The visual novel genre is a strange one. Many don’t consider them to be games at all and their appeal outside of Japan is often limited. Only a fraction of those produced get a Western release, let alone as a physical game. And those that do tend to fade into obscurity quite quickly. So it was a surprise to see Sometimes You add A Winter’s Daydream to their growing list of Vita titles…
Not Your Usual Visual Novel
It has to be said that A Winter’s Daydream isn’t like most visual novels I’ve played. Unlike its peers, it’s designed to be a very passive experience. Knowing this in advance helped me with my approach to it (unlike Stein’s; Gate where I expected some form of branching storyline). So when it came to this review I’m treating it more like a graphic novel. Before I go on, I do want to delcare that the review copy used was provided by Sometimes You.
Despite being a visual novel, A Winter’s Daydream has plenty of options on offer to the “player”. Volume settings, text speed, type of text reveal, auto progression… everything to make the reading experience as enjoyable as possible. From the start you feel reassured that the developers want you to focus on enjoying the story YOUR way and no-one elses.
By now you will have noticed one thing with this review. I’m deliberately trying to avoid covering the plot. While I’d normally go over that sort of thing for any other game, here it’s quite difficult. If I give away too much it will – I feel – spoil the whole experience for any of you buying this. As a reader, the last thing you would want is to buy a book or graphic novel only to be told the entire plot beforehand so I’m going to choose my thoughts on that carefully.
A Winter’s Daydream – A Precis
It’s New Year, and the protagonist of the story, Yuu, is returning to his small home town from university to celebrate with his family. The contrast from the city life he’s become accustomed to, and tension with his younger sister proves to be too much for him. So rather than staying at the family home, he heads to visit his grandmother.
But what starts as an ordinary visit turns into the most bizarre experience of Yuu’s life… When his grandmother is mysteriously transformed overnight into a young girl.
That’s probably already given more than enough to go on with the story. Right from the start, the story in A Winter’s Daydream is well written and manages to introduce all the key characters quickly. This ensures that it keeps the focus on the story and maintains your interest so you want to continue reading. The pace isn’t forced or rushed but never feels as if it drags either.
How Visual Is This Novel?
As with any visual novel, the way it looks and sounds is critical to its appeal. So how does it perform in that respect?
While not the driving force on a visual novel, A Winter’s Dream is accompanied by a gentle, relaxed soundtrack throughout. There’s no voiceover (nor was I expecting one), but it’s not affecting the experience in any way.
When it comes to the visuals, the art style is effective, if not overly complicated. Most of it is static with just occasional animation or motion backgrounds. I do think that this approach works better for this story and if anything too much going on would prove to be a distraction.
One thing I’ve noticed recently with a lot of budget priced PS Vita titles is the ease of acquiring Trophies. A Winter’s Daydream seems to be no exception to this. Within a few minutes of starting I’d picked up a Gold Trophy. I’d done nothing special to obtain it – just read the story. In fact, looking at the full Trophy List it looks as if it will be the easiest Platinum to achieve ever. Just read the story and watch the credits.and you’ve got everything! If that’s the case, people will buy it just for that!
A Few Quirks
For a title that is dependent on so much reading, it’s not something you can (or should) experience in a single sitting. With that in mind, a save function is critical. There wasn’t any sign of one from the pause menu, nor were you given the option when quitting.
Fortunately, after doing so the main menu does give you the option to resume when you return to the story at a later date. But it’s not perfect. Unfortunately the story jumps back a *little* from where you have left off previously. It’s nothing too major to worry about but it is irritating.
An Emotional Journey
One thing I never expected from this was how emotionally drawn in to the story I would be. During Yuu’s first encounter with his grandmother he reminisces about missed opportunities to spend time with his late grandfather. He has regrets about his choices, and why he wants to make up for lost time with his grandmother.
This resonated with me in so many ways. My mother passed away 18 months ago. And since that time I’ve been spending a lot of time traveling to see my father. Not just looking after him but reconnecting in ways we hadn’t before. I’ll be honest and say that reading A Winter’s Daydream moved me and brought me to tears in a way that no other software title has done in my 40+ years as a gamer.
With a fixed narrative and as such just a single ending it’s not a title you’re likely to experience more than once. However, the same can be said for most graphic novels. Bearing that in mind, it’s been sensibly priced for the amount you’ll get back from it.
The story is engaging, original, emotionally charged, and makes a refreshing change from the sci-fi themed visual novels we’re used to on the PS Vita.
With a compelling storyline, this is something that should be a must have for any fan of visual novels. Try not to be put off by the lack of interaction because if you do you’ll be missing out on one of the Vita’s hidden gems.
At A Glance
- Title: A Winter’s Daydream
- Publisher: Sometimes You
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Memory Card Spare Required: Mb
- Cross Buy: N
- Cross Play: N/A
- Online Multiplayer: N/A
- Local Multiplayer: N/A
- PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC