It’s been quite a while since I posted, and I’ve made some changes in my otome gaming fandom. I stopped ordering otome game magazines from Japan, so I’m not as aware of the new JP games coming out. I don’t mind this, because I’m also pulling back on ordering the games themselves. I’m trying to save money to pay off some debt, and though this is my only real hobby, it’s pretty expensive. I’m still hoping to get the games I want eventually, but I’d rather save up money for a trip to Japan and get them there without spending so much on shipping and customs (I just heard how much more we’re charged on customs in Canada compared to other countries, and guys, it makes me really sad) – especially since I like the extras.
Anyways, even if I don’t get new imported games, there’s still lots for me to talk about. Besides all the JP games I have that I haven’t played yet or thoroughly, there are more and more games coming out in English! And of course, all the mobile otome games. So I’m planning on focusing more on those for the next while.
To start off, here are some English otome games that I’m working on reviews for and where I’m playing them:
And I’d like to review Amnesia and Code:Realize too, since I don’t think I reviewed the JP versions.
Also, Kickstarter has emerged as a pretty important way for developers to get the funding for otome games, so I’ll probably do some coverage of that as well – just today I backed a few really promising games:
Legend of Rune: A BL / Gay Visual Novel RPG
A Foretold Affair
Cinderella Phenomenon – the studio making this game also has a free browser-based otome game that I’m currently enjoying a lot, Locked Heart.
Are there any games you think I’d enjoy that aren’t on my list yet? Please let me know!
I noticed today that Ozmafia has a page on Steam, and the release date is April 29! Very exciting.
Crowdfunding has come a really long way, and even well-established companies are now using it to test out new markets and products. If you have a product that’s expensive to produce and distribute, it’s a lot safer to ‘pre-sell’ it and see if there really is enough demand to make it worthwhile.
I actually couldn’t find many otome games on Kickstarter that were in progress, except…
THE BIG ONE (right now): Beastmaster and Prince, from the current Japanese otome game powerhouse Otomate (Idea Factory), is up on Kickstarter for a Steam release, and depending how well it does, possibly even a Vita release!
This KS is a pretty big one, not only for what it could mean for future otome localizations, but also the sheer size – b2g (or Gloczus,) is looking for $150,000 USD to fund this game. That amount, they say, will go primarily towards the payment of 3 full-time translators for 5 months, which in my not too knowledgeable opinion seems pretty reasonable. (That’s over a year of full-time translating, which at a decent salary I’d hope would be at least $100,000 (let’s all remember that this has to cover freelance salary and benefits). Then there’s the project management, coding, the merchandise, QA testing, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some things. And yes, let’s not forget that the company has to make at least a little money for it to be worth it to them. Perhaps they’ll wrap that into project management.
The Kickstarter itself has already had some adjustments, with a higher, $140 USD reward tier offered that’s currently the highest tier offered. For that you get a very nice amount of merchandise along with your digital Steam release of the game, a wall scroll, tote bag, pillow case, badges, and an artbook, and it will all be exclusive to the Kickstarter!
I just read through all the KS, and admittedly, the writing is not the clearest, but hey, they’ve already said they’re hiring professionals to translate and localize the game. Some clarifications:
There’s an FAQ as well, where the team says that they’re preparing a cost breakdown.
They also say that they ‘expect’ to be using the Japanese voices, but they’re still in licensing discussions – which reminds me, that would also be part of their costs (and potentially a large one? je n’ai aucun idée). I have to say, I’d be really disappointed if they didn’t have the Japanese voices and music and sound effects. Edit – they confirmed in today’s update that the original Japanese voices will be included (phew!)
Also, they mention that if they get only $1,000 over the threshold, they’ll do an iOS and Android version!
I’ve played both the original game and the fandisk, and it’s a really fun story with lots of adventure and a petting game that is adorable. I probably don’t even have to mention, the voice acting is great, and as you’ve seen the art is really nice too.
In short, if you’ve read posts on here and wished some of those great otome games would be localized in English, here’s your current best chance to show that there is a market for them, and get a really fun otome game as well (and some swag if you want, the extra rewards are pretty tempting!)
