htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary Review + Video Review

firefly

 

Title: htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
Developer: NIS, NIS America (Publisher)
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 638 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail (Limited Run)

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

There are many releases coming for the PS Vita right now, and many more soon to come.  One thing you don’t see every day, though, is a game that plays like a smaller game but is made and published by a bigger company.  How many of those can you think of?  The first thing that comes to my mind is Rollers of the Realm.  It’s an indie game published by Atlus, the makers of the Persona games.  However, that wasn’t developed by Atlus.  They just published it.

Some big companies have made some smaller games, though.  This past week’s Deadman’s Cross from Square Enix is a good example of that.  Square developed a simple free-to-play card game for Mobile and now the Vita, while most of their games are more assumed to be much bigger games like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts.

NIS America has also done this, as you shall soon see.  They’ve been bringing quite a few games to the PlayStation Vita and tomorrow, they are bringing another one.  A small game from a big developer, her is our official review of htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary.

Story

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The story of Firefly Diary revolves around three characters: Mion and her firefly companions.  Mion is a young girl who awakens in a giant mechanical area with no memories of who she is.  She only has two companions in the form of fireflies to aid her in her journey of self-discovery.  You control the two fireflies as you travel through various environments and search for Memory Fragments so you can recover what happened to Mion and why she has no memories.

The plot of this game is very strange because it is more up to interpretation.  The Memory Fragments you find are interactive scenes, but there is no text or sound.  You see things happen and are free to interpret them as you wish.  There is an underlying plot, but it’s something that you have to figure out on your own, as you play the game and see these scenes.

Gameplay

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The Firefly Diary is a puzzle platformer, as said by NISA and as shown as you play through the game.  The entire game is a big puzzle as you explore the world and discover more about Mion’s past.  Everything from fighting off bosses to reaching one area to the next is a puzzle for your brain to figure out and get through.  You could even imagine the game as one giant puzzle adventure.

The game progresses in stages and levels.  Proceeding through the stages requires the use of the two fireflies you have at your disposal.  There are a lot of passages that cannot be passed unless a switch is flipped, a rope cut, or something else.  This is where the fireflies come in.  You move your firefly around the map, very similar to how you move Ignatious around in Child of Light.  Wherever it hovers, Mion will follow, whether there is anything in the way or not.

The other firefly, called Umbra, is used in what is called the Shadow World.  By activating Umbra, you can travel through shadows of the world around you to find objects to interact with that you cannot do with the normal firefly.  The trick is that you have to follow in a straight line.  Meaning you need to position Mion in an area where her shadow would connect with other objects around to create a path for Umbra to follow.  This can be pretty tricky at times, as well as very time-based.

The puzzles are not spelled out for you, so there is a lot of thinking involved.  That also brings me to talk about this game’s difficulty.  The puzzles in this game are sometimes easy to figure out, but hard to implement.  Particularly for the puzzles past Chapter 1, they require very specific timing to get through.  Almost all of the puzzles have very “that was close” scenarios, where you can achieve your goal to open your way to the next area, but only with very specific positioning and timing.

Since the puzzles require very specific timing, and you cannot get hit by anything at all without getting a Game Over, this is not a very easy game.  Everything from moving to the next area to fighting off bosses is a constant game of trial-and-error.  There are checkpoints that will save your progress upon reaching them, but they don’t come incredibly often.  You sometimes will have a few minutes of intricate puzzle-solving and platforming before you get to that area.  If you’re not quick on your reflexes, you can spend dozens of attempts on even a simple puzzle.

Don’t expect to just fly through this game.  Although the game only has 4 chapters and can technically be beaten in just a couple hours, you will be spending a lot more time than that in the process of trial-and-error to figure everything out.  Getting the Normal Ending, I would guess, will take you at least 3-5 hours and more for replaying the game to collect all of the Memory Fragments that are hidden in order to unlock the True Ending.

Controls

Controlling the game can be very awkward, depending on what control style you choose.  There are three different sets, and the controls are set to the touch screen, by default.  There is also a button-based control scheme and I highly suggest you use that, as using the touch screen can make your finger cover up parts of the puzzles and make it easier for you to make that one wrong step and fail back to the check-point.

In the default control setup, you use the front touch screen to control your firefly and the rear touch screen to control Umbra.  The second control scheme lets you use the touch screen for both, but tap the corner of the screen to go into the shadow world.  Finally, the button control scheme has you controlling both the firefly and Umbra with the Left Analog Stick.  Along with this, you can tap Triangle to enter the shadow world and the X button to interact with an object.

All in all, the controls are very simple for this game.  However, it can feel a little off sometimes, especially if you switch from the Vita to the PlayStation TV.  You will have to be much more careful when using the Analog controls on a DS3 or DS4 controller since the Analogs are so much larger than the small ones on the Vita.

Presentation

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The visual presentation of the game is set up in a 2D fashion but has 3D elements to it.  The visuals themselves are all in 2D, other than the animations for things like fire or the light trail for the two fireflies.  There are 3D aspects because there are objects behind others as well as Mion’s shadow moving around behind her.  The design of the game was well-done, other than the shadows.  Whether you’re on the Vita or PSTV, there are jagged edges and imperfections on the shadows as you trek through the game, which are more easily seen if you are not moving.

Other than this, the game’s presentation is well-done.  The Load Times are normally about 3-4 seconds in length when you go to a new area or die and go back to a checkpoint.  The game also plays pretty well.  There were a couple areas where we saw it lag a little bit with the frames, but for the most part, it ran well.

Summary

htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is: Good
The Firefly Diary is a Vita-exclusive that plays a lot like the indie game Limbo.  On the downside, there are some visual imperfections and the story isn’t really explained to you, even upon reaching the True Ending.  Otherwise, this is a fun puzzle game for anyone that wants a challenging game that doesn’t hold your hand as you go. 

8/10

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