Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo is a supernatural historical otome game developed by Otomate and published by Aksys Games for the Nintendo Switch. A secret organization recruits a young woman. Her ability to sense oncoming disasters could save the country from demonic forces. Or destroy it…
- Genre: Historical | Supernatural | Romance
- Rating: ESRB T
- Developer & Publisher: Otomate & Aksys Games
- Where to Get the Game: Aksys Games | Amazon | Nintendo eShop
- Similar Games: Hakuoki series | Olympia Soiree | Birushana Rising Flower of Genpei
Story of Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo
The first year of the Kyoho era. The land is ruled by the eighth shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa. Repeated incidents caused by monsters in the town of Edo upset and frighten the people so the Tokugawa shogunate establishes the “Oniwaban” to maintain public order and secure the town. Seasons pass—to year 11 of the Kyoho era.
A girl in a village far from Edo has the power to see “black Threads” before every catastrophe, which causes the panicked villagers to drive her away into the snowy mountains. One day, a young man going by the name of Oniwaban appears before her. This is a story in which a girl encounters “non-humans,” and learns about love.
In Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo you pursue each of the Oniwaban’s six Vessel warriors: the sincere and taciturn, Tomonari Takamura; the compassionate and brotherly, Kunitaka Tojo; the apathetic and blunt, Yoichi; the diligent and noble, Genjuro Kuga; the vain and alluring, Kinji; and finally the carefree and energetic, Ohtaro.
All of the characters oversee one of three locations: Castle Town (Genjuro & Yoichi), Samurai Town (Tamanori & Kunitaka), and the Entertainment District (Kinji & Ohtaro). The story is split into three parts; a single chapter common route that serves as a “prologue” introducing you to all the characters and their mission of taking down blightfall in Edo. Once Suzuno is better acquainted with the Oniwaban, she is asked to choose a location to oversee alongside the two of the Vessels. There’s a two chapter conflict specific to each location you choose. Get to know the LIs and raise your affection, which leads into the individual character routes starting in chapter 4.
At the start of the game Tomonari‘s route is “locked” until you finish at least one individual route from each of the three location (so the earliest you can play him is 4th overall). Ohtaro‘s route is locked until you finish Tomonari’s Affection end. For the best progression of the ongoing mystery, I recommend playing in this order:
Recommended Play Order: Genjuro → Yoichi → Kinji → Kunitaka → Tomonari → Ohtaro
Genjuro Kuga (VA. Takuya Maeno)
Looks like Olympia Soiree‘s Riku of the Blue was reincarnated as member of the Oniwaban. Genjuro is the ever serious protector of Castle Town. Duty bound and stoic to a fault, he can be a bit hard to approach, which isn’t helped by his nature as a Vessel. Because Vessels don’t have hearts or emotions, he has a hard time understanding the subtleties of human emotions. He’s very aware of his own limitations and always strives to better himself, whether that’s sword training in the evenings or his cute habit of keeping a diary to help him better understanding everyone around him.
Genjuro is an awkward bean who truly wants to connect with others and while he fumbles with the nuance of it, he is surprisingly earnest and sweet. Also, despite how reserved he can be, Genjuro can be pretty hands on when he falls in love. 😏If you liked Riku from Olympia Soiree, you’ll love Genjuro.
Yoichi (VA. Seiichiro Yamashita)
I clearly have a type, because Yoichi seemed to be the LEAST interested in Suzuno and that was all it took to catch my attention. This man cannot be bothered with anything that disrupts his life, so romance and babysitting Suzuno is very low on his priorities list. Yoichi sees other people as a hassle and often goes out of his way to keep people at a distance, to the point of being lowkey rude. But, he’s hot, so the ladies still wanna jump his bones (it’s me, I’m “ladies”), much to his frustration. Yoichi isn’t one to mince words, but, you can always trust him to be honest.
