Sometimes, one has to work extremely hard to achieve a happy ending. This sentiment is most certainly the case for protagonist Anastasia Lynzel of the otome VN even if TEMPEST. Anastasia must endure a hellish time cycle before finally achieving a modicum of contentment for herself and those around her. But, perhaps even more importantly, she also learns how to accept and love herself along the way.
even if TEMPEST begins with a rather bleak scenario. Anastasia has been abused and neglected by her family, shut away from the general populace in a derelict attic room simply because her stepmother views her as a witch who only brings about misfortune. She finally breaks free from her family’s abuse, only to plunge into a conspiracy involving members of her nation’s royal family. Anastasia is betrayed again, tried as a witch, and eventually burned at the stake. Her understandable desire for revenge in her final agonizing moments leads her to a mysterious ally in an afterlife limbo named Rune, who explains her newfound ability to travel back in time following her death. This Fatal Rewind is a “gift” in exchange for Anastasia’s help battling an actual witch who wants nothing more than to see humanity suffer. Our heroine embarks with newfound purpose through a series of escalating trials that puts both Anastasia herself and some of her closest allies through hell and back.
The premise behind even if TEMPEST is not precisely what one might expect from an otome title, lending itself to some surprisingly dark themes and morose moments. The game doesn’t provide a disclaimer, but people should be aware beforehand that it involves themes of extreme abuse, both physical and mental, mentions of human trafficking, and various horrific murder scenes, amongst other disturbing narrative beats. It is akin to the darker storylines one finds in otome games such as Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk or Collar x Malice. Anastasia has to investigate some genuinely horrific crimes throughout the game. The romance one expects typically in an otome title understandably takes a backseat to the darker machinations at hand throughout the story’s events.
In many respects, the game plays like a traditional visual novel, with the player-as-Anastasia reading long swatches of text broken up by a decision-making moment. However, the witch trials that play a crucial element in the story are slightly akin to the prosecution and investigative segments found in something like the Ace Attorney series. After a crime, Anastasia has limited time to investigate potential suspects and gather evidence that she can use and present in the trial. She often tries to defend or press suspects while keeping an eye on how the public views her in comparison. The trials nicely break up the standard VN gameplay. There’s the chance throughout the game’s numerous chapters to play through them as an innocent-turned-suspect, an inquisitorial agent who helps preside over the trial’s debates, and even as a criminal, giving you differing viewpoints on situations and even what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish.
Because this is still an otome game at its core, the individual story arcs after the standard route all coincide with a potential bachelor: knight Crius, inquisitor Tyril, private investigator Zenn, and the frequently tragic prince Lucien. Alongside supporting characters such as Anastasia’s loyal maid Maya, her three knighthood sect friends, and some genuinely repugnant antagonists, these characters help keep the plot interesting. Often their roles within each trial and the trial outcomes are quite feels-inducing, and kudos to the game for also providing little snippets into what happens to the supporting cast after the events of the “true” ending. Naturally, though, the real draw of the story is Anastasia herself. One could argue that the entire VN is more of a detailed character study of her; her evolution as a character makes this VN stand out. She is easily one of the most well-developed and fully realized otome heroines I’ve ever seen.
The script for even if TEMPEST does contain some odd hiccups in terms of grammar and typos. However, it isn’t the worst I’ve seen in that regard either. The Japanese voice acting is phenomenal, with even the unnamed minor characters presenting some outstanding deliveries. There are options to turn off specific character voices as desired, though I never tried it since all of the voice acting is excellent. The soundtrack is limited, but the tracks are well done and expressive, with a special note going to the beautiful vocal opening and ending themes.
Visually, even if TEMPEST is a beautiful game with some gorgeous CG illustrations and even higher-budget FMVs sometimes. The character art is lovely, though not the most expressive I’ve seen in a VN, with no accurate indication of who is talking in a given scene beyond the text box. As a result, it can be confusing who is saying what, and there are some parts where a character who isn’t even featured onscreen might be saying something. Given the uniqueness of Anastasia’s design, it is also somewhat disappointing that she’s only visible in the CG art and not during the dialogue screens.
Anastasia’s story has four main pathways, three of which ultimately lead to rather depressing ends, given the nature of the tale and her Fatal Rewind ability. Since the trial roles differ across each route, it’s easy prefer one specific path over another. I couldn’t stand one of them given the scope of what you-as-Anastasia do in it, though thankfully, it resolves itself nicely. By getting through the “ending” of the fourth route, the final chapters for the various bachelors unlocks, after which there is an epilogue story that sheds some light on lingering plot threads from the main story.
I say “some light” because one of the most significant issues in even if TEMPEST is the many plot holes left up to player interpretation. For example, there is not really a resolution to the stepmother plot, and even the epilogue chapter provides mere guesses at lingering questions. It’s a shame since the plot itself is pretty intriguing! Also, fans who enjoy romance as the primary focus of their otome titles might not like the romance presented here. It is more of an afterthought to the main storyline and only prevalent in the final chapters for the character routes, which require a lot of effort to unlock in the first place. I thought it made sense given how the story progresses, but I can see where some might consider it an odd choice for an otome title.
Honestly, the biggest weakness in even if TEMPEST is the game’s tendency to crash every so often during play. While this is a download-only VN title with several software updates since its initial release, expect some lingering software error crashes that take you right out of the game on specific routes. I just learned to err on the side of caution and frequently save to avoid frustration, but doing that every couple of minutes also impacts the game’s immersion element.
even if TEMPEST is an excellent VN for those who don’t mind otome elements and want a darker, more mature plot with a heavy focus on character development. It isn’t a flawless experience, given its plot holes, script errors, and software crashes. But even with those cons, Anastasia’s journey is compelling and one that I found worth diving into quite a few times to see the whole story.