even if TEMPEST | Game Review
‘even if TEMPEST’ will tear your heart to shreds before gently piecing it back together again, in this moving tale of despair, strife, and resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity…
Follow the deeply compelling journey of Anastasia Lynzel – convicted witch and badass heroine – as she uses her unique ‘time-rewind’ ability to overcome a relentless barrage of tragic ends.
By returning to the past, remembering what she learned, and using this knowledge to make better choices, this game’s protagonist shows admirable resilience as she continues to get back up and try again – over and over again – until she reaches the ending she seeks.
If you can endure the pain alongside Anastasia, then you’ll also share in her relief, her joy, and her love. ‘even if TEMPEST’ is one of the most riveting games I’ve played in a while, and my heart was captivated by Anastasia’s fierce determination as she grew through each trial and tribulation.
This is one of those games that needs to be played the whole way through before you can fully appreciate the story. Which is why – if you can handle some hardship before your happy ending – I highly recommend buckling up for an emotional journey, and seeing this one through to the end.
Premise & Story
“Her last moments are as she lived: bereft of love,
void of hope, and overflowing with despair.”– Game Description (Website)
Before I get into my thoughts on the story, I need to give credit to ‘even if TEMPEST’s director and scenario writer, Ushio Ayane, whose previous works include the otome hit, Norn9. Throughout the game, I was blown away by her attention to detail, creative ideas, and outstanding ability to structure an intricate, multi-layered story that weaves seamlessly across several intertwining routes.
‘even if Tempest’ isn’t just impressive on a technical, scene-by-scene level, but also its fundamental conceptual core. It’s been a while since I was so in awe of a story, but I loved the way the experience of playing an otome game was reflected within the game itself – from the gameplay style, to the way the route system works, and even to the interactions between the characters, and their responses within the story.
I started playing the moment it became available in the Nintendo Switch store, and I completed it over a few days of long bingeing marathons. I couldn’t get enough of it, and every time I thought I was beginning to get an idea of the truth behind the mysteries and political schemes, a new dramatic reveal would force me to once again question what I thought I knew… and, of course, keep on playing.
This is definitely a game I’d recommend playing in longer sessions, as the themes presented can get quite heavy until you reach the relief of resolving them later in the story. If you play in shorter sessions, you risk dwelling on difficult scenes and plot points until you next pick up the game. However, if you set aside more time to play, you can keep going until you reach the resolution, so you’re not stuck in a low point for too long.
On that note, before continuing with my glowing review of this game, I should clarify that ‘even if TEMPEST’ contains some intensely dark and gritty themes. There’s blood, gore, death, and pretty much everything else you could conceive of appearing on a content warning list.
It’s difficult to be specific without spoiling anything, so instead I’ll just offer a blanket warning that players who find particular themes disturbing may wish to do some research prior to picking up the game, and ensure they play it on a day when they’re feeling up to a heavier story.
I will note, however, that the framing of these themes is also important in deciding how they’re likely to make a player feel. I saw some fans on Twitter claiming that ‘even if TEMPEST’ was as twisted as ‘Diabolik Lovers’, but I don’t think that’s accurate. Sure, ‘even if TEMPEST’ contains a myriad of sensitive topics, but they’re framed in a distinctly different tone.
‘Diabolik Lovers’ wallows in all its sado-masochistic glory, indulging in a macabre display of angst and trauma that’s absolutely messed up–but also deeply compelling. ‘even if TEMPEST’, on the other hand, chooses not to wallow in tragedy, but overcome it.
The focus is less on the devastation of being knocked down, and more on the courage of getting back up, dusting yourself off, and using what you learned to try again. In other words, it’s not a story of succumbing to despair, but defeating it.
Rather than feeling broken by the story’s relentless stream of adversity, I felt moved by the protagonist’s drive to keep moving forward, even when the situation seemed hopeless. That being said, she wasn’t flawless either, and there were times were she struggled to think of a reason why she should continue along her journey.
But even then, the story gave the player a message of courage and hope, and once again the heroine would rise to the occasion. I was enthralled from the start and rooting for her to succeed throughout the entirety of the game, so every triumph and pitfall resonated deep within my heart.
