Top 10 English Otome Gameson March 1, 2016 by Cuppa
Otome is not as niche a genre as it once was. Granted, the genre is still underwhelmed with titles and many fans still feel starved of games, but otome does seem to slowly be gaining momentum. Idea Factory are testing the waters by localising some of their games in English, and other companies such as Manga Gamer and Girls’ Side are also dipping their toes into the localisation pool. Android and iOS has exploded with otome apps, and indie development teams have proven to have a huge interest in the genre, with more games being regularly released. You can read our introduction to otome here, but keep reading for our recommendations!
With otome games now making a name for themselves on the market, I thought it would be fun to share with you all my ten favourite otome games. For this list I have purposely excluded otome apps (with the exception of Hakuoki, which is available on handheld consoles as well as iOS and Android). I have done this because a lot of the otome apps I first played and loved have now been removed. There are also a lot of freemium otome apps floating about, and due to this I have sadly took a step back from otome mobile gaming. I do still enjoy otome apps from time to time, and I have enjoyed games such as London Detective Story by Think-a ltd, Shall We Date? by NTT Solmare and Forbidden Romance by D3 Publisher. My preference for otome gaming is, however, PC and handheld console.
I will only list games that have received official English translations, which means games translated by fan groups will be excluded. I also want to say that, although there are many wonderful games with otome elements (Fire Emblem: Awakening, Fire Emblem Fates, Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, Story of Seasons, Rune Factory 4… the list goes on!), I will only include games that are primarily otome-based. The majority of the listed games are from well established companies, although I have named some indie games too. Honestly, there are so many indie otome games as of late that they probably deserve their own Top 10 list! For example, if you have not played the demo for Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem yet, then I recommend that you do. There are some great indie otome games out there with strong potential.
10. Princess Debut
Princess Debut is a rhythm game with an otome twist! Developed by Cave and published for the EU and NA by Natsume, this sweet otome game first hit the Nintendo DS in 2008. You play as an adorable high school girl who is bored of her everyday lifestyle. One day a princess from an alternate dimension jumps out of your wardrobe! The princess, along with a magical creature called Kip, begs you to take her place in Flower Kingdom. Turns out there is a ball coming up, but the princess has two left feet! You of course agree to take her place at the ball. You then have thirty days to learn how to dance… but learning how to dance is only half the battle! You also have to pick a dance partner! Can your dance moves find you love?
The game features colourful shoujo art and cutesy character portraits. The graphics during dance scenes are rather poor, but to be fair this is to be expected. The DS is an older console, one that handles 3D polygons worse than an original PlayStation. The rhythm mechanic, although quite easy, is very fun to play. You slide and prod your stylus in time with classic tunes like When the Saints Go Marching In. The rest of the gameplay plays much like a visual novel, with text options appearing at key moments which will ultimately decide your love interest. You have a choice of six princes: Victor, Keith, Carlos, Leon, Kyle and Tony. There are also different endings depending on who your dance partner is and how high your love rating is with them. A fun secondary feature is that, by dancing well, you can also win different dresses and accessories for your heroine. Princess Debut may not be a challenging game, but it is very sweet and would be perfect for a young otome fan.
9. RE: Alistair++
I must admit, I have a soft spot for RE: Alistair++. Created by the talented indie group, Sakevisual, RE: Alistair++ was first released in 2010 for the PC, and it is completely free! It was one of the first indie otome games I played, and certainly one of the first to truly spark my interest in the otome genre. You play a sixteen year-old girl called Merui Lucas who loves video games. She often plays a MMORPG called Rivenwell Online with an online friend called Fiona. One day a player with the username Alister swoops in and steals Merui’s rare boss loot! Determined to extract revenge on him, Merui begins the daunting task of finding out who Alister really is. She narrows it down to three suspects who attend her school: Travis, Shiro and Derek.
The art is done to a very professional standard, with attractive character portraits and adorable chibis providing various styles and expressions. The game plays as a visual novel with a stat raising mechanic. You must raise your intelligence, social reputation and network reputation in accordance to your love interest’s preferences. You can also earn money and buy the bachelors gifts to raise their affection with you and progress the story. You cannot win the game by spanning a certain stat, and you definitely cannot complete the game without paying attention to a bachelor’s quirks and interests! Expect to face some challenging, but highly gratifying, gameplay! You only have a certain amount of time to figure out who Alister is. Will you be able to figure out his identity, and if you do, will you chose revenge over love? With a variety of uniquely different endings, you are sure to enjoy this high school romance with a gaming twist!
