Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category


Yunohana Spring – Mini-Review

December 21st, 2015

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.

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Prince of Stride – Game Review

December 18th, 2015

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.

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English Otome Game Review – Everlove: Rose

December 16th, 2015

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):

  Everlove: Rose- screenshot thumbnail
Garrett – pic from the Android store

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.

 

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Harutoki 6 Review

September 29th, 2015

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).

Choosing a location on the map showing 4 enemies.

Choosing a location on the map showing 4 enemies.

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:

Oni side:

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

Human side:

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:

harutoki6_1

Darius, the head of the oni clan, and his henchman Tora.

 

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.

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Game journal – Shinobi, Koi Utsutsu Koi Emaki

September 9th, 2015

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.

Shinobi, Koi Utsutsu - Sanada and Anayama

Shinobi, Koi Utsutsu – Sanada and Anayama

Plus, no waiting time while dialogue loads, it’s awesome.

My next mini-review will be either KLAP, Prince of Stride, or Vamwolf Cross.

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Game journal – Canada Day

July 1st, 2015

It’s taking me longer and longer to  finish otome games these days – besides feeling a bit burned out on them, I’m busy with Chromatic and my normal job. But I do still find time to do some gaming, often casual gaming or just mucking around in Skyrim or Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Sometimes I look for reviews for casual games, but a lot of people have different preferences than mine, so I’m going to start posting my thoughts on some of these as I play them. What I like are historical and/or fantasy-based settings, and no horror or thriller stuff. There’s a ton that are set in old hospitals, serial killers, etc., and I don’t enjoy them. My favourite series is the Dark Parables titles from Blue Tea Games  they have a bunch of titles based on fairy tales. The first one is the Curse of Briar Rose. It’s very pretty, which is another preference of mine – I have no desire to play games with ugly/boring backgrounds and items.

The last week I’ve been playing the following:

Wanderland (Big Fish Games): This is a free to play hidden object adventure game, which means that after your first hour or so, you have to wait for your energy to recharge before doing much more. These can be annoying because the quests have tons of steps, all of which require several objects that may or may not drop when you do a HO scene, but they’re good to get a quick hit of gaming which you can’t draw out too long. This one is up my alley, being fantasy-based, with various characters walking around to get quests and items from, and portals to fairy tale worlds where you’re trying to solve the problems within (is it even possible to get to the end of these? I don’t know). It also has a twist in that enemies walk around too, and you can fight them and get different items.
So far I’m kind of enjoying this, but my experiences with Awakening Kingdoms and Midnight Castle (I got tired of them after my data and levels, items, everything got ‘lost’ a couple times) mean that my expectations are pretty low.

I’ve also finished a couple regular HO games, Mythic Wonders: Child of Prophecy and The Secret Order – can’t remember which one, which were ok. I usually buy any HO games set in locations or time periods which aren’t used often – I thought Mythic Wonders was set in China but it was Japan. It had bad ‘Asian’ accents in the voiceovers but the setting, plot and minigames etc. felt pretty Japanese.

Now I’m trying Dark Romance: Heart of the Beast which is a modified Beauty and the Beast story. So far I like it, you take turns being the heroine and the hero, and the games etc. are fairly easy but interesting.

I’ll probably be adding more posts like these on a sporadic basis, they’re much faster than a regular otome review (still  working on Harutoki 6, eheh).

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Nameless – English otome game review

May 18th, 2015

It’s about time I reviewed an English otome game from Steam, since there are a few available now. I found out about Nameless from a friend of a friend who asked if I’d played the ‘doll otome game’. At first it sounded a bit weird, but this game is about ball-joint dolls who come to life – hey, anyone remember that old Otomate game Will o’ Wisp (great but short)? I wonder if it inspired this.

Anyways, Nameless starts off with our heroine Eri, a fairly normal Korean high school girl, who has lived alone for a year or so after her grandfather died. Her parents are both very busy scientists, so they live abroad and she was pretty much raised by her grandfather.