It’s because the game is such a journey – and the difficulties along the way are only bearable once you reach the destination – that I think ‘even if TEMPEST’ is a game you’ll only be able to fully understand and appreciate once you’ve finished it. There are so many interconnected stories happening at the same time, and you’ll need to endure a lot of suffering to uncover the truth.
But, once you reach the finale, the efforts are well rewarded. That’s not to say it’s a slow burn with no payoff until the end, but it was deeply rewarding to see the protagonist make sense of everything she learned in order to move forward as a better, brighter version of herself after all the adversity she had to overcome.
This story will break you down before it builds you up again, but it’s worth seeing it through to the end. I found ‘even if TEMPEST’ to be deeply moving, and I love the theme of finding hope amidst a sea of despair. As one of my patrons put it – overcoming bad endings to reach the happy ending is similar to how we interact with tragedy in real life.
And, I agree. Outside of a game, we can’t go back and load a previous save when we don’t like the outcome, but we can learn from these experiences and use them to guide us towards a better, brighter future. ‘even if TEMPEST’ does a fantastic job of exploring the process of rising out of the ashes of overwhelming despair, even when this process isn’t pretty or romantic.
‘even if TEMPEST’ is a narrative-driven game structured in a visual novel style, with additional investigation-based gameplay mechanics. As an otome game, it features four character routes – one for each potential love interest – which are played in a mostly-locked order. There’s also a final secret route after you’ve cleared the epilogues, but I won’t be discussing that in this review as it’s a minefield for spoilers!
You’ll choose between the ‘Strength’ and ‘Justice’ tarot cards first, which correspond to the love interests ‘Crius Castlerock’ and ‘Tyril I Lister’, respectively. Then, you’ll play Zenn’s route (Hanged Man), followed by Lucien (Sun), before unlocking the final chapters (epilogues) for each of the aforementioned love interests.
The locked route order is necessary to tell the story, and both Zenn and Lucien offer something unique to fulfil the heroine’s needs at that point in the story in which they are the love interests in focus. In my mind, there’s no other way to tell the story than via this particular character order, although I don’t feel that playing Crius or Tyril first or second makes much of a difference to the overall experience.
In visual novels, it’s common to heavily utilize the save/load feature to return to key points in the story and make different choices in order to reach a different outcome. In ‘even if TEMPEST’, this key part of the visual novel experience is incorporated into the story itself.
Even though I saved regularly, I rarely had to return to a previous save file, as the idea of rewinding time to make better choices is a core theme of the story, and the game often took me back to a previous point in time within its canonical chain of events, without me needing to reload a previous save myself.
However, if you reach one of the bad ends that isn’t a canonical “ending”, you’ll automatically be taken to the ‘load’ menu at the conclusion of the scene. This is why it’s still important to save regularly, as you never know when you’ll need to reload a previous save file in a ‘non-meta’ way.
I still love that the experience of playing otome games is a persistent theme throughout the game – in particular, how it feels to finish a route full of character and romantic development, only to then ‘rewind’ and start again as the only person with memories from the previous route. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just suggest keeping an eye on how the heroine responds to starting each subsequent route from the first, as you may find it familiar…
Throughout the game, you’ll come across a series of witch trials, known as the ‘Carnival’. This will differ depending on which timeline you’re in, but the gameplay mechanics will be mostly the same.
The game does a fairly good job of instructing the player on how to conduct these trials, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Essentially, you’re given an investigation phase before the trial starts, where you are provided with a selection of characters to investigate, and an allotted amount of time in which to do so.
Each character has a different amount of time assigned to them, and you’re not given enough time to investigate all of them, so you have to choose carefully based on who you think will give the most relevant information, and how much of your time limit they’ll use up.
You can’t save once you’re in the character-select screen, so be sure to save regularly during this time in case you want to re-do any of your investigation choices. I thought I would go back a few times and make different choices, but I actually went through my entire first playthrough just investigating whoever I felt like. There are always ways to turn the trial to your advantage once you’re actually in there, so don’t agonize too much over who to investigate during this phase of the game.
