Game: Nightshade/ Hyakka Hyakurou.
Developer: D3P and Red Entertainment
Summary by Steam: 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–.
Platform: Steam says the minimum requirements to play the game is Windows 7. Doesn’t seem to be Mac compatible since it didn’t run on mine.
Story: For some routes, the story doesn’t seem anything more than a quick fix to get your ikeman 😉 while in others, more of a narrative is revealed. It’s honestly nothing complicated but the character development and writing are what makes this otoge a real treat. My favorite route was hands down Hanzo’s due to the development of both Enju and Hanzo and the slow-burn romance. Chojiro’s was also a great route, although pretty depressing. If you like tragedy, this is your route. Goemon’s route was just a ton of fun! Daring escapes, fighting, and a sexy outlaw on your side? YAS. Kuroyuki’s route…well, it seems the community has agreed with me. His route was disappointing. It left me with conflicting feelings, because you can understand the reasons for his actions, but how he behaves was frustrating. Definitely my least favorite route. I also really disliked how passive Enju was in his route, and it was only near the end that she took any initative. Gekkamaru’s route seems to be the “canon” and I could get behind it. Enju definitely shone at the end of his route.
Characters: Speaking of characters, I had a fun time with all of them. Instead of the usual tropes, the writers developed the characters into more than what they were based on. Hanzo, for example, would be considered your standard tsundere. However, he doesn’t bumble around when flustered. He’s cold and serious, and his route is an exploration of his growth as a man and a shinobi. Enju herself is a fantastic heroine. Not only does she get her own sprite, but she grows in each route. She’s unsure of herself, unskilled, and thrust into a life or death situation. She learns to adapt and never loses sight of her beliefs. When she shines, she shines. Her best moments were in Hanzo, Goemon, and Gekkamaru’s routes, but in all of them, she grows.
Props to several other female characters who passed the Bechdel test!
Music: Pretty good. The battle themes stand out, Sasage’s in particular. Op and ed songs were good choices.
Voices: We have a really good cast here and for anyone who’s played Hakuoki, they’ll have a wonderful surprise with Hanzo’s seiyuu, Tsuda Kenjiro. His voice is deep and calming, and you just want to curl up and listen to him all day. Speaking of curling up, Goemon’s seiyuu!<3 Midorikawa Hikaru has a habit (unfortunately) of adding some nasally quality to his characters. He didn’t in this one! Like Kenjiro, Hikaru’s voice is soothing. It’s even deeper than Kenjiro’s and you might need to pull yourself together or fan yourself at some points during the route 😉 Hiro Shimono as Kuroyuki was a perfect choice considering how much they tried to convince the player of his cat-like qualities. Despite how much I really disliked his route and how Enju’s entire arc just plummeted, the seiyuu did an excellent job. Kohsuke Toriumi’s Chojiro was a perfect fit for the sensei role. His moments of desperation were effectively used and his more romantic lines were honestly so good I got butterflies. And last but never least, we have the amazing Hatano Wataru as Gekkamaru. Now, perhaps it’s because Lindo Tachibana was the most recent experience with this professional seiyuu, but I was honestly worried about how his route might turn out. Didn’t have to worry at all! ^^ Wataru really excelled at making Gekkamaru seem the perfect loyal bodyguard. He had a layer of insecurity regarding his relationship to Enju, and Watano pulled that off so well I stopped seeing Oniichan Lindo and saw boyfriend-material Gekkamaru. All of them were fantastic. However, I need to give special props to Kasumi’s seiyuu, Megumi Han. In later routes, some spoilery things happen and wow. Her voice went from timid and sweet to over 9000 RAGE. *applause*
Gameplay: Steam utilized their system pretty well. I can’t complain about anything. However, right after release, there were some issues with typesetting for many. D3P has been diligently working with customers to set things right and they’ve been nothing but helpful. Patches are being released to rectify any issues. I never experienced any of this during my playthrough.
Art: (´ ω `♡) Beautiful. Loved the colors, the addition of the heroine as a sprite, and everything. The art in this game is top notch and is one of the reasons you should pick up this game and play it yourself. There are even animated leaves that blow across the screen in the background.
Intended Audience: Any otoge fan will have either played this, added it to their wishlist, or has been asking about it. For non-otoge players, I can see many enjoying it. It’s enjoyable enough, but the romance plays such a strong role that I honestly don’t see many guys who might be interested. That’s not to say there aren’t, because I know many that do enjoy otoge. For those who haven’t played an otoge, I’d recommend Code Realize because both guys and gals can enjoy the steampunk, action-filled, romance narrative it provides.
Still, Nightshade does have a lot of action, suspense, and character growth. So if any dude comes along and finds the story interesting, they might enjoy it quite a bit-especially if they play Hanzo or Chojiro’s routes.
*If you want to see more detail on specific events in each route, you can visit my blog where I review otoge, drama cds, and dramas.*