NIGHT/SHADE (not to be confused with this Nightshade) is an upcoming 18+ cyberpunk BL visual novel developed by indie studio KingAsphy. This is the team’s first project and from what I’ve seen so far it definitely puts me in the mind of some of Nitro+Chiral’s works, particularly DRAMAtical Murder.
Set in 2040 in the fusion city of Sobena, NIGHT/SHADE takes us on a trip into the neon lit underworld of the city; where crime syndicates own the streets and back alley deals and strange murders are the norm. The only way to survive is to either turn a blind eye to the unsavory goings on of the city or become one with the city’s dark underbelly.
KingAsphy launched a Kickstarter campaign for the game and there are just a handful of days left to fund the campaign and they are soooo close to reaching their goal! There is a short demo available, so I decided to give it a look see and if it’s worth throwing my money at (spoiler alert: totally worth it).
Sobena, 2040, the city of neon lights, back alley exchanges, and the echoes of underground clubs. Sasha, a 27 year old drug dealer, has found himself in an aimless cycle of indulgences that he has no intention of addressing.
When he and his best friend, Mishka, are caught in the crossfire of a power struggle between syndicates, Sasha is forced to confront himself and his feelings in order to save those most important to him. The two of them must overcome their immense aversion to change or risk losing everything.
In NIGHT/SHADE: You’re the Drug, plucky young drug dealer Sasha finds his life thrown upside down when he ends up at the center of war between two rival crime syndicates. Caught in their dangerous game, Sasha must navigate the city’s dark underworld if he is ever going to survive. Joining him is his best friend, Mishka, an assassin for hire and a whole host of colorful characters from the far reaches of Sobena’s criminal underworld.
Sasha and Mishka have made a pretty comfortable life for themselves in the city, but like many of the city’s residents, both have their share of dark secrets. The game opens with an impressive animated sequence introduces us to the main characters juxtaposing Sasha and Mishka’s casual banter with scenes of Mishka locked in an intense battle with an unknown masked assailant. It’s a small peek behind the façade of normalcy and gives you a sense of the thrilling story about to unfold.
From there we follow Mishka into the neon lit streets of Sobena, as he stalks a lone drug dealer. Without much pomp he cuts the man down, it’s a short scene, but he helps to introduce us to the dangers that lurk around every corner in the city. After we see Mishka take down his mark, the perspective shifts to the game’s true protagonist Sasha. Unlike the earlier scene, this one is much more mundane in comparison, as we follow Sasha to local burger joint in town. There’s no thrilling action sequences or dark dealings at the moment and while the transition can be a bit jarring, I kind of like the brief reprieve because it gives us a chance to really get to know Sasha before we delve into his criminal dealings.
In fact, Sasha is pretty unassuming and at first glance he seems out of place in a city known for its shady underbelly—we know he’s secretly a drug dealor, but aside from some very subtle references here and there it’s hard to see how this will factor into the story. He gets a text from a potential client, but we don’t see him meeting with them, rather his screen time is dedicated to him just enjoying his meal in a nearby park. Through his inner monologue we do get some exposition about the city, but the scene itself is much more relaxed than the earlier scenes.
The momentary reprieve is short lived. When Sasha returns home he discovers his apartment door is unlock and to his horror, someone is still inside. Arming himself with a weapon, Sasha prepares to confront the stranger… and that is where the demo decides to leave things. It’s a jarring transition that raises more questions than it answers, but I will admit that I was more curious than upset by it.
The demo for NIGHT/SHADE is pretty short running about 15 minutes long, so I won’t be doing an “official” demo review—but despite being short the demo is clearly well made. The art has a sleekness to it that I find very appealing, Sasha’s look in particular is stylish with a bit of a retro 80’s vibe that really stands out against the dark backdrop of the city. The neon colored UI seems to really pop and when combined with the synth heavy background tracks it gives the game a very distinctive vibe. There’s also an integrated phone system that you can use to message other characters and make choices to respond conversations. The demo also features partial voice acting and I quite liked the vocal performances. While the game is planned to be an 18+ release there is no NSFW content in this demo. However, in the final release you’ll be able to toggle off the adult content and the devs have promised this will be quite a few sexual encounters for folks to look forward to.
There was one thing that kind of caught me off guard—I am but a humble American, with very little in the way of foreign language skills and in the demo Sasha refers to a few things by their (I believe) Russian names. This is a great way to flesh out Sasha’s character without stating outright that he is of Russian descent… however, if the writers are going to do that, they will need to include a glossary or something because it really takes me out of the game when I have to stop and look up a word I don’t know. Like I had no clue what a ‘khrushchyovka’ was until I Googled it (it’s a low income housing project btw).
That aside, I really enjoyed the demo and despite the short length it’s a pretty solid proof of concept and I am definitely curious to see what the devs have in store for us in the final release.
The Kickstarter campaign is currently LIVE so be sure to show KingAsphy some love! If you can’t give monetarily, definitely share the campaign on your social media! And of course, give the demo a try when you have the chance—it’s short, but it definitely leaves a good first impression!