During the Sengoku Period the two main factions of ninja clans, Iga and Kōga, warred against each other for decades.
In the year 1593, Nobunaga Oda started the Tenshō Iga war, decimating most of the Iga ninjas in the process.
The very few that survived were absorbed into the Kōga clan, despite their past rivalries.
After 17 years the Sengoku Period finally came to an end, and Japan was unified.
Enju (Protagonist), daughter of Kandō Ueno, the Head of the Kōga clan, spends her days training diligently in hope of becoming a full-fledged ninja like her peers.
At long last she is assigned to her first mission, but finds herself caught in a dark conspiracy――.
I finished Nightshade during the month of May and decided to write my overall thoughts of the game. This will mainly be centered on the overall story, the main characters, and character dynamics.
** Please note that this isn’t a spoiler free reflection.
Both April and May for this year have been quite fruitful for otome games since so many came out and Nightshade was one of them! It tells the story of Enjou Uedo as the Sengoku Era comes to an end with the reign of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, but as the peacetime begins to settle in, the Koga ninja are called in for another mission and Enjou finds herself at the center of a manhunt. With help, she finds herself traveling to stay alive and trying to find the truth of behind the incident, while also falling in love.
A Ninja-in-Training: Enjou Uedo
Enjou is considered the “princess” of Koga clan due to being a symbol of peace between the former and the Iga clan, due to her parents’ marriage in the aftermath of the Tensho Igo War. She could be spending her days doing nothing, but instead works hard and diligently in her ninja training in hopes of being useful for her clan and its people. While, she doesn’t have the strongest relationship with her father, but she still cares deeply about her friends and other family members. She is also very level-headed and tries to be calm during various situations, but can be very emotional when something happens to the people that she cares about, especially if she thinks it is her fault. However, due to her upbringing and other issues, Enjou seems to have little regard for her life and is willing to give it up in an instant as shown through various scenarios within the game.
At the start of the game, Enjou and the rest of the Koga ninjas are getting ready for a mission that is connected to the highest officials within the current government — Mistunari Ishida being their main point of contact. It almost seems like a social outing for all of them, but the need to gather information and other such things reminds Enjou that they have a high priority to help the government find the thief, Goemon Ishikawa. She falters and needs help from time to time, but that changes over the course of the story (though it also depends on the route chosen) where she decides to live for herself and fight against whatever throws itself at her.
A Noble Thief: Goemon Ishikawa
Goemon Ishikawa is the main reason that the Koga ninjas are called to the capital, as they are brought in to find more information about who he is and help capture him once and for all. However, when going through his route, Goemon is shown to have a very easy-going personality that enjoys talking to pretty girls and eating his favorite food, even with everything that he has gone through. He also doesn’t seem to hold onto to grudges since he is willing to help Enjou and while his actions seem a bit more selfish in other routes, he still wants to help Enjou escape this horrible situation his own way. At the same time, Goemon can be selfish and only care about what happens to himself, but it is that kind of attitude –something that most of the other bachelors don’t have– that allows Enjou to move on with living a life that isn’t connected to being a “ninja”. Yet, going through his route, he seems to be the most mysterious out of everyone since not a lot of his background is given, just snips here and there that the player has to piece together, but also because he hides a lot underneath his smiling face that isn’t decipher until the last couple of chapters.
Goemon’s story begins as he finds himself asking Enjou if she wants him to steal her way from the current situation, without much an argument she agrees and the two now-criminals escape Fushimi Castle together. As they come to spend more time together, Goemon has a tendency of teasing Enjou, which takes her by surprise, but he is also there to show her that there is a different way of living than just the one that has been driven into her by Chojiro, especially now that she has been disowned by her father and being is hunted down by several different ninja clans. She is also shown that lives are expendable when it comes missions, especially if they aren’t completed down to the “T”. Her mentality changes even more once she realizes what Goemon has gone through in his life as a “ninja”. However, he becomes aware that Enjou will never truly be able to rest until something is done about the death of Toyotomi and the game that the 5 Elders seem to be playing.
First off, Goemon is a good route to start off the game with, while it isn’t very “true story” heavy it does a good job in introducing the main problems of the game. Goemon has a lot of sweet interactions with Enjou, but there is a lot of mystery in his story as well. For example, I was completely caught off guard with his true name and the sudden change in his personality near the end of the game, but it makes sense with what he wanted to do in order to free Enjou! However, if the player doesn’t get the reason behind his sudden change, it does a good job in explaining the misunderstanding within his bad ending that causes everything to go to hell. Yet, the good ending makes up it since both of them have moved on from the chains of being ninjas.