Yoichi does not suffer fools, so you can trust that if he says or does something for Suzuno, it’s because he sees value in her as a person. Also, bae can cook and there is nothing sexier than a man that can throw down in the kitchen. If you liked Taiga from Variable Barricade, you’ll love Genjuro Kuga.
Kunitaka (VA. Tomoaki Maeno)
Kunitaka is everyone’s protective onii-san. He and Tomonari are the first to meet Suzuno and bring her to Edo. He’s sweet, inoffensive and just an all around good guy–he’s the safe option. Kunitaka is the kind of guy you bring home to meet your parents, grannies and moms adore him and dads trust him to bring you home before curfew. Don’t get me wrong, he does everything right, but boy is he a bit too good to be true. When he isn’t taking care of his Oniwaban duties he runs the local temple school and the kids all love him! The only character that hates him is Suzuno’s sparrow Komame, her constant attacks on him are played for laughs.
He’s patient and always quick to laugh or smile, everything about Kunitaka puts you at ease. But, deep down Kunitaka feels a bit inferior to some of the other Oniwaban members, so he never feels like he’s doing enough. This route decided to up the ante, there’s a surprising amount of angst to wade through, but I kind of like juxtaposition of Kunitaka’s boy next door charm with a darker story. Also, he is definitely eager to smash… If you like Crius from Even If TEMPEST, you’ll like Kunitaka
Tomonari (VA. Yusuke Kobayashi)
Sweet, cute, baby we must protecc. Tomonari is one of the first Oniwaban members to meet Suzuno and from the start it is VERY clear that he sees her as someone special to him. Which seeing as Vessels aren’t supposed to form attachments is more than a little unusual. He opens up to her from jump, telling her to call him by his first name and even showing her his true Vessel item. While he is overly friendly and sweet to Suzuno, he can be a bit distant with others and is prone to jealousy when some of the other Oniwaban members get too close to her (only he can give her head pats *grr* 😠). Tomonari would do anything for Suzuno, even if that means turning his back on his mission or giving up his life to protect her life.
Tomonari and Suzuno’s relationship is so cute and wholesome and delivers on all the doki doki vibes. Every moment between the two of them is just so gosh darn sugary sweet. 💕 Of all the love interests, I think Tomonari is the best fit for Suzuno. Also, baby boy may be cute, but he also is hella horny (especially in the bad ends… you’re welcome). If you like Tokisada from Olympia Soiree, you’ll love Tomonari.
Kinji (VA. Daisuke Namikawa)
Kinji is the embodiment of “I’m better than you”. He’s a popular kabuki actor who only takes on onnegata roles (female roles). He’s hot. His refined, beautiful features make him popular with women and men, and he’s the subject of many ukiyo-e. So, it’s no wonder Suzuno is so thirsty for him in this route, I mean can you blame her?! Kinji is absolutely aware of Suzuno’s affections (read: lust) for him and he spends most of the route teasing her relentlessly for even daring to simp so hard. But, he’s never malicious about it and goes out of his way not to be too harsh with her.
Kinji is the oldest of the Vessels so he kind of gives off this bored, complacent vibe most of the time, that can be a bit off-putting. He’s resigned himself to his lot in life and it isn’t until he meets Suzuno that he starts wanting to explore life.
I do want to note that because this route takes place in the Entertainment District, a lot of time is spent in the brothels of the Red-Light District. The game is rated Teen, so everything is pretty vague, but there are depictions of STIs (syphilis) and sex work… so be mindful of your comfort levels. If you liked Helvetica from Bustafellows, you’ll like Kinji
Ohtaro (VA. Soma Saito)
Despite being a Vessel, Ohtaro is super energetic and fun, which helps him navigate a place as lively as the Entertainment District. Ohtaro is the most approachable of the Oniwaban members and like Tomonari he immediately hits it off with Suzuno. He often tries to cheer her up by showing her around the Entertainment District. Suzuno lowkey treats Ohtaro like a child, and in one of the most out of pocket moments in otome history, she calls this man a puppy… and even gives him good boy head pats.
