Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Game Reviews: Otome September 2012

Spring has arrived, and with it comes my slew of otome games! I’ve got two online games to compare, plus some neat play-throughs of a few smaller downloadable titles. And so we shall endeavour to finish reviewing these suckers before September ends.~
First up, we’ve got Star Project VS. My Candy Love. They’re both girly online dating games, each with a different kind of appeal. That is, aside from the fresh meat random guys on offer. Since my personal opinion on which of these two is the superior game is so obvious, I’ll just cut to the chase...
Go and play Star Project now. NOW! NOW! NOW! DON’T DELAY! Why are you still here, even??
... And if you have some extra time, you might as well sign up for My Candy Love too.
That concludes my concise opinion. Thank you for acknowledging my existence. :)
*** Obligatory Possible Spoiler Warning ***
Basically, if you like Asian anime/manga/pop stars/actors, Star Project should be right up your alley. It’s set in Japan (or Korea if you’re playing the untranslated version) and you play as the manager of a talent scouting corporation. So you’ll get your novice stars and hopefully train them up to become famous idols. Or you could just marry/molest/overwork/exploit/enslave them.
Clothing and dialogue choices don’t really have too much of an impact on your game progress. Instead, your star’s talent bars and affection level for you do. But that’s not to say dialogue choices aren’t relevant or needed, as they do play a big part in helping shape your star’s mood and performance ability. A really unique thing about Star Project’s writing is that there is no fear of choosing an ‘incorrect’ response. You don’t need to know exactly what to say and when to do certain things before events occur. Even though some answers do result in a minor setback, you can always make up for it by buying your star a meal or taking him out somewhere. I found the forgiving nature of the dialogue selections to be a great feature, as it allows players to fully explore the game with ease.
My Candy Love has a more European/American feel to it. You’re thrown into a high school with all the familiar stereotypes to deal with as you wish. You’ll meet the serious guy, the angry loner, the nerd, the artist, the nice one, the feisty one, and even that group of plastic Barbie dolls who all wear far too much makeup. I’m almost certain that the jock, the cool kid, the exotic one and the surfer are going to show up somewhere later. You’ll have to watch what you say, wear and do in order to impress specific characters. Provided that you care about popularity, that is. Otherwise, you could always be like me and ignore everybody except two people.
The most irritating aspect of My Candy Love is the point and money systems. You can’t progress at all without having a high amount of both, and it can take you several days or even weeks to accumulate enough free daily refills to play the game. Of course, if you have real money to spend it would be relatively simple to buy your way through. As for me, there’s just no way I can justify spending actual money on this game, especially since I think it’s significantly more inferior to Star Project.
Star Project
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I was really impressed by this online game. It’s well written, the characters are fun to interact with, the background music is awesome, the games are cute, and the art is pretty. And by Dragonite, it’s funny. Do you know how hard it is to find a game like this that’s genuinely funny?
But wait... There’s more.
Star Project is free to play! You can actually sail quite nicely through the game without having to painstakingly grind, spend actual money or wait it out for days on end. Go on, compare it to My Candy Love. I can’t even spend five minutes trying to progress though that game without running out of ‘Action Points’ and being directed to a Paypal checkout system. Feh.
I personally much prefer the character design styles Star Project has going over the ones in My Candy Love. The characters from both games are drawn in a manga/anime style, but Star Project just feels more like an authentic otome to me. My Candy Love reminds me of a western art studio trying to replicate Japanese anime, in a similar manner to such titles like Totally Spies!/Ben 10/Avatar. I believe the original creators of the Star Project are Korean, while My Candy Love was translated from French.
The quality of the CG artworks offered in Star Project are very much like the ones in more well known games such as Tokimeki Memorial or Starry Sky, which I think is a big achievement for a free online game.
Star Project doesn’t seem to specifically target itself towards lovesick teenagers. There’s more to the game than just putting fresh meat eligible guys in a display window. It’s more about you managing your clients to nurture their talents, and getting to know your stars. Everything else is meant to be secondary to your business ambitions.
You can increase your star’s energy by playing during set meal times. When you go back to the office, your character will comment on eating and you can recover energy depending on how much money you are willing to spend. Unfortunately, you have to calculate the difference between your local time and the game’s clock to take advantage of these meal breaks.
Alternatively, you can purchase an energy drink on your profile page which replenishes your star’s entire energy meter. This costs Gold of course, which means you’ll have to spend real world money on the game to play it more. It also costs Gold to change your star’s stage name, so think over your naming carefully.
If you schedule too many appointments and overwork him, Touya’s mood decreases and he becomes unhappy. The only way to really fix this without spending any Gold is to take him to all the date locations and trigger as many positive events as possible. If asked for a date course, the expensive option saves the most energy. Only proceed with the course if the success rating reads 80% - 95% though, otherwise you’ll just waste money and worsen Touya’s mood. Another thing to be wary of is his energy level. As the meter approaches 0, he sometimes passes out when you return to your office, which will decrease his memory points.
The major issues with Star Project are related to mini-game design. Most noticeably, the singing instructor (Yuri) can level up your star’s singing ability by holding piano key and voice synching lessons. The problem with this is that Yuri does not musically sing on key, and in the later levels of the mini-game, players are forced to blindly guess what piano notes she is singing. However, this could be quite easily fixed by replacing Yuri’s voice with the actual notes produced by the piano keys.
There are also a few small hiccups with the mini-game instructions being somewhat unclear and lags in timing. For example, if your internet connection drops in speed during DJ Ken's dance routine, then your click will be slower to register with the footsteps in the game, which will result in a failed lesson attempt.

