Estimated reading time: 13 minute(s)

On April 11, 2021, I introduced a New Leaf Journal article series beginning a project to review nearly 30 doujin visual novels from Japan that were officially translated into English for three translation festivals that took place in 2005, 2006, and 2008 (see full series). Since Halloween is approaching now, I decided that it would be fitting to review the one horror visual novel in the collection – Night of the Forget-Me-Nots (Wasurenagusa no Yoru). While Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is a short visual novel in the grand scheme of things, it is significantly longer than the first two stories I reviewed for the project. Moreover, while those visual novels presented no choices, Night of the Forget-Me-Nots has a large number of choices that affect the story and lead to 15 distinct endings.

Title card for the Night of the Forget-Me-Nots visual novel, known as Wasurenagusa no Yoru in Japanese.
Title screen for Night of the Forget-Me-Nots – with an aesthetic forget-me-not flower illustration on the left.

My review will refrain from spoiling the plot for people who have not downloaded and played the game, but you may be interested in doing so after reading my review. For that reason, this review is safe to read if you think that you may be interested in playing the game for yourself.

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is available as a free direct download from the al|together 2006 translation festival site for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots Details

  • Name: Night of the Forget-Me-Nots (EN); Wasurenagusa no Yoru (JP)
  • Created By: Jewel Box
  • Translated By: Eien Ni Hen
  • Original Release: March 22, 2003 (JP)
  • English Release: August 19, 2006 (EN)
  • Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Official Website: English
  • Visual Novel Database Entry: Link

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots was created by a doujin visual novel circle in Japan called Jewel Box and originally released in 2003. According to Visual Novel Database, it was Jewel Box’s first released visual novel. The circle would ultimately release four visual novels, with the last of the four being released in Japan in 2006.

Downloading Night of the Forget-Me-Nots

The English version of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is easy to download from the 2006 al|together site. You can find all of the download links on the page for the game. Like all of the games that were translated for the al|together festivals, Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is entirely free to download and play.

Official English-language page for the translation of the Japanese visual novel Wasurenagusa no Yoru, localized as "Night of the Forget-Me-Nots"
Screenshot of the game’s page on the Lumine Caro website.

For your convenience, I will provide the working official download links from the official website below:

I tested the Windows version on Linux through Wine and found that it ran perfectly. I also tested the Linux version of the game and found that it ran without issue. Linux users should consult the Readme for instructions on how to run it without installing. In both Windows and Linus, I had an issue with music not playing, but I believe that the issue was particular to my main desktop’s sound setup.

I did not try the OS X version.

Before continuing, do note that my review is based on running the native Linux version of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots.

General Overview of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots

The player plays the game from the perspective of Makoto, a high school senior who is the president of her school’s drama club. The story has an optional prologue, separate from the main story, wherein Makoto discusses the upcoming mandatory drama club retreat with another member of the club.

The story proper picks up as Makoto is walking with the rest of the drama club to the former schoolhouse that would serve as the location of their retreat. When she notices that all of the members of her club, including the supervising teacher, had disappeared. Makoto assumes that she is the victim of a prank. Then she finds one club member, a 10th grader named Ozawa, who, like her, became separated from the group.

Early scene set in the woods with the first choice of the Night of the Forget-Me-Nots visual novel.
The first choice presented in Night ofthe Forget-Me-Nots wherein Makoto tries to remember the name of the boy walking next to her.

The al|together 2006 site describes the story as follows:

Makoto is on her way to the drama club’s spring retreat when she gets lost in the woods, so she’s pretty glad to meet up with another lost kid. Taking him under her wing, she heads for the old school where the retreat is going to take place, blissfully unaware of what lies in wait…

Makoto and Ozawa make it to the schoolhouse in the early evening and begin searching to see if the rest of the club had arrived. Ozawa seems to sense that something is wrong, and soon Makoto becomes spooked by strange, ephemeral sightings.

