Back in 2015, NIS launched a new series called Yomawari: Night Alone. It was a methodical sort of horror game that focused on continually upping the ambiance. It was then followed by Yomawari: Midnight Shadows, a sequel that basically improved on the formula. Now, with the Nintendo Switch’s Yomawari: The Long Night Collection, people have access to both games immediately. I’ve found that, when playing in this way, it really helps showcase how much the one entry influenced the other.
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is a port that puts both of the games in one compilation on the Nintendo Switch. When you start it up, you have an option to choose which entry you want to play. Starting with Yomawari: Night Alone is probably the best choice here. While each game does have a stand-alone story, has different stars, and takes place in a different town, the atmosphere, gameplay, and themes are very similar. It is wise to go with the first title, so you are able to find your footing and wade in. Plus, it is the shorter of the two and might only take one evening to beat. (The other is about twice as long.)
While both Yomawari games are very character focused, starting with the original allows you to help contemplate what is happening in the town and the experiences the little girl is facing. She is out for a walk with her dog in a forested area near what seems to be a highway when things do not seem right. As she begins to head home, basic concepts are introduced, like walking, running, tip-toeing, grabbing items, and throwing stones. After a momentous event, the young girl finds herself heading home alone to her sister. When her sister sees Poro, their dog, is gone, she goes to look for him and tells the girl to stay home. There would not be much of a game if this remained the case,
This first Yomawari tests the formula of a game where all you can do is try to run, hide, or perform an action that appeases an otherworldly creature. Over multiple nights, you explore different areas and learn more about the things you only see out of the corner of your eye or when a flashlight hits them. A lot of the puzzles tend to be more about exploring different areas until you find the right things, then taking them to the right places, or finding a way to properly avoid or reach a certain area safely. A few jump scares are present, but the real scares are manufactured by the gradual increase of her heartbeat when danger is near, seeing creatures you can not attack and maybe not outrun, and keeping track of every possible hiding place where you can duck away. It is an exercise in patience, both because of the detours you may need to take to destinations, the possible back and forth that can involve getting the necessary items to progress, and the waiting that comes from hiding from threats.
With Yomawari: Midnight Shadows, the similarities are immediately striking. We have a girl who is walking in the forest with her dog.Again, things seem very innocent as we go through some tutorial elements. We learn how to run, tiptoe, items to collect and throw. You even learn how to move a box so it can be used. After a “wham” moment that follows with the same theme shown in the original Yomawari, we are presented with another similar scene. (As an aside, this is a trigger warning moment and people should be aware it is a graphic moment.) The young woman we saw in the introduction is with another girl. Instead of keeping things vague, as Night Alone did, Midnight Shadows injects a little more personality into the game. These young women are Haru and Yui. They are friends enjoying one last fireworks show before Haru moves away. Except, on the walk down the mountain and through the woods, they are separated.
What follows is an experience that is very similar to the original Yomawari. However in the original, we just saw the young woman trying to find her older sister. In Midnight Shadows, we see both sides. Haru is constantly looking for Yui, her missing friend. Yui, on the other hand, keeps finding herself in places and attempting to get home. The puzzles are slightly more complicated, but still not too difficult to work out if you are cautious and observant. But by knowing more about these two girls and seeing different perspectives, we gradually gain more awareness of what is happening and why. I feel the sequel does a better job of telling its story and making people aware of what is going on. Especially since there are more notes and we already have an idea of how Yomawari’s world works from the previous game.
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is also more willing to “go there,” The original game definitely has its scary and unsettling moments, and we have an idea of what sorts of graphic things are happening. Here, things are far more brutal. While there are some spirits that are less malicious, the ones that are out to get you can feel more intense in this installment. There is also always a notion of prices to be paid and explorations of the boundaries between life and death, and this installment really has more dire consequences than the original. It helps create even more moments that could impress the idea of how serious and scary things are, even if something isn’t immediately attacking or jumping out at you.
Playing both can also help people better understand the way Yomawari thinks about relationships. In each situation, we have people dealing with relationships between one another. Perhaps ones that are changing or experiencing some sort of detrimental effect because of a recent event. In Yomawari: Night Alone, we are seeing a younger sister step up to the sort of responsibility her older sister formerly held. In Yomawari: Midnight Shadows, we have two friends who are about to be forcibly parted pulled away from each other by some other force. Seeing how they react and connect can help us think about the bonds and how they matter.
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection gives people easy access to both games. While they are titles we have seen before and are unchanged, it still may benefit Nintendo Switch owners to have both in one package together. Especially considering how much the first influenced the sequel and that the two together give us a better picture of what to expect of these otherworldly creatures in small towns at night and what we will have to do at the end of a long journey to reunite with someone we love.
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is available for the Nintendo Switch. Yomawari: Night Alone is also available on the PlayStation Vita and PC. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows is also available on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC.