Games offer a wealth of storytelling opportunities, giving players a chance to experience stories and characters far removed from their day to day lives–from supernatural romances to high fantasy adventures, each new game is a one of a kind experience. However, there are still many stories and characters that are often overlooked by the broader gaming industry. In recent years, indie games have become a hub for marginalized creators to tell their own stories and create characters that are representative of the diverse gaming community. Over the years, I’ve stumbled upon some true gems, but one series that always manages to tug at the heartstrings is npckc’s Springs series! Three LGBTQIA positive games that touch on the lives of three very different women as they come to an understanding about themselves, life, and friendship.
So, you can bet I was super excited to see that npckc had compiled all three games in the series into one compilation game, A Year of Springs! This new game comes with all three titles in the Springs series–One Night, Hot Spring, Last Day of Spring, and Spring Leaves No Flower–and as an exclusive bonus, npckc included a new epilogue that follows Haru, Erika, and Manami after the events of all three games!
three women, three stories, three springs.
Experience the stories of Haru, Erika, and Manami in A YEAR OF SPRINGS, a visual novel trilogy about a trio of friends navigating their feelings of love, connection, and just wanting to belong.-Official Synopsis
In one night, hot springs, visit the hot springs with Haru, a young and anxious trans woman who just wants to enjoy herself on a trip with Manami but doesn’t want to cause any trouble.
In last day of spring, start off the Reiwa era as Erika, a well-meaning ex-delinquent who runs into more issues than expected when trying to plan a spa day for Haru.
In spring leaves no flowers, help sheltered university student Manami think about what friendship and romance mean to her as she spends a day with Haru, Erika, and her boyfriend.
One Night Hot Springs tells the story of Haru, a young transgender woman as she navigates a trip to the hot springs with her friends; it’s an emotional and heartwarming experience that gives insight into some of the situations transgender individuals might face in their day to day lives–from deciding how to fill out an intake form or choosing which of the venue’s baths to use. Seemingly everyday activities have an added level of weight to them and npckc tackles each experience with the utmost care and sensitivity.
Last Day of Spring shifts the focus from Haru to Erika, as she struggles to plan a fun birthday spa day for Haru, a task that proves to be difficult. Frustrated with the lack of consideration for Haru’s feelings and comfort, Erika decides to plan an at home spa day for Haru. However, things don’t go as planned when Haru, attempts to back out of their plans. What follows is Erika’s efforts to understand Haru’s feelings and insecurities by being a supportive friend and ally. Along the way, Erika discovers something new about her feelings for Haru.
Spring Leaves No Flowers brings Haru’s friend Manami to the forefront as she comes to an understanding about herself as she thinks about what friendship and romance mean to her. Spring Leaves No Flowers touches on an important aspect of the LGBTQ+ experience—coming out. In most games a character is already secure in their identity, and while I appreciate representation in all it’s forms, far too few games focus on characters just coming into their own. As with most journeys, not everything is cut and dry and I love that Manami’s story is left more open ended, because this is really just the beginning for her.
I had the chance to play each of the standalone Year of Springs games as they were released and I absolutely loved each and every one. Each game tells the story of three young women as they discover more about themselves and their identities. The games work well as standalone experiences, centering their respective narratives on Haru, Erika, and Minami’s individual journeys. But, even within the standalone games the friendship shared between all three women, which is the connective tissue that strings this story together and I think it’s a brilliant idea to link them together in this heartwarming compilation. A Year of Springs isn’t just one person’s story but the connected story of a group of friends learning and growing together. Each of the characters is so different from one another and everyone can relate to some aspect of their lives and experiences, because at the end of the day we all just want to feel accepted for who we are.
A Year of Springs adds a new epilogue that wraps up the journey of Haru, Erika, and Minami and I’m not gonna lie, I teared up a bit at the end. I won’t spoil it for you, because npckc wants everyone to have the chance to experience the epilogue for the first time on their own–but know that it is just as emotional and heartwarming as the other games in the series.
If you have not played this amazing series, A Year of Springs is the definitive way to enjoy npckc’s beautiful visual novel series! This is a thoughtful and emotional LGBTQIA positive story that is about friendship and feeling comfortable and supported in your identity–whether that’s having fun at a hot spring with your friends, finding someone you can share your life with, or just learning more about your feelings, A Year of Springs is a story that everyone should experience!
Thank you to npckc for providing a copy of A Year of Springs for this review!