I love romance. Finding otome games was like a revelation to me after a decade of loving romance novels, and loving videogames, and thinking never the twain shall meet.
I was very lucky in that I already knew Japanese and had been a fan of anime and manga (does anyone finds otome games without liking one of those two before?) But one of my dreams is to have someone find and enjoy otome games without having to dig through all the Japanese, because though I love the language, most romance fans aren’t going to learn Japanese just to play otome games. And anyways, there are lots of romance fans that aren’t fans of anime/manga, and why shouldn’t they have romance games too?
So I was extremely excited to see the first (to my knowledge) game based on a romance novel, Hidden Objects of Desire. I’m a fan of casual games (too much so, sometimes they distract me from other things I could be working on), mostly hidden objects ones, and this is one of those. It’s produced by Harlequin, and takes its plot from a novel of the same name. I got it on Big Fish Games, which is a huge casual game portal where most games are $6.99 or less. Of course I bought it immediately. Of course, it’s not an otome game, since you don’t have a choice in what happens, and there’s only one possible romantic partner. But still, it’s from a romance!
I wasn’t expecting too much since this is the first of its kind, and it pretty much met my expectations. It had minimal character development, and the plot and dialogue was obviously lifted straight from the novel, with not much adaptation. At least they kept some of the humour of the book in, as well as some scenes with a minor character (I wonder if they couldn’t find enough for the heroine to do?) The gameplay was decent, enjoyable but not great, and I think that was because Harlequin knew enough to hire a studio experienced in HOG (Hidden Object Games) and pay them well instead of trying to do it themselves.
I do hope that Harlequin continues to make games like this, as I see it as a good step in establishing romance games. I hope they add more dialogue – Harlequin novels are short but I’m sure the book had way more development of the relationship than the two paragraphs of dialogue given to it in the game. This is something the producers will have to decide on – do they want to make games for the typical HOG fan who doesn’t care much about the dialogue (and often the story), or do they want to target someone who may already by a romance fan? I’m hoping they go for the latter, as there are already many many studios focused on current HOG fans.
I was shocked to hear today that Tokyopop is closing down its manga arm. From my outsider’s view (since I haven’t bought much English manga for years), Viz always had a lot of the big, dependable blockbuster series like Inuyasha and Naruto, but Tokyopop did so many smaller, interesting titles; they really opened up the market and brought a huge variety of manga to the English marketplace. They were the first publisher that I thought really dove into shoujo and brought out tons of titles – before Tokyopop, English manga was really focused on shounen like Ranma and Tenchi Muyo.
This is really sad. I hope the series that aren’t complete from Tokyopop find a home somewhere else.