Once you’re in the trial, each relevant character will be given an opportunity to present their case. This happens as an ongoing discussion, and other characters may chip in or show reactions at various points. Pay attention to what they say and how they react, and then use the information you gathered to choose your own response.
These responses are quick-timed, so I recommend having a rough plan in mind before entering. Alternatively – as I keep suggesting – save often! In this part of the trial, I did sometimes return to a previous save, as I struggled to intuit exactly how an ‘indict’ or ‘advocate’ response, for example, would be substantiated, and I’d select something thinking it meant one thing, only for the heroine to say something completely unexpected.
Aside from these investigative mechanics, the only other gameplay feature is the visual novel classic: player choices. These appear fairly regularly, although there were also some parts where it felt like I hadn’t made a choice in a while.
I’m used to playing story-heavy games with little to no gameplay features other than player choices, so it was exciting to play an otome game with additional gameplay mechanics. I think investigative styles of gameplay like the witch trials lend themselves well to this type of format, and I found them to be smoothly-integrated in ‘even if TEMPEST’.
Recommended play order: Crius / Tyril ➜ Zenn ➜ Lucien ➜ ??? (Secret Route)
While I love the cast of this game, it’s worth noting that the romantic parts of the story are fairly sparse until the epilogues, and I did feel that the LI’s weren’t always the main focus. This is the heroine’s story, and each of the love interest’s routes were more about the perspective they could add, and the information they could shed light on, in relation to the main plot.
There’s also an abundance of developed, intriguing side characters, and due to the broader focus within each route, you also get the chance to develop fairly deep and meaningful relationships with the wider cast. If someone had asked me if I would enjoy an otome game were the love interests aren’t always the main focus, and the heroine forms deep bonds with a variety of side characters, I would likely have said no. But, I was proved wrong, as I actually loved this model of character and relationship development.
It felt more organic than forcing a honed-in relationship with one particular character, and made the heroine feel more like a real person. She has a variety of acquaintances, colleagues, and friends, so she doesn’t rely solely on one dashing hero for all of her affection and support. This is much more similar to the way we develop relationships in real life, and I ended up connecting with some of the side characters to the same degree that I would a love interest.
Epilogues: Once you clear the main story, you’ll gain access to an epilogue for each love interest. Due to the extremely pressing non-romantic issues present through most of the game, the heroine – understandably – has little time for romance until the major plot conflicts are resolved.
These epilogues are where you get to enjoy the calm after the storm with your chosen BF. I still recommend playing all of them, even if you’re not equally interested in each character, as these epilogues also tidy up some of the remaining threads after the climactic ending (and unlock the secret route!).
Main Character (MC)
☆ Name: Anastasia Lynzel (First name is customizable; default name is voiced)
☆ Pronouns: She/Her
☆ Appearance: Short-haired, androgynous, and athletic. She fits that ‘princely’ archetype that all the girls fall for, even if they’re otherwise straight.
☆ Personality: Resilient, driven, and badass. I loved playing as Anastasia, and she was one of the most compelling characters in the game… Okay yes, I have a crush on her, and I was swooning along with the women in the castle when she dressed up as a prince. She’s just too cool and charming, I can’t help it!
☆ Voice Actor: N/A
The heroine is also the focal character in ‘even if TEMPEST’, and the story absolutely revolves around her. Rather than being a ‘self-insert’ blank slate, Anastasia has a tragic backstory and full-fledged personality. Furthermore, the main story is essentially her own character growth arc, and most of the major themes in the story relate to the lessons she learns as she overcomes a series of adversities.
I found her character to be a satisfying blend of admirable and relatable. She’s incredibly brave and resilient, but she also has moments where she falters, and these moments felt profoundly human. Not only did she resonate with me on a personal level, but she also never failed to entertain, and I finished the game just as much in love with her as the actual love interests themselves.
It’s safe to say Anastasia completely captivated my heart, and I was moved by her story. She’s definitely one of my favourite otome protagonists of all time (if not my actual favourite), and I love that she stands out as a distinct character in her own right.
