Our spoiler-free review of even if TEMPEST

even if TEMPEST is the newest and hottest otome release of the year, available exclusively on the Nintendo eShop right now. It’s the very first Voltage Inc. console exclusive otome release; while the company was founded in 1999 and has brought otome titles to mobile devices since 2011, making the jump to the Nintendo Switch is a big deal.

It’s particularly noteworthy to see an English release of even if TEMPEST on Switch, since Voltage Entertainment USA was dissolved this year. Thus it’s super-important for us otome fans to continue demonstrating to them that there’s considerable interest in the genre here in the west. And we can make a great start by showing even if TEMPEST all the support we can.

But is it worth that support? Read on!

Story

The plot of even if TEMPEST feels similar to that of anime like The Rising of the Shield Hero, Re:Zero and Witch Hunter Robin to varying degrees, primarily due to how it features a main character who is mistreated and broken down time and time again. Our heroine, Anastasia Lynzel (who is renamable, but her default name is voiced in the dialogue) is wrongly sentenced as a witch in her first timeline, before getting the chance to redirect her future with a redo, aptly called the “Fatal Rewind”.

Spurred on by the need to exact revenge and keep those she loves safe in each and every rewind, players and Anastasia are tasked with getting their hands bloody to steer her down the correct path and obtain a happy ending for herself and everyone dear to her.

Characters who the story dictates you should hate are ever so easily loathsome and seemingly unredeemable, making Anastasia’s stance and issues legitimate concerns for each and every player. It’s easy to see the appeal in her and her mission, and feel driven to obtain the closure she deserves after all the injustices and wrongdoing she has experienced.

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Then there’s the layers of mystery that never stop coming, with new information being revealed from all the new connections Anastasia makes with different characters across the game. And it’s not just the love interests, either; there’s the murky intentions of the Witch of Ruin, the existence of another entity who is just as troublesome, and the functioning of the Carnivals.

These segments use interactive mechanics that require you to investigate locations, converse with suspects, collect evidence and unlock skills. The Witch takes over an individual and influencves them to murder — this kickstarts a series of trials involving five suspected murderers (known as the Sacrificia), where the culprit (the Membrum) must be correctly identified.

All this is barely scratching the surface of what even if TEMPEST offers. As you can hopefully see, it’s a very well-rounded and satisfying experience, with plenty of dangling threads that eventually connect and maintain a constant sense of intrigue.

As a dark fairy-tale type story, even if TEMPEST bears many similarities to existing, infamous stories such as Cinderella (through the correlations with the Lynzel family’s dynamics) and The little Mermaid (in the similarities between the Sea Witch and the Witch of Ruin) — but while such inspirations are clear, even if TEMPEST manages to successfully distinguish itself in how Anastasia deals with her adversaries and the overall adversity she endures.

She is rarely ever a damsel in distress, and grows exponentially across her difficult journey. It’s a modern romance that those who want to see tougher female main characters will be grateful to see. And as well as having such a strong main character, its unusual gameplay mechanics for an otome further makes it feel absolutely unique, and its overarching plotline feels fresh and original with its witch motif plus both dark fantasy and sci-fi elements. There is also some really neat foreshadowing that extends from its very first chapter all the way to its climax in Lucien’s route.

The game will likely take most readers around 15 to 17 hours, pushing 20 if replaying for the “Sad Love” bad endings. This makes it a bit shorter than many other console otome titles, though existing Voltage fans should be familiar with this kind of runtime.

Design and system

even if TEMPEST is Voltage Inc.’s first console exclusive title, and their first otome with production values this high. The sprites are extremely varied, being some of the most expressive I’ve ever seen in an otome. They continuously change depending on the tone and situation of each line appearing, making for realistic reactions that project authenticity and believability alongside the talented voices that bring them all to life — aside from the heroine being unvoiced, as usual. The music is more than serviceable and fits well with the game’s overall aesthetic, but it’s everything else about the product’s design where it really shines.

