Some months ago I did an Impressions on Backstage Pass and mentioned my hesitance to bring Otome game Impressions into the blog. I stayed on the fence about it for awhile but have finally decided to give them their spot. Despite not being for everybody I truly love a lot of Otome games, so why not? I had briefly mentioned Winter in Fairbrook in my winter games piece and decided to revisit it.
Winter in Fairbrook is a game I visited early in my quest to hunt down as many Otome games as possible. I have never played the first game, Spring in Fairbrook, but it’s not necessary to enjoy this game. Pieces of the story from the Spring game are indeed mentioned (as well as repeat characters), but you are perfectly fine diving in with Winter. In Winter you play, Natalie, a rather lazy and selfish girl who finishes her first semester of college. Her parents want her to get a job, and so she decides to work at the flower shop in Fairbrook. From there you get pretty standard Otome game fare. You meet the major players, get to know your character a little better, and then move on to the core gameplay.
While I tend to prefer Otome games where your character is more of a blank slate (that you can project on) helping Natalie to develop from what I would call “a brat” into a more evolved character is nice. No matter what path you choose she does develop a better personality and stronger sense of self as you play. I still find it rather troublesome just how annoying she is in the early stages of the game, and find the idea that the guys are willing to look past how horrible she is to find love with her less than complimentary. However, in the end, it’s not bad enough that it ruins the game, maybe not the best backstory, but not the worst. Not only that but the story of the game is Natalie developing, not completely changing her entire identity.
Fairbrook is a good backdrop for this type of game. It’s a small town, so everybody is connected in some way or another, yet they all have their unique quirks. Playing through each character’s storyline is nice because you get to see each of them develop. The characters that you don’t pick still develop a little in the background, so no one feels like a “nothing” character.
I also appreciate the gameplay of the game a great deal. I tend to get bored with Otome games that are straight visual novels (games where you merely respond to specific questions/prompts with no other gameplay). Winter has you working in the flower shop so every morning you actually work in the flower shop. Your afternoons are when you spend time developing relationships, or even choosing to work more. How you choose to spend your time will determine which stats you raise, which leads directly to what scenes you unlock and how relationships develop. That being said, the gameplay is limited.
In fact, if I had to pick one word to describe the flaw of this game it would be that, limited. Your character is only spending a few weeks in Fairbrook, so everything seems to be on fast forward. Skills develop quickly, and major scenes unlock rather fast, this is because you do not have time to do more. There are also only 4 romance paths and 1 neutral path. Fans of Otome games (or similar type games) will probably find this game too short and straightforward. However, if you are new to the genre or just looking for something quick to play it’s rather perfect. The play time is short, the gameplay is simple enough, and it’s easy to get into. There is a lot of guesswork that goes into what skills you should focus on; this is not helped by the fact that cutscenes don’t always unlock in an order that makes sense. However, as mentioned, the game is short enough that you don’t feel punished for playing multiple times.
I wouldn’t recommend this for someone looking for something with more depth, but it does a serviceable job for what it is. It’s romantic (though it could use more), has great characters, solid gameplay, and while I won’t say it’s the best thing I have ever played, it’s entertaining. In truth, there is nothing I want to really complain about. Sure, it could be longer or the gameplay more complex, but honestly I don’t know that I would like it as much. Sometimes you want just a nice and slightly relaxing experience, and that is what it is without even coming close to being boring. Maybe a few tweaks to the MC so she’s not so grating at the start, but even that I can ignore.
It’s a fun experience for people new to Otome games (as I was when I played) without being something that will turn off veterans to the genre. If you like Otome games (or are curious), I would recommend this one.