There are at least five stars available to be contracted to you in the game, but so far it looks like only two have been introduced into the English version of Star Project. Luckily, Touya is the default guy who stays around forever, and he’s still my favourite character.

Touya reminds me slightly of Kyo from Fruits Basket. Except he’s less dynamic and more wussy. Normally I wouldn’t be so fond of someone like Touya, but for some various reasons unknown to me, I do quite like his character. Hmm... I got it! He's a younger version of Tamaki from Ouran High. That explains everything.
It’s not that he’s weak or a coward (in fact, quite the opposite) but he doesn’t pretend to be anything he isn’t. Touya is a fairly bluntly honest guy. He’s not too conceited, he doesn’t try to deceive you, and he’s a little too simple-minded to put on an act anyway. When he’s tired, he’ll keel over and whine because he’s tired. When he’s hungry, he’ll roll about on the floor and complain that he’s hungry. If your cooking sucks, he’ll tell you exactly how much it sucks without ever holding back.
Touya’s comparatively innocent mind pairs really well with your heroine’s more depraved character, leading to some absolutely hilarious and sometimes wildly inappropriate scenarios. A lot of the fun you get out of Star Project is generated by Touya and the heroine simply interacting with one another. In addition, he really seems to hate his older brother, whom he refers to as a ‘stalker’. This situation really shouldn’t be comical, but by Arceus, the way it unfolds just makes me spew my drink everywhere with laughter.
Touya has talent in a few useful areas such as singing, dancing, and cooking. However, he is poor at acting and has difficulty memorising lines. Fortunately, I don’t think much of actors anyway, so I’m doing fine at crafting Touya into a singer. Screw Justin Beiber, this guy should definitely be the world’s most admired pop idol. :D

