There are quite a few mobile otome games on the market now and both Android and iOS users can get in on the action (Windows Mobile, I don’t think so but correct me if I’m wrong). I thought I’d do an introduction and rundown of the titles I’m familiar with.
One of the great things about the surge in mobile games is that it’s a fantastic channel for otome games and visual novels in general, and since there’s often no sound, there are lots that are translated to English – there are way more mobile otome games available than console or PC games. The lack of PC and console otoge saddens me because that’s my bread and butter, but really, anything that gets more otome games available to more people is a good thing.
Since mobile is both relatively new and relatively (emphasis on relative) cheap, there are a lot of different formats and ways that the creators are trying to make money. Some are more annoying than others (this is foreshadowing…)
There seem to be a couple big companies who take developed games and publish them for mobile, and will also often make two versions of them – paid, and ‘free to play’ or f2p. Voltage and Solmare are two which have a lot of titles on the market.
I personally like the paid versions better, as you pay $3-5 for a story and can then read/play it whenever you have time. You can also REplay it very easily.
However, if you don’t like that, you can play the f2p versions. In these, you get a set amount of ‘energy’ or ‘story tickets’, often 1 point per four hours, and you can only read a bit of the story at a time. Also, there are usually challenges throughout the story where you need to spend more points, and there’s a chance of failure, or you need to ‘train’ some stat such as ‘charm’ or ‘princess points’. Many also have avatar gameplay, where you can dress up your character in different clothes and have decorations in your room. You can still spend real money on these, and if you’re impatient, it can easily end up being more than the paid version, which is another reason I like the paid versions.
When you go on the Google Play pages for the paid versions, you’ll often see complaints that you have to pay. I gotta say, these piss me off because most of these games don’t have ads – how are the creators supposed to make any money? Do people expect creators to work at a non-game making job during the day and then spend all their ‘off’ time making and maintaining games for free? Give me a damn break. Ahem, sorry.
However, even though I get the paid when possible, I often get the free versions as well – because spinoff stories are usually only available on the free version. I get the best of both worlds, yay!
Here’s a quick listing of some of the games available, and my general impressions of them. Links are usually to the Google Play store.
Pirates in Love: This was one of the first to be translated, and I was really jealous of my iPhone-using friends because it was in the AppStore way before anything came out for Android (at least that I could find) and it looked gorgeous. Now it’s available on Google Play too, and I’ve played through a few routes.
Now, it’s not cheap. A free intro tries to hook you on one or more of the guys, and to get each of their routes you’ll have to pay $4 each. There are no voices (though this is standard for mobile games). That’s pretty expensive if you want more than one or two routes.
However, the art is gorgeous, and though the dialogue is bad, for me it’s in the ‘so bad it’s good’ category. The CGs are few but nice. And since it was the first mobile otome game I played, I didn’t realize that the production values were actually pretty high – there are save and load options, the transitions are pretty smooth, and the user interface is nice.
Magic Sword: You’re a princess who has to go on a quest with an elf archer, a mage, and a swordsman to win back your country’s treasure, Excalibur, which has been stolen by King Arthur and Merlin. I consider the system here to be similar to Pirates in Love. Free prologue, pay $4 per character and then you can play it as much as you want. Right now there are three routes. The art is really nice (I think comparable to Pirates in Love), and the routes are pretty good – though I would recommend not playing Ethan first as he’s…hard to like in the beginning. Also, there are three endings for each guy, and in one you have sex! The CG isn’t that graphic but the narration…sometimes is. Just a note.
There’s also a ‘free-to-play‘ version, which I’ve been playing the side stories on.
Alice in the Heart – various prices – Quinrose put the full version of Heart on Kuni no Alice on Android, including voices! That’s the good news. The bad news is the translation is atrocious, and when I can’t listen to the Japanese (like when Alice is talking or thinking), sometimes I can’t even figure out what the dialogue means. I’ve heard lots of people complaining about the price, which for all characters and voices is $38, but I actually think that’s reasonable – or it would be if the translation was decent. I’ve heard that they finally hired some help to fix it, so I look forward to being able to recommend it to everyone after that.
Hakuoki Premium Hakuoki Normal – I haven’t played this, but it says that it’s full-voice and has an extra scenario. Even with the normal version you have to pay for each chapter, if I got it I’d go for the premium at $29 to get it all at once for cheaper.
Scarlet Fate Scarlet Fate+ – This is another console otome game ported to mobile, but unfortunately it doesn’t include voices or music. It’s Hiiro no Kakera 4/5, the Heian one. I’m playing the paid one now, and it’s good, but even on my tablet the CGs aren’t at full size which is sad, and having no voices, music, or sound effects really takes away from the atmosphere. This is one title which I think I’d rather play on a console.