A Ninja must Complete their Mission: Chojiro Momochi
Chojiro Momochi is Enjou’s cousin and her master when it comes to learning about ninja techniques. As a survivor of the Tenshō Iga War, he owes a lot to the leader of the Koga clan for taking all the surviving Iga members in, he is also very aware that rules need to followed so that the clan can keep surviving, regardless of what he might think of the mission. Chojiro also tries his hardest not to make connections with a lot of people due to fear of losing them, as shown with Enjou and the rest of his students. Due to this, his emotions are very repressed and he tends to do odd things to keep them at bay. This combined with his distant attitude makes him hard to read, but as Enjou comes to better understand Chojiro, she comes to see that he has been suffering for a long time and that he is a actually a very kind person. However, like Enjou, he is willing to throw his life away from the mission, which is something that they have to overcome through the course of the story.
Unlike in most of the other routes, Chojiro isn’t there to help Enjou escape from Fushimi Castle, that is left up to Gekkamaru. For the first part of the story, Chojiro is hunting down Enjou on the orders of her father with the rest of the Koga ninjas, though he seems have some strong feelings against what he is doing, but decides to say nothing against it because he is aware of the greater calamity that could befall the clan. At the same time, Enjou seems to be ready to die at the hands of Chojiro when he comes for her, though she slowly comes to realize that her previous admiration is actually something quite deeper. Through a series of events, Chojiro ends up helping Enjou, as they both slowly lose the people important to them in order to survive, they come to realize that they cannot give up on life so easily and that being a ninja isn’t everything. However, once they realize the truth of the game they are part of, both of them are willing to do anything to keep their promise.
Chojiro’s route is way more emotional than Goemon’s since both Enjou and him have a tendency to repress their emotions for the greater good since it is something that has been instilled into them from a young age, though through different methods. Most of the story for both of them is character development in expressing their feelings and having an actual will to live, but it takes losing others for them to accept that. They may seem like a rather melancholic couple after all is said and done, but they do care deeply about each other and simply want to live an easy life after everything that has happened to them. Their romance is also more about feelings that they have been denying/unaware of rather than something that was built during the journey like Goemon’s. So, we do learn a lot about Chojiro’s past, it would have been nice to have seen more of their interactions together as children to better understand their feelings, though they might not be even to understand those at all. When thinking of how it all ends in the bad ending, it’s kind of sad that they learned to love each other, but not enough to save one another like they do in the good ending.
Strongest in All the Country: Hanzo Hattori
Hanzo Hattori currently works under Tokugawa Ieyasu and is considered the strongest ninja of all the land — someone that the Koga ninjas inspired to be like one day. In a similar way to Chojiro, Hanzo only cares about following Ieyasu’s orders and following through with the mission given to him, to the point he seems to have little value towards his own life. It is because of this that he seems rather quiet and reserved to the Enjou, though he is always vigilant about his surroundings, as shown with how he takes down Enjou during the first time that they meet. He also seems very critical of her and her values, as he sees that she is too kind for some of the work that comes with being a ninja. His quiet nature tends to put Enjou into a frenzy since she doesn’t know what he is thinking, but when he decides to talk it is always something meaningful to help her. At the same time, he is also very helpful towards Enjou’s learning when she takes it up in earnest and is always there to remind that she should be striving towards living, even if it isn’t something that he does himself.
Unlike with most of the other routes, Hanzo is told to protect Enjou under Ieyasu’s orders for the length of 3 months, as he tries to stop Toyotomi’s game. He is there to take her after she escapes with the help of Gekkamaru and while she is scared at first, she slowly comes to understand the type of person he is underneath that intense but quite exterior. With his help, Enjou starts working on better improving her skills in order to live as she chooses, not by the orders of someone else. At the same time, Enjou comes to learn more about her mother –Kagari– through Hanzo as she tries to understand what happened in her childhood a bit more. However, as Enjou comes to realize her own feelings, she wants to show Hanzo that he should live his own life as well. However, that might be harder said than done as he is given his latest order from Ieyasu and it pits him against Enjou.