As you might expect from the lineup of voice actors involved, both the love interests and side characters are masterfully portrayed, and really capture the specific peculiarities and traits of their characters. A casting highlight is the Witch of Ruin, voiced by Kakihara Tetsuya, whose eccentric and over-the-top character is nothing like the previous roles we’ve heard him in such as Shin from Amnesia, Zora from BUSTAFELLOWS and Victor Frankenstein from Code: Realize. He’s doubtless going to be a runaway favourite character for many players.

The title’s UI is simple and fits the image of the whole package well. The colour scheme complements the witch and fantasy motif with a dark and broody design. Its chapter selection and flowchart are simple and easy to navigate, and there are plenty of save slots available — important to avoid having to restart chapters and routes too often if you hit a bad ending.

The Red and Black Roses mechanic is also helpful to assess love interests’ affection levels, and is simple enough to keep a running total of — though it does only appear once a selection has been made, since there is no chart depicting which is outbalancing the other.

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Finally, the short stories with a different art style and animation that appear at the beginning of each route are wonderfully implemented and help build up the lore of the game world. They also serve the purpose of presenting what the Witch has in store for Anastasia in the Carnival segments. They’re crafty little additions to the overall experience that I really adore and appreciate.

On a final note for this section, even if TEMPEST is one of the better translated otomes available on the Nintendo Switch. The only few moments of text issues I spotted are a few occasions when the last letters of a sentence are missing, seemingly due to a formatting issue when text boxes appear in non-standard situations such as quotations. These sentences are still clearly legible, though.

On the other hand, the game did occasionally crash on me — so save often! — but this could well be a pre-release issue and will doubtless be patched as soon as the cause is nailed down.

Gameplay and interactive mechanics

even if TEMPEST might appear to be an otome take on the Ace Attorney gameplay style and Raging Loop’s narrative progression. But even if TEMPEST tries something new with the formula and goes against the genre norms with its gameplay mechanics in the investigation, trial and Carnival segments. It is, however, deceptively linear despite it all.

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Players are not jumping around timelines, but are still following the routes that are handed to them via unlocks, and only actually get to choose which one to pursue with the initial choice between Crius and Tyril’s routes. From there, it’s a straight road all the way to its end.

This issue plagues the game in its entirety. Its mechanics give a false sense of control to players, since the game always steers you towards the only correct outcome despite all the possible dead ends in the trials. This is due to these segments always having the same result, no matter how you tackle them with the evidence you decide to use in the interrogation and Carnival segments. No matter which evidence or skills you acquire, as long as the jury’s opinion of you is not too low, it’s smooth sailing from there.

There is therefore no challenge in the gameplay mechanics. With the investigations having a time limit, you don’t have to overthink which locations or individuals to prioritise, and simply have to keep an eye out for any potential CG unlocks. This actually only happens in one instance, making for an underutilised aspect of the game design — if used a bit more consistently throughout the game, it would have provided incentive for players to explore and think more about what to do next.

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While the interrogation and Carnival segments were promising and could have been made even better than simply being relatively throwaway interactive mechanics, it was neat to see how they come back in a small but satisfying way in Lucien’s route as a way to send off the game.

Routes

Route progression is, as previously noted, rather unorthodox for an otome. Players have a choice of which route to start off with between Tyril and Crius, and their routes end after the fourth chapter. This is the same deal for all of the love interests, with Zenn and Lucien showing up in an enforced order. Until Lucien’s five chapters have been cleared, the final chapters of the other four love interests are also locked. Once these have been experienced, a single chapter’s worth of a route for the secret character unlocks.

Tyril I Lister / VA: Noriaki Sugiyama (Akito Shukuri from Norn9, Boris Airay from the Wonderful Wonder World series and Baron of Aiguille from Code: Realize ~Wintertide Miracles~)

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Tyril is the most impressive and capable inquisitor around when it comes to witch matters and trials. Considering his job, players will find Anastasia overlooking the trials alongside him through the route, making for a very easy initial route to go for when getting to grips with the title’s interactive gameplay mechanics in the investigation and trial systems.

