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Winter Polaris is the latest visual novel published by developer stage nana, known for their published titles: Narcissu and Ame no Marginal –Rain Marginal-. Narcissu writer and designer, Tomo Kataoka once again lends his creativity and vision to Winter Polaris that was originally published on Steam in December 2019. 

The world is in chaos and disarray with a mysterious global pandemic causing people to vanish and disappear into thin air. Panic and widespread fear are rampant as the general population drastically declines in a short period of time without any warning. The plot is divided into two unique stories: Winter Polaris and Sweeper Swimmer. The first story involves the lead protagonist fleeing the city into the mountains to escape the pandemic after witnessing it firsthand. Upon returning to the ruins of Tokyo years later, he desperately searches for any survivors and encounters a lone and enigmatic girl named Tsubaki. Much to his surprise, she says she’s been waiting for him and declares herself as an immortal being. As he is not sure what to believe, he willingly partners with her as the two stick together to survive the treacherous situation.

 

Regarding the latter story Sweeper Swimmer, Elena is a young lady living in a small, rural island who works as a courier delivering cargo by sea. After a rainstorm, she carries out her daily duties to deliver packages via company boat when she spots a young girl adrift at sea. She immediately rescues the girl from the cold waters and brings her home as she is miraculously still alive. Elena is puzzled to find the girl possesses a tiny glass object that peaks her interest as nothing like it has ever been seen before. After nursing the girl back to health, they both embark on an adventure in search for answers about the origin and secrets of the glass object in question. 

Winter Polaris is the stronger of the two stories as you are required to play through both stories up to unlock further chapters to progress. As this is a kinetic visual novel, it is important to note there are no decisions to be made as the outcome remains the same. You advance one chapter at a time as the story unravels with beautiful art, exceptional voice acting and a captivating soundtrack. There is more to Tsubaki and Elena than meets the eyes as the two stories are intertwined in a fairly predictable manner. Fans of stage nana may recognize the melodic piano piece in select scenes from the Ame no Marginal –Rain Marginal- visual novel that is a genuine nod to the developer’s earlier works.

 

One thing to note is the dialogue lacks the narrative description of telling who is speaking at a given time. If you’re not paying close attention, you can be easily confused as to who the speaker is between the female characters in conversation. As you get to know the characters and their voice, this is a minor grievance but it was certainly a surprise in the absence of the name to identify the person talking at the given moment. Players may also notice the artwork utilizes black bars or borders rather than a full screen image as one may expect.    

Winter Polaris is a visual novel that delves deep into the themes of loneliness and existentialism. It covers in great depth the raw human emotions that one experiences through suffering, despair and tribulation. There is no fanservice or humor to be found as this visual novel is serious and dark in its presentation and atmosphere. Much like Narcissu and Ame no Marginal –Rain Marginal-, Winter Polaris evokes a lot of emotions and stands as another solid visual novel by the folks at stage nana.

 

PROS (+): Beautiful Art, Exceptional Voice Acting, Captivating Soundtrack

CONS (-): Short Visual Novel

 

SCORE – 9.0/10

This review is based on a purchased copy of Winter Polaris on Steam.

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