Review: Fading Afternoon Controls and Execution Get in Its Way
Image via Yeo

Review: Fading Afternoon Controls and Execution Get in Its Way

Fading Afternoon is a perfect example of a game I’d normally love and devour, but the execution of certain elements meant I didn’t want to return after a single run. The spritework is exceptional, the concept is fantastic, and the story is meaningful, but the way it is handled can get in the way of someone’s experience.

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Yeo’s Fading Afternoon begins with a yakuza named Seiji Maruyama being released from prison. As he heads to the outside, he finds his former organization is in shambles. The Azuma clan fell from grace following Seiji choosing to take the fall and head to prison for the sake of the group, with others cementing their hold on the city. You’re given some money and a few days in a hotel room, but it’s not enough to keep going. Plus Seiji’s health is at half and falling, a gameplay fixture that also alludes to his physical condition. Your goal is to go through the brief days in his life, choosing what he does with his time and his future.  

Now, before I get into this, one of Fading Afternoon’s failings is its control scheme. It feels awkward. There are awkward button combinations for some actions that feel unintuitive. Others don’t offer an explanation of what they initially mean, which means experimenting and probably forgetting until it clicks. But the worst offender comes to combat. On the Switch, there are many actions that involve pressing Y and B. It’s incredibly uncomfortable, especially for certain holds and counters. 

This also means that the UI is limiting and doesn’t offer enough. Some elements aren’t labeled. Ones that are might not involve the information you’d need to proceed. After I went through the combat tutorial for the first time, my thumb was aching. I pulled up the menu, and chose the option that would send to the main menu. Silly me, I assumed this would mean that the game would auto-save. Nope! When I loaded it in again, I needed to go through that extended tutorial (which was also longer than it needed to be) again. The UI also doesn’t let you know what time it is, which is critical in a game where each day flies by, and I wish it was easier to check the map to plot out my day without getting on the train and potentially squandering some hours. 

All this is a shame, because so many other elements of Fading Afternoon are so good. Each day, you basically can have Seiji explore three places before night falls and you wait to do it all over again. Initially, there will be hints about what to do. Visit Azuma. Learn about the value of heading to the pawn shop for a gun. Finding out about the locations of different individuals. Reminders from the hotel that you only have a few days left before your time in your room is done, which means finding a means of revenue to either keep staying or procure an apartment. 

Fading Afternoon is also a game with many paths and a message. The ambiance is thick, and you can feel how heavily Seiji’s past and present weighs on him. You can’t run, though bikes can be “borrowed” to more speedily get through some locations, which further emphasizes we are following someone who’s fallen far and might not be able to get back up. The choices you make might even offer a chance to get out of the city and into the countryside, for a more leisurely escape. While Yeo very rarely enforces what to do and instead offers contextual clues or options, you might even find potential paths. I ended up bringing Kato with me for fun, and found that doing so would sometimes influence interactions. You can befriend people! I kept doing so with Azuma, and it led to a specific storyline. Everything you do can lead to different options, unlocks, and endings, and that’s satisfying.

It also looks and feels great when controls and UI aren’t getting in the way. Think of it as being akin to a slower-paced Yakuza or Like a Dragon game. There are the same sorts of options and opportunities to go off the beaten path and play how you want, if you’d like. But at the same time, you can become enmeshed in the conflict and fully involved in the lifestyle. All the while, you’re seeing these intricate cityscapes and even rural areas that have such personality and depth. 

Yeo created a beautiful and meaningful game in Fading Afternoon. It’s an interesting experience, and it can feel different from one run to another depending on your decisions. The problem is that some decision directions get in the way of it all, making it occasionally uncomfortable or inconvenient. Still, I’d say it is worth the trouble.

Fading Afternoon is available for the Nintendo Switch and PC

Fading Afternoon

Seiji Maruyama is a middle-aged yakuza recently released from prison. Known as "Gozuki" (one of the demon generals from Buddhist mythology) he is the power that his oyabun counts on. Switch version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Yeo created a beautiful and meaningful game in Fading Afternoon. The problem is that some decision directions get in the way of it all

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Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.