October is the month for many where a crisp chill in the air creeps in and the build up of spooky vibes occurs during the entirety of the month to its final day. For others, it’s not a necessity to play dress-up; Just cozy-ing up under some sheets and enjoying specific entertainment is enough. With the addition of Yomawari: The Long Night Collection available just in time for Halloween on October 30th in North America on Nintendo Switch, it’s the perfect game to crawl into bed, plug in a pair of earbuds and enjoy the going on a horror-adventure with only the glow from Nintendo Switch becoming the focal point in the dark. Included are two titles previously released on PlayStation Vita both which have participated in the October tradition, both Yomawari: Night Alone (2015) and Yomawari: Midnight Shadows (2017). Nippon Ichi Software has imagined a charming & grim take on the horror genre which has their staple visual style and fun, yet simple gameplay ideas. Switch on your flash light and keep movin’.
The two entries in the Yomawari series may be played in any order as they are both stand-alone. Fundamentally, they also play very similar with minor tweaks. In Yomawari: The Long Night Collection, players control a character with a flashlight to explore the dark depths of Japanese metropolis and commuter parts of town filled with spirits derived directly from Japanese folklore in an isometric view. Navigation always takes place during the nighttime, whether it’s through the towns, factories, graveyards, forests and other locations. The initial beginnings for each game takes no time to introduce players the basic controls. Occurring at the same time is the setup for each game’s plot. Though both stories game remain simple in nature, its nature is rather brooding in some cases.
No matter what style of game Nippon Ichi Software plans to make, they’re all done with a particular level of charm in the art style. Such is the case here for Yomawari: The Long Night Collection and yet despite all that tones of horror and lingering sorrow are still achieved. Sure, you probably can’t resist noticing the cuteness of the main characters’ chibi style and attire the entire time, but occasional jump-scares, lurking threats, their design, and even the sound design deliver on the overall atmosphere. Across both games, the principles are the same: explore the town, find clues and never come in contact with the spirits. The games immediately ease you into understanding the controls.
Moving the left analog controls the character while the right analog adjusts the angle of the flashlight. Pressing and holding L will allow you to “tiptoe”. Pressing and holding R will allow you to run consuming stamina located on the bottom of the screen. While the stamina meter drains moderately slow, nearby threats will drain it considerably faster. Knowing how to optimize this meter and manage your running will greatly improve your escape from danger. Pressing X will bring a pop-up of throwable items you have collected (pressing L & R during this will cycle left or right between them) and pressing Y will throw the item. Items vary and are mainly used for distracting spirits. Pressing Plus will bring up the map where every part of it is only unveiled if you’ve walked it; the inventory can be accessed through here as well. Neither game tells you how to turn off/on the power of your flashlight, although this can be done by pressing Minus. Pressing A will activate anything that can be interacted with, which both games point out very clearly.
In fact, the flashlight is your most handy tool for discovery; and this includes spirits. There is no method to fight them, either. The majority of spirits that lurk about can only be seen if they have the light shined on them. However, you’re never left completely in the void as spirits may always be heard nearby (in full stereo; headphones recommended) and to accompany the proximity of them is a pulsing screen effect and the sound of prominent heartbeats that varies in its strength depending on how close you are to them. One missed opportunity here for the Nintendo Switch version is that HD rumble receives no love here. Actually, there’s no rumble at all. These are the Vita versions after all. It would have been nice to add one more to our senses as visually and audibly the games do a great job. Environmental objects such as bushes or folded advertisement signs may be used for hiding in. No spirits can harm you here and may pass by you.
There are player homes in each game. There, players can save their game. Additionally, there’s a lot of collectibles players can search for. Many can be found naturally, often hidden in plain sight, while others have a slight puzzle-solving element to them. Collected souvenirs will decorate the bedroom at home. Your house also isn’t the only place to save. Jizo statues can be found all over town and offering a coin to any of them will save your progress and even allow fast-traveling between the ones you’ve “registered”.
Yomawari: Night Alone
In Night Alone, you play as a girl who takes her dog, Poro, out for a night stroll. It’s not long before a gruesome accident takes place and the girl returns home without Poro while her sister awaits only to assume that he as ran away. She leaves to go find Poro before the girl is able to tell her the story and now she has the task at hand to go find her sister and quite possibly Poro as well. Jizo statues in Night Alone serve as a quick save function where upon death players will continue from there as long as that current game session is in progress. At any time, players can press Y on the map to immediately fast-travel home. This is nice for a couple of reasons: 1) Fast-travelling can be convenient. 2) No usage restrictions even if surrounded by danger only a breath away. In the dark, it may be difficult to know what you can pick up or objects such as doors for example, can be interacted with. A bubble will appear just above the character’s head. Anything of interest will contain a question mark in the bubble while an exclamation mark means that you can interact with it. Items on the ground will shine if there is light on it.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows
In Midnight Shadows, you play as both Haru & Yui, but with most focus on Haru. A dog named Chaco also makes appearances. The two friends spend their last moment together enjoying the display of far-away fireworks on a special spot in the mountains just before Haru is meant to be moving away come summer. It may not be what it seems, however, and Midnight Shadows takes the story in a more depressing direction right off the bat. In Midnight Shadows, there is no option to fast-travel home, but there are a few, yet simple, improvements to Midnight Shadows over Night Alone. First, jizo statues now act as a main save on top of a quick save so you can begin there every time you boot the game. Next, the game is also about double the length. There are more spirit types with unique behavior. The art is on par, but has varying styles and does more with how assets are layered with perspective from background to foreground.
There are also numerous indoor sections where Night Alone virtually had none. This offers a close-quarters/haunted house vibe. Also new is the ability to equip charms you gain during the game. When at home, players can swap between which charm to wear. These provide minor enhancements such as carry more rocks or coins and even run for longer before tiring out. Lastly, bubble indicators have been changed. A question mark still shows something of interest, but a bright yellow star now shows what can be interacted with at that moment, making it much more noticeable than the red exclamation mark. Your flashlight also doesn’t need to be shining on anything interesting or even be on for the bubbles to appear either. You just need to be facing in its direction.
Collectively, Yomawari: The Long Night Collection can take upwards to 20 hours to fully complete if you go out of your way to collect everything. It’s likely to die a lot when trying to get through certain enemies and bosses. They each have certain patterns and each can be learned while being efficient in sprinting, hiding and moving. The games handle finding collectibles rather kindly. Say you find a collectible, die before saving, but revert to the last quick save which serves as your checkpoint; you no longer have to get that collectible again for the current game session, although it’s wise to save so you don’t have to the next time you start the game. Pickups also respawn so you’re never to run out. Basically, they do so any time a loading screen takes place, which happens when moving between indoor & outdoors as well as fast-travelling. Loading is quite brief — only a couple of seconds.
The music in the games are actually good. The catch is that there is barely any, except for the credits. And despite this the sound design is one area where Yomawari excels at. The level of ambiance surrounding your character is represented very well. Players can hear the buzzing of a nearby vending machine in the distance where players can find dropped coins. Streetlamps have their own electrical currents. Wind, traffic, night calls from animals, insects chirping, water flowing, phones ringing, railroad crossing bells and other things, all fill the atmosphere that’s totally believable in providing eeriness of just you alone in the dark of an entire town. At times there’s a dead silence that changes the current tone.
The game runs 60 frames per second both docked and in handheld while sporting a crisp 1080p resolution for the TV.