She’s always loved dolls, and over the last while, she’s been collecting very well-made but expensive ball-joint dolls made by a certain company, Crobidolls, who create personas for each one (check out that link y’all, all the Nameless characters are there!). She treats them very well, even talking to them while she does chores around the house, but she keeps it a secret from her friends, afraid they’ll find it weird.

One morning, she hears noises from the living room and goes in to find that they’ve all woken up and become human. They call her by name, and it takes her a while to even realize that these are her dolls. They remember everything she’s told them, and besides her shock, she’s embarrassed at how well they know her.

Nameless group

The dolls are (from left to right and then the short one)

Red (CV: Seong-tae Park) – An unpopular model, Red is the only one in existence. His character is that of a sentai hero (think Power Rangers). He’s energetic and open, and makes friends easily.

Lance (CV: Jaeheon Jung) – The cold but beautiful doll with long silver hair, Lance is the first doll Eri got. As a human he doesn’t show much emotion.

Tei (CV: Beomgi Hong) – also from the ‘older’ line, Tei is mature and calm in all situations. He also makes all the food.

Yuri (CV: Donghoon Lee) – From the adult line, Yuri is tall, dark and handsome – and he knows it. He flirts with Eri all the time, and is usually surrounded by women.

Yeon-ho (CV: Do-hyeong Hang) – The very cute and youngest-seeming doll, Yeon-ho is naive and fairly timid.

They don’t know why they turned human, but they all end up going to school with Eri – Yuri as a music teacher, Tei and Red in the third-year class, and Lance and Yeon-ho in second-year with Eri. They get treated like idols for their good looks, and Eri tries not to let the other students know how involved she is with them, even her best friends Soi (CV: Yeongeun Kim) and Shinbi (CV: Yul Kim). Soi is a boy-crazy girly girl with an extremely forceful personality, and Shinbi is a very good-looking model in the androgynous style, who is quiet but always says what she thinks. I love both of them.

Plotwise, you follow a fairly normal course of going to school, having some group episodes, a couple ‘date’ scenes, leading to conflict around the time of the school festival, and then resolution. However, the game definitely has a stronger overarching story than many others, which I can’t say much about to avoid spoilers.

I felt like the game was a decent length, and I had to pace myself instead of jumping from one story to the next, because I really wanted to finish everything – apparently I still may have missed something, though I’ve gotten through the ‘hidden’ route.

Though the game has a fantastic premise, there’s not much fantasy in the main storyline. What there is, is a lot of psychological drama – especially in the last route (which has to be Red, you have to complete everyone else’s route first), it was pretty agonizing by the end. The game builds up tension really well, showing hints here and there but not letting you see what’s really going on until the end.

Part of what makes this game great are the side characters. Soi and Shinbi are perfect foils for Eri, and Soi pretty much owns every scene she’s in (great voice acting too, though I can’t understand a word of Korean). Though she’s definitely a loud personality, you can’t dislike her, and her characterization is pretty deep.

Overall, I really liked Nameless. The art was very pretty, in a totally different style than most otome games, and from what I could tell the voice acting was really good too (Soi’s the best!) I thought I wouldn’t care about Lance or Yeon-ho at all, but I ended up enjoying their routes a lot. The plot was interesting and the storytelling was intense.

I recommend it! I haven’t played it, but the same company has another otome game on Steam called Dandelion which is next on my Steam list.

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English Mobile Otome Game Market

March 9th, 2015

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 - screenshot

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.

Shall we date?: Magic Sword - screenshot

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!

 

 

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Shinobi Koi, Utsutsu Review

March 3rd, 2015

 (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.

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PSP 2014 Games Part 2

February 15th, 2015

Oh man, I could do so much more game playing before posting this, but it’s already late, so here you go!