Shall we date: Ninja Love Shall We Date? Ninja Love+ – This is from Solmare, who have also made Destiny Ninja and many other titles. The paid version (first link) is $4 for all three main characters, which I think is pretty good.
Shall we date: Destiny Ninja – I think this is one of the more successful mobile otome games. It’s set during the Genpei war (Genji vs. Taira) and you’re a young noblewoman who loses her memory and gets saved by the Genji side. There are lots of characters, and it’s not too hard to get through a story without spending money. There are also a metric ton of side stories. I find it funny that two of the ‘starting’ ninja who the company assumes are popular, are the ones everyone hates (because they’re jerks). I’m working on those ones now since I’ve finished all the others, and they’re just as annoying as I thought! If you’re wondering about this one, when I looked for a PV on Youtube, I didn’t find an official video but I found TONS of playthrough vids. OH, and one thing that excites and scares me – they have some bonus stories which are voiced! I haven’t tried them yet.
Some other mobile games I’ve played a bit:
Mononoke Kiss: Heian Japan, you’re a princess who finds out your (dead) mom was the keeper of a Demon Sword. A bad spirit, Jinosuke, comes and kills your dad and good spirits show up to protect you. OK art, I’ve just finished my first route (normal ending, boooo!) so I can’t talk much about the story.
My Sweet Bodyguard: One of the few contemporary mobile games which isn’t about the guys being princes or rich/famous people, in this you choose your own bodyguard when you’re targeted because your dad is the Japanese PM. I liked it up until I couldn’t get any farther because of the minigames/requirements. $5 is the max I’ll pay for each route in a f2p, and either I would’ve had to pay more, or my payments weren’t working correctly. Either way, I gave up on this.
My Sweet Hero: Kind of similar to My Sweet Bodyguard, your dad is a scientist working on something dangerous and gets kidnapped. This one I could buy each route so I did, it was pretty good although the ninja guy’s attitude pissed me off.
There are also a few games which you can buy in the English Google Play stores (I’m in Canada, I’m sure they’re in the US and probably Europe and Australia?) which haven’t been translated from Japanese. I really wish that Midnight Library, in particular, would get translated, because the art’s really nice, and the stories are different than most mobile games I’ve played.
Tengu Otogizoushi – unvoiced – A historical fantasy set in Kyoto where the heroine is getting ready to dance in an upcoming festival to her father’s flute music. Her mom died giving birth to her, so she feels responsible to take care of her father and uphold his reputation. She’s promised to marry a childhood friend, Kagetoki, who’s an onmyouji (priest/exorcist). One night when she’s practicing dancing she gets kidnapped by a tengu, Yamabuki, a powerful winged spirit who protects the local mountain. At first she’s afraid, but then remembers that she was saved from evil spirits by this same tengu years ago, and she promised then to become his wife when she grew up. There are also two other tengu, Chitose and Koharu, who show up. Yamabuki agrees to let her go back home until the festival is over so her father doesn’t get in trouble. While she’s at home getting ready, the choices you make determine whether you choose to go with one of the tengu or marry Kagetoki. Apparently there’s also another spirit, Asahi. Some of the scenery is really nice, and the character designs are pretty good. I really enjoyed this one, it was very atmospheric and almost mystical. (I can’t find this anymore, which is too bad as I found it very different from other mobile games).
Midnight Library – unvoiced $4 / route – the intro for this has an AWFUL icon that looks like clip art from the 80’s. Ignore it, because the character designs and stories are actually very nice and I really enjoyed it. You’re a normal high school girl, and by chance you and a group of schoolmates start searching the school library at night for a rumoured book that will grant one wish. The stories are all really different, and one of them actually creeped me out a lot (in a good, horror/suspense kind of way).
Oiran – mostly unvoiced, mostly free – in this one you travel back in time to the Bakumatsu in Edo (yes the Shinsengumi, these boys sure get around!), where you get to know all the important characters of the period as an oiran. It’s not as story-based as most games, but it’s quick to play and has a bunch of fun avatar and game mechanics. It’s also way easier to play without spending any money than many mobile games. Plus you don’t have to choose one character route, as you pretty much just get story bits at random when the characters come visit you at the restaurant/bar where you work.
There are way more games available, especially the Shall we date series which has almost any setup you can think of…my favourite right now is The Niflheim, which is a somewhat steampunk/gothic story set in the land of the dead.
My favourite site for guides (because it really hurts when you pick one wrong answer and you can’t save or reload in these games!) is Otome Otaku Girl – it’s fantastic and has so many mobile game guides! I also found a new forum/database site that focuses on English otome games (especially mobile) from her links, Kokoro Cafe!
