Otome game review: Winter in Fairbrook

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As I said in my previous review, apart from Re:Alistair++, Winter in Fairbrook is another one of the first dating sims I’ve ever played and it’s very special to me. The game has its pro and cons but is very sweet and warm. Also, it’s a spin off of Summer in Fairbrook, where the mc is Steve, who is a bachelor in this game. I haven’t played that one, though.

So, what’s the story about? Here’s a short summary: Natalie, a lazy and spoiled girl, has just finished her first semester in college. However, this hardly means she’ll be free. Her parents want her to get a job over winter break or they’ll take her new car away. Luckily, her roommate, Clara, tells her about a friend in her hometown who needs a hand with her flower shop. Will Natalie learn how to be disciplined and responsible in her one-month work? Will she open up to others and find love?

Note: This review contains spoilers so read at your own risk. If you want to avoid them, though, just jump to “conclusive thoughts”.

Although Winter in Fairbrook is a Winter Wolves visual novel, the one who wrote the story is none other than Ayu Sakata, founder of sakevisual. I’m a big fan of her writing and, despite this game not being the one where her writing shines the most, I enjoyed it a lot (in fact, I have it on my mobile, so I’ve played it more than once). Also, the game artist is DejiNyucu, who has worked with sakevisual quite often.

Anyway, onto the actual game. Winter in Fairbrook, has a similar system to that one of Re: Alistair++; in the sense that it contains the visual novel aspect, where you need to choose the correct options to raise affection with the guys, and the stat-raising gameplay. Quoting sakevisual’s walkthrough: “Every boy has TWO stats you need to raise in order to get his romance end.” Another thing that is important, in order to get a certain love ending, is the amount of money you make by working in the flower shop (if you earn less than $400, you’ll get the normal ending, but earn more than that and you’ll get the special ending).

Flower_Shop_Winter_in_Fairbrook_Artwork_1Trent – Trent’s not really my type of guy but he had his cute moments in his route. He is Susana’s older brother and works at Fairbrook’s library. Although he’s quite outgoing, Trent is pretty shy when it comes to love. It seems he also has a crush on Marian the librarian, much to Natalie’s disappointment, but feels it’s not worth the risk since she’s Susana’s childhood friend. The guy is pretty big but a kid at heart. Unfortunately, Natalie and him started on the wrong foot with him thinking she was a spoiled and lazy brat, and she feeling he was kind of a jerk. To make matters worse, Natalie had even made a rude comment about Susana in one of her visits to the library. Of course, she apologized and explained she was a bit unhappy with her current situation.

I think the moment Trent started falling for Natalie was during the snow storm event (though that may be the case for every bachelor). Both Susana and Trent tried to beat the storm (seems like their genes don’t come with danger sensors) and, welp, it obviously didn’t go well. Fortunately, Trent was able to reach the flower shop, but not without becoming extremely cold (though not as much as Susana). Natalie is a super sweetie, giving him something hot to drink and telling him to rest. After this, she keeps going to the library and they are a lot friendlier than before. But something Natalie doesn’t like is the fact that Trent keeps treating her like a child. Well, apparently that’s how he treats the person he likes and she rushes to the flower shop feeling super flustered. On Christmas day, Natalie spends her time with the blond siblings and, after Susana leaves to give them a bit of space (because they fell together on top of the couch 😆 ), they confess to each other and kiss ( ˘ ³˘)♥. Before Natalie returns to college, there is a snowball fight event, which is pretty much the same in each route except for tiny bits related to the boy you’re romancing (in Trent’s case, Natalie joins his group). A year later, Trent surprises Natalie by visiting her at her college.

Flower_Shop_Winter_in_Fairbrook_Artwork_4Ryan – Intelligent boy here has a fantastic route. He’s the general store guy and, apart from selling Natalie seedlings, he offers to tutor her. I love these type of characters who are super formal and, as Natalie would say, ‘all fancy’ when they talk. Instead of just saying ‘Hey, how are you?’, Ryan would be like ‘Good afternoon, how are you doing?’ 😆 This route is endearing to no small extent and it mostly has to do with the fact that the interactions between them are great. Ryan may seem cold at first, but the truth is he’s not good at conversation. He’s lived all his life in Fairbrook but is still very much alone. Of course, Natalie has a talent to break the ice and if she has something on her mind, she’d rather say it directly than keeping it to herself. So, in exchange for him tutoring her, she suggests to teach him how to make small talk 😆

During the snow storm event, Natalie offers to look for Susana and, before Ryan can stop her, she goes out into the whiteness. Although she manages to find her, she can’t seem to carry her without struggling and eventually passes out. When she regains consciousness, Ryan tells Natalie that Trent found her with Susana at the flower shop’s front door and brought them in. However, Ryan is boiling mad because of her recklessness and if Trent hadn’t come at the right time, she could have been in serious trouble. Natalie apologizes but Ryan’s insistent anger makes her lose her temper and, soon, they are shouting at each other. Fortunately, Ryan realizes he said too much and tells her he’s sorry. He then pours her a cup of tea (holding her hand over the mug), and covers her with the blankets(*/∇\*). They get closer after that, with some really touching moments like when Natalie lets Ryan know she wants them to be friends. However, another fight takes place when it’s time for Natalie’s math review. Naturally, she returns the next time in order to apologize, but Ryan tells her it’s no big deal since he knows it’s stressful for students (and they used to avoid him in the hallways, when he tutored during high school). On Christmas day, Natalie and Ryan go ice skating and when the mood is just right, he kisses her and they confess to each other ( ˘ ³˘)♥. Snowball scene has Ryan making ‘perfectly spherical snowballs’ after he receives one straight in the face 😆 The next summer, Ryan picks her up at college with his car, since they’re going to meet his family.

Flower_Shop_Winter_in_Fairbrook_Artwork_3 Steve – Steve was the main character in Summer in Fairbrook and has a lot in common with Natalie. They both have issues with their parents, they’re both lazy, they’re both sociable and they’re both city folk. Though Steve seems like someone who takes everything easy, he is serious about the important matters (but still believes one shouldn’t take things TOO seriously or they’ll cease to have any meaning). When Natalie visits him, they tend to go for a walk or spend time at his uncle’s farmhouse. Even though she does comment on how Trent is a hottie when she meets him for the first time, I think she’s actually more interested in Steve. I mean, this jokester has made her blush so many times throughout the game that I ‘ve lost count (one of the best scenes is when he offers to do a strip show to apologize for scaring her 😆 ).

The awkward moment, however, comes about when Steve mentions his ex. Nuff said that it gets very uncomfortable when they return to the farm but, fortunately, Steve apologizes and lightens up the mood before they see each other off. Gosh, they’re so adorable and I love Steve’s cheerful personality. Anyway, during the snow storm event, Natalie goes out to look for Susana, passes out when she’s about to reach home with her, and wakes up on her bed (much like what I described in Ryan’s route). However, instead of apologizing once more to Ryan, she decides to wait until later. Steve is a lot more chill than Ryan because even though he DOES tell her that what she did wasn’t smart, he’s proud of her for having saved Susana. Then, when he pours her some tea, Natalie burns her bottom lip and Steve gets REALLY close to inspect it. Natalie blushes and he thinks it’s because she might have a fever but she tells him it’s because he’s close and he gets embarrassed. Nevertheless, Natalie let’s him know she’s happy for the nearness and he touches her nose with his (aaaaahhh, cuteness overload). Of course, they become friendlier after that, talking about their family problems, baking cookies together and whatnot. On Christmas day, Steve invites Natalie to dinner. She feels a bit bad because he could be spending time with his uncle and his dad, but he reassures her. They share a lovely meal (with candlelight, how romantic!) and joke around for a while until Natalie confesses her love due to a slip of the tongue. Hoho, needless to say that both feel the same way (in fact, Steve was practicing how to confess 😆 so cute) and they kiss ( ˘ ³˘)♥. Snowball scene has Steve and Natalie hug each other lovingly (๑´ω`๑). A year later, Steve transfers from his college in LA to Natalie’s.

