- System: PC (Windows, Mac, Linux) on Steam or itch.io
- Publisher: Thrill Switch Games
- Developer: Thrill Switch Games
- Release Date: March 2022
- Rating: NR
- Genre: Visual Novel
- Players: 1
- Official Website: https://nightshadevn.com/
While we were visiting Ohayocon 2023, we stopped by a booth advertising the indie visual novel Night/Shade: You’re the Drug. Its sci-fi vibes and vibrant art style seemed right up our alley, so we downloaded it once we got home. And we’ve got to say – if you love crime thrillers, LGBT romance, and complex relationships, this is definitely something you need to check out. Here’s our review of Night/Shade: You’re the Drug!
Cyberpunk Action and Deep Thoughts
Our story takes place in Sobena, a futuristic Russian-inspired city where the mighty Strexa Corporation runs pretty much everything. They’ve set up all kinds of helpful infrastructure, but also manufacture illegal drugs to secure funding and employ assassins to keep things running smoothly. Main character Sasha has been forced to sell drugs to make rent, and his best friend Mishka is secretly a Strexa assassin. When they both get mixed up in a struggle much bigger than themselves, they must face their fears and take a long, hard look at their lives to make it out in one piece.
This all sounds very grimdark, but trust us when we say it really isn’t. It’s a cyberpunk crime thriller, so you definitely get badass gunfights and backroom deals set to thumping EDM tracks, but nothing is particularly graphic and it’s clear who the good guys and bad guys are. The bad guys will drop civilians from the 40th floor to coax the protagonists into facing them one-on-one, while the good guys are actively trying to get away from the drugs and contract killing to focus on helping the city. Basically, think Yakuza or Katekyo Hitman Reborn rather than Dorohedoro or Attack on Titan: The Final Season in terms of how idealistic it is.
The writing shines the brightest in the character interactions, especially with how mature the protagonists are about realizing their own faults. One of the biggest themes is that you can only control what you do, not what others do. You can’t make someone act the way you want, you shouldn’t blame yourself for other people’s decisions, and if those thoughts are consuming you, then you need to work on yourself before you’re ready to be in a relationship with someone. It’s refreshing to see a visual novel written like this, especially since many romantic VNs boil down to manipulating the love interests into doing what you want them to. The game is also clearly calling out other boys love titles (especially its biggest inspiration, DRAMAtical Murder) for having unhealthy relationship dynamics that they don’t address, which we can get on board with.
Finding Someone to Love
Speaking of love interests, the two you can choose from are Sasha’s childhood friend Mishka and the CEO of Strexa, Dima. Both have their own charm points and interact with Sasha in wildly different ways, so you’re sure to find someone you’re particularly drawn to. Many fans online love Mishka for his spunkiness and realistically written childhood friend dynamic, while others go for Dima because of his kind demeanor and how much he and Sasha have to teach one another. We think that picking Dima makes slightly more sense because he has the biggest stake in the overall plot and is much more well-adjusted in general, but both routes are satisfying and mostly only differ in terms of individual scenes rather than entire acts. If you can’t decide, then we’d suggest going for Dima first just so that you understand the story better.
And we apologize for burying the lede on this, but there are NSFW scenes if you want them. They’re all consensual and don’t overstay their welcome, although you can always turn them off at the beginning of the game if they’re not your thing.
What did you think of our review? Will you be picking up Night/Shade: You’re the Drug? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!