When it comes to the Otomate Switch otome games we’ve seen, they often tend to fall into certain genres and categories. Some titles, like Birushana, are period pieces that involve combat elements. Titles like Dairoku bring in supernatural affairs. Hakuoki is famous for blending the two. Now there’s Winter’s Wish: Spirit of Edo, which follows in Hakuoki’s footsteps by featuring supernatural warriors in a historical time period who also form a bond with a heroine who’s considered “special.”
Suzuno is an isolated young woman who can see “threads” around the necks of humans and formfolk. Formfolk being entities that are essentially born from a human’s beloved object and live alongside people. Following her father’s death, she’s ostracized from her town due to warning people about black threads that are portents of doom. However, Shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa is in dire need of this gift, which marks her as the descendant of a powerful clan, and sends two members of his Oniwaban force to protect Edo from the blightfall creatures that appear when these black threads are strongest. As you may expect, given this is a Switch otome game, said members of the Oniwaban are also eligible bachelors who might end up getting close to her as they protect the city. However, in a twist, they’re essentially a special kind of Formfolk known as Vessels. These special individuals make up the Oniwaban, due to their capabilities of properly dispatching the blightfall. However, their nature means if they gain a sense of self or emotions, they need to be executed due to the risks that poses.
The lore is really quite fascinating in Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo. It’s interesting to see the lives of humans, Formfolk, and Vessels intertwine. Likewise, the nature of blightfall and the negative emotions that spawn them are handled rather well. Especially when we see the different cases and how they influence the villains and victims. There’s some good world-building at work here, which helps the overall story.
In a way, Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo routes can feel a bit similar. In each route, you’re dealing with blightfall. You have a love interest who is a Vessel, and thus are meant to be amnesiacs with no emotions. There’s a certain pattern that each story tends to follow in terms of interactions with the “monster of the week” and reveals. This isn’t to say that the individual routes aren’t interesting or that characters aren’t compelling. Its just there’s a procedure they tend to follow. The fact that after the common route introduction, you pick one of three “paths” that involves two members of the Oniwaban and eventually leads to a route with one person also means a bit of retreading.
However, this does mean that some routes can stand out more than others. For example, I really enjoyed Genjuro, Yoichi, and Ohtaro’s routes. There’s a good balance of emotion, as well as insight into the lives of Vessels and backstories. Meanwhile, Kunitaka’s struck me as being a bit bland. Also, while Tomonari’s is great for lore and backstory, I expected more emotion and emotional connection than I ended up actually seeing. Again, this kind of happen when you’re playing any otome game on the Switch. Routes designed to elaborate more on the lore can sometimes falter a bit when it comes to balancing more romantic moments. Others not as encumbered can offer more opportunities to appreciate the bond between characters.
But at the same time, the fact that there is this development of emotions with characters who are closed off, in a way, can help the narrative a bit. There are some routes where it feels like Suzuno can suddenly develop feelings way too abruptly. (Frankly, it can be a common problem in many otome games.) However, the fact that we are seeing the Vessels develop and get greater range as the story goes on and a relationship grows does serve the routes where the romantic elements are well-developed.
Winter’s Wish: Spirit of Edo is one of those Switch otome games that covers a lot of different topics well. Do you like period pieces? It’s got that. Enjoy stories with supernatural elements? Each route features blightfall hazards to overcome. There for the romance? I really recommend going through Yoichi’s route! Due to playing so many routes one after another, the sense of progression felt a bit similar to me, but I think someone playing it in a more measured way as intended would have a good time.
Winter’s Wish: Spirit of Edo will come to the Nintendo Switch on May 18, 2023.