htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary Review

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htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is an interesting game to say the least. It’s been awhile since i’ve seen something that’s equal parts adorable/innocent and horror. Lets dive straight in here because it was something of an experience and I can’t wait to tell you guys about it. To kick things off, htol#NiQ: The Firefly Diary (AKA Hotaru no Nikki) is an adventure/puzzle game designed and directed by Masayuki Furuya (Illustrator and development support on Disgaea D2) and published and developed by Nippon Ichi Software (NISA)

The game begins rather vaguely without giving much story and while in other games that would be a confusing way to start a game, I strongly feel that this particular game leaves the impression of wonder moreso and the game tends to speak for itself while leaving things open to interpretation. htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary’s touch controls use both the touch screen and the rear touch pad and it was kind of cool. A first I wasn’t a fan of the controls as it seemed as though they were touch screen only but luckily for me it has regular controls as an option. While I prefer regular controls, I can still appreciate that the touch controls are there and frankly more games should have them as it utilizes the Vita’s dual touch functionality.

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Using a firefly you control, the story sees you lead a girl named Mion throughout various stages, some of which are something like a survival styled puzzle. It’s certainly a fresh take on 2D side scrolling types of games and I really enjoyed the way the game played out. As well as controlling a firefly, you also can switch to ‘The World of Shadow’ and control a different firefly that travels specifically through shadows only and can effect various things like cutting ropes, activating machines, etc in ‘The World of Light’. The difference between the two worlds being that time is frozen in the shadow world, which gives an interesting difference between how things work in each world. As you progress through the story you can find memory fragments that put you into something of a minigame which is a top down RPG styled memory sequence. In these sequences nothing is said, only implied via actions, images and image based thought clouds and while it’s vague, it leaves things up to interpretation while giving you just enough to piece things together. I was actually a huge fan of the story. It was creepy and something of a feels train.

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The music was composed by Hajime Sugie and is very well put together. Both extremely calming and even soothing at times but can quickly turn malicious and play on your anxiety. Throughout the first level you are essentially being taught mechanics in a clever way but the difficulty spike a little in level 2 when your pitted against enemies alongside puzzles. It can add a feeling of fear and even panic and really pushes you to think and execute the puzzles correctly in order to survive. The enemies themselves exist as shadows and if they touch your shadow, They have you.. you’re dead. The interesting thing is the world of light’s firefly you control gives light depending on where it is on the screen effecting shadow size and placement. While being unable to directly control Mion and thus be unable to directly attack, you can set traps and using the shadow world tactically you can manage to stay safe in seemingly deadly circumstances. Coming from the Disgaea team and being an obvious push to branch out into different and darker themes, i’d say htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is a brilliant game and i’d recommend it to any Vita owners. It’s relatively cheap and a truly unique experience. The game features some unique trophies to work towards, optional story content in the way of memory fragments and features a level select. I’ll be playing this title for a while yet. I’m giving it a 4/5 and it deserves it. Nippon Ichi Software took a risk with this and I strongly feel they did very well.