I went into Jean’s route expecting the worst. Reform-the-playboy and harem competition are probably my least favorite otome game tropes. Even with these reservations, I was willing to give the writers of Niflheim+ a shot. They’d surprised me before, after all.
I ended the route feeling I’d just completed one of the best otome routes I’d ever read. Even being open to the idea of being positively surprised, I would not have anticipated it becoming my favorite route of the whole game.
THE STORY (Spoilers Ahead)
“You’ve already got your sun — don’t steal Niflheim’s!”
Let’s begin with my prologue summary from my other Niflheim reviews.
Our MC (who I named Winnifred Undead) is awakened from death 1000 years after her demise. She’s told she’s in an afterworld called Niflheim, and that she’s been resurrected for the express purpose of becoming the bride of Niflheim’s king.
Winnifred is pretty positive about this second chance at life, but she’s understandably hesitant about marrying someone she’s never met. Having no memories of her life before her resurrection and being appropriately disoriented, she’s given a period of time to undergo bridal training before the wedding.
In Jean’s route, MC begins her afterlife in a bubble. Her days consist of lessons from Orlando and self-study. She’s left with hardly any time to meet, much less get to know her husband-to-be.
MC naturally feels curious about Niflheim’s King, and thankfully Jean is just mischievous enough to sneak her away now and again. Jean’s first impression on MC is generally positive, but she never feels totally comfortable around him. He makes jokes, showers her with gifts and interacts lovingly with his people. Jean seems just a little too set on making her like him. After one too many opulent presents and changes of topic when things get serious, MC starts feeling like she’s not getting to know him on a personal level.
We’re soon introduced to our first real obstacle: Jean’s harem. Now, Niflheim could really have taken the standard path when it comes to harem storylines… god knows there are enough other games that do. You know the drill: jealousy, self doubting MC’s and a selfish man at the center of it all.
However, this dynamic is different. First of all, the members of the harem like MC. They welcome her into the fold as someone else that cares about Jean. Additionally, Jean doesn’t appear to have the harem there just for his own enjoyment. He’s very, very focused on their happiness. Rather than some sort of lusty indulgence, he sees the harem as another way to please his people. Jean’s desperation to make his people happy quickly becomes a running theme.
MC begins to gently pry her way past Jean’s emotional walls, and soon enough she’s clearly more important to him than the individual members of the harem. This leaves Jean in a bind; he wants to dissolve the harem since it won’t be fair to the other girls to play second fiddle, but he’s scared of hurting them. At no point in all of this does he come across as selfish… just confused and scared. The lead-up to the dissolution of the harem could easily have made Jean look like a jerk, but it didn’t.
The next issue is introduced in the form of Leo, the king of a neighboring country. Leo decides he wants to sweep MC off her feet, and neither MC or Jean are on board with that notion. Leo and Jean are lifelong rivals, and there’s a lot of tension behind every interaction. At the same time, they seem to have some level of respect for one another since they’re essentially the only ones that understand what it’s like to be Kings in the afterlife
This brings me to the final conflict: Jean’s powers. Niflheim is a creation of Jean’s heart, the fulfillment of a wish made by a deeply lonely man as he died. He passed away dreaming of what he’d never had: family, friends and love. As a result, the souls of others became attracted to him in the afterlife.
Late in the story MC comes to find out that Jean is essentially a god, one able to create and destroy both people and things at will. It’s not a power he’s comfortable with, and for good reason. Roughly 1,000 years before MC awoke in Niflheim, Jean accidentally used his powers in front of his people in an attempt to help them. The people of Niflheim weren’t thankful… they were terrified. Everyone began treating Jean differently, and ultimately every single person (with the exception of Orlando and a single butler) abandoned him entirely.
As a result, when Niflheim eventually attracted new people, Jean spiraled into simultaneously hiding his true power and desperately trying to please everyone. He made the harem because it was an approximation of family for him. His own inability to say no to anyone also became a big factor… he couldn’t turn anyone away if it could make them unhappy.
MC becomes the one person outside of Orlando that accepts him for who he is. Not only this, but she develops into someone FIERCELY protective over him, to the point of a frankly awesome gender role swap.
While I won’t detail the resolutions to all these conflicts, I will say that they were well done and a delight to read. Niflheim’s big strength continues to be in its wonderful character development, and I enjoyed the scenes with side characters as much as the moments with Jean.
This story made me smile. It made me laugh just as many times, and I came out of it truly loving the characters. It took tropes and twisted them into something new and heartwarming. If you remember one thing about me, let it be this: a good upending of a trope is the thing I love the very most.
Finally, I want to praise the consent aspect of their relationship. There’s a period of time where MC isn’t yet sure how she feels about the king, and rather than pushing the subject he respects her feelings and waits for her. A+, Niflheim!
Jean and MC are absolutely adorable together. They banter believably and both have a naïve optimism that makes them a wonderful match. Their similarities serve to annoy the others at court, but thankfully it’s not annoying to the reader. They’re extremely endearing and their whole relationship is just incredibly cute.
Additionally, they both grow massively as a result of their relationship. Jean comes face-to-face with his fear of abandonment, and MC develops into a strong and decisive woman rather than someone at the mercy of her role as princess. They improve each other, and that’s my favorite kind of relationship to read.
I screencapped so many moments from this route that it honestly took me an hour to whittle what I had down to a reasonable level. This whole playthrough was just chock full of great moments.
First of all, this Jean quote. I’ll be using it to announce my own entrance into rooms as long as I live.
As much as I hate Orlando, this whole exchange had me rolling. Additionally, this becomes quite touching in context of what we learn about Orlando and the king’s relationship later on.
Always a favorite: MC being a badass!
There’s a sports competition partway through the game that really gave me a lot of laugh material, including a hilarious stoner wizard announcer and some Skeletiano shenanigans.
Speaking of Skeletiano… he was in top form this route.
Here’s the one truly WTF moment of the route, which features Leo turning into Yosemite Sam when he’s mad.
Finally, my favorite moment. This is essentially the first time that MC and Jean really delve into their feelings for one another. Jean being the one to chicken out was adorable, funny and really awwwwwww-worthy.
As much as I consider Philipe the canon route (any other alternative is just way too sad), I enjoyed this one more. It really earned my first 5-heart score.
My heart scale is defined as follows – 5 hearts = a story everyone will fall in love with, regardless of preferences; 4 hearts = a well-done story that people who love the concept will adore, and people who don’t may end up liking it; 3 hearts = if you like this type of story or this type of hero, then you will enjoy this, but those who do not like either of those things will probably not; 2 hearts = it had potential, it squandered it; 1 heart = just a waste of time from the get-go; 0 hearts = why was this made?