Previously only available as an import, NIS America has finally released “Hotaru no Nikki,” now “htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary” on PlayStation Vita, to North America and Europe. Known primarily as the home of the Prinnies, and the Disgaea series, and as a Japanese role playing game importer, NIS has lately been trying its hand at other game genres. “The Firefly Diary” is actually a puzzle game that utilizes both touch screens on the Vita. The game is compatible with the PlayStation TV, but was only tested on the Vita for this review.
“htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary” follows a young girl named Mion, trapped in a perilous labyrinth. Lost and alone, she has no memory of how she got here. By shifting between a world of light and one of shadows, Mion must work with two fireflies to recover her memories, and escape the dark, nightmarish ruins. Ancient machines, shadow beasts and other treacherous traps stand between Mion and her escape. Beyond these obstacles, her memories reveal a deeper darkness that must be faced from within.
Though NIS America recently made announcements for “Danganronpa: Another Episode – Ultra Despair Girls,” “Rodea the Sky Soldier,” and “Disgaea 5,” none of them will available until the fall, and surprisingly, only “Disgaea 5” is a traditional role playing game. While many of NIS’ JRPG imports are significant games, it is nice to see a little more variety from the publisher. “htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary” is a welcome change of pace, despite some significant shortcomings. A beautiful little piece of art, the biggest problem the game faces is its default control scheme.
On the PlayStation Vita, players control Mion by manipulating the two fireflies, with the front and back touchscreens. Mion simply follows the fireflies, and a tap on the rear of the Vita will switch the light and dark worlds. Unfortunately, the touchscreens are problematic for a couple of reasons. The first problem is that the screens on the Vita are too small for precise movements. The other big problem is, that by using the rear touch screen, merely repositioning your hands can flip the switch on the light and dark worlds, force you to restart a puzzle. Luckily, there are a couple of alternative control schemes, including the ability to use the left analog stick to control the fireflies.
In many cases, The Firefly Diary requires a precision that is difficult to achieve, particularly with the touchscreens. Even with the analog sticks, avoiding obstacles, fighting enemies, and navigating the dreamscape is difficult with the indirect control scheme. Despite the clunky interface, most of the puzzles are fun, and challenging, and the story is interesting. It is just that navigating it all, can be frustrating. Unfortunately, the indirect controls, and the resulting frequent deaths will force many players to put the game down long before discovering Mion’s story.
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