Sometimes it feels like games are competing to be as dark and anguished as possible in an attempt to wring a strong emotional response from us. I like getting pulled into a story, but it can be tiring.
Several of these dark otome titles came out recently – Reine des Fleurs, Yoshiwara Higanbana, even Code:Realize and Norn9 are on the more serious side of the genre. So I’ve been using Yunohana Spring as a pick-me-up between playing these games, and it works really well.
The heroine, Yunoha, is the daughter of an ‘okami’ (a female manager of a hot springs inn) of the Fukujuro inn in Kanazawa, a small city on the western coast of Japan known for its historical Edo atmosphere. But she always dreamt of being a fashion designer, so against her mother’s wishes (I guess her dad’s dead?), she ran away to Tokyo three years ago after graduating high school, went to design school and hasn’t been in contact since.
As the story begins, Yunoha gets an urgent phone call from her childhood friend Kintarou (Kin-chan) (CV: KENN), saying that her mom has collapsed and she needs to return as soon as possible.
When she gets back home, Kin-chan says her mom is recovering somewhere (for some reason Yunoha can’t see her), so she needs to take over as the okami for three months until her mom is at full health. Yunoha reluctantly agrees, and meets the other current staff members – besides Chiyo, the head maid, and Haru-chan, the head chef, both of whom she remembers, there’s also a maid, Nanao, who’s around Yunoha’s age, Kouta, the apprentice chef (CV: Ishida Akira), and Nao (CV: Sugiyama Noriaki), a former guest whose credit card got rejected when he was checking out, so he’s staying around to work off his charge. Also, once you start, this guy named Izumi (CV: Kimura Ryouhei) from the rival hot springs inn starts popping up every couple days trying to flirt and get some attention. There’s also another route, but I think he only shows up if you don’t have high enough affection with any of the other guys to start their route, so I haven’t seen him yet.
Yunoha starts out reluctantly but starts to enjoy serving guests more and more, and the common route has several miniplots around helping guests with their problems. Fukujuro isn’t that busy, so there’s a lot of time to focus on each guest. In each situation, you, as Yunoha, have to make a decision which determines if your ‘okami’ level goes up or down.
As per usual in otome games, there are also several decision points where you pick what to do or who to depend on, and after a few chapters, you split off into a character route. After the split, the character route is not that long, and once you’ve played through once, you can choose where to start again, so you can easily start at the end of the common route and play through in a couple hours (or less maybe).
None of the routes are too angsty, and problems are resolved quickly. The aesthetic tone is very pleasant, the patterns and backgrounds have a traditional Japanese feel, and even the colour palette is soothing. There are also chapter intra-scenes with ‘previews’ of the next chapter, where different characters narrate completely wrong ideas of what will happen next (e.g. when Kouta does it, he makes up a story about opening up a zoo).
The game is definitely shorter than average, but long intros and plots which go around in circles to extend the running time annoy me a lot, so I don’t mind this too much. I’d like some more time with the characters, and even though there’s an extra short story for each character after you finish, the volume isn’t really enough to make me recommend this at full price. However, if you could get it on sale (or if you’re willing to overpay a bit for a cute otome game like me), I think it’s a nice change from all the gloomy titles around – if for nothing else, as a palate cleanser between games.
Prince of Stride was a pretty niche title over here until recently, when it got announced as an anime for 2016. But it had a huge build up in otome magazines over a long time. Girls Style first ran a light novel of it, then a comic, and then there were drama CDs.
It’s set in the near future, and focuses on a new high school sport called Stride, which is supposed to be kind of extreme and very cool. From what I can tell, it’s like the 4 x 100 sprint relay but with 5 people and in cities, where you can use the terrain to your advantage. Also (since OF COURSE girls can’t be good at physical activity, but this is an otome game so we need to get a girl in there somewhere) there’s a position called ‘relationer’ who basically tells the relay members when to start running and acts like an in-race coach, kind of, through headsets. And supposedly this position is viewed as critical to the success of the team, and there aren’t very many female relationers because then all the team members like her, or something…
I wrote the above paragraph after playing about an hour of this otome game. It shows my almost-disdain at some of the plot elements. Since I prefer fantasy and historical settings to modern/sci-fi settings, and the whole sport seemed kind of dumb to me (why is it so hard to recruit for this sport which is basically track, running and jumping, with some very limited parkour?), I was biased against this from the start.
