I’ve played many games over the years, but none has so perfectly captured the human experience as poignantly as the short visual novel One Night, Hot Spring. This thought provoking title, gives players the opportunity to step into the shoes of Haru, a 19 year old transgender Japanese woman who has just been invited for an overnight trip to a local hot spring by her oldest friend Manami. While Haru is initially reluctant to attend, she eventually give in to the request. But, what would normally be a simple night out with friends is made much more difficult for Haru, who is still legally male must contend with the rigid gender structures of the Japanese hot spring. As the night wears on and Haru’s anxieties rise the player must decide how Haru reacts to the various obstacles she encounters.
npckc‘s short visual novel One Night, Hot Spring does that and more, by giving players the unique opportunity to experience life through the eyes of a transgender woman in Japan. I originally included the game in a list of ten LGBTQ positive visual novels in celebration of Pride Month and of all the titles on that list, One Night, Hot Spring was by far my favorite. The game was developed by indie developer npckc for the 2018 Trans Gal Jam.
- Available for Windows, Linux, Mac, and Android
- Gameplay Length: 30 mins – 1 hour
- 7 unique endings
- Cost: FREE
The biggest source of conflict in the story comes not from any external force, but from Haru herself. Her anxieties and fears shape her experiences at the hot spring, making simple tasks such as filling out the hot spring’s intake form or choosing which bath to use seem like a daunting task. But, for Haru they are, unlike her cis friends, Haru is legally still male, despite living her life as a woman, so choices that normally would warrant a second thought must be considered with the utmost care since they affect not only how Haru perceives herself but how those around her do as well. Most of the game’s can be divided into one of two categories: Haru let’s her anxieties keep her from performing a task or she is open and honest about her situation resulting in a positive outcome.
Surprisingly, despite focusing on such a sensitive topic, there is a overwhelming sense of optimism in One Night, Hot Spring. During her trip Haru is introduced to a number of characters not familiar with her or her situation, each of whom handle the revelation with varying degrees of grace. The staff are almost always understanding, offering to let Haru use the reserved family bath instead of the public bath in order to avoid any uncomfortable situations. However, Manami’s friend Erika, who also goes with them on the trip poses an even bigger obstacle. While she is accepting of Haru, she admittedly doesn’t know much about transgender individuals and more often than not makes a few unintended faux pas, such as asking Haru very pointed and personal questions. In these instances you can choose to withdraw or you can be open with Erika. While there are no “wrong” choices, by choosing to let Haru’s anxiety take control will result in a less enjoyable experience at the hot spring and strained relationships between Haru, Manami, and Erika.
Even as a cis individual, there were quite a few times when I truly felt the weight of my choices and that is what really makes One Night, Hot Spring stand out. It gives players the chance to experience first hand what it’s like to experience the world the way Haru does. While this is not the end all for transgender experiences, each one is unique to the individual, however, it does give some key insights into some of the obstacles transgender individuals have to contend with in their day to day lives. I highly recommend playing through each of the game’s seven endings, since they give the player a better grasp of who Haru is and how she perceives the world around her. Even the bad ending which results in Haru choosing not to go to the hot spring and Manami offering an alternative way to celebrate her birthday that won’t exclude Haru. It’s one of the more heartbreaking outcomes, but, an important one, because adds even more realism to the game and Haru’s experiences as a transgender woman.
It’s just one of the many LGBT experiences, but, One Night, Hot Spring offers an intimate look at a single moment in the life of Haru, a young transgender woman living in Japan. The game’s show don’t tell policy gives gamers the unique opportunity to see the world from a different perspective, it’s a chance to not just walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Whether you’re a member of the LGBT community or one of its allies, One Night, Hot Spring is a fun, heartwarming, and at times informative visual novel that I hope gives way to more games like it in the future.
I highly recommend giving this game a playthrough if you have the chance, either on itch.io, Steam, or android.
5 thoughts on “One Night, Hot Spring – Game Review”
This looks quite cute actually.. not sure how I feel about the honesty almost always leading to postive things. I don’t feel that completely reflects reality.. there is a lot of understanding.. but I have noticed myself that opening up also can make things very odd.. Its nice to see some encouragement to be open.. but I feel the unaware world thinks this is now pretty much a commonly accepted thing.. and the truth is that despite that may be true.. the negative side is quite strong.. I bet anyone that belongs to any minority can understand that.. how hard it is to avoid any violence towards you.. .
I believe latest figures I saw is that as a Transgender you have a 51% chance to encounter at least physical or mental assaults during your transition.
So while I think this can be a great encouraging pad on the shoulder, I think acknowledging Haru’s fears is also important. This is how things are supposed to go and can go.. but also how they don’t always go. In bigger places, cities and such this is rather accepted but in smaller and more classic towns.. people aren’t always that welcoming.
First, I want to say thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about the game! There are a lot of things I am unaware of, so I appreciate it when folks share their opinions and experiences.
I agree, One Night, Hot Springs is definitely an optimistic depiction of the experiences Haru faces as a transgender woman in Japan. She is generally met with positive people who genuinely want to know more about her as a person/ want to give her the opportunity to enjoy herself the same as her friends.
I don’t know if this came across in my review, but while the game is largely positive, it does give a great deal of insight into some of the anxieties and fears Haru has about certain events in the game. There are quite a few bad endings that involve Haru deciding not to go on the Hot Springs trip or pretending she is having fun when she is clearly uncomfortable about a situation. I actually really appreciated the bad endings because they touch on some of the things you mentioned in your comment. The sequel Last Day of Spring delves into some of the less positive outcomes Haru faces in her day to day life and definitely delves into her frustrations at the political and social barriers that she deals with every day.
Sorry that this is a super long reply.
I got there is a lot of issues that Haru can get and a lot endings that end up in her not having any fun.. but as you described most of these seem self imposed.
While I do get that plenty enemies for Trans People stem from themselves , I do feel like there will always be Biggots, maybe thats because I live in a small minded former mining town.. but say we had a bathhouse here.. I feel those Biggots will still factor in.
I would be Happy for Haru if she had such a healthy enviroment that she can come clean to everyone and people will overall support her.. but I do notice that plenty of people think the entire world is accepting already and it’s not.. not always.. and all you need is ONE at the wrong place at the wrong time to crush all that build up bravery and joy.
I will check these games out myself I think though so thanks for making me aware of them!
You are absolutely right, there will always be people out there who refuse to accept change. The current situation in the US is proof of that, so it’s important that at least on an individual level we show people the love and support they need.
I appreciate these positive stories and games, because they show us what can be achieved by simply accepting people for who they are (even if it’s a much more idealized image than that of the real world). Definitely check the game out! I would love to see your thoughts on the game!