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Eating Games With Curry: Firefly Diary

Posted on the 25 February 2015 by Kaminomi @OrganizationASG

pipes_2The full name is htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. The first half is pronounced “Hotaru no Nikki,” which translates to firefly diary. Non-masochists need not apply.

Okay, maybe that’s kind of an overstatement. But my point is, this game is not intended for the easily discouraged or those short on patience. It’s the kind of game designed to have you die over and over again, until you finally manage to not screw up. The 100 deaths trophy came to me before the halfway point of the game.

The premise is simple: there’s a little girl with horns on her head named Mion, and you take control of two fireflies that guide her through eerie ruins of factories that function well enough to have something that will kill Mion every few steps or so. In addition to murderous physical objects, there are also shadow-like creatures lurking around to try and kill her when the factories’ processes aren’t. Scattered through the game are also fragment’s of Mion’s memory, very easily missable (especially since you’re trying to not die here).

You can’t control Mion directly, so you have to rely on the light fairy to do it. Mion will follow the light fairy and do things like climbing steps and ladders by herself when they’re in her way. The shadow fairy, on the other hand, is able to travel through shadows of objects and manipulate them at various points to clear the path for Mion. When the shadow fairy is active, everything freezes on the spot and the shadows will appear as how they are at that exact moment. This becomes a key point in the very first boss fight, where the only way to defeat it is to wait until it rises up to attack Mion, so that its shadow connects to the shadow of a loose chunk in the ceiling and you can guide the shadow fairy up there to get it to drop and crush the boss.


There are many other puzzle-like stages that require both precise control and some thinking in order to clear. Keeping a cool head and a steady hand is key in this game, as well as pure, undying determination. You will die an enormous amount of times, and you will definitely experience frustration. However, there’s a particular satisfaction to be had from finally passing a segment that you’ve been stuck at for many tries; the first time it it me was during a difficult maze stage in Chapter 2 that drove me nuts.

Firefly Diary is a game geared for a very specific audience and has little in the way of mainstream appeal. The creators at NIS had this in mind when they made the game, and said they were aiming to recreate the ‘feel’ of an indie game (or their impression of one). From the crisp 2D graphics to the eerie atmosphere to the cute character design for Mion, the visual elements work in unison to create a very distinct look. It looks nothing like mainstream video games, but also looks a bit different from the standard Western 2D side-scrolling indie game.

The game can be controlled with either the Vita’s front and back touchscreen, or the analog sticks. Believe me, you will want to switch to the latter as soon as possible. The pre-release promotional materials all encourage you to use the touchscreen control scheme, but trust me, use the sticks. The game launched in Japan with touchscreen controls only, and the analog stick controls were patched in later–after everyone and their cats complained.

NIS had an experimental phase last year and this is one of the results. If you’re expecting a game in the style that the company is famous for, you’d only be setting yourself up for disappointment. There is not a lot of text in the game, and certainly none of the upbeat, comedic stuff present in their signature series. Nor is there any form of statistical grinding involved. This is a several hours long game, linearly-speaking, but you will spend much, much more time dying and figuring out how to clear each segment. Mion also moves very slowly, so this is by no means a fast-paced game.

Firefly Diary aims for a very specific target audience that, unfortunately, most people would not be a part of. I probably would not have the game on my radar were it not for the neat visual style and being from NIS, who has provided enough entertainment for me that I was interested in trying one of their more experimental works.

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