I was honestly confused to find that his route was locked until after poster bae, Tomonari’s route. Ohtaro definitely gives off loveable early playthrough LI vibes, but, after playing his route…😲 Yo, this route is locked for a reason. This route fills in all of the unanswered questions about Suzuno’s past, the Oniwaban, and anything else that was left hanging at the end of the other routes. But, prepare yourself, it gets pretty dark.
I have a LOT to say about Ohtaro that would be HUGE spoilers, so click the red bar below for those after you’ve played his route:
Spoilers for Ohtaro
Right off the bat, Suzuno has a bit in common with a few otome heroines. Like Cardia from Code Realize, she lived most of her life in isolation, shunned by those around her because of her special abilities, only to be whisked off to the big city by a group of hot guys. Like Byakuya in Olympia Soiree she is the last of her very special, very white clan… which I need Otomate to move away from, because it’s a bit too close to fetishizing whiteness for my taste.
But, aside from those surface level similarities, Suzuno really is a great heroine. She’s earnest and hardworking, she is aware of her shortcomings and instead of taking on the role of damsel in distress, she actively strives to better herself. In Yoichi’s route she trains to learn basic fighting skills so she can help the Oniwaban fight blightfalls. In Kinji’s route she goes undercover in a brothel as a courtesan, at the risk of her own safety and she never complains. Then, in Kunitaka’s route she helps him run the local temple school. And in every route she is right there on the frontlines with the Oniwaban and plays an active role in their missions. She isn’t just there for moral support, she is a member of the Oniwaban, powers or not.
This is her story and I love that they always manage to put her at the forefront of everything. There is a lot of mystery surrounding her past and her lineage as a Hakuseki and I’m glad the writers took the time to actually explore it. I honestly think she is at her BEST in Tomomori, Ohtaro, and Kinji’s routes, but believe me when I say she shines in every route.
Winter’s Wish Spirits of Edo Review
Winter’s Wish Spirits of Edo is the latest in a long line of supernatural/fantasy historical otome game localizations. So I will admit I was not expecting much. If you’ve played one historical otome you’ve more or less played them all.
A secret organization recruits a young woman. Her ability to sense oncoming disasters could save the country from demonic forces. Or destroy it…Synopsis from the game box
I would be lying if I didn’t say Winter’s Wish didn’t give me Hakuoki vibes–an elite team of superpowered samurai fight shadow demons threatening Japan. Heck, you could even argue that there are some nods to Code Realize too. Then throw in the heroine being the last of her very special, very
white magical clan and a plot with spirituality inspired worldbuilding and lore and you’ve got a bit of Olympia Soiree too. BUT, despite it’s inspirations from other otome, Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo does manage to be an entertaining experience. There are a few routes that genuinely surprised me with their plot twists and while I have my faves, I more or less liked all the LIs.
Winter’s Wish is a pretty grand story with a lot of ground to cover and it could easily have become pretty messy and disjointed. Which is why I really like that the story is divided between the three districts of Edo: Castle Town where most of the shops and common folk live, Samurai Town where the samurai families and nobility live, and the Entertainment District, full of lively activity and excitement. Each area has its own unique flare that could easily serve as a setting for their own games. By separating the story into individual arcs for each setting it ensures that you get plenty of time to explore each place to the fullest without skimping on the details for the sake of the overarching plot. Which makes the world of Winter’s Wish feel more full and vibrant.
And believe me when I say this is a fully realized world. There are so many loveable side characters that help bring Edo to life. The Onibawan is full of forbidden snacks to ogle, Kyoshiro is an especially tasty morsel, he is too fine to just be a background character. On top of that they have their own lives and storylines that run concurrent to the main story (some are even more interesting than the main story). There’s a cute romance between two side characters in Tomonari’s route that I was ACTIVELY wishing would bear fruit (and it does…kind of).
