Even if Tempest, where do I begin with you? The prologue contains so much content that even writing a summary seems like spoilers, but I’ll give it a try. The first-born daughter of a marquess has been trapped in their family home’s attic for 8 years now, abuse instigated by her stepmother who holds an inexplicable grudge against her. Her spirit is crushed and she has given up on trying to make anything of life when the crown prince seeks her out and says he wants to marry her. She grips this escape from misfortune with both hands, but it’s not long before ill fate has caught up to her again and her fairy tale crumbles. Anastasia is dead, but a witch offers her the power to rewind time and give her life another go. This time she won’t let herself be mistreated, she wakes with but a singular goal in mind: revenge. But another witch has a different ending in mind, and wraps her and her loved ones up in a miserable death game. How many times will she have to rewind to earn her happy ending? Is it even waiting for her at the end at all?
Look I know I didn’t tell you much, but if you feel even a shred of interest, you should probably just stop right now and play the game yourself. This is one of the only otome games I’ve played which is structured more like a linear mystery visual novel, and I feel that it is meant to be enjoyed that way. It is one of the great strengths of even if Tempest. Romance truly takes a backseat, but it’s very easy to start to care for the characters and what will happen to them. The game ambitiously tries to tackle an enormous amount of story aspects, genres and tropes but surprisingly pulls most of them off decently well. Our heroine Anastasia is one of a kind and really makes the game work.
As far as art goes, the game is rather middle of the road. I feel like most of the parts I wanted to see a CG for got one, but the art was sometimes a little inconsistent in quality. The sprites get a lot of variations and expressions – especially Tyril – and this really heightens enjoyment of the game. Music was fitting and well done but not standout, but the voice acting deserves an honorable mention. All the love interests’ voice actors suited their characters impeccably and gave great performances, it’s just a shame that Anastasia did not have a voice actress considering she’s such a strong character and integral part to the narrative.
- The heroine felt like the actual main character for once, instead of a girl who happens to be thrust into an environment with a lot of cool handsome guys. Anastasia was so charming with her earnest nature and straightforward praise for the boys. I loved her inner monologue and it was very easy to sympathise with her and her character development.
- SHE REMEMBERS ALL THE ROUTES! This was honestly my favourite part, I love when visual novels justify their structure with plot reasons. It felt like playing through the other routes wasn’t a waste of time, and Anastasia held the same fondness for the boys that I did.
- Unlike a lot of other visual novels where you get more attached to later route characters because they are more involved in the plot, here the early routes of Crius and Tyril really get to shine because there is a great synthesis between plot development, reveals and romance. In the later routes of Zenn and Lucien the focus shifts too heavily in favour of the plot so I felt less romantically involved.
- Good lord, the twists, the turns. There was too much stuff to keep track of just piled on each other, but somehow it usually worked. Some twists felt strange or fell flat, and Crius’ route felt especially bad in this regard. On the other hand, Lucien’s route felt too much like it was marching to its neatly-tying-up-all ends ending at such a pace there was little room for any interesting detours.
- The trials were great! Especially the one in Tyril’s route was amazingly done, and it honestly felt more fun to play as a facilitator than as a participant. It’s nice to get some more gameplay in an otome game that feels naturally entwined with the story. The world needs more death game + otome crossovers.
- There are a ton of side characters and most of them are great and feel quite fleshed out. I like how the heroine has both male (the other cadets) and female (Maya) friends, and how the male friends clearly regard her quite platonically. Maya was amazing in general. I desperately want to see more of my immortal catboy Rune, I was kind of hoping the epilogue chapter would be for him instead of Ish (who I’ve seen others like more, but didn’t really do much for me.)
- I honestly really like Conrad as this evil force who has nothing to do with witches or other supernatural shenanigans, he’s just an asshole. I expected Anastasia’s stepmother Evelina to receive some more explanation with her ominous “you don’t deserve to be loved”, “you’re a witch”, etc. but in the end that was unsatisfyingly brushed under the rug.