Ren is a jerk of the highest degree. To the point where I’d say that he’s more like a dentist drill than a human. Strangely, even though in most cases I tend to like cold characters, I think Ren goes a bit too far. There were times where I could describe his behaviour as distastefully psychotic. The storyline slowly peels off some of his unpleasant outer layers, but in the end he’ll always still be an onion. Did I just quote Shrek? Um. Let me try rephrasing that by stating an easy way to evaluate just how much of a jerkface a given character actually is: Expose them to small children and/or animals in order to judge their reaction.
Ren ignores and then proceeds to yell at bleeding children lying in the street. Therefore we can assume, with reasonable accuracy, that he truly has the empathy level of a serial killer. In addition to this, he’s working for your company because you look eerily like his deceased mother. But all of those disturbing warning signs aside, some players will be inevitably enticed by Ren’s tragically twisted character. And I guess I have nothing against him, even if there’s no way in Hell I’m going to pay a boatload of money to extend his contract. After all, he is pretty.
I love the BGM tracks in this game, but I couldn’t find them for download anywhere. Since Star Project was originally a Korean game, chances are the sound files exist somewhere on the internet. Since I failed at finding them, I decided to just record the background music and upload them myself in .mp3 format:
Enjoy! :>
*Disclaimer: All tracks were composed by the creators of the Star Project game. Credit to Audacity for allowing me to extract them.
My Candy Love
In contrast to Star Project, My Candy Love is structured in a noticeably different style. It advertises itself with vague promises of flirting and finding love by ‘conquering’ the hearts of your victims. Here, you’ll need to buy outfits and perform menial tasks to increase affection levels and progress further through the story.
The first episode consists of players wandering the map in search of an ID photo and a paper clip to complete an enrolment form. Exciting, no? You may meet some of the other characters while doing this, and the dialogue options you choose will influence how they feel towards you. At the end of the episode, you will go out on a ’date’ with the character who displays highest affection rating for you.
Some players prefer this type of game, but I’m way too old to really get into the gossipy-girly-flirty high school setting on offer here. I also found the dialogue to be pretty crude and impolite, especially with regards to the speech options. Sometimes the only dialogue options you get are just downright nasty, so even the heroine herself is quite rude.
You’d get your ass thrown out of school for spouting such insolence. Particularly on your very first day. Do you know any mentally-balanced people who actually speak like this?
Nonetheless, My Candy Love can still be an entertaining experience provided that you have enough Action Points and money to actually play through an episode. To be fair, it’s probably a game directed much more towards a younger pre-teen audience.
The game art in My Candy Love isn’t bad, although Star Project is clearly done more professionally. Fortunately the CG art is better, even if there don’t seem to be that many illustrations available. Too bad I can’t comment on the background music, because it doesn’t exist. :P
You need both Action Points to move around the map plus money to play My Candy Love. Whenever you run out of either, the game stops and you will be directed to a payment options page. You must buy an outfit from the selection presented in order to go out on a ‘date’ at the end of an episode. If the character you are searching for does not show up on the map as scheduled, you will have to keep saving up and wasting your Action Points until they eventually appear. By logging in daily, you gain a small amount of Action Points and money to play with. I suggest that you save up enough of these to get through an entire episode before attempting to play through it. :<
At the beginning of the game, you get a choice out of three guys: The straight-laced student council president (Nathaniel), the angry loner-jerk (Castiel) or the geeky-glasses nerd (Ken). I imagine most players would go for either the council president or the jerkface, taking both looks and personality into consideration at this point.
Behold, it’s your uptight student council president. He shuffles papers, acts serious and presumably has good grades. I’d say he’s the most logical choice. Good prospects, decent person, sense of justice, blah-blah-blah. More importantly, I also found a CG of Nathaniel with cats all over him. Hoohoo, there’s no chance of this cat person escaping my dark clutches now. Thus, Nathaniel is now the chosen one who will lead us to glory. Need I say more?
I can really only see two downsides to Nathaniel so far. The first thing is that his whole family seem to have a genetic predisposition for allergies. The second thing is that his younger sister is the ringleader of the ‘mean girls’ trio. They hate everyone, by the way. Especially you. Neither of these negatives are actually Nathaniel’s fault, so he’s definitely still my pick. Yes, even though he hates sweets. And no, I don't know why the heck half his shirt buttons are undone in the above CG.
Yep, he’s the jerky one. He seems to enjoy conflict and punk-goth rock bands. I’m guessing he’s probably some sort of emo rock musician without any loving parents.

