Very, very rarely does a gameabout the Tokugawa Shogunate. There are thousands of games about the Sengoku wars that came immediately before, and there are plenty made about the end of the Shogunate as well. The 250 years in the middle, however, are largely blank (at gaming).
A major part of the reason for this is that those years were essentiallydevelopers tend to struggle with peace as a concept. Additionally, for people to understand. As it was almost completely shut off from the world during this time, very little is known about the era outside of Japan. Even to this day. So both developers and localisers have a these stories to the West. With no wars and political stability, what can a game with the era? A fantasy visual novel, as it turns out. Enter Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo.
This is another Otomate/Idea Factory visual novel, and we’ve seen in the past that this team knows how to work with historical settings. Hakuouki was the first commercially localised otome and remains a classic to this day. It was set during the Tokugawa Shogunate’s dying years. Birushana, localised last year, was set many years during the Genpei war. Initially, Winter’s Wish looks like it should be similar to those two, just from a different It has the same breathtaking art samurai men. But it’s actually very different.
Although Hakuouki and Birushana are fictional stories, they were rooted in real history far more than Winter’s Wish. I’m not even sure the characters in this game are modelled afterthe organisation at the centre of the drama, the shogun’s Oniwaban information network, was a real thing. In addition to the uncertain amount of real fantastic elements come thick and fast in Winter’s Wish. The protagonist has a rare gift: She can see the to each and every person and that change colour with their moods. That means she can also see when a critical mass of threads (negative emotions) comes together in an area. This is because when that happens, a monster is unleashed on the world.
Meanwhile, the Oniwaban areThey are spiritual manifestations of objects that take the form of humans, and are tasked with tracking down and slaying these monsters. So, at the start of the story, the protagonist from her secluded life in rural press her into service for the good of all.
While this is all very obviously fantastic, the research into the era is clearMost impressively is the way the narrative describes the three major “regions” of Edo (now Tokyo) where the action happens. Firstly, there’s the town, where the upper classes shelter the rest of the world out). It’s peaceful, but filled with political intrigue. There is some real Game of Thrones stuff on in that ivory tower. Secondly, there’s the main city itself, where the commoners live happens. It’s the vibrant soul of the city. And then there’s the entertainment quarter, filled with theatres, brothels, and other ways to pass idle time. In the entertainment quarter it’s always exciting… and equally dangerous.
You’ll get to choose one of these three areas to help the Oniwaban in theirbecomes the major “arc” for you to follow. Each of these arcs has two Oniwaban boys to interact with, and each arc provides a very different narrative. None of that is unusual for the visual novel course, no visual novel has this setting, narrative or theme either, so it remains experience.
As anromance is technically the goal in Winter’s as with most of Otomate’s work, the journey there is filled with far more depth. In some of the routes, the protagonist learns to fight, so action in those. The game also takes great lengths to and culture at the time. This is just as well, as most be the era will appreciate the crash course.
deep Japanese culture via the Shinto faith. In short, the Japanese believe that everything – living and inanimate – has some kind of soul to it, and needs to be respected as such. This is why the Japanese have created entire forms of art around repairing broken things rather than tossing them, as we tend to do in the West. Winter’s Wish takes that a step further by actually manifesting beings from objects of precious value – not just the Oniwaban but in general society – and it uses this to canvass a wide range of themes, from discrimination through to Certainly, there are heavier and more thematically dense games out there (including by Otomate itself), but through this theme, we can see intelligence and sharpness around Winter’s Wish which makes it well worth reading and musing over.
Finally, I really can’t emphasise enough just how gorgeous this game is. One of the reasons that I – a very straight guy that isn’t romantically interested in men at all – lovegames is this quality about them. Where visual novels with romance themes aimed at men tend to fixate on sex organs and bust sizes, games allow the intensity of the back that up with incredible, intricate and detailed character designs that wouldn’t look out of place in a gallery. Otomate remains one of in the business at this, and Winter’s Wish is right up there with its work of all.
The only issue I have with the game isIt’s not that there are typos or grammatical errors (in fact, for a game of this size, and given what the localisation budget must have been, it’s impressively clean). Rather, there are moments where the writing shifts, ever so briefly, into something blatantly modern and Western in tone.
By giving us a rare – albeit fantastic – lookan almost completely ignored period of Japanese history Otomate has given us a gift. Winter’s Wish is beautiful and written We’ve got cast of characters, a meaty narrative to work through, and some notes to more about a fascinating chapter of history. It’s a win all around.