluffy romantic stories that aren’t plot-heavy, Ephemeral – Fantasy on Dark is certainly a good pick. However, don’t expect to be mind-blown by its plot nor get too in-depth with it because you will be disappointed. I definitely enjoyed this title myself though I wouldn’t say it’s close to a favorite. From my experience alone, I believe the pros no doubt outweigh the cons of this game. Then again, if you’re still hesitant if it’s actually worth paying the full price of a game you’re not sure you’ll enjoy, maybe wait for a sale instead. 😘