One Night, Hot Springs

released on Aug 30, 2018
by npckc

Haru is invited by her old friend Manami to spend a night at the hot springs. All Haru wants to do is enjoy the hot springs like everyone else, but she doesn't want to cause any trouble...

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Despite how short and sweet the entire story is, it is also heartfelt and heavy. I was quite sad and happy several times throughout this visual novel.

I failed the second dialogue option and started crying

One Night, Hot Springs is a wonderfully heartfelt VN centering around a trans woman named Haru. Haru is invited to go on a trip to the hot springs with her childhood best friend, Manami, and Manami’s other close friend, Erika. While there, she must navigate her anxieties about being publicly trans, as well as her relationships with the two other girls - one old friend, and one new.
As a fellow trans person, I really appreciated ONHS’ story. It’s an authentic look at many issues we face, whether that’s discrimination, ignorance, or the fear and self-doubt we feel internally. It addresses all of these topics in a thoughtful, kind, and informative manner, while still maintaining its integrity as an enjoyable and positive story.
There were parts of this game that even I found educational. I particularly learned a lot from the conversation addressing Japanese anti-trans laws. Staying aware of these kinds of things is undoubtedly important, so that we can support our community worldwide.
ONHS’ narrative is not built on trans suffering, though; it’s instead a celebration of transness, and the little victories we achieve in everyday life. It’s about friends, facing new experiences, and relying on others for support. It’s about finding some kindness in the world even when you don’t think there is any.
A big part of what makes this such a good story, aside from the wonderful themes, are the characters themselves. Haru is an instantly relatable protagonist for many, given her anxiety, self-doubt, and introversion. Meanwhile, Manami directly counteracts her with a lovable, outgoing personality; she’s so positive that it seems like nothing bad ever happens around her. Lastly, there’s Erika, an ex-delinquent who may seem a bit abrasive at first, but turns out to be a huge sweetheart herself.
All three girls are individually likable - but they’re even better together! Their diverse personalities lead to a lot of fun and interesting interactions. The dialogue is so cute and overflowing with chemistry. All of their relationships feel genuine and unique; I particularly enjoyed watching Haru and Erika grow closer over the course of the trip.
To understand the full scope of ONHS’ story, and these characters’ relationships, you’ll need to replay it a few times. There are a total of seven different endings - a good, a bad, a normal, two dedicated to Manami, and two dedicated to Erika. The latter four are undoubtedly more fulfilling, and their specific choice paths reveal intricacies between the girls you wouldn’t otherwise see.
On the other hand, the former three are much more forgettable. I’d go so far as to say that they’re only necessary from a gameplay standpoint, to fill out branching paths that don’t particularly involve either friend. It does make sense to have a bad ending of some sort, but honestly I found the “good” ending to be far inferior to any of Erika or Manami’s. The girls’ relationships just feel too integral to the narrative to not be part of the conclusion.
This is my single issue with the way ONHS handles its VN format. Thankfully, these weak points are the minority; the rest of the endings stay consistently great. And another big reason for that is how it handles its choices.
Since VN ‘gameplay’ centers around choices and watching them play out until the end, it's particularly important that they have a noticeable impact on the story and characters. In other words, the player needs to feel like their input matters, whether it’s in big or small ways. ONHS accomplishes this tremendously. The branching paths offer amazing variety, especially for being such a short and simple game. There are a surprising number of significant decisions to make in its 20-minute span; and even the less important ones offer small changes, usually in dialogue.
Another element of ONHS that I really enjoy is its visual style. Although it’s fairly plain at first glance, it’s also very charming; everything is very rounded and simplified, making for a nice, inviting aesthetic. It kind of reminds me of Sanrio.
The character designs are particularly lovely and memorable. In fact, Haru’s warm appearance was why I initially became interested in the game. Look her up on Google and tell me that’s not a girl you’d want to be friends with!
My only complaint with the art lies in some of the environments. Although they generally use their simplicity well, there are a few weak points where they lean into it a bit too much. It can leave a scene feeling bare, or even a bit ugly. Still, this is only an issue in a few instances; I otherwise really love the execution.
Just like the art and characters, the soundtrack is a real gem as well. It’s full of calming piano, with some soft electronics thrown in - and it’s all original work by the creator! There’s not very many tracks, since the game is so short, but the few we have are really great.
Really, ONHS’ length is the only other complaint I have about it, and that’s only because I loved it so much. There are small snippets of worldbuilding for the characters here and there, but I’d love to see more of their individual AND interpersonal histories… well, you can imagine how excited I was when I found out about A Year of Springs! It’s high on my wishlist now.
When I picked it up, I knew that One Night, Hot Springs was said to be good, but it honestly surprised me how much I ended up loving it. This is a VN that I think can be enjoyed by everyone. It’s a trans-centered narrative that is not only digestible, but I think even relatable, for all kinds of people, because the writing and characters are just so great. I truly can’t wait to get around to A Year of Springs.
Visuals: 4/5
Sound: 4/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Story: 5/5
Worldbuilding: 4/5
Overall game score: 4/5 [4.2/5]

I played this perfectly during my transition. I could relate to not all, but many of the experiences the protagonist Haru experiences throughout this short tale.
Recommend to trans people and anyone else that feels trapped by obstacles they put within themselves.

Really cute game that I feel like I played at just the right time when I was really confused and feeling alone when questioning.
I have extremely fond memories of playing it now that I'm more sure of my own identity as a trans girl.