Tyril is the most typical archetype out of all the love interests; he’s a tsundere, whose callous name calling and rude remarks hides a softer side to him. His character appears to be uncaring and cruel but finds himself slipping quite quickly in the company of Anastasia, whose sheer determination and strength to see her goal through makes Tyril form an unexpectedly (to him) high opinion of her when he gets to know her, which makes for an understandable and endearing dynamic.

Throughout his route, hidden identities, life-altering revelations, and societal/political power are at play. All of these themes are gradually uncovered with an overarching angsty backstory where Tyril’s core values are challenged. It’s a great starting point for even if TEMPEST, with nice development from the pair of them in one route alone, and I’m sure all the whipping is an appreciated sight for plenty of us.

Crius Castlerock / VA: Makoto Furukawa (Allan Melville from Cupid Parasite, Adage from Steam Prison and Lugus from Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk)

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As the flirtatious, older and more mature love interest, Crius is the vice commander of the Wings of Garuda, whose job it is to take care of the sacred birds of the Goddess. His kind smile, friendly demeanour, helpful guidance and charmingly irresistible personality makes him a catch for every woman who graces his presence, but a lot seems to plague his mind; he retains barriers around himself, and a sense of indifference towards others.

His route is on the tragic side, much like the majority of the other love interests, although rather problematically for the player, his main conflict is brought up and concluded in a bat of an eye. There’s not enough build-up to how his personal struggle develops, making the issue feel extremely superficial and lacklustre. This is made all the worse for how it affects and important side character who does not get nearly enough time to shine — and we don’t get nearly enough opportunity to question if we should feel sympathy for them or not.

While Crius is my favourite love interest for his dialogue and archetype alone, there is a massively concerning aspect to his relationship with Anastasia that some players will understandably not feel comfortable with. Despite being the same age as Tyril at 26 for the majority of the story due to the time-travelling shenanigans, Anastasia first meets Crius when she is 10 and he is 18. It’s a weird dynamic made all the more troubling with their eventual love confession — it makes this issue feel somewhat glossed over.

Zenn Sorfield / VA: Shunsuke Takeuchi (Zora from BUSTAFELLOWS, Gonta Gokuhara from Danganronpa V3 and Juuza Hyoudou from A3!)

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Fitting to his character design with the white hair and brooding, stoic personality, Zenn is the mysterious love interest. His route is easily the most entertaining with a thriller-esque plotline that goes completely against what the player has come to understand about even if TEMPEST’s world, along with the witch and trial rules from the previous routes. It offers up an entirely different experience that validates my past suspicions about the overall narrative being of a similar style to Raging Loop — which should excite those who know what I mean with that comparison!

For everyone else, the natural progression of how Anastasia is placed during the Carnivals will provide early indications of where she’ll find herself at this stage; it makes sense to the story progression and her character arc. Her rapport with Zenn is also more distinctive compared to the others, with the game taking on a more playful and comedic tone in a few scenes to break up its much darker and emotional moments. This light-heartedness was keenly missed in the other routes.

Zenn is almost undoubtedly going to be the fan favourite of the love interests; he really is the knock-out of the cast.

Lucien Neuschburn / VA: Kaito Ishikawa (Dante Falzone from Piofiore: Fated Memories, Il Fado de Rie from Café Enchanté and Hikage from Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly)

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On the other hand, Lucien’s route felt like a massive disservice to his character, and should not have been referred to as “his” route. Lucien’s route plays out much more like a “true route” — too much time is spent on the other love interests, and it prioritises its overall plot over giving any sense of depth to the exploration of the pairing between Anastasia and Lucien. The story wraps up and concludes in the spaces where his development as his own character and romance with Anastasia should have taken precedence.

Instead, players experience a route where almost half of it is spent without the heroine and supposedly main love interest converse or connect, making their feelings of love for one another feel like the shallowest of the lot. They have the least amount of time together on-screen, yet are the “canon” pairing.

