Yomawari: Night Alone was released in October of 2015 for the PlayStation Vita in Japan, and is now making its way to western shores this month. Honey’s Anime is going to provide you with an in-depth look at the survival horror title, and just what makes it such a special game just in time for Halloween. If you’re a fan of Japanese folklore surrounding youkai and spirits, then Yomawari will surely enlighten you with its very cultural appeal pertaining to Japan’s fascination with the spiritual world.
Much like a survival horror game, you’ll need to do lots of collecting of items, backtracking your steps everywhere you go, and being prepared for a lot of jump scares and heart-wrenching moments. This game is extremely fun when played in the dark and alone, as you truly feel as if you’re apart of it all with the somber ambiance.
What to expect
Yomawari: Night Alone is your quintessential survival horror game, packed with moments of sudden terror, and constant running around trying to find a safe spot to hide. Unlike other survival horror games where you require weapons to shoot and kill your enemies, Yomawari represents nothing of that sort and has you rely on using specific items to get you out of sticky situations. It’s more psychologically demanding since the only option you have against your enemy is to plan your approach carefully, observe their movements, and evade them at all costs.
The tutorial does a genius job of throwing loops at you, and for those experienced in the survival horror genre, the game will surely feel right at home, as you’ll be using your intuitiveness to get you to your goal as efficiently as possible. Those who are just starting out fresh, however, then be sure to take your time and be prepared.
A young girl is walking her dog named Poro out one night when she carelessly lets her dog go into the middle of the road, and is killed instantly by an oncoming truck. In complete shock she stands there motionless like a deer in the headlights, trying to wrap her innocent mind around what just happened. With the concrete painted a somber red, she darts home immediately where she runs into her older sister who inquires about Poro. Filled with an incredible void, the young girl’s mouth is cemented shut as her sister quickly races out to find Poro’s whereabouts not knowing that she’ll never find him.
Hours have passed and her sister hasn’t returned from her search, so the young girl curiously makes her way outside of her fenced home once again, and into the dark abyss that awaits her.
Introduction - Tutorial...Help Me Out!
Yomawari: Night Alone is the coming-of-age story that tells the story of a young girl who must now come to terms with mortality, and the darker aspects of life. As you leave your house in search of your elder sister, the game starts off by teaching you how to play the game. A lot of the game requires that you use items that you find along the way, to help your quest a lot easier and more interesting. By pressing the triangle button, you’ll be able to scroll through your item selection and use whatever item you desire at the time it’s required by pressing square. Items that you’ll find initially are stones and coins, with the latter being used to quicksave at small statues known in Japan as Jizo Statues (地蔵- じぞう). These culturally well-known statues are going to be something you heavily rely on as you traverse through the dark neighborhood because they act as points on the map which allow you to travel from one to the other without having to run too much.
Along the way, you’ll encounter your sister in front of a rusty car and she’ll then instruct you to close your eyes for a brief moment, but when you reopen them she’s gone. From this point, you’re given a flashlight which will make your life so much easier when walking through the dark alleyways of this tightly packed area. The whole premise from here is to pick up clues not only about your sister and her whereabouts but other mysterious disappearances that have occurred over time. This is where the game starts to really get juicy because now all you have is your flashlight and your brain to guide you around.
You Will Die...A LOT
There’s a map that’s provided by pressing the start button, which will give you a very detailed overview of your surrounds, and just where you’ll need to go in order to find your clues. The game’s isometric layout is very simple and clean cut, allowing you to find exactly what you need at any time which keeps the flow of the game moving smoothly, but really adds more fear as you progress through the darkness with the chirping of crickets and random sounds of cars passing by.
However, just because they game provides you with a better sense of direction doesn’t mean the game is going to be a walk in the park, as you’ll need to also pinpoint where all of the monsters are and be able to memorize their patterns and movements through constant play time. We’ve had a lot of surprising and heart-stopping moments where we ran into a monster completely unaware of its presence, and it ended up killing us instantly simply because we failed to become aware of our surroundings with the flashlight.
You’ll be doing a lot of running around which you do by holding down the R shoulder button, and your stamina meter is displayed on the screen with a long white thin bar with a small dot in the middle. That small dot pertains to your heart meter and so when you find yourself close to enemy territory, the game does a great job of notifying you that they’re close by and shows beads of sweat popping from out of your head in slight panic. You’ll also hear the thumping sound of your heart increase in speed when the enemy approaches, and the screen starting to pulsate faster as imminent death is closing in. Fortunately, the game has planted a good amount of bushes around the area that you can crawl behind and hide to avoid getting caught by these pesky things.You can also tiptoe when you feel like you’re in danger by holding down the L button, which can prove successful at times depending on the monster you encounter.