Did the game win me over? Or was I right to be prejudiced? Here are my notes before I finished any routes.
Some good points:
So I was already starting to be won over. Now I’ve finished a few good endings, and I think I have enough to do a real review.
The heroine, a first-year at Honan High School, is a little bland but likeable. She also has a voice during races (unvoiced for regular dialogue). I found her backstory with Takeru and Riku, the two other first-years on the team, to be a bit outlandish, but it does give a good reason for them to like her. The romance is interwoven pretty well between all the competitions, though it’s never really in the spotlight, except maybe in the epilogue. If you don’t like heavy-handed romance you might like this approach, though for me it was a bit too light.
Other than that, the plot about the competition leading up to nationals is done very well, and as I mentioned before, the dialogue and interaction is excellent. Each school that Honan competes with has its own personalities and style, and their interplay is pretty engaging. I think after you play once, you can skip the race parts with the same score you got before, which is good because you can’t skip through those any other way. Really good relationers seem to have some sort of telepathic link with the racers, which felt odd to me since there’s no other indication of sci-fi or fantasy elements. The ending race, if it goes well, gets a little more odd in that the telepathic link is broadcast to the entire audience. There’s no explanation for this that I’ve seen so far.
I’ll get my problems with the game, really the whole story setup, out in the open now. One of the ‘themes’ in the game is how expensive Stride is to put on competitions for, since it requires blocking off city streets. It also is apparently expensive to enter, and each school team needs to have a big sponsor. Perhaps there are high fees to enter? They talk about gear, but really it’s just track outfits, shoes, and headsets, so I don’t quite get it. One of the main kind-of antagonists is the head of Stride in Japan, who’s always trying to sensationalize the rivalries and relationships to make the sport more popular with the public. He also has history with the heroine’s father – they were on the same Stride team in university, where they caught the attention of the nation and won dramatically with the heroine’s mother as their relationer (who died a few years ago, not really sure why that was necessary). It’s kind of implied that that whole Stride team was kind of in love with the mother as well. The heroine’s dad, Joe, has been coaching Stride in the US for a while now, but soon after the start of the game, he comes back to Japan and forms an ‘ultimate’ Stride team which is the final team to beat in the game (he asks the heroine to quit her team and join him, but she refuses – you have no choice in this). This ‘rivalry’ is also hyped up by the Stride national head, which all the characters are pretty scornful of. A constrast is made between Joe (stoically and quietly coaching) and the other guy’s philosophy about promoting Stride as a sport as if being commercial is selling out, but they never question their luck in having a big sponsor whose CEO is the older sister of a team member. They’re also completely okay with another Stride team being an idol group to muster supporters (and money). This could be taken as an astute commentary on the complexity of reconciling ideals about the purity of sport with the requirements of surviving in capitalist society, but I didn’t get the feeling that the characters recognized that (perhaps it’s metatextual?). Anyways, there are some points during the game where this can be kind of glaring.
Besides Takeru and Riku, I went through Heath, the captain’s, route as well, and his story has a nice but not very dramatic arc as well. I actually found him more and more relatable as the story went on, about how he feels like he has to make up for his lack of talent with grit and practice and acting like a model captain, which is easy for me to identify with.
Takeru and Riku were more familiar characters. Takeru is the childhood friend whom you forgot about but he never did, and Riku falls for you almost at first sight not realizing that you have a connection from the past. Their stories were well-done too, I have no complaints.
Long story short, I did enjoy playing Prince of Stride. The gameplay is fun – the only change I’d make is being able to choose more than one day’s activities at a time. Though the meta-plots (both the commercialism vs. sport purity, and the telepathy thing) never got a resolution through the routes I played, the character storylines themselves were done well and were fun. And I think the writers did a really good job setting up the other schools and characters as well, I’m actually interested to see what the anime will be like. I kind of hope it takes a broader view and doesn’t focus as much on Honan, but judging from the promo pics…it probably won’t.