Once Makoto and Ozawa arrive at the school, their fate will depend on the choices that the player has Makoto make at various junctures.

Game-Play of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is a highly interactive visual novel featuring a large number of choices demanding player input. In most cases, the player will be asked to choose between one of two options or paths, but there are a few instances where there are more than two options. Thus, based on Makoto’s choices, the player may be presented from anywhere from 2 to about 24 choices in any single run.

Outdoor scene in Night of the Forget-Me-Nots visual novel where protagonist asks companion of he saw something.
See what? An early choice in Night of the Forget-Me-Nots.

Like Bad End, which I reviewed for Halloween in 2020, most of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots endings are sub-optimal for the unfortunate protagonist. Several choices lead directly to a poor or neutral ending. For the endings that occur when Makoto survives deep into the night, many early choices may turn out to be significant in ways that the player may not have guessed when he or she made them. In general, the player should assume that every choice matters – especially if he or she is trying to achieve 100% completion.

The game does allow saving before choices, so it is possible to avoid some degree of back-tracking to achieve all of the endings by making strategic use of save files.

The game does not have any interactive elements beyond choices.

Unlike some visual novels that have long prologues or stretches in between choices, Night of the Forget-Me-Nots presents choices in very close proximity to each other. It is unlikely that a moderately fast reader will go more than two-to-three minutes without encountering a decision point.

Game Structure of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots

I discussed the story structure briefly in the above choice section, but it deserves its own treatment here.

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots has 15 endings in total. The shortest ending can be achieved with a choice in the very second prompt in the game – likely after only a few minutes of reading. Five of the endings can be reached by making choices that are not conducive to Makoto’s well-being relatively early in a run. The remaining ten endings occur relatively later (although this may be a difference of a couple of minutes from the perspective of the player). The last six endings are all triggered by the same final choice, but differ in terms of the choices that the player makes leading up to that point.

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots has 14 bad and ambiguous endings, and only 1 unambiguously good ending. 12 of the endings are relatively easy to achieve for a player who is keeping track of his or her choices and making use of saves and the option to skip previously-read text. The final three endings, including the good (or “true”) ending, are a bit harder to achieve since they rely on a more precise (and not always obvious) serious of choices.

There is nothing stopping the player from achieving the better endings on his or her first playthrough. However, given that the good ending requires a particular sequence of choices that would not be obvious on a player’s first trip through the haunted school, I think that it is unlikely that anyone would find the good ending on a first run. That is just as well – for the good ending is best enjoyed after seeing some of the more ambiguous endings first.

Audio-Visual Presentation of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots

Like the first Insani visual novel I reviewed, Night of the Forget-Me-Nots has no character sprites. Like the second, it uses photographic backgrounds.

Scene set in a school gym from the freeware horror visual novel, Night of the Forget-Me-Nots.

Save for the absence of character sprikes, the visual presentation of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is almost identical to the far-better-known doujin horror visual novel series, Higurashi: When they Cry.

Scene with Keichi and Satoko in a toy store from chapter 7 of Higurashi: When they Cry.
Screenshot from part seven of the Higurashi series on Steam. I took this screenshot for an earlier New Leaf Journal article. Save for the inclusion of character portraits, the art and text style of Higurashi is very similar to what is presented in Night of the Forget-Me-Nots.

On the whole, the team behind this project did a terrific job choosing photographs to use for the backgrounds – and the images fit the game’s abandoned-school-horror feeling well. You will find examples of the visual presentation throughout this article.

For whatever reason, the game’s music did not play when I ran it on my main computer – either in the PlayOnLinux or Linux versions. That issue, however, was likely particular to how my computer handled its sound-track. But due to this issue, I initially played the game with sound effects only and no music.

I listened to the music in a 2012 “let’s play” video for the game – and came away with the impression that the game is actually much creepier with sound effects and no music. The default sound-track, which loops constantly, is pleasant, albeit not particularly ominous. One of the tracks that plays when Makoto is in a fight-or-flight situation was, in the words of one reviewer, unsuitable. Some tracks were better than others, but none gave me the impression that my experience with the game would have been better with the music.