The first thing I must say is that I am really pleased that the entry of Kagari into the story did not lead to Hanzo being “in love” with her once because I have seen it happen in other forms of media before, especially due to the connection created between Hanzo and Kagari. Instead, it is great to see that the answers being provided in regards to her mother makes Enjou realize that she wasn’t an “unwanted child”. It is also intersting to see how their POVs on each other change over the course of the story because Enjou goes from being scared of Hanzo to understanding him through even the smallest actions, where as Hanzo comes to see Enjou’s inner strength aside from her immediate defaults that he saw early on. However, in a similar way to Chojiro, Hanzo sees no worth in his life outside of his missions and that is put into question by the last order he is given by Ieyasu, which leads to a very emotional and heavy bad ending. Yet, it is good to see Hanzo overcome that feeling and be happy with Enjou in their own sweet way.
Dreaming in Darkness: Kuroyuki
Kuroyuki is one of Enjou’s childhood friends, but he has been away from Koga village for the past 8 years. Unlike his older brother, Kuroyuki is more mischievous and easygoing with a tendency of teasing or pulling pranks on Enjou, especially when they were younger. He also seems very connected with Enjou compared to the rest of their childhood friends, there are even moments where he seems to have forgotten some things. Like Gekkamaru, he cares very deeply about Enjou and tries his hardest to protect her, even if it might cost him something in the long term — to him, Enjou is his light and he would be willing to do anything to keep her safe. Kuroyuki can be very calm and collected in the heat of battle, but some of his techniques are rather strange (and dangerous) that they catch the attention of other ninja clans. While, they haven’t seen each other in a long time, Kuroyuki and her seem to pick up right where they left off, though there always seems to be a mention to their childhood since that is really the only thing that they have in common at this point. However, Kuroyuki seems to be hiding a lot of secrets and seems to be willing to do anything in order to keep Enjou safe.
As the Koja ninjas move to their destination, they are met with a familiar face as Kuroyuki declares that he will be part of the mission as well. From that point on, he tries to spend most of his time with Enjou, much to Gekkamaru’s displeasure. At the same time, once she is captured, it seems that Kuroyuki is the only one there willing to help her as her father disowns her and the rest of the Koga ninja are ordered to hunt her down. Enjou comes to seriously rely on Kuroyuki and the lies that he has been telling her, but the tables and Enjou comes to realize everything that Kuroyuki has gone through during the past 8 years. This isn’t the way things are suppose to go, but Enjou isn’t ready to give up on Kuroyuki until she finds out the truth and maybe because of something deeper as well.
While, Kuroyuki is very sweet and mischievous, there is a darker and sadder side to his personality that is really emotional to watch as his past and secrets are shown to Enjou. He has suffered a lot in the past 8 years and while that doesn’t completely absolve him of everything that he did throughout the story, it does make it a bit easier to understand why he is so devoted to Enjou. What is really surprising is how quickly Enjou becomes attached to Kuroyuki during their time traveling, while it is understandable since he is the only person that she can trust — her fanaticism almost rivals his own for a portion of the story and she cannot seem to do anything without him. However, it is good to see her come back to her senses and use that strong devotion in order to learn the truth and finally create a space where they can be happy together. The bad ending rings a sad hollow to this since Enjou and Kuroyuki are able to get that, but only through sacrifices and illusions.
Eternal Guardian: Gekkamaru
Gekkamaru is one of Enjou’s childhood friends, but also her bodyguard as designated by her mother before she died. Since they were young, Gekkamaru has always been watching over Enjou and tends to be constantly worrying about her, to the annoyance of the other Koga ninjas. He seems to do a lot of things for her, even cooking which he is shown to be very good at, without asking for anything in return. He understands that Enjou wants to grow as a ninja and help out, though he struggles with this notion he tries his best to give her space. While he isn’t very talkative, he has a way of showing support towards Enjou whenever she is feeling down. However, Gekkamaru seems to be confused about his personal feelings in regards to her, since he wants to protective but there are moments where it seems to be more than that. Yet, the same can be said about Enjou, as they slowly come to realize that their feelings have changed over time.
