Yomawari: The Long Night Collection has seemingly revigorated my hope in horror games. The modern take on the genre has always been high budget visuals filled with gore, gore, and more gore. But what makes me appreciate this horror genre aesthetic is that sometimes less is more approach. Yomawari accomplishes this with a seriously creepy atmosphere despite its 2D hand-drawn sprites and environments. And with Nintendo Switch being the new home for this two-game collection, there are plenty of examples that cement these notions in my head and keep me up at night.
NIS America has brought both titles in the collection, Yomawari: Night Alone and Yomarwari: Nightmare Shadows, to the Switch. Night Alone is the first of the series following a nameless little girl trying the find her dog and sister in a dark and haunted town after being separated. Nightmare Shadows is the sequel that introduces two new characters, Yui and Haru. Two best friends getting separated after a spirit chased off Yui and both of the girls try to find their way back to each other.
Despite these games being first bought on to the PlayStation Vita and PC in 2016, the Switch version doesn’t bring anything new other than the benefits of the Nintendo Switch itself. Although in my opinion, after playing both titles, Yomawari isn’t the kind of game that needs any new additions.
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection has a lot of things going for including, goosebump-inducing sound design and intuitive visual representations that are the mainstays for both titles which both deliver feelings of dread. While these two games don’t exactly share the same storyline, their themes of restless evil spirits and loneliness have a strong presence throughout the two games. Making it all you need to see both games through to the end.
For the most part, the same can be said about its gameplay. Yomawari: The Long Night Collection has players wondering from area to area trying to find clues to be reunited with a lost loved one. The journey has many encounters with spirits that have the sole purpose of murdering you or otherwise block your progress. The tension really ramps due to the variety of ghosts’ behavior and abilities. Some spirits only appear when they are exposed to light and there are those that respond to noise. Even walking through the empty streets can be intimidating since the player can never know what new types of enemies can suddenly appear.
When sounds finally break through the silence, it can really send players into a panic. The sound in Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is punchy, allowing its resemblance of frantic heartbeats feel like they are actually yours. A technique so effective in execution that when hiding it a bush, the game’s feature for losing an enemy’s attention, the directional sounds of a guttural monster getting closer and closer had me wondering the inevitability of being caught. And all it took was clever sound. These types of clever ideas are littered in Yomawari: The Long Night Collection.
For instance, players can be aware of a spirit’s presence by the pace of the character’s heartbeat. The faster your heart beats, the closer ghosts are. Though awareness is not the only effect. Running in Yomawari depletes a stamina bar until an empty bar has the player running slower than you can walk. But while you’re in the presence of a spirit, stamina depletes much faster. Pair that with the fact that spirits can react to a character running by beginning to give chase or dashing faster, then it becomes clear very fast that running should be a last resort. That panicking could get you killed. And trust me, you will be killed a lot.
Times, when the game drops the ball when implementing its ideas, was when it came to the practicality of hiding. There were times when I was being chased by a type of ghost that will keep following you infinitely until you outrun it. But hiding in a bush when it was tailing me only let the ghost stand just right outside of bush. And no matter how long I waited for it to turn away, which happened to be me actually getting up to refill my drink, just had me come out of the bush to immediately killed. While it was something I could have overlooked, the same outcome happened on multiple occasions.
Many other ideas, like the ones presented in Yomawari: Nightmare Shadows, were disappointing for their lack of use after proper introductions. To have opening scenes stop in its tracks to explain holding hands or moving boxes had me intrigued, especially after just finishing the included prequel. But the more I progress through the story I forgot those mechanics ever existed. During my playthrough, I reached an area that I assumed to be a dead end because of a stack of boxes. However, after much backtracking, I realized that I needed to slide the boxes in order to progress.
But in the end, when it comes time to face certain entities, the battles tend to unveil their untimely demise, effectively pulling me back into the themes set in the Yomawari: The Long Night Collection. All of these elements of loneliness, wonder, and the darker side of being lost has me baffled that other game makers don’t even remotely put in the time. NIS clearly put energy into a game that haunted players instead of a straight cheap scare.
I think of Yomawari: The Long Night Collection as a true “wandering lost in the dark” type of experience. A horror game that had me walking through unfamiliar emptiness is something that made me feel uneasy. But I went along with it in hopes of triggering the next scene or conquering another mystery. It’s something I think a lot of gamers would appreciate because it allows the player to think about their surroundings and the creepy situations that are happening to the characters. The only thing stopping me from recommending this game to every Switch owner is that you do have to have the patience for the many deaths that will rack up and the intentional feelings of being lost that the developer designed.
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