Also, for folks that are craving more besties for their otome heroines, Winter’s Wish gives us the amazing Mimi, she is a ray of sunshine. She is a bestie, big sis, wing-woman, Suzuno’s biggest defender, and confidant all wrapped into one.
But the most interesting part of Winter’s Wish is the world itself and the lore. Much like Olympia Soiree with it’s rich worldbuilding, Winter’s Wish has an equally immersive story that draws inspiration from Japanese folklore. Formfolk and Vessels, much like Tsukumogami (tool kami) are beings born when a normal everyday object acquire a soul. They have lives, eat, sleep, and fall in love much like humans. Though Vessels, like the LIs, are under the employ of the shogunate and have their hearts and memories sealed so they can fight blightfall with their special Snow Sacrament ability. Blightfalls are demonic monsters created from the negative emotions of people. And of course there is Suzuno’s heritage as a member of the Hakuseki clan, a special lineage with the ability to see people’s emotions as colorful threads around their necks.
It can seem like a lot to take in at the start, but the story seamlessly blends everything together in a way that makes you want to learn more. Piece by piece the story delves into its finer details, sweeping you up in each and every new revelation.
Given the more action heavy storylines and extended battles, I feel like Winter’s Wish is held back by its visual novel gameplay. While it’s all fine and dandy to watch sword wielding sprites zip around a screen, “slashing” at billowing black smoke and quick action lines, it would have really have been nice if the more action heavy scenes were more interactive. I know it’s an otome, so that’s not the focus, but at the very least having a general blightfall sprite would have been nice. Though the boss blightfall tend to have their own sprites, so it’s not a total loss.
While Winter’s Wish is a romance, there is often more of a focus on the plot and the T ESRB rating ensures that most of the romantic development is kept PG-13. Tomonari, Kunitaka, and Kinji’s routes do have some steamier bits, but they tend to fade to black before anything really pops off (though Tomonari’s bad ends were surprisingly steamy 💦). I enjoyed Suzuno’s relationships with each of the LIs. A lot of the conflict involves the LIs learning how to understand their budding feelings for Suzuno despite the consequences of a Vessel regaining their hearts (and/or memories), since that is grounds for their extermination. Some routes do better than others at exploring this plot point and offering a satisfying conclusion. While in others, there’s seemingly no consequence for the LIs learning to love…
Also, if you like a bit of bromance with your LIs there’s plenty of that here. The LIs are paired off by the locations they oversee and they work fairly closely, so it only makes sense that they would develop strong bonds. You really get the sense that they’re friends and in some cases more like brothers and it’s fun seeing them all together.
Last, but certainly not least, Winter’s Wish is a gorgeous game. The art is some of the best that I’ve seen and I know that alone will be more than enough to get otome fans to throw their money at the game. The character designs are all so pretty and the historical outfits and backgrounds really do take full advantage of the unique setting. And do not get me started on the UI! The falling snow on the title screen and stylized menus are stunning (and as an added bonus the UI changes when you unlock all of the Affection ends).
There isn’t too much in the way of extra gameplay after you finish the game, though there’s extra voiced content and images that you can view under Extras. Everything else is pretty standard for an otome game. The localization is fine. I did notice some minor typos, but nothing to write home about. The translation choices were good, blending in some modern phrases that don’t really take you out of the historical setting.
Overall Winter’s Wish isn’t super long, I finished most routes (all ends) in about a day or two and I suppose if you play the game straight you could finish everything in about a week or so.
Is Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo worth playing?
Yes. If you like historical otome like Hakuoki or Birushana or great worldbuilding and lore like in Olympia Soiree, then you’ll really love Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo. It has it all, action, suspense, romance, and beautiful art!
While some folks may be wary of picking up another historical otome series, trust me when I say Winter’s Wish: Spirits of Edo is worth checking out!
Thank you to Aksys Games for providing a copy of Winter’s Wish Spirits of Edo for this review.