(This post was supposed to go up a year ago…but I never finished it off. Since I picked this game as my favourite PSP game of 2014, I thought I should finally post it!)
I got a huge package of games (6 games!!) at the beginning of Feb which was very exciting (who doesn’t love getting packages?), and the first one I played was Shinobi Koi, Utsutsu. I debated for a few minutes, because I also got Arabian’s Doubt and Edgeworth Investigations 2. But I knew Ninkoi (the game’s nickname which is a combo of the alternate reading for shinobi, like in ninja, and of course Koi as in love) would be fun, and relatively quick. And I cannot resist the art; I just love this artist’s style so much.
And I was right! It took me a little over a week to finish it, and that’s while working more than full-time. So, here’s my review of Shinboi Koi, Utsutsu!
Plot: Katagiri Kaede is a young woman in the 1700’s (I think? historical Japan about a 100 years after Oda Nobunaga anyways) who was orphaned very young and brought up by her grandmother until she passed away. Now she works at a restaurant and attends the town ninja school. In this alternate history, ninja, led by Sanada Yukimura, played a key role in the defeat of the Yoritomo shogunate a hundred years ago, and ninja are respected as warriors. It’s even very common to have ninja school, the most famous being the Sanada Koutou Shuurenin school, still controlled by the Sanada clan and attended by the richest and most elite students.
It’s Kaede’s dream to attend this school and after graduation, join the Sanada Yuushitai, an elite ninja group who protect the shogun. She has a fairly clear memory from when she was very young – she was travelling with her parents when they were attacked by bandits, who killed her parents. They were about to kill her as well when a mysterious ninja appeared and saved her. He also apologized for not getting there in time to save her parents, but she’s always felt extremely grateful and wishes she could thank him. This event became her inspiration to train as a ninja and hopefully one day join the Sanada Yuushitai.
She’s hoping to save up enough money to apply to the famous school by working at the restaurant, but one day she gets a break. A thief steals a customer’s wallet, and she chases him outside and uses her ninja skills to catch him. This catches the eye of an older gentleman who finishes the capture, and then introduces himself as the Vice Principal of the ninja school. He notices something special in her, and invites her to join the school as a scholarship student.Kaede doesn’t know what he sees in her, as she knows she doesn’t have much skill, but she’s not going to let this chance go by, and she agrees.
The next scene is her entering the school, where she meets the Vice Principal again, who tells her that the Principal has agreed to let her in. The conditions are that in six months, on the midterm exam, she must obtain a grade of excellent (or kou), the highest of the three possible grades. And because she’s ‘just’ a poor scholarship student, she can’t expect to have a partner the way regular students do, so she’ll have to get this grade on her own.
While they’re talking, some students notice the new face and approach her. They are the game’s heroes, all from well-known ninja families:
During the conversation, Kaede gets really embarrassed when someone (probably Anayama) flirts with her, and suddenly a cloud of pink smoke erupts around her. All the guys including Sanada are caught in the smoke and suddenly turn into Romeos, saying how cute she is and not paying attention to anything except her. When it wears off, they’re all horrified at how they acted and that they, all good students, were unable to resist.
Sanada feels sorry for her plight, and he arranges it so she can pick any of the five boys as her partner to help pass her trials (once you’ve played one route you can also pick Sanada).
Once you’ve picked, the route splits and you start training.
There are two things I love about this game that I think make it stand out (I love the art and seiyuu but I could say that for most otome games.)
One is the hook of Kaede’s mysterious power, which is both amusing and shows what the guys are really thinking near the end of the routes. It’s interesting to speculate whether what they say ‘under the influence’ is ALWAYS their true feelings, though I think it’s at least amped up quite a bit at the beginning.
The other is Kaede’s true singlemindedness and humbleness without being a martyr, which I find a little rare in otome games. Kaede jumps at the chance to attend the school, though she doesn’t think she really belongs there. She doesn’t get down on herself when jealous fangirls tell her she doesn’t fit in, because she knows that already. She doesn’t care what people say about her, or if they prank her, because she’s going to take any chance she gets to train at a high level and become an elite ninja. Her power also gives her a plausible reason to not think that the guys are interested in her without the way-too-common “heroine has low self-esteem”, which honestly I’ve experienced enough to last five lifetimes (the regular “Oh, he couldn’t like me, he’s too good for me!”)
I really enjoyed all the routes, and I’m really happy that the PS Vita version coming out in a few months will have new character routes, including one for Kuroudo’s brother, who’s in this one already, and Hattori Hanzou.
Here’s a promo movie for the new version:
I can’t wait! It will also have some new material for the existing routes, so it fulfills my wish for a fandisk pretty well.