I finally found a casual Western game that I consider to fit in the otome genre! Thanks to Valerie’s recommendation on the Smart Bitches’ Regency Love review (which I also might count as an otome game from what I hear, but unfortunately I can’t play it to check), I found Everlove:Rose, which is available on iOS and Android, and published by Silicon Sisters, a company whose aim is to make games for women by women.
For romance novel readers, I think this is a great portal into gaming, and for otome gamers, it’s perfect if you’re interested in a different sort of otome game. For casual gamers, it’s a nice change from all the horror-based hidden object games and stressful time management games.
In Everlove:Rose, you’re a modern woman, Rose, trying to figure out strange dreams you’ve been having with the help of your therapist, Dr. Alys. She wants to try sending you into your unconscious (or something) to experience your past life where the dreams originated. This framing does a couple things: makes things feel safer, since you’re only dreaming, and lets Rose think and act like a modern woman in a medieval setting believably. The only drawback is that you won’t get a regular ‘happy ever after’ sort of ending, since at the end Rose wakes up again in modern times. Still, I think it works for this game.
Once Rose starts dreaming, she wakes up in a medieval village. She quickly meets some handsome men who could easily be on the cover of a historical romance novel, as well as her friend and her aunt, who for a short time is Dr. Alys.
Everlove is a fairly short game (it is casual, after all), but I think it’s reasonable for the price (~$5). There are four men to romance (in order of appearance):
It’s a small cast but they all have their own arcs. As you play you can see how the storyline branches, which is great, though there’s a lot of overlap. There are several simple puzzles along the way that casual gamers will find familiar – hidden object scenes where you gather herbs and piecing together various letters/artworks. Apparently you can skip them once you’ve completed them once – I didn’t find out how but that would make the gameplay even more smooth than what I experienced. The one thing I’d change is that each character’s route is very simple and there’s not much showing the relationship development between Rose and the guys.
As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a traditional HEA at the end of each story, but there is a small extra scene to complete the background story once you finish all four routes.
Overall, Everlove: Rose is very enjoyable to play and though I’d love some more story scenes to deepen our understanding and connection to the characters, I’m really impressed that Silicon Sisters got so much right on their first romance videogame – and really, it’s still great value. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys romance novels, or casual games with more character/relationship focus.
What a shock when I saw this today!
Here’s a very rough translation of an article at Inside by Tsukui Kazuhito aka Sososo:
The parent company of game brand ‘Quinrose’, which makes female-targeted love adventure games, has halted operations and handed the business to a lawyer for debt consolidation.
It has become clear that the company stopped operations on Sept 25 and handed the business over to a lawyer. The amount of liabilities outstanding is still under investigation.
The ‘Quinrose’ brand mostly produced such games as Heart no Kuni no Alice and Arabian’s Lost for the PS Vita, PSP, and PC. It also sold related items such as soundtrack and drama CDs.
However, amidst increased competition and large changes in the market such as the upsurge in mobile gaming, sales dropped sharply. The company determined that it could not recover, and so stopped operations.
It is unclear as of 3pm on Oct 2 2015, what will happen to New Edition Majoou and Heart no Kuni no Alice~Wonderful Twin World~, slated for release on the PS Vita on October 22 2015 and October 29 2015 respectively. The ‘Quinrose’ brand portal site and game websites are still online as of today, so it’s possible that some announcement may be made there or on the Sony PS Vita website. For those who were planning on buying these games, or who have preordered, keep an eye out for further information there.
I had no idea this was coming. From what I understand Quinrose was pretty much run by one person, I was kind of amazed at how prolific the company was, even if I had stopped buying all their games. Now I really really wish they’d done a decent job translating the mobile Alice game, because I’m sure they would have gotten at least some buyers for that.
This review was way harder than I thought it would be, and took me months longer than it should have. After all, I’m familiar with the story and have played several routes, usually at this point I have very strong opinions about a game! But Harutoki 6 is different. I can’t decide whether it’s good or just ok, and how much my own experience and biases play into my judgment. But first, an intro on the game itself:
Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 6 is the latest console otome game from Koei’s Neoromance line. As you can guess from the title number, Harutoki goes back a long way, and the last 4 games have all had RPG gameplay, making it one of the few otome games completely outside the visual novel genre.
