Just in time for Halloween comes Yomawari: The Long Night Collection for the Nintendo Switch, a compilation of two Vita titles – Yomawari: Night Alone and Yomawari: Midnight Shadows.
Alone Amidst the Shadows
Both Yomawari titles are story-driven survival horror games where you control a young girl wandering the town at night while avoiding the many hostile spirits that make the darkness their home. In Night Alone you’re an unnamed protagonist looking for her dog and sister, and in Midnight Shadows play shifts between the protagonists Yui and Haru who got separated on their way home. In both cases you’re completely unarmed, helpless save for your stealth and a few tricks like throwing rocks to make distracting noises or hiding in bushes. It’s just you, your wits, and a few dozen spirits that would love to have you for dinner.
If I have one thing to say about the story, it’s that it is DARK and doesn’t pull its punches. It’s easy to look at the adorable art style and assume this is an innocent children’s game where nothing bad happens. This could not be further from the truth. While I’ll try to avoid spoilers, I will say you’ll be rendered speechless a couple minutes into each game, and things don’t necessarily look up from there.
The Verge of Unsettling
I absolutely adore the art style. The town and characters have a charm and softness to them that makes them endearing, even as the spirits take that charm and often twist it around to unsettling. Happy faces that gibber and writhe along a shaggy arachnoid body, bags of flesh with mouths along their belly nearly cutting them in half, anatomical dummies running at breakneck speed, those kinds of things.
The sound design, on the other hand, is interesting. Most of the game is fairly silent, save for your footsteps, the sound of your heartbeat when a spirit grows near, and the sounds of the few spirits that make a peep.
This is a departure from many other horror games which use an unsettling soundtrack and constant spooky noises to keep you constantly jumping at shadows (Seriously, so many scary games are downright harmless if you just turn the sound off.). This small change makes the series more about exploration and puzzle solving with the occasional chase and jump scare than an anxiety-inducing spooktacular. It’s a change that I appreciate: I have plenty of titles for when I wish to be terrified, but not a whole lot that offer just a mild level of spook.
I unfortunately have no experience with the Vita version of the game, so I can say little on comparing this to the originals, aside from this being a far more accessible way to hop into the series. Comparing the two contained games themselves, however, I can definitely say Midnight Shadows is the superior title, adding new mechanics, better art, and a more robust storyline. I’d definitely recommend playing Night Alone first though, as Midnight Shadows appears to assume you’ve already played it, ramping up the difficulty earlier and containing occasional story beats that may spoil elements or play off of your expectations from the first title. There is also, unfortunately, no easy way to go back to the title screen in order to swap between the two games outside of hitting the home button and closing the game down entirely.
Both games are also fairly short, and not TOO difficult once you learn how things work. A big portion of the games involve optional exploration and sidequests for collectibles, which is where a large portion of the more time-consuming or difficult elements lay. It’s entirely possible to race through the game far easier if you give them a pass, or fill up your toy box with puzzle pieces, dolls, and human skulls if you feel like challenging yourself.
On a final note, I appreciate seeing a number of spirit designs I’d never even heard of before. When I think of Japanese spirits, I tend to think of the classics I saw in 90s anime and video games. Tengu, Oni, umbrellas hopping around on one leg, those kinds of things. Instead, the spirits in the world are all decidedly more modern. We have shadows that appear under streetlamps, vicious manhole covers, malevolent trash bags, and street lights that will chase you down. Sadly my knowledge of Japanese mythology is limited, so I’m unsure whether these are based on actual urban legends or just a modern take in the style of classic yokai, but in either case it is appreciated
One Dark Ride
All told, Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is an enjoyable title for any who want to get into the Halloween spirit and don’t mind a fair amount of darkness and blood. Those who played the original versions on the Vita may wish to give this a pass, but for any who missed out before I highly recommend picking it up.
~Final Score: 8/10~
Review copy and screenshots provided by NIS America for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer.