NISA is well known for bringing quirky and imaginative Japanese titles to the West. htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, pronounced as Hotaru no Nikki, is one such game. Developed by its Japanese counterpart Nippon Ichi Software exclusively for the PS Vita, it is a game about a girl named Mion who has lost her way into the darkness. Players will take control of two fireflies that will guide her throughout the course of the game.
By default, htoL#NiQ relies entirely on the Vita’s touch controls, making use of the handheld’s front and rear touch pads. The guiding light Lumen is controlled via the front touch pad, while the rear touch pad is dedicated to controlling the dark shadow Umbra. While the touch controls do present a unique experience, they’re just too sluggish and unresponsive to be enjoyable for the most part. As a result, puzzles involving moving or climbing boxes can be quite cumbersome. It’s great, then, that the game gives you the option to switch to analog controls, right? Well, not quite. Unfortunately, the inherently imprecise controls rear their ugly head here as well. Using the analog controls results in the fireflies traveling too far, even with minor nudges to the stick.
The game introduces you to new mechanics as you progress, which helps keep the pacing a little fresh. It’s also great that the game doesn’t hold you hand through puzzles and expects you to solve them on your own. Although, the difficulty ramps up considerably as you make your way across its mazes. Eventually, it comes to a point where things become excruciatingly hard, and the challenge doesn’t quite feel fair. Some of the bosses are a little too random in how they attack you. Coupled with the inaccurate controls, it can take quite a while to get past a few of them.
The story is told via flashbacks with no dialogue. It’s deliberately kept a little vague in order to leave much to your imagination, which works well for the game. You’ll be able to find several memory fragments throughout the course of the game, each of which reveals a moment from Mions past and gets her one step closer to regaining her lost memory.
htoL#NiQ has an undeniable charm that oozes from the beautiful art. So beautiful, in fact, that you’re willing to look past its issues and carry on playing, if only to see what the next area looks like. It also helps that the music is moody and atmospheric, drawing you further into the experience. It’s pretty clear that immersion is the game’s strongest asset.
Despite its flaws, htoL#NiQ is a unique and immersive experience that might be worth your time if you can jive with its awkward controls.
htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary Review