“After absorbing blood, you will obtain the memory it contains.”
Back in 2015, NIS America released a little game confusingly titled htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. While the puzzle gameplay and cute designs gave The Firefly Diary the image of a child-friendly game, it was truly anything but. As a game full to the brim with psychological horror, suffice it to say that the game left its mark on those who played it. Flash-forward to 2017 and its indirect sequel has emerged from the shadows. Simply titled A Rose in the Twilight, The Firefly Diary looks to tangle newcomers and veterans alike in its web of deceit. But is this Rose just as sweet, or is the hype as dead as a wilted flower?
Before Disney got a hold of them, not all fairy tales were sugar, spice, and everything nice. In fact, most of them were Grimm grim. When compared to the works of Brothers Grimm however, A Rose in the Twilight is somehow the more depressing of the two. The story seems simple enough. The curtain opens on the ruins of an old Kingdom. It is here that a young girl named Rose awakens, unfamiliar with her surroundings or their threat on her life. For better or for worse, she quickly finds said life in the hands of a Giant. As they lead each other through the dungeon depths, Rose finds herself with a unique ability, that to control blood. While her core ability allows her to bring life to the inanimate, something darker lurks within.
When drawing blood from a patient, Rose will see how they died. It is safe to say that this is one of the darker aspects of the game. These deaths not only show players the horrors of days gone past but also foreshadow what’s in store for our silent protagonist. These scenes look like something out of a Madoka Magica ending theme. If anything, these stylized designs make each death that much more horrifying. But that is a subject for the design part of the review…
The art of A Rose in the Twilight quite reminiscent of its successors: htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary and Yomawari: Night Alone. Rose, as with Mion before her, is as cute as a button. Even her animations depict the purest of innocence. In fact, it is that very innocence that lets the game pull on the heart-strings of the player. Everyone aside from Rose, even the Giant, all look downright creepy. While The Firefly Diary took its time to go off the deep end, A Rose in the Twilight jumps right in. That’s not to say that the game is without escalation of its own. Whether it be of Rose or one that fell before her, each death animation is worse than the last.
What truly makes A Rose in the Twilightstand out is it’s masterfully executed high contrast. The world is a dark place, in every sense of the word. Even the world around her is constantly drowning in a sea of fog. This ambiance and silent night setting are the definitions of Twilight, not to be confused with vampires that sparkle in the sun. While Mion’s firefly companions were the main source of lighting in the past, this time blood takes their place. Whether it be leaking from the former living or possessing an intentionally inanimate object, the red dyes the dark canvas that is A Rose in the Twilight.
When reviewing The Firefly Diary, the greatest shortcoming came in the form of its controls. Rather than directly controlling the protagonist, players instead had to guide her way via her firefly familiars. While this was a fine idea on paper, the execution was a bit misguided. Luckily, the developers did away with this notion when it came to its successor. In A Rose in the Twilight, the player instead takes direct control over the protagonists. While Rose is the main by default, the Giant is always available to be tagged in to lend a hand. In order to make it through the game alive, players must learn the strengths (and weaknesses) of both doomed travelers.
After enduring a series depressing events, Rose can absorb blood from others into the rose on her back. Talk about a green thumb… Once absorbed, Rose can denote the blood to another, metaphorically giving it life. This is the main function of the game as, for whatever reason, the dripping of blood effects the very flow of time. This gives Rose the very power of reanimation itself.
As for Giant, its most basic role is that of a protector. In most cases, Rose simply cannot come to harm while held in the Giant’s strong yet gentle arms. When not protecting her, however, it can get a bit rough. While holding her, the Giant can throw Rose up to new heights. It is something of a reverse Yoshi jump. It’s by no means perfect, however. Due to her fragile nature, any slight fall will result in one wilted Rose.
Whether it is Disgaea or Yomawari, the games of NIS have a habit of sounding like Hell; in a good way of course. In the case of A Rose in the Twilight, the game’s soundtrack sounds like what one might hear in a nightmare dreamscape. While the Soundtrack does include actual music, what stands out most are the game’s effects. In fact, what makes the Soundtrack so powerful is how it echo haunts each room. Each and every step Rose takes too echoes, constantly reminding players that could step could be their last.
Overall, A Rose in the Twilight is a worthy successor of htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. While the game’s controls are hands down better than its point-and-click predecessor, the game isn’t without the challenge of its predecessor. Despite its sugarcoating, the game is a psychologically horrifying as they come. While the game should by no means be played by the faint of heart, fans of NIS America’s recent horror titles, or horror survival in general, shouldn’t miss this rare gem.
Overall HEY! HEY!! LISTEN!!! gives A Rose in the Twilight 8.8 blood memories out of 10.