The story is based on the ‘girl swept away to another world’ trope, and it’s always to a world similar to historical Japan, but with major differences (often the difference is that there’s magic / demons around). The girl is hailed as the priestess of the guardian dragon (Ryuu no Miko), and gets eight hachiyou, or guardians. There are two guardian dragaons, the White Dragon (Hakuryuu), and Black Dragon (Kokuryuu), with one priestess for each.
In the past, the heroine has always been the White Dragon Priestess, with the power to put demons at peace and purify objects/places. For the first time ever, in this game you play the Black Dragon Priestess, with the power to hear demons, control and quiet them, but not to fully exorcise them. This position has been there since the beginning, sometimes as an enemy, sometimes as an ally (can’t remember if #4 had it though…). It changes the dynamic a lot, since you can never really ‘save’ the demons. Also, you don’t get all your guardians until very late – for half the game you’re playing with four, and half you’re playing with the other four. Only near the very end can you choose from all your guardians (your party is you, and up to two of your guardians).
The gameplay is also changed. Harutoki is one of the few otome game series to have actual combat gameplay, though it’s always turn-based. It used to be straight RPG, but in 6 it includes some strategy RPG/cardgame features, like playing on a grid and having to be tactical about where your characters move. You can also use demons in combat as extra party members. Some gameplay is familiar though, such as choosing locations on a map to activate character events necessary to move forward in their routes. You only get a set number of moves in a day, and if there’s no specific event at a location, you gather up cards of certain elements to level up your characters, or battle monsters of a certain element (this is where you collect demon cards to deploy later).
And of course, through all this, you’re increasing your affection by fighting alongside your companions and completing their events successfully.
For an otome game, this is a fairly complex system, and it’s pretty fun to go around gathering cards and leveling up your characters. Not only are monsters cards, but your characters are as well – and after certain events (or getting an ending), you get pumped-up versions of your character cards with different specialties and elements. Based on the gameplay, I’d definitely recommend this to otome fans who are bored with visual novels.
But in terms of the story and romance, I’m not sure how I feel. The tradeoff from having lots of fun combat and choice in what you do is that the story doesn’t always flow smoothly. And depending on the character, events might feel very spaced out.
The story as well is on a smaller scale than previous games, which were set during famous wars or even mythic times. This is set in the Taisho era, which is really nice to have a different flavour than all the games set during the Bakumatsu (ahem #5), but it means the tensions are more political and less military, more below the surface. They did a good job making it suspenseful, but it’s a bit frustrating, once you know who the ‘bad guy’ is, to not be able to just go and beat him up to stop him. The story is fairly dark too, there’s a side character who dies which I was kind of upset that there’s no way to save him.
All of the combat and politics can make the romance feel marginalized. If you just came from a game like Amnesia, for example (BTW, I need to review that as soon as I’m finished it!), with a very intense, tight focus on the heroine and only a couple other characters and their interpersonal drama, Harutoki can feel overly broad. On the other hand, some of the routes are quite angsty when you pay attention to each scene. One thing I never worry about with Harutoki is feeling like the writers are just repeating things or explaining too much to pad the story. Also, there is an option to skip battles you’ve done before, so the only one you really need to get through is the final one.
The characters are:
Darius (CV: Suzumura Kenichi) – the head of the oni clan
Rudo Harne (CV: Tachibana Shinnosuke) – his right-hand man
Honjou Masatora (CV: Takemoto Eiji) – hired muscle, half oni/half human
Kohaku (CV: Abe Atsushi) – a human with amnesia and cursed markings
Arima Hajime (CV: Okiayu Ryoutarou) – the commander of the group fighting the demons
Katagiri Shuuhei (CV: Okamoto Nobuhiko) – his right-hand man
Hagio Kudan (CV: Shitanda Michael) – a seer who summoned the miko
Satoya Murasame (CV: Yasumoto Hiroki) – an author and detective
So far, my favourite route is the amoral, obnoxious goon on the right here:
Buut that’s probably just because he’s my type. Shuuhei was also very good!