Unfortunately, I don’t know much else about Castiel because to date a jerkass, you must be a jerkface. Don’t worry, I’m sure his fangirls will soon discover that he’s not actually that unpleasant deep down. Somehow.
Ken is like Melvin from Sailor Moon – He’s the dud. Or at least, that’s what they would have you believe. My advice is for you to try and treat him like a fellow human being from the very start. And not just because I feel you should behave in a civil manner towards a fellow human being, but also due to what I’m about to reveal shortly.
Ironically, there doesn’t appear to be a female equivalent of the dud date. Possibly because it’s more accepted that guys might have a nerdgirl fetish? Anyway, Kentin is apparently more like Naru from Love Hina. Someone sends him off to military school for a while and a totally different person returns in his place. Strip away the Coke-bottle glasses and bowl haircut, then BAM.
I’m sure many players are regretting brushing him off now. Some actually preferred him as he was before. And I sure do respect those players, for I could never hope to be so non-superficial.
Ken’s motives seem to become increasingly weird and creepy after his magical metamorphosis. My observation here is mostly based on hearsay though, which I pieced together by reading a few YouTube comments on the subject.
RE: Alistair ++
Alistair ++ is surprisingly well made, especially for a free game. I would recommend it to all otome fans. ^^
It’s really a game within another game. Your objective is to find out which of the guys stole your item in an online game (Rivenwell) you’ve been playing. The option to grab one as your boyfriend is also on the table, but that isn’t necessarily your main focus.
The story begins with you playing Rivenwell Online in the school computer lab. Some boofhead with the username ‘Alistair’ cuts in and takes your kill, stealing your loot.
Now it’s your mission to gather clues on each of your suspects. If you ask me, these guys all seem pretty suspicious, especially since all of them try to hide the fact that they play Rivenwell online from you.
The president of the computer games club. Damn, I wish we actually had that club in high school. Oh, wait. Probably nobody would have joined except me.
Past regrets aside, here’s Travis. The only catch phrase I can think of to describe him right now is that he’s a lean, mean fighting machine. Let’s roll with that.
He’s the grumpy jerk of this game. Except that he’s actually not. I think you’ll grow to like him, at the very least in a strange, distant-admirer kind of way. I went through the Travis route on my first play-through, and it seems to the most interesting and fleshed out one of the three. I also think Travis is the most appropriate guy for the heroine, and the benefits he brings are just endless. He helps look after the computer lab, he cooks to help out his family, he scares your enemies away for you, he virtually stalks you, you’re both into playing games, he knows secret game hints, he’s a Rivenwell mod... What else could you possibly want?
The quiet, studious one. He hardly ever speaks, and is overly shy. Ergo, a lot of players like him. He possesses high grades, so you’d better work your butt off on that school project just to impress him.
Shiro resents his parents for being away all the time, but later realises that maybe he should just try talking to them and telling them about his concerns. You know, instead of just studying like a maniac to hide his abandonment complex all the time.
The biggest surprise for me in the entire game was finding out who Shiro’s Rivenwell IGN was. Yep, he’s a probable closet crossdresser. And is it just me, or does Shiro look disturbingly like a girl?
The basketball jock. Or is he? Although he denies playing Rivenwell at first, you will soon discover the awful truth.
Derek is apparently under a lot of pressure from his perfectionist parents to be the best at everything. (Why does that sound so familiar to me?) Unfortunately, his grades kinda suck and they keep sending him vicious self-esteem lowering text messages to his phone. Bummer.
As it turns out, Derek is a little deranged as a result of his torturous upbringing. For some reason he likes ‘mature women’ even though an individual who acts the way he does clearly has the mental age of a small orphan boy. Sigh.
You want to know who Alistair is? Let me give you some hints to point you in the right direction. And the culprit's reason for stealing your Blessed Stone? Evidently, he’s an idiot.
Now maybe I’m too conventional, but I just don’t trust a guy with a tuft of pink hair and a face which contorts in ways that would scare small children.
I don’t feel like this online bully deserves to be forgiven so easily for acting like such a giant wanker. I say you should just let them banhammer his ass from Rivenwell.
Remember kids: Treat others like you would wish to be treated yourself. Especially online.
The background music is pretty nice in Alistair ++, even if I don’t really remember any of the tracks except for one. But I swear that one BGM tune sounds oddly similar to Avril Lavigne’s Complicated.
Now... Have some stat and item requirements:
51 Network Rep
36 Intelligence
17 Social Rep
Game: Demon of Edo
Clothes: Sweater + Track Pants
51 Intelligence
36 Network Rep
17 Social Rep
Book: Greek History
Clothes: Spring Dress + Butterfly Skirt 
51 Social Rep
36 Network Rep
17 Intelligence
Clothes: Evening Gown
Clothes: Tank Top + Trendy Capris

Idol Crush
I’ll get straight to the honest truth with this one. Idol Crush is a poorly written and put together game. And if you’re lucky, it might keep you entertained for 15 minutes. The experience is so short that there isn’t time for any character establishment, let alone any personality developments. Still, the art is okay. Even if the characters all kinda look like the same person but with different hair.
Ichiro – Mr. Perfect Prince.
Yadda yadda, student council president, basketball captain, perfect looks, totally available, yadda. I feel like no original thought was put into this character, and he's the second best option on the table. :P
(I love how they talk him up so much in the first scene, and you can get his ending two minutes later.)
Go to Library -> Get locked in Library after dark -> ‘Wanna be my girlfriend for no reason?’ -> Good Ending
Kan – The (Assumed) Reclusive Badass.

Everybody thinks this guy is gangster for some reason. He just seems to like quiet places while disliking other people. Therefore, Kan isn't a badass at all, but a mistakenly designated badass. Like Fujioka from Minami-Ke. I still have no idea how such a rumour could spread about this pale, delicately built boy.
Go to Rooftop -> Ignore Jun -> Spill your lunch all over Kan -> Insist on replacing his shirt -> ‘Date’ -> Ramen -> Trip Over -> Free piggyback ride home -> Lunch Buddies -> Amusement park date -> Magic House Love