- While the romance between Anastasia and Crius was well executed, the plot felt weird in how it wanted to cram in so many plot points without leaving a lot of breathing room for any of them to fully develop. Why does Landon go yandere for the flimsiest of reasons here? Crius’ illness gets introduced and then promptly resolved without any conflict. Suddenly we see visions of his dead older sister but before we blink the whole plot comes to a head and we never really see the repercussions of this past on Crius himself. Crius isn’t usually my type at all and his route didn’t really do it for me until I got to his epilogue, that goddamn epilogue melted my heart!
- Tyril best boy, no question. I went for his route first and it was a perfect start. I love how Anastasia and Tyril interact from the start and the way they get to develop their relationship during the trial as well as outside of it. Getting points with Tyril for giving the right answers felt so good for me who uses a guide normally but decided to forgo it this time. The epilogue did my boy dirty to be honest, and I headcanon that Anastasia took Tyril to the Goddess’s shrine to have him regain his memories of their route, because they literally explained the records are right there!
- I liked the plot in Zenn‘s route, and I was quite charmed by Zenn as a character but I somehow didn’t really feel the romantic connection between him and Anastasia. It kept feeling more like a deep friendship to me. I also found the fact he was literally just an isekai protagonist kind of tonally incongruent with the rest of the game. In the end, it’s not like the plot point led to much and they could’ve easily made him immortal/keeping his memory of the rewinds through other means. If it’s not Zenn, please explain the monster on the cover, thanks.
- Lucien‘s route was kind of relegated to resolving things and ending the story which was a little disappointing as I had high hopes for his route from the start. In the end, he and Anastasia didn’t even interact much on this final rewind and their romance is based almost purely on the childhood friend past which Anastasia clearly attaches less import to than Lucien does. Their romance was the only one that felt unrealistic to me. This route also suffers from awkward pacing that the rest of the game lacks.
- A lot of twists were good, but the final ~major reveal~ was a bit too foreshadowed. I’m not a theorycrafter at all, but even I called the big twist of Anastasia = Goddess = the first witch pretty easily.
- In general I felt like the start of the game + Tyril’s route was so strong, really selling the dark atmosphere and while the game stayed good throughout, it dropped off a bit during the second half. Some plot points go unresolved, or unsatisfyingly resolved and the turn towards a power-of-friendship moral didn’t really entice my angst-loving soul. Also what happened to Anastasia’s revenge? It felt like Conrad and Evelina didn’t get any comeuppance whatsoever. I get that she’s supposed to move on and live her own life but shouldn’t these two at least be prevented from creating more suffering?
What a ride! What a ride… I won’t deny that even if Tempest has its fair share of flaws, but as a package deal, it works phenomenally. It reminds me of Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk a bit, in the way it adds convoluted point on top of point, the difference being that in this game it actually works. I think that’s all a result of the well-written characters, who felt relatable and had believable motives and most importantly, had great chemistry with one another. Though some of the worldbuilding feels like nonsense, the heart of the characters shines through everything. Squinting through my tears, it was impossible to focus on nitpicks.
I loved the inverse development from a lot of otome games. They start off with cute slice of life, and slowly devolve into tragedy as we inch closer to the core of the narrative. Here we’re thrown into misery right out of the gate, and have to work to claw our way out of hell into the jaws of happiness. I loved how the pace is quick and there’s rarely a dull moment up until the final stretches of the game, where so many other games drag on and on. I picked this game up and couldn’t really put it down again, which is a feeling I haven’t had in a while.
If I had to pick a major point of critique, it would be the rushed and disconnected feeling of the epilogues. It would’ve been good if they were just a bit longer, and a bit more integrated into the story. I feel like the game might have been rushed, because it seems like some aspects didn’t get all the attention they deserve. Still, this isn’t really a game about romance, and what we did get from the epilogues was moving all the same, so I can’t say I’m too bothered.
Overall, if you’re a lover of tears and tragedy, if you appreciate thrilling wild rides at the expense of some plot holes, and if you’ve been itching for a strong heroine who drives the plot, this is the game you’ve been waiting for! Go give it a shot.