Hakuoki first hit the EU under the name Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi in 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS. The game is set during the final years of Japan’s Edo period and features a young heroine named Chizuru Yukimura. She travels to Kyoto in search of her father, Kodo. Once there however, she is attacked by strange, bloodthirsty beings with white hair and red eyes. She is saved by men from the Shinsengumi, a group historically represented as the last to uphold an honour-bound samurai culture. It turns out the Shinsengumi are also looking for Kodo due to his expert medical knowledge, and so Yukimura is quickly put under their protection while they search for the good doctor. With a mystery surrounding Yukimura’s family and a dark secret being kept by the Shinsengumi, Hakuoki keeps players on their toes as they immerse themselves in a story rich with history and romance.
Although Hakuoki is not one hundred percent accurate in its retelling of the Edo period (although I will not judge you if you want to believe there really were handsome, white-haired samurai sucking the blood of young maidens during the Edo period), it does make a genuine attempt at educating its audience about Japanese history by referring to specific dates and historical events. This historical romance plays in the form of a visual novel, and features some beautiful CGs and character art. The romance element was lacking slightly for me, but overall I found Hakuoki to be an enjoyable otome game. You can find my review of Hakuoki for the iOS and Android here, a version I would wholeheartedly recommend over others as it includes the full game and bonus content not available anywhere else.
7. Dandelion -Wishes Brought to You–
Dandelion -Wishes brought to you- is an otome game by Cheritz. First released in South Korea in 2012, the game was later released in English during the winter of the same year. Both versions can be bought online for the PC. The game centres around a college student named Heejung Kim, who suffers from a great deal of pressure in her life. Focussed on getting good grades and tirelessly trying to gain her mother’s approval, Heejung’s only solace in life is her art hobby. She wakes up one day to the sounds of curious shuffling and loud meows. How on earth did three rabbits and two cats get inside her flat?! She decides to keep the critters, naming them Jisoo, Jiwoo, Jihae, Jieun and Jiyeon. The strangeness does not stop there, however! After some time passes and Heejung becomes used to her adorable flatmates, the animals suddenly turn human! Who are these people? Could they really be from another world? Exactly why are they trying so hard to get Heejung’s attention?
Dandelion -Wishes brought to you- uses various mechanics to progress the game. You can interact with characters by touching, talking and given them presents, all of which can increase your affection with them. Affection is measured by a heart gauge. Affection can also be raised by going on dates during the weekends. The fuller the heart gauge, the better chance the player has at winning a good ending with their chosen bachelor! The stat raising mechanic can be a bit repetitive, but thankfully this game shines when it comes to interesting characters, an exciting plot and detailed illustrations. You may think things are pretty straightforward, but that is only because you have not met the Wizard yet… Dandelion -Wishes brought to you- is a very pleasant, and very entertaining, otome game.
6. Amnesia: Memories
Amnesia: Memories was the first to mark an exciting otome release schedule from Idea Factory in the EU and NA. In August 2015, English fans were finally able to play Amnesia: Memories on their PS Vitas and Steam accounts. In it you play as a first year psychology student who wakes up with no memory of who she is (an especially fitting title, do you not think?). A spirit named Orion explains to the player that he has accidentally merged with your consciousness, effectively pushing out all of your memories! You must cunningly figure out who you are and what you do in the world, all the while making sure no one figures out your secret. Getting locked up inside a hospital will do little to stimulate those memories back, after all. If you fail, Orion’s presence will unwillingly encroach upon your mind, meaning your memories will be lost to you forever. To make things even more complicated, a strange guy appears claiming to be your boyfriend! Can you trust him? If so, will you be able to fall in love with him all over again?
There are five bachelors to romance in Amnesia: Memories: Shin, Toma, Ikki, Kent and Ukyo. Each bachelor has a very unique personality, with an equally unique story to tell. A player’s progression with them is based on the levels of three stats: Affection, Trust and Suspicion. The addition of these levels adds an enjoyable amount of challenge. Keeping the suspicion bar empty and the trust bar full is not enough, it may even go against your favour! There are also a lot of fun extras, including side stories and mini games. I did find the heroine’s personality a little lacklustre, especially as most of her thoughts get dictated to players through Orion. If this was due to her missing memories, then, to take the idea further, it would have been nice to see different personalities develop depending on what route the player chose. Regardless of this, players will find hours of pleasure in this otome game’s story and stunning artwork. You can find my review of Amnesia: Memories here.
5. Norn9: Var Commons
Norn9: Var Commons is a visual novel developed by Idea Factory. It was given an English publication by Aksys Games in November, 2015. The game delighted English fans and their PS Vitas, giving us a unique otome game with three heroines and a subtle sci-fi setting. A young boy named Sorata stars in the prologue. Seemingly transported into the past, the highly intelligent Sorata is frightened and confused. He is lead onto a mechanical biosphere by a kindly girl called Koharu. They meet a number of passengers on this strange airship, some of whom have supernatural abilities! To find out what on earth is going on, you must chose to play as one of three heroines: Koharu, Mikoto or Nanami. Play their routes, find out their secrets, fall in love and solve the mystery behind this bizarre, yet familiar, world!
Norn9: Var Commons definitely packs in the content. With nine different routes, each with numerous endings, short stories, bonus CGs, character interviews, an 8-bit mini game and more, you are unlikely to get bored with this otome. The downside of having so much content seems to be a lack of continuity in terms of story quality. Some routes are given more attention than others, with the same plot developments being repeated across multiple character stories. I also think more could have been done with the three heroines. If you are going to have three main characters, you might as well have them there for a reason, right? The game could have been a bit more special if more thought had been put into how the characters interact with each other. Despite this, Norn9: Var Commons was a truly fun game to play with lots of interesting characters and gorgeous art to admire. You can find my review of Norn9: Var Commons here.
Yo-Jin-Bo is a Japanese visual novel produced by Two-Five. In October 2006, Hirameki International released an English edition of the PC version. The company sadly bowed out of game production in 2008, but you can still buy Yo-Jin-Bo digitally from JAST USA. In this otome game you play as an ordinary high school student named Sayori. One day she finds a shiny trinket buried in mud. She picks it up, and that night she has the strangest dream she has ever had! A princess of the ancient Mochizuki clan begs her for help in preventing her assassination. The next morning, Sayori wakes up in Hatsuhime castle! In order to save the poor princess, Sayori must befriend several rough-around-the-edges ronin types and ask for their help. Will these ‘bodyguards’ be able to do the job? Will Sayori be able to change history?
Yo-Jin-Bo is another otome game that fills me with nostalgia. There are five bachelors for Sayori to fall in love with, all with colourful personalities and interesting character designs. You will find yourself blushing over the Buddhist priest’s, Mon-Mon’s, actions, and melting over the assassin Tatsunami’s surprisingly tender side. Humour also plays a large part in the game, and you are sure to find yourself laughing over the characters antics (a particular scene involving a hot spring comes to mind). Yo-Jin-Bo also has a surprisingly adult tone attached to it (nipples are left censorship-free!), which is something of a rarity in otome games. The game might be slighted dated in design, and for sure, a plot involving time travel and body swapping is far from unique nowadays, but Yo-Jin-Bo is a pleasing classic that I cannot help but recommend.
3. Sweet Fuse: At Your Side
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side was released in Europe and North America on August 2013 by Aksys Games, and can currently be downloaded onto the PS Vita from the PlayStation store. You play as the intuitive heroine, Saki Inafune, who gets invited to a videogame-themed theme park designed by her uncle. A mysterious figure in a black pig suit appears during the park’s grand opening and proposes an ultimatum: Participate in a seven-day ‘game’ or watch the theme park blow up! Lives are put on the line, including Saki’s uncle’s! Saki volunteers to take part in these ‘games’ in order to save her uncle. She, along with six attractive men, must face puzzles, riddles, zombies, songs and combat, before time runs out and the bombs littering the park go off!
In terms of gameplay mechanics, Sweet Fuse: At Your Side showcases some very unique features. When faced with a dilemma, Saki’s ‘explosive insight’ trait may take effect. Faced with a number of highlighted keywords and phrases, the player must pick the correct three which will trigger Saki’s epiphany and solve the problem. The mechanic tests the player’s intuition and detective skills, whilst also providing some very fun gameplay. Another amusing mechanic is Saki’s ‘what’s wrong with you?!’ option. The heroine is a bit of a bomb herself, one that goes off through anger! The screen will shake and you will begin to see red as you decide whether or not Saki should lose her cool. If Saki does get mad, then the phrase ‘what’s wrong with you?!’ will appear across the screen, prompting some hilarious reactions from the stunned bachelors! With an intriguing story and entertaining characters, Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is not an otome game you want to miss!
2. Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~
Under the instruction of her missing father, the lonely Cardia lives inside a dilapidated mansion, completely isolated from the world. Afflicted with a condition that makes her skin poisonous to the touch, she is dubbed a monster and feared by the locals. She remembers nothing past the previous two years, the voice of her father telling her to ‘never fall in love’ echoing in her ears. One day the Royal Guards ambush poor Cardia in the night. She is saved my the gentlemanly thief, Arsène Lupin, who, with the help of his engineer friend, Impey Barbicane, whisks her off to a steampunk version of Victorian London. There she meets three more infamous men: Abraham Van Helsing, Victor Frankenstein and Count Saint-Germain. Together they attempt to cure Cardia of her condition, find her missing father and solve a number of mysteries that plague London. Love may well may be on the table, but so is the threat of war, murder, genocide and conspiracy. Will Cardia be able to help these young men with their own afflictions?
Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ is the otome game English fans deserve after waiting many years for Idea Factory to recognise their interest in the genre. There is some excellent writing in this game, and the variety present in character routes is truly impressive. The sweet, soft-spoken Victor Frankenstein will take you down a road you never expected. Likewise the mysterious Count Saint-Germain will shock you in ways you never thought possible! Cardia herself is a heroine players will be proud to play as. Cardia is brave, intelligent, kind and has a mind of her own. Her lonely upbringing means she is somewhat naïve about the world, but she is far from being a helpless maiden. This young lady can hold her own, and indeed Cardia will sometimes play the hero who rescues her love interest. Cardia is not a bland, empty shell in which a player must project themselves on, a trait which many otome games fail to appreciate. There is a reason why five remarkable men fall in love with Cardia, and you are sure to fall for her charms too! With an intricate plot, serious themes and stunning steampunk visuals, you are sure to enjoy Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~. You can read my full review of the game here.
1. Nameless ~The One Thing You Must Recall~
Nameless ~The One Thing You Must Recall~ is my otome-jewel. You play as high school student Eri (the name is changeable). Eri’s parents often work outside the country, meaning Eri is unable to live with them. Not long ago, Eri lived with her grandfather. The elderly gentleman loved her very much, and together they made lots of wonderful memories that Eri cherishes. Memories are very important to Eri, so much so that she diligently records her thoughts and activities every day in a diary. Her grandfather passes away, and for a while, Eri was a very lonely young girl who lived by herself. She found solace in an unusual hobby: ball-jointed dolls. She collects a total of five, and forms a strong bond with them. In fact this bond is so strong that, through some magical craftsmanship and a bit of strong wishing, Eri’s five dolls turn human! They think a miracle has happened, but what they fail to realise is that this ‘miracle’ has huge consequences. This is all for Eri, but if she does not remember everything soon, those memories she cherishes so much will be lost to her forever…
Nameless ~The One Thing You Must Recall~ has the most enchanting, most intelligent plot I have ever come across in an otome game. Fluidity between character routes is vital to gameplay, with the events of one storyline directly influencing the beginning of the next. Characterisation has been spread equally, with each bachelor receiving the same measure of content and detail. That is not to say that you will not have your favourites, or that every route touches on similar themes. With such vastly different personalities and unusual backstories, Cheritz has managed to keep every route enjoyably special. If you have not yet played Nameless ~The One Thing You Must Recall~ yet, then I highly recommend that you do! Magic, mystery and love awaits you in this merry-go-round of an otome game!
Upcoming Otome Games
It may only be early 2016, but already there are some very exciting otome games scheduled to be released this year! One otome game to be hyped about is Ozmafia from Manga Gamer. Inspired by two intriguing themes, The Wizard of Oz and the mafia, Ozmafia features familiar characters with some deadly twists. Players better prepare themselves, because they are not in Kansas anymore! The game will be available for PC only and will include partial voice acting.
Another game to look out for this year is Mystic Messenger from Cheritz. After looking for a game app to kill some time, you stumble upon an app called ‘Mystic Messenger’. You find yourself chatting to someone with the username ‘Unknown’… I must admit, I was a tad disappointed to find out the game was a mobile app, but as it is being made by Cheritz, I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Quality is not something Cheritz skimps on, and so it is my hope that Mystic Messenger lives up to its predecessors.
For those who do not know, Beastmaster and Prince –Flower and Snow- is currently on Kickstarter! In this otome game you play as the trainee Beastmaster, Tiana. In her travels she encounters four Princes from the neighbouring kingdom of Farzan, who were cursed and transformed into animals by a witch! Tiana wants to save the Princes, but soon learns that the curse was only the beginning of a conspiracy brewing within the kingdom… If funded the game will be available on Steam, and if stretch goals are met, the game will also be available on iOS and Android. If you are able, please help Gloczus localise and publish this magical otome game!
So, what do you think of my list? Do you agree with it? Do you believe I missed out on some amazing titles? Let me know in the comments! Oh, and while you are there I have a question to ask: What otome games do you want to see localised? There are some wonderful companies that have recently opened their doors to visual novels
(cough PQube cough); perhaps we should offer up some of our own suggestions to really get the ball rolling? Excluding Idea Factory titles (for…reasons), what otome games do you desperately want to play in English? Feel free to suggest both PC and console titles!