Translation Quality

As I note in every review of a translated Japanese visual novel, I cannot read or understand Japanese. For that reason, I will not comment on the fidelity of the English version of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots to the Japanese original.

I recall noting only one instance in the entire project where the placement of an English word seemed obviously off. Other than that, the translation read naturally in English, and at no point were there any ambiguities that I would attribute to the English wording. The quality of the English text compares favorably to several commercially-translated games I have played, including last year’s Halloween review, Bad End. In terms of the text reading naturally, I would also compare it favorably to my previous al|together review project.

Other Options and Notes

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots does not include any configuration options. By right-clicking or pressing escape during gameplay, the player summons a menu that allows for saving, loading from a previous save point, returning to the title screen, or reviewing previously read text.

The title menu contains options for “Prologue” and “Start.” Prologue consists of a brief introduction to the story that comes in the form of a conversation between Makoto and her classmate about the upcoming class trip. Start begins the game proper.

“Endings” reveals a screen with places for all 15 of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots’ endings. The endings are blank until the player achieves them. Once an ending has been obtained, the text with the name of the ending appears.

"Endings" menu for The Night of the Forget-Me-Nots douijin horror visual novel.
The endings screen with only one of fifteen endings completed. This screenshot comes from the Windows version of Forget-Me-Nots, as run through Wine.

Finally, pressing tab during game play skips text until the next choice appears.

The game is light on options, but between saving, loading, and the ordered list of endings, it contains all one needs for a complete play-through.

Review of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots

Having detailed how the game works, I now move on to my review of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots itself. I will separate my review into several sections.

Story

Since this is a spoiler-free review, I am a bit limited into how much detail I can go into for the story.

The main interest of Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is its choice structure and attempts at the occasional jump-scare. The story, such as it is, reveals itself in a few of the later endings that require the player to keep Makoto alive until deep in the adventure.

The good end ultimately goes down a somewhat heart-warming path that makes full use of the flower that inspired the game’s name. There are parts of the ending that are not entirely explained or foreshadowed, but it is reasonably satisfying for the game’s purposes. Save for three or four of the later endings, Makoto either does not live long enough for a story beyond the basic set-up to develop or misses choices that could reveal more information about the phenomena underpinning the scenario.

Writing Quality

Before continuing, I note for clarity that I am solely reviewing the writing as it is presented in the English translation.

The writing in Night of Forget-Me-Nots was solid for the game’s purposes. What are the game’s purposes? In my view the two most important tasks for the text are to provide the player with enough information to make intelligent choices and to set the atmosphere of a horror story. It does both well.

I did have some difficulties with the writing of the game’s view-point character and protagonist, Makoto. To begin, the entire story, from beginning to end, is seen through Makoto’s eyes and told from her perspective. In considering my following critiques – do recall that the game lacks character sprites, so all we know of the characters is through text.

Had there not been a few scenes wherein Makoto expressly referenced the fact that she was a girl, I would have found it hard to tell. One of those scenes, wherein she expresses finding it awkward to tell a boy that she had to use the restroom, was clunky.

To be be clear, there is nothing overtly wrong or distasteful about Makoto’s characterization. But insofar as female characters go, I did not come away with the impression that she was written by someone who has a knack for writing women. I would not categorically say that she is portrayed as masculine, but at no point do her internal monologues or occasional dialogue convey a distinct sense of femininity. The inconclusive search for Makoto’s character detracts a bit from the effect of the last three endings that focus to some extent on her backstory and feelings.

The Story Structure and Game-Play

For a very small indie project, I came away generally impressed with the number of meaningful choices that the game presents. Just about every choice matters for at least one ending, and there are many ways to get through the game.

Scene set  in a dark school hallway in the doujin horror visual novel, Night of the Forget-Me-Nots.
Choices, choices.

