Visual novels can transport you to faraway lands of fantasy or history. Beautifully intermingling the two and offering scenes of 18th-century Kyoho Japan filled with fantastical spirits good and evil, the otome visual novel Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo puts the player in a beautifully crafted historical Japan setting.
Able to see emotions as threads, protagonist Suzuno is sought out by the shogun to investigate the appearance of evil spirits known as Blightfall, manifesting in the presence of negative emotional energy. To accomplish this task, Suzuno must join a group of mysterious samurai, known as the Oniwaban, whose six members make up the game’s romance routes.
Though a touch heavy on plot and action, Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo strikes a fantastic balance between scenes that divulge the secrets of this world and moments of heart-stopping romance. Beautifully drawn illustrations and captivating voice acting combine with a stellar script to ultimately make Winter’s Wish a standout otome title you shouldn’t miss.
▍An Engaging World, Spread Across Three Routes
Breaking from visual novel tradition, Winter’s Wish features not one standard route, but three, with two characters associated with each option. Able to choose work at Samurai Town, Castle Town, or the Entertainment District for Suzuno, these choices actually matter.
Each setting is brought to life through beautiful CG artwork; Winter’s Wish has a fantastic, gorgeous design that feels historically appropriate, and fitting for its wide variety of landscapes. The title’s writing emphasizes different elements of historical Japanese culture and how they affect Suzuno, creating a strong relationship between the visual presentation and the written story.
Selecting the Entertainment District introduces a character to the brutal lows of red district work and the exuberant highs of theater performance, while forcing Suzuno to master espionage for her Oniwaban work. By comparison, Castle Town emphasizes the interesting but opposite lives of middle-class folk, while giving Suzuno the opportunity to learn how to defend herself. Splitting the game into three main routes allows the player to experience the world and see Suzuno grow in vastly different ways; at the same time, the fun dynamics between each pair of Oniwaban members are brought to life through fantastic writing.
▍Kinji, the Kabuki Actor with a Seductive Mask
Kinji is the essence of the Entertainment District. A renowned, beautiful kabuki performer, this romance option preys upon the main character’s naiveté, by drawing you into scenes of seductive teasing. Though this route is brimming with memorable CG images and romantic scenes, the dynamic between Kinji and Suzuno never falls into cliche.
Refreshing moments where Kinji shows gratitude towards the main character give hints of deeper complexity within. Seductively, Kinji breathes down the character’s neck when he and Suzuno must hide from police guards, tantalizing the player character; yet the kabuki actor always makes you feel smart for selecting the correct dialogue option at critical moments. Fantastic voicework by Daisuke Namikawa sells the character’s aloof, sensuous persona, but strong writing ensures that more may be discovered beneath the actor’s cold mask. Embark upon this route to ensure you with some of Winter’s Wish’s standout romantic scenes.
▍Yoichi, Lazy, and Moody But There’s More
Beautifully brought to life by the art of the character designer Team. Nagaoka, Yoichi is difficult to pin down in a few words; that is exactly why he is the game’s top romantic pick. The character exhibits a handful of anime tropes, like an insatiable appetite and a crowd of female fangirls, but these traits make for fun hijinks, rather than define Yoichi’s entire personality. As a player goes through Yoichi’s route, they will discover a complicated but caring lover, who lets out hints of affection to get a player addicted.
A scene where you learn that Yoichi is a talented cook gives new depth to his appetite; little, fun discoveries and insights like this make his route one where you’ll have trouble putting the Switch down. Voice actor Seichiro Yamashita captures the complex emotions within Yoichi, which touch upon but then dart away from compassion.
▍Ohtaro, the Familiar Boyish Charm
Pair with Kinji in the Entertainment District, Ohtaro is brimming with energy and affection that makes him an easy character to appreciate in Winter’s Wish. His strong character design and voice work also ensure that he is likable. Though his route must be unlocked, and ends up focusing on the game’s overarching plot, there are plenty of strong moments during Ohtaro’s route that balances his adorable affection with the game’s intriguing lore, centered around various nonhuman entities, like the antagonistic Blightfall, or the mysterious members of the Onibawan, known as Vessels.
▍Minor Pacing Issues Slightly Hamper the Routes
However, the focus on a plot within Winter’s Wish means that the game might not be for everyone. At times, relationships take a back seat to larger narrative events, often framed as mysteries, with a player and their Onibawan allies hunting down clues to unravel the circumstances of the Blightfall monsters. The existence of three main routes means that a player must wait a while before experiencing any of the romance routes, though this may also be a plus—each main route gives a taste of scenes and CGs for both romance options so that a player can make an informed choice.
In particular, the routes of Ohtaro and Tomonari feel weighed down by plot and exposition dumps; some of the logic behind the decisions characters make, and how the world works, also feels underdeveloped. But overall, the mysterious atmosphere is fun and engaging, and the lore behind the spirits and characters is simple enough but enjoyable to uncover.
▍Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo Gives a Beautifully Fresh Otome Experience
There are a handful of rough edges with Winter’s Wish: dull moments of plot, as well as the tired, nonsensical trope that the supernatural love interests cannot feel typical emotions. But these very minor missteps pale in comparison to the title’s successes. Fantastic writing gives the cast familiar personality traits common in otome titles, but also depth and complexity to make each route a rewarding experience.
The art is jaw-dropping, bringing the historical Japanese setting to life, while the character CGs and portraits are equally impressive, showing off some fantastic outfits that make every ounce of dialogue a visual treat. The plot has missteps but is, overall, straightforward and fun, immersing the player within a Kyoho Japan captured through wonderful artwork. Filled to the brim with lengthy routes, Winter’s Wish is an absolute must-have for fans of its fantastic character designs, brought to dazzling, surprising life in this Switch release.
This review is based on a Switch code provided by the publisher. Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo was first released in Japan for Nintendo Switch on July 29, 2021, and later released in the West on May 18, 2023.
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Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo Review – A Brilliant Otome Imagining of Historical Japan - QooApp Review
Set in 18th-century Kyoho Japan filled with fantastical spirits good and evil, Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo puts the player in a beautifully crafted historical Japan setting with heart-stopping romance.