Black Code

Unfortunately I forgot to buy this one from Quinrose, so I haven’t played it.  すみません>.>;;

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

Koezaru wa Akai Hana – Taiga wa Mirai wo Tsumugu

Regular Edition

The R18 version of this was really good, and though the explicit scenes were important to the character routes, I think they could replace them with non R-18 scenes fairly easily to show similar developments. I’m not including it in the judgement though, since it’s an adaptation.

Chou no Doku, Hana no Kusari: Taishou Irokoi Ibun PSP

Regular Edition                                    Limited edition

Another R18 game (really good) adapated to PSP and PS Vita. I also haven’t played this version, so I can’t comment on it much. The art in the game is so much nicer than the original character designs, I think the artist developed a lot of on it. And Kondou Takashi is amazing in it!

Satomi Hakkenden Hachitama no Ki

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

From Quinrose, another game I haven’t played.

Prince Pia Carrot

Regular Edition

This female-targeted version of a harem game series (Pia Carrot) took a while to come out, and it’s a fairly basic love sim. You’re a high school girl who ends up being the only girl working at a popular family restaurant well-known for its cute waiters, most of whom also go to your high school. There are common archetypes used for the characters, and at first I wasn’t expecting much, but the stories are pretty well-written. However, though I tried to get the best endings, for at least the youngest guy, his plot felt unfinished.  I couldn’t find a guide so I’m not sure if I missed anything. Overall, it was better than I expected, but not amazing.

Gakuen K

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

I didn’t pay attention to this at all in the magazines, so I had almost no idea what it was about. The heroine transfers into a very modern high school with superpowered students attending classes alongside regular kids. It has regular clubs, and clubs based around superpowers which take colours for their names (the ones shown in the game are Blue, Red, and Silver). The heroine has some sort of power which caused her trouble at her old school, but she doesn’t know much about it. When she first arrives, all the super-clubs fight over inviting her to join them, and depending where you choose, you have different possible routes.

Considering I wasn’t interested in it at all, I enjoyed it a lot. However, I think it has two major problems – each route is pretty short (I finished four routes in the time I’d expect to finish two) and…there is no plot. Since the story is about kids with superpowers, I thought they would be used for something important, but nope – in each route the heroine finds out about her own power (which seems to be different in each route), but it’s not really used, and there’s no real conflict. I was also disappointed at how little romance there was in two of the four routes I did. Literally, in two of them the guy never says he likes you.  Without a plot to take its place, it felt like something was missing. There’s a ‘hidden’ character who seems like he connects some threads, but since I can’t tell anything after doing four routes I don’t think it’s an overarching theme.

Minus 8

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

This game is probably the most difficult to sell – I didn’t finish any routes for months after I started.  It’s quirky, and fun, but I had to work at it to get to where I could enjoy it. The art is very childish, and the characters are extremely odd – if you think of how Bakudan Handan/Sweet Fuse’s characters were a lot different than regular otome characters, these guys are even more so. The theme of the game is ‘unfortunate’, as in guys that would be attractive except for one major flaw, a heroine that has a knack for pulling the short straw in everything, and situations that would be fun or cool except for one major thing that goes wrong. You also have to let go of commonsense to enjoy it – the school is going bankrupt and somehow the only way it can succeed is to have a certain number of students become couples during the school year, so all school events and grades are based on throwing boys and girls together, resulting in some unbelievable setups.

It’s hard to get into. It took me a long time, and even now, out of the 8 guys, there are a couple I’m really not interested in at all. However, when I let go of commonsense and expectations (partly based on all my other otome gaming and romance reading experience, hah) I actually had a fun time playing it. And really, it’s refreshing in a way to get an otome game that’s so different in many ways.

 

 Mermaid Gothic

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

Look at that cover, pretty gorgeous right? I really looked forward to playing this game from Quinrose about a mermaid. Unluckily for me, I can’t find my game disc!! I’m afraid I might have left it at my parents’ house over Christmas :( I have to leave this out since I haven’t been able to play it at all. It’s really annoying being able to see the pretty package on my shelf and not be able to play it!