☆ Name: Crius Castlerock
☆ Route Order: First or Second
☆ Voice Actor: Makoto Furukawa ❤
☆ Tropes: Onii-san, Knight, Playboy
☆ Dynamic with MC: Dependable superior officer and mentor who has some shady secrets and seems popular with women, although he denies having any ongoing romantic partner…
Tyril I Lister
☆ Name: Tyril I Lister
☆ Route Order: First or Second
☆ Voice Actor: Sugiyama Noriaki
☆ Tropes: Sadist, Tensai, Ore-sama (He’s proud, but he’s also a genius, so it’s not false arrogance. But… it’s very cute when he gets smug over obviously insincere compliments, so I’m sticking with the ‘ore-sama’ tag).
☆ Dynamic with MC: Smug, sadistic boss who is, rather annoyingly, actually as good as he says he is. He’s a bit petty, and often uses roundabout methods to get his point across, but he’s secretly quite sweet… and he’s very good with a whip, so there’s that.
☆ Name: Zenn Sorfield
☆ Route Order: Third
☆ Voice Actor: Takeuchi Shunsuke (Mitsuhide’s voice actor in Ikemen Sengoku!!!)
☆ Tropes: Onii-san, Kuudere, Dashing Hero
☆ Dynamic with MC: Zenn is a cool and stoic type who’s difficult to pin down. He tends to do his own thing, and requires the heroine to be pretty proactive to get close to him, but whenever she needs him he’ll always be there, which is exactly what she needs in the third route.
☆ Name: Lucien Neuschburn
☆ Route Order: Fourth
☆ Voice Actor: Ishikawa Kaito (!!)
☆ Tropes: Ouji-sama, childhood friend, absolute sweetheart
☆ Dynamic with MC: Lucien has been lovesick for MC since they were children, although she is completely oblivious to this. He stays in the background for most of the game, until he’s exactly the ray of sunshine and hope that she needs in the fourth route. He’s a breath of fresh air during one of the more difficult parts of the game, and I loved the comfortable, casual, easy-going sibling/childhood friend dynamic he had with MC. He’s also the youngest love interest, and closest in age to the heroine, so they tend to go back and forth between being each other’s dashing hero, which was especially fun since I love a good subversion of gender roles and fairy-tale archetypes! ❤
Despite my glowing praise for ‘even if TEMPEST’, I’m aware this game won’t be for everyone. It is deeply tragic – and often disturbing – but I encourage players to stick with it until the end, to reach the emotional payoff after a series of painful bad endings.
I also recommend playing in longer sittings, if possible. This way, you can finish each session on a note of relief, rather than being forced to wallow in the more difficult parts of the story until you next pick up the game. That being said, there is something to be said for putting the game down for a break every now and then, while you mull over the mystery elements of the plot and try to work out where the story is headed.
In the end, so long as you’re aware that there’ll be plenty of heartbreak before you can reach your happy ending, I encourage players make choices for themselves as to how they’ll best enjoy the game. If you’re worried about difficult scenes, then try allowing yourself enough play time to see the resolution for these situations.
On the other hand, f you’re not worried about this part of the story, but you’re interested in the mysteries and investigations, then try playing in shorter episodes so you can reflect on the clues and try to piece together the truth for yourself.
As far as emotional stories like this go, ‘even if TEMPEST’ does a fantastic job of framing these tragic events through a lens of resilience and determination to forge a better future. It’s deeply moving to watch the heroine transition from despair to hatred and rage, and then finally to sincere hope.
Her journey is reminiscent of how it feels in real life to pull yourself out of a hopeless situation and push yourself forwards, even if the only motivation keeping you going isn’t always a healthy one. For anyone who has been in a dark place and relied on their own defiance and strength of will to break out of it, this story will likely resonate with you.
While the game explores the uglier parts of this journey it may evoke some uncomfortable feelings and memories, but hopefully it will also move and inspire you, as you see how this perseverance can lead to a brighter future, so long as you’re prepared to keep moving – and keep learning – through all the difficult steps along the way.
You’ll like ‘even if TEMPEST’ if you like: dark fantasy; tragedy; stories about hope, despair, and overcoming adversity; heroines with a fleshed out personality; protagonists with short hair!!; and otome games with investigative gameplay, intriguing plotlines, and a compelling cast of unique, memorable characters…
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