Yomawari is a series which focuses on two main themes: the fear of the dark that is most familiar to children and the feeling of being alone. In the first game, the little girl had her sister mysteriously vanish, but after the beginning of the game, the older sister was more of a passive presence, an ultimate objective.
In the second game, Yomawari: Midnight Shadows, there are two main characters instead. Yui and Haru are close friends, but with Haru moving away at the end of summer, they decide to go up to the mountains together to watch the fireworks and make some memories. Yui is taken away, just like the first game, but with one crucial difference – she remains playable.
Nearly every chapter of the game starts off with Yui, the red-ribboned girl, as the playable character. Evidently, Nippon Ichi did not want the player to have to go through the map twice as each character, as her sections are short, linear, and are soon followed by Haru’s, but her sections help the game rectify some of the first game’s shortcomings.
First, there is the functional element. Every Yui section features some sort of major landmark that is easy to identify, such as a graveyard or library, which helps orient the player towards the next area of the game. When playing the first Yomawari, I often found myself wandering far away from the area I needed to go, but this was less of a problem this time around thanks to Yui.
Playing as Yui doesn’t only help you understand the challenges that await, however. During my time with Yomawari: Midnight Shadows, I found the story more interesting because I was more invested in the bond of friendship between Yui and Haru than the one-sided familial relationship shown in the first game. Midnight Shadows even amps up the mystery and tension by whisking Yui away from the area around the time Haru gets there, which admittedly does gets a bit old as a plot device, especially after multiple deaths in playthrough.
Just when you start to think they will stay forever separated, the game finally lets the two friends meet. This is the midway climax point of the story and Yui is soon made unplayable after that, but by that point you are given an overall direction to head towards, and I was just as determined as Haru to find Yui and get her back.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Yomawari is a series about feeling alone. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows achieves this by letting you play as both characters. Nothing feels lonelier than the constant reminder that you should have someone – a friend – beside you, but don’t.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC via Steam.