Published on February 28th, 2014 | by Michaela Buckley0
Bloody Otome games! Sweet Fuse VS Hakuoki
Right, so, for whatever reason, I decided to buy and play some Otome games, that is, female-aimed dating sims or visual novels from Japan.
First up, is this late-release on the PSP, in the UK it is only available to download, for some reasonable sum.
The game is created by Idea Factory and Otomate, in conjunction with Comcept, the story revolves around a young woman who so happens to be Keiji Inafune’s niece, who is attending the opening of his new theme park when a strange pig terrorist takes over and threatens to blow the place to kingdom come, lest 7 people are able to complete a task set each day. Obviously this leaves our leading lady with a harem cast of 7 losers who she can potentially hitch up with throughout the course of the game.
As a visual novel there is lots of text and some decision making to be done, even the more interesting gameplay is still just a series of inputs. Sometimes you will be put in situations where you can choose what you want to do, and when there is a puzzle, your character can choose a certain word in order to ‘intuit’ a solution, nice going there game.
There are some issues with some of the game, for example, one of the characters attempts to hit a child and another, well… a few others are also complete nutters.
This might just be a fetish thing, I’m not entirely sure.
Additionally, the main character is somewhat lacking in personality outside of mindless optimism, but I suppose if you’re playing this game you probably don’t care what the woman is like.
There are multiple routes in the game, I only did a few of them but really one is enough for the average player, the game pace is pretty fast and if you want to be dating a certain character you have to be pretty snappy on accepting the opportunities, I also noted that in order to make sure you don’t accidentally get some other chump, you basically have to be a complete dick to everyone that isn’t the desired ‘beau’ for that playthrough.
Considering this game is really little more than an erotica, (without eroticism) I was fairly surprised with the level of quality of not only the game mechanics, GUI and the art, but also the story and character development, somehow it ends up as more than the sum of its rather embarrassing parts and easily defied expectations. Obviously the game is aimed at hetero-femmes so it’s not for everyone, but I do think there is some merit to those who are willing to play it that are outside its targeted parameters.
I’m still not entirely sure what the point of Keiji Inafune is though.
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom
Somehow Sweet Fuse wasn’t quite enough Otome, so next I moved onto this rather popular PSP game.
Set during the Meiji Restoration in Japan, when the Shinsengumi are on the rise to power, the game follows Chizuru, a young woman who is saved by them whilst searching the dark streets of Kyoto for her father. She remains in their confines as they share the same goal and her knowledge of them poses a threat.
Despite having the same developer as Sweet Fuse, Hakuoki manages to subvert almost every trope that the former supports, by having a more robust plot and better characters. The game is entirely text-based, with no other element outside the very few decision-making moments, it also boasts a nigh-entire lack of otome-esque moments, outside of the last couple of chapters, at which point the story seems to go rather downhill anyway as it strays from the reality that it formerly portrayed.
By this I am mostly talking about how the subject of vampirism is strangely added into the events of the Meiji restoration seemingly informing the course of history. Obviously this tied with the romance in the latter half make for some fucking cringy gameplay that will have you hiding behind chairs to escape prying eyes of shame.
There are more bad endings in this game, meaning if you don’t want to waste loads of time playing it to screw up, then you might want to consider a walkthrough or something as sometimes it’s not always clear what options do what.
The visuals are pretty whilst also maintaining a rather old and rich look with earthly colours used to set the sombre tone of the game, at rich contrast with the pinks and brightness of Sweet Fuse. The game plays quite well but could do with some more streamlined mechanics.
In the end, it’s easy to say this is the better game in most aspects, it has some great story even if spoiled by ridiculous supernatural stuff and the characters are much more interesting and don’t feel like cardboard cutouts of a girl’s fantasy, however it is all of this that is its biggest weakness. It’s overall a bit depressing and boring, the characters and story are a little too serious considering it’s a bleeding Otome game, there are little instances of excitement or humour and it just weighs you down by the end.
So in the end the winner is… Sweet Fuse.
It’s more exciting, funny and honest, even if it’s not for everyone. The characters are mostly stupid but they seem to be more-ish to talk to if nothing else. I wouldn’t get too excited over this victory though, it’s more like a win derived from the opponent being ill that day, or something that would be given out as a congratulations for turning up. So…
Well done, Sweet Fuse. Well done.