When you draw near to a clue or an important item such as a small shrub, a blue [?] icon will appear over your head to let you know something is nearby. Once you’ve closed in enough a red [!] will then pop up over your head which means you can interact with it by pressing X. So once you see that ? appear it’s probably a good thing to follow it and see where it takes you. Now just because these shrubs are lying around waiting for you to keep them company, doesn’t always mean you’ll make it there in time because some of these monsters are extremely swift and will not allow you to befriend to shrub.
You’ll be seeing a lot of blood splatter on screen if you aren’t careful so once again, it’s always imperative to stay on your toes and be sharp with your directions.
Inventory is Important...and So is Your Diary!
So you’ve managed to weave and dodge your way through the monsters who wander aimlessly around town looking for company, but somehow you’ve forgotten what you actually were supposed to do. We understand, the game freaked you out to the point that you’ve lost track of what to do next, and that’s fine. Simply press the start button to bring up the map along with other options down below, one of which is your Diary, along with the option to check your inventory known as your Scrapbook.
We say these are important because they play an integral role in the story and without them, well, it’s not really going to be fun running into monsters all the time. Items are going to help you out a lot since you’ll need them in order to progress through the story, so checking in between your travels to make sure you have what’s necessary is important because you don’t want to be running back and forth with these creepy things hiding in the shadows. We ran into that problem quite early in the game because our brain decided to go on short vacation, and we passed our clue so many times without realizing it and our palms started to get a little sweaty.
Putting All of the Pieces Together
Once you’ve gathered all of the right puzzle pieces then that’s when the game becomes more interesting and frightening at the same time. There’s never a true feeling of uncertainty in the game because coins are scarce at times, so if you end up using all of your coins at one Jizo Statue but then run into another one that’s conveniently placed by your goal, you’re screwed. You’ll also come to learn how unforgiving this game can be at times, and you won’t be prepared for it become it happens abruptly.
Organization is a must and paying close attention to every detail is paramount. Without going into spoilers too much, there’s going to be a moment during the story where you’ll need to track something down in a field but it’ll be rough getting there, so be prepared for a lot of maneuvering and patience. In your inventory selection you have three subsections, one is [Collect], which stores items you’ve picked up along the way such as puzzle pieces, [Key] which are keys that you’ll need in order to unlock certain areas, and [Use] which are objects you’ll find around town that you can interact with such as fish shaped cookies for feeding stray cats.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
The game overall, once you’ve tracked everything down and completed the story, ends at around 4-6 hours, which is relatively short for a survival horror title which flows along the lines with their previous installment, HtoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. Perhaps it wasn’t the premise of Nippon Ichi Software to make it long, but rather, it was made to instill immediate fear into your mind as you play through trying to better understand what’s happening and also cope with the harsh realities this game throws at you at times. The story we felt was very touching as it really draws you closer to this young innocent girl, who had to learn about death at such a young age and must now bear the responsibility to save her elder sister from trouble. Yomawari: Night Alone truly did feel like a lonely night in the gloomy streets of Japan, and for those living in Japan perhaps the atmosphere gives the game more substance.
For those in the west, however, many cultural aspects of Japan are thrown at you quite frequently and so a great deal of appeal pertaining to Japanese ghost stories and other details may not resonate clearly, but nonetheless the gameplay itself will certainly occupy your attention. We hope that after you do play through the game, you’ll slowly begin to grasp the finer details pertaining to Japanese culture such as these freakish monsters, Japanese storytelling surrounding horror, their love for nature, passing trains and their significance, along with the Jizo Statues which you’ll find plenty of once you wander around. Yomawari: Night Alone is a fantastic title with plenty of things to learn about, albeit being on the shorter end of the gameplay spectrum, which of course is reimbursed with its random scares, challenging problem-solving, and great attention to detail.
Great attention to detail pertaining to Japanese folklore and culture.
Simple and easy to pick up.
Emotionally touching story.
Freakish looking monsters with their own unique characteristics were interesting.
Would’ve liked some voice acting to instill more emotion with the characters.
Short on gameplay [4-6 hours for experienced players, maybe around 8-10 for newer players].
Having the map on the screen without having to press start a lot would’ve been nice.
Limited options, but then again it’s survival horror.
Honey's Final Verdict:
Halloween is just around the corner and Yomawari: Night Alone would be a great way to spend your Halloween night after you’ve stuffed your mouth full of gummy bears and chocolate bars. With a slated release of October 25th in North America and October 28th in Europe, it’s close enough to get you hyped up to play so be sure to pre-order your copy soon before it sells out! There’s also the limited edition that’s available for pre-order right now from NIS America’s online store, so if you want the extra goodies then head on over there before it’s all gone!
As always for all things sweet, with all the buzzing news straight from Japan, be sure to keep it locked here on Honey’s Anime.
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!