For the most part, I do not think that the first 12 endings are difficult to achieve (“achieve” would not be Makoto’s description of most of those, however). That is, so long as the player remembers or keeps track of his or her choices, it is relatively easy to unlock different endings by trying different combinations of choices.

The last three endings, which are the most substantial in payoff, were a bit trickier to find than the first twelve due to their reliance on more specific choices. With that being said, so long as one makes ample use of save points and remembers what he or she did, it is not difficult to find all of the endings within a couple of hours.

One minor complaint is that many of the endings occur after the same late-game choice. With the combination of careful saving and the in-game skip text function, one can try different choices relatively painlessly. But had the project had a slightly broader scope, the game may have been able to spread the endings more than it did.

It is worth noting that some of these issues may only matter for completionists. Many of the endings are slight variations on unfortunate endings for Makoto, and there are only a few endings that reveal something meaningful about Makoto, Ozawa, and the seemingly haunted school.

As a Horror Game

I had the accidental fortune of playing Night of the Forget-Me-Nots with sound effects on and music off. Having listened to the music after the fact, I think that this inadvertent omission of music enhanced the game’s creepy atmosphere. If possible on your device, I recommend playing the game in this way, or in the alternative, playing with no sound at all (the sparse sound effects are far more effective than the music, however).

Exterior of a haunted school in the horror visual novel, Night of the Forget-Me-Nots.
Exterior of the eerie school where most of the game’s events take place.

Setting aside the questionable music choices for a horror game, Jewel Box did well to produce a creepy atmosphere with little more than still photographs, text, and sound effects. Even without grading on a curve, Jewel Box made good use of the tools it had available. In so doing, it created a short visual novel that can accurately be called a horror game without needing a single character portrait.

Conclusion of My Review and Recommendation

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots has a number of flaws – including one that I was fortunate enough to inadvertently miss on my run (the music) – but I nevertheless enjoyed the time I spent with it. Discounting the questionable music choices, Jewel Box made good use of limited visuals and many choices to create a fun and atmospheric horror story that can be completed in a couple of hours.

While granting its shortcomings, Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is easy to recommend for its good qualities and the fact that it is entirely free and available to download for multiple platforms. I would particularly recommend it to those who are interested in video games and stories with branching paths and meaningful choices or those who think that a short story with Forget-Me-Nots premise would be a fun way to spend a couple of hours, perhaps with friends or family to assist in making choices.

Additional Reading and Viewing

I came across a few additional materials about the game – you will find them below.

Strategy Guide

An anonymous individual wrote a detailed strategy guide for Night of the Forget-Me-Nots. The guide works – although I am not 100-percent sure that it depicts the only paths to some of the later endings. I recommend trying to get a few endings for oneself before consulting guides, but this is a useful resource for ensuring that one sees everything without much frustration. For those who may be inclined to follow a guide throughout, the poster does order the endings in a way that the ones that reveal the least come first, and the ones that reveal the most come last.

2014 Review

In 2014 Night of the Forget-Me-Nots received a generally less-positive, but still spoiler-free review, from a blogger who went by Terminaato. You can read that review here. While I share some of the criticisms in the review, most notably of the music, I ultimately give the project more credit.

2012 Let’s Play

For those of you who enjoy Let’s Play videos, a YouTube streamer who goes by AestheticGamer aka Dusk Golem streamed his playing through the entire game and posted it on December 23, 2012. You can watch the stream here if you would prefer to watch the game or hear some additional commentary. I used the stream to listen to the soundtrack instead of diagnosing why it was not playing on my computer in the interest of publishing this review in a timely manner.

My Article on Forget-Me-Not Flowers

I published an article at The New Leaf Journal about how the forget-me-not flower earned its name. The flower plays a role in Night of the Forget-Me-Nots, as the name of the game would indicate, so those who enjoy the game may find my piece on the history of the flower itself interesting. I have updated that article to include a note about this review.