 

Shinobi Koi, Utsutsu

    

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

Here it is – this was my favorite PSP game this year. Let me state right now that I have a strong bias towards the character artist (Nakamura Ryuutoku), I love his style and find all the designs really appealing. However, I also like the setup, the heroine, Kaede, and the writing here too. Ninja school around the 18th century (I think, this is alternate Japanese history where ninja school is a thing), with a genki heroine who accidentally uses her family’s secret technique causing the opposite sex to go crazy over her for a very short time. It’s kind of hilarious and kind of scary how it affects each character in different ways, revealing more about them than they want. All the characters had interesting personalities and quirks, and I even enjoyed the semi-shota character route (he’s technically the oldest student but looks the youngest). But really, what made this game the best for me was the heroine – she’s pretty focused on improving her ninja skills and becoming a full-fledged ninja, and doesn’t let the usual crap from jealous classmates bother her. If you played Musketeer and appreciated the goal-oriented heroine, you’ll probably like Kaede.

I wish this would get a fandisk really badly – but the Vita version is coming out in a few months with more scenes and new characters, so I guess that will be like the fandisk.

I just realized that though I wrote a review months ago, I never finished it up and posted it (I really failed at blogging last year!), so I’ll post that soon after this.

Fandisks/Sequels

I haven’t played most of these, so not all of them have comments. Lots of fandisks/sequels this year (I still haven’t decided whether the Quinrose games are fandisks, since it’s obvious they plan them as two games from the start).

Romeo and Juliet

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

Arabians Doubt

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

Geten no Hana FD Yume no Akari

Regular Edition                                    Treasure Box

I splurged and got the treasure box for this one (yolo right? and yeah I totally named it wrong on my tumblr) and it was really nice. I enjoyed the original game way more than I expected (full voice helped a lot) and was very satisfied with this as well. The premise is that you finished out the original game with the normal (i.e. no romance) good ending, and everyone’s back in town temporarily. The gameplay is very similar to the first game and there’s a clear plot. Really great revisiting all the characters, and I liked the new ones too – Kanbee is super hot, I’ll just say that now. The romances were really cute. I think this is my favourite fandisk of the year.

Iza, Shutsujin! Koisaku Dai Ni Makukai hen


Regular Edition 1                                    Regular Edition 2             Limited Edition 1            Limited Edition 2

Satomi Hakkenden 2/FD Hamaji Hime no Ki

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition
Quinrose – I actually got confused as to what was fandisk and what wasn’t here – I haven’t played the original game so if I’m mistakenly putting the original game here please let me know.

Kin’iro no Corda 3 Another Sky various
    

These games might sound like a cheap way for Koei to produce more games, but I don’t think so – they have to make new backgrounds, use new music, write new stories and record new dialogue. The game engine and sprites are pretty much reuseable, but honestly I figure they deserve to get some more use out of it, considering how much more gameplay there is in these games than most of the otome genre. And personally, I really enjoyed the chance to develop relationships with the guys in their own schools.

Jinnan Regular Edition                  Jinnan Treasure Box

Shiseikan Regular Edition             Shiseikan Treasure Box

Amane Regular Edition                  Amane Treasure Box

Heart no Kuni no Alice Wonderful Twin World

Is this a fandisk? Its hard to tell now with all the Alice games. I didn’t play this one, if anyone wants to comment how it compares to the other Alice games I’d love to know.

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

Jyuuzaengi Engetsu Sangokuden 2

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

Taisho no Kitan FD: Koto no Hazakura

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

Urakata Hakuoki FD: Akatsuki no Shirabe

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

I’ve only played one route here, and it took quite a while – I only finished one route in the original game too, so I really have to do some work on this one. The route was good, pretty intense, not as fluffy as many fandisks are (you can decide whether you like that or not).

Snow Black FD: Snow Magic

Regular Edition                                    Limited Edition

Haven’t played yet.

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