So, with all of these features and caveats, in the end, can I recommend Harutoki 6? I did enjoy it a lot myself. I think my main reservation is that I wouldn’t recommend it for someone’s first Harutoki. The importance of the Hakuryuu, the frustration of not being able to purify demons, and the suspense of waiting to get hachiyou are all diminished if you’ve never played this series before. But I do recommend it for anyone who’s looking for a different kind of otome game in terms of gameplay, and definitely if you’ve played other Harutoki games, I think you’ll enjoy this one.
Mini-review time! I’ve been playing tons lately as I had a week of vacation in August. I’m going to do smallish posts reviewing what I’ve played so far on them. I don’t feel like I can do full reviews without finishing most of the characters, so they’re not ‘official’ reviews!
First up, Shinobi, Koi Utsutsu Sengetsu(sp?) Koi Emaki for the Vita. I loved loved LOVED the original on PSP, and this adaptation for the Vita added four more characters that you can romance. I’m a little disappointed because there’s nothing extra added for the original six characters, but it’s still great to replay, and so far (I’ve finished good routes for 3 of the 4 new guys) I really like the additions. Also, they made the system a little more organized, in that after the first round you can skip right to the selection part, and do Sanada’s route and the harem route right from the beginning. I’d still recommend doing all of them before if possible to get the most of out it!
Playing on the Vita is great, the art is just so gorgeous and I love the bigger screen.
Plus, no waiting time while dialogue loads, it’s awesome.
My next mini-review will be either KLAP, Prince of Stride, or Vamwolf Cross.
Since Vamwolf Cross was pushed back three weeks, I had to wait for my June games for what felt like forever. In the meantime, I ended up installing and playing FFXIV, Square-Enix’s rebooted MMORPG. It just got an expansion, named Heavensward, so I picked up both on Steam not realizing that Heavensward is useless before you get to level 50, lol.
FFXI was my first MMORPG way back in the day before I (re)started playing console games, and though I didn’t get that far (highest level was 37 I think?), it took over my life enough that I had to quit cold turkey. It was pretty unforgiving, and I was really afraid that FFXIV would be similar. I have enough to do without a third job on top of my day job and Chromatic!
Anyways, it seems Square-Enix really learned a lot from being marginalized by WoW and other MMOs, and FFXIV, at least in the early stages, is pretty easy to pick up and play at your own pace, and the story, while a little bland in the beginning, seems to get better and better. I haven’t had any bad run-ins with other players yet, though reading some reddit threads scares me a bit about dungeons. I’ve done a few which have been ok, but it seems people don’t like newbies watching the cutscenes while they have to wait? Seems kind of ridiculous to me. Anyways, just like other MMORPGs, it requires some grouping, so you have to have certain level of don’t give-a-fuck or it’s too stressful when you have jerks in a group or make a mistake.
There are tons of callbacks to previous FFs, from the classes and jobs to monsters, and there’s even a Gold Saucer casino with chocobo racing. It’s pretty great for FF fans just for nostalgia, but I’m enjoying it even apart from that. Right now I’m lost in the fun of gathering and crafting. One thing I love about FFXIV (FFXI had this too), is that one character/avatar can be any job. You start off in one of three main cities depending on which class you pick first, and all you have to do to get another class is visit that guild. They’re spread out among the three starter cities.
I’ve had no problem with having enough money since I’m leveling all my crafter/gatherer classes together. And one of the annoying things about FFXI, travel, is pretty much fixed here too. Towns and cities have a crystal which, once you attune yourself to them once, you can travel to them from anywhere just paying some money. SO MUCH better than FFXI where you had to beg or pay a mage to teleport you, or run out to the middle of a zone somewhere. It also makes crafting/gathering much easier, because zones each have their own crops which are fairly limited.
Overall, I recommend FFXIV for fans of FF who are thinking of an MMORPG. There’s a 30-day trial period which I’m still in myself, so you’d have to re-evaluate after that whether it’s worth subscribing for ~$15 monthly. I don’t know if I’ll continue, since I have just a few otome games waiting for me, but in the meantime it definitely scratches an RPG itch really well.
And speaking of otome games…I got both my June and July shipment-yay!! Now I’m drowning in new games, and it’s glorious. Can I brag and list all the games?? Since this is my blog, I’m gonna go ahead and do that.