The moment that Enjou is captured, Gekkamaru runs to her aid regardless of what he is told by Chojiro. Though Enjou worries about the repercussions of his actions, Gekkamaru pledges that he is only there to protect her and that is doesn’t matter as long as it is with her, clearly not about his connection to the Koga ninja. Both of them come to connect in a lot of different ways as they bring up the past and as Enjou comes to realize that she might have a different set of feelings for Gekkamaru, though there is some hesitation on her part. On the Koga side, there are a lot of mysteries being unraveled about Gekkamaru’s past that eventually leads back to the runaways are as he struggles with the burdens placed on him and trying save Enjou from everything she has lost and suffered on this journey.
Gekkamaru’s story is the one that has the most background information and most the truth of what is going on between the “game” that is centered around Enjou, so it is safe to say that this is one of the routes that should be saved for last — if that is the play order you want to go in. While, they have cared for each other for a long time, it is nice to see how some emotions –at least on Enjou’s side– slowly develop into love and she worries about those feelings. To some, Gekkamaru’s personality might be a bit too much at times, the background story does an all right job with explaining it, as long as one connects it with the personal emotions he might have had (for years) directed towards Enjou. The direction of the story is more emotional towards the middle and end of the route since both of them lose a lot of people that they care about while realizing the reasons why. The good ending does a nice job in wrapping everything up and showing that while they are still hurting, they are moving on and trying to be happy. On the other hand, the bad ending does show what happens if Enjou doesn’t respond to her own emotions as ends up suffering a lot as the last survivor of the “game”.
First off, Teita’s artwork is beautiful in terms of all the character to the point that Enjou is one of the prettiest protagonists that I have seen in an otome game so far! Each character has their own style, though they all look professional with their gear on. Some characters, like Hanzo, look completely different from when they are wearing ninja gear to everyday clothing and even when his hair is soaked! The opening is done very well to the point that I often play the opening a lot, just to listen to the song! In terms of audio, all the seiyuu were wonderful and it was just great to see a Steam game have all the voices intact, especially when so many games remove it for various reasons. The game does have it glitches here and there, particularly for me when I was fast-forwarding through the game and it would suddenly freeze up. The hardest part of the game for me was getting all the memoirs in terms of replaying the game over and over again in order to get every possible dialogue available, something that I couldn’t do and gave up on after completing all the routes. Though the game does have a good story to pair up well with its art.
In the beginning, the exposition does a good job in setting up the story and giving the player a false sense of security when it comes to the mission, that everything is going to go fine during Enjou’s first mission and that she’ll come back to the village feeling accomplished and maybe with her father a little proud of her — then, everything moves into the worst possible scenario and really fast! It also does a good job in showing the friend dynamics between all of the Koga ninja, which makes their “deaths” in certain routes more poignant. However, it would have been better to seen these relationships shine more in Kuroyuki’s route since their childhood is so important to him. It is also nice to see that there is type of importance placed on Enjou’s relationship with her parents, which often isn’t seen in otoges, and while she doesn’t have the greatest relationship with her father, it is interesting to see how much Enjou is bothered by her mother’s suicide and whether she was ever really loved. It is good to see her have some her questions answered (in two routes) and that Kagari tried her hardest to protect her.
In terms of story, it can be very dramatic and emotional at times depending on the bachelor that is choose, though that is mainly centered around Hanzo and Chojiro due to their states of mind in regards to being ninja. All the stories seem to be centered around the tragedy of what a ninja gives up for the greater good, but also how complicated it can be when human emotions come into play. The story is very fast paced at times and it seems that there is more action than romance at times; this is especially true of Hanzo’s and Goemon’s since it takes them awhile to build some type of trust with Enjou. However, they are also the routes that allow Enjou the most growth in terms of ability and personal beliefs since both of them question her on things that have been ingrained within her since she began her training with Chojiro.
The main story is also constant throughout all of the routes, but each route shows a different aspect of what is going behind the scenes and varying reactions to the events. The best of example of this is in Kuroyuki’s route because while it differs in how certain things happened within that route, it still does good job in keeping the player engaged with all the mystery and illusions, as well as showing clearly what going on in the background but the story is unique to Kuroyuki’s situation and why he had been missing for 8 years. Also while there is a clear-cut villain to the story, it also places at lot of questioning on the changing from war to peace time and just how certain people can move on or how there are just some that cannot.
While, it might seem short in some aspects, the game has some solid art, storytelling, and voice acting. There is a little bit of everything within each story and each bachelor has their own unique personality that it is certain one will catch your attention. So if you have some time to kill and want to enjoy a good game, consider checking it out!