That said, for the few scenes we are treated to with them together, we get similar banter to that we see between Anastasia and Zen, only tenfold. Since Lucien and Anastasia are the same age, their dynamic is the most innocent and the best at balancing out their temperaments, with the two complementing one another’s weaknesses and strengths.

I really can’t expand any further on Lucien, because he has the least amount of exploration as a love interest. It’s an odd choice for an otome, but once again this confirms just how distinctive the experience of playing even if TEMPEST has been. I’m personally not a fan for that reason, but I give it kudos for prioritising its story over its romance as a refreshing decision — and your mileage may vary.

If you were wondering, my ranking for best love interests goes Zenn -> Crius (would have been first if the age gap didn’t disturb me so much) -> Tyril -> Lucien

And in terms of the best routes in terms of enjoyment? Zenn -> Tyril -> Crius -> Lucien

Our heroine

even if TEMPEST

Despite the many notable faults in how even if TEMPEST tries to do too much in too little time across its routes, Anastasia Lynzel is a highlight of the entire experience for her consistency and development. She develops as her own character, has her own arc where she learns to appreciate just how strong she really is, and players witness her grow from a weak and incapable individual who had accepted her fate without fighting, to fully blossoming into a strong, capable and compassionate warrior and protector to herself and those she loves.

While she has so many things going for her, she’s also prone to still acting her age, and is quite the crybaby. It’s refreshing to see such a realistic heroine in the genre, and especially considering what she has to go through and overcome. It’s not a quick sense of development, but you can actually see her growing and changing slowly and steadily through the many trials and tribulations she faces. While this comes at the expense of seeing more satisfying arcs for the love interests, Anastasia is one of the best heroines we have seen come to the west.

Characters

Considering the many timelines players will experience, its characters react realistically to certain events that would understandably sway their emotions. This makes for some well-done bad ends — which is good, because there’s a lot of them! And despite even if TEMPEST playing with the conventional formula of otomes a fair bit, we still have a few tropes and conventions firmly in place, such as Anastasia having a female best friend in the form of Maya Kirkland, her personal maid.

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Maya provides is a significant amount of motivation for Anastasia, and is therefore paramount in her involvement with the plot. The same can be said for the rest of the cast, each having understandable goals and intentions, and each having their own moments to make each character feel believable and human. It goes without saying that the attractive, antagonistic Witch of Ruin steals the show whenever he turns up.

Finally, its concluding chapter gives more time and attention to certain side-lined characters. It’s a brilliant send-off to the game for how it explains and expands on lingering questions from important characters which the plot was unable to explore before.

The major grievances and closing thoughts

The major downside to even if TEMPEST is its runtime. At barely 15 hours long depending on the player’s reading speed, the romance development takes a backseat over its plot. That plot is good, though — so if you’re otherwise not bothered by the romances themselves not being as up to par with other otomes, then even if TEMPEST deserves your attention.

It is a product that is wildly different to anything we have previously seen from the bigger otome companies — and as a localised product. Its characters all hit the notes they need to, be it how disgusting they are, or how lovable they are; its world is bleak and oppressive, reinforcing Anastasia’s stance and fear of comforting and growing from it; and its gameplay mechanics, despite not being implemented as well as they could have been, do add something new to the standard visual novel medium.

I merely wish it was longer to really drive home its emotional highs and more significant story beats; many moments deserved more time in the oven to give them the build-up and exploration they deserved. The game suffers from having big potential and not quite meeting such expectations, with possibly the biggest headscratcher coming with its very own cover art — the monster seen holding Anastasia never actually appears in the game itself, which feels rather odd!

So, do I recommend even if TEMPEST? Absolutely; just consider its weaknesses with its false choices in its gameplay mechanics, its slightly underbaked romances and its relatively short playtime — but know that its highs in its quality, writing, heroine and story more than make up for these shortcomings, making this a must-play otome.

Thanks to Voltage, Inc. for the review code.

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