Flower_Shop_Winter_in_Fairbrook_Artwork_2Jacob – Have you ever heard of the saying ‘opposites attract’? This very much applies to this route! While Natalie’s straightforward, rude and outgoing, Jacob is roundabout, polite and very, very shy. This boy is the youngest in his large family, so he’s got a bit of a complex with his youthful appearance. The poor guy gets treated like a baby even though he works the hardest. Unfortunately, Natalie rubs salt into the wound when she tells him he looks like twelve, after Jacob says he’s seventeen (this is because Natalie was surprised when she saw him get on the driver’s seat, so she asked his age). I think this route shows Natalie’s development the most because, in the beginning, she’s very grouchy and rude but, by the end, you can tell she’s matured and worked really hard at her job. Besides, these two complement and learn from each other. Natalie comes to be kinder and more hardworking, while Jacob gains more confidence and grows bolder. Gosh, even though I love Ryan and Steve quite a lot, sweet Jacob is definitely my favorite bachelor (he’s even a mysteryholic like me!).

Something to take note of is that Jacob actually has a crush on Susana. It especially shows when he complains about how she hired Natalie when he’s there to lend a hand. Natalie lectures him about his negativity and tells him he needs to man up 😆 . It’s super cute because Jacob doesn’t get mad, in fact he gets happier and says she’s nice. Anyway, during the snow storm event, since Susana’s out in the blizzard, he wants to go look for her but Natalie reasons with him claiming it’s too dangerous. Luckily, Trent arrives carrying her sister and they take her to Natalie’s room. After covering her with a bunch of blankets and Ryan giving out some helpful tips, Jacob and Natalie are left alone in the room to take care of a sleeping Susana. But things are quite tense between them and, soon, they have a quarrel. Jacob feels useless because he couldn’t do anything to help Susana while Natalie let’s him know that if he had gone out there he could have died, and she stopped him because she cares about him. Fortunately, Susana wakes up, so the fight ceases. Ryan suggests they go to the kitchen to fetch some tea and while they’re on their way Jacob apologizes and tells Natalie he cares about her too. After that, they get closer: Jacob lets Natalie help him more with flower packing, is more willing to talk about his family and even leans on her shoulder now (灬º 艸º灬). On Christmas day, Natalie is feeling pretty lonely by herself until Jacob unexpectedly shows up! He didn’t like the idea of her being alone on Christmas so he came to keep her company and share his delicious hot chocolate. They sit next to each other and Natalie utters how she loves Fairbrook but feels like an outsider. Jacob scolds her, saying she shouldn’t talk like she’ll never come again because she belongs with him. He kisses her and they confess to each other ( ˘ ³˘)♥. Snowball scene has them hiding behind Natalie’s car from Steve’s attack 😆 Some months later, Jacob visits Natalie at her college and surprises her with the great news that he’ll be attending her school too.

Conclusive thoughts

This game is like drinking a cup of hot chocolate: it’s very warm and sweet. I know Natalie may not be everyone’s cup of tea as a heroine, precisely because she’s rude and immature at first. But, in my opinion, it makes her feel more real. Characters who are too perfect are boring and, besides, she has a lot of development despite this being a short game. You know what they say, right? Experiences and places change people. Well, I don’t know if it’s a saying but I think it’s true 😛

As I said at the beginning of my post, I really like Ayu Sakata’s writing so I was mostly pleased. Some dialogues can get a bit repetitive, but it’s a common matter that most stat-raising dating sims share (and they actually vary a little bit, as Natalie gets closer to the bachelors). My only complaint would be the endings, which left me quite unsatisfied. They are all pretty similar in the sense that the mc ends with X guy and he fills her up with how the others are doing. Depending on who Natalie’s going out with, all the other guys were either dating someone else or right about to (except for Steve’s ending maybe). That’s not very plausible, in my opinion. Also, they were very short and not much interaction with Natalie could be appreciated.

As regards the art, I find it very charming. Deji is a great artist and, if you play the other games she has worked on, you’ll see how much she improves. The only thing I don’t like is Trent’s nose in his sprite 😆 but everything else is great. The music fits the warm vibe of this story very well, and it leaves me with a nostalgic feeling everytime I listen to it.

This visual novel has its pro and cons but it’s totally worth the play (especially because of the adorable bachelors). Depending on which platform you choose to buy the game, it’s cheaper or more expensive. Mobile version is the one I have and it’s about 7 dollars. The downside is that the skip button doesn’t work there, but the game isn’t that long so, if you don’t mind clicking a bit, go for it!

Hope you enjoyed the ride! See you next post! (≧∇≦*)/

January is DatingSimonth, so be sure to check what other people post as well 😀 !!

 

 

 

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