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  • John Bush

Game Review #446: A Winter’s Daydream

Reviewer: John B Developer: ebi-hime, Sometimes You Publisher: Sometimes You Category: Visual Novel Release Date: 10.8.2019 Price: $5.99

Buy A Winter's Daydream from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Sometimes a game will really, really surprise you. Looking at the game description for A Winter’s Daydream in the Nintendo eShop, I thought I was looking at a very uncomfortable dating sim. I mean, click on the store page link at the end; doesn’t it focus way too hard on how cute his grandma is? And so it was with no small amount of trepidation that I booted this visual novel up for the first time. Over the course of the following two-ish hours, I realized just how unfounded those fears were, and just how lucky I was to get to experience this story I would never have given a second glance without having it come across our review desk.

Our protagonist, Yuu, is coming home from Tokyo to celebrate the New Year. He’s in the middle of his first year of university life, but he doesn’t want to miss the family tradition of visiting his hometown shrine on the New Year. After some bland visiting with his parents and abrasive conversations with his sister, Yuu decides to go to his grandmother’s house, which is even further out in the sticks. They talk about their family, and how Yuu and his sister used to visit her in the summer, and they talk about Yuu’s late grandfather. His first evening at grandma’s house is capped off with the pair seeing a shooting star, and making their respective wishes. In the morning when he wakes up, Yuu discovers a beautiful woman making breakfast in his grandmother’s kitchen, wearing her clothes, and who, uh, is his grandma. Like I said in the open, things could have gone very wrong very fast from here. Instead, the game embarks on thoughtful reflections on family, the past, and reconciliation.

When my own grandfather passed away a few years ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about my grandparents, and whether I had spent enough time with them or my family in general. I only have one grandmother left now, like Yuu, and every so often I get worried that I don’t find enough time to call her and how little I know about her life. When both of my grandfathers died I saw members of the family I hadn’t “seen” since I was a baby, so I didn’t really know them. I heard stories about the family I had never heard before; my one grandfather had a much older brother who died of a drug overdose when my grandfather was very young, the other grandfather had lost his father when he was only five years old. I had seen that man two to three times a year for about 25 years and I never knew his father had died that young. My grandmother worked in a factory making airplanes during World War II – I learned that when I was in college. Following Yuu, hearing his grandmother’s recollections of her family – and her husband, in particular – perfectly encapsulated my own insecurities and regrets on the subject.

A Winter’s Daydream is a visual novel, which means that it’s not really a “game” in the traditional sense, which usually bothers me. I like a little bit of gameplay in my games, even though I generally have more affection for games with a deeper narrative aspect. I found myself identifying so closely with Yuu’s thoughts and fears about his family that I really didn’t miss the gameplay; at the very least not like I usually do. The art is fine, if a little generic Shoujo for my personal taste, but again, the story meant enough to me that I barely noticed. The somber, thoughtful soundtrack perfectly accentuates the game’s nostalgic, wistful themes, putting a contemplative cherry on top of the whole experience.

I did not expect A Winter’s Daydream to strike a chord with me. I did not expect Yuu’s journey, his thoughts, or his experience to play out the way they did. I didn’t really even want to play the darn thing; it’s just a straight-up VN, after all. But the subject matter was not at all what it seemed at first glance, and the characters were deeper, more vulnerable, and more relatable than I could have imagined. This is a deeply personal meditation on family and the past that I, very surprisingly, cannot recommend highly enough. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go call my grandma. If you’re lucky enough to still have one, maybe you should, too.

Score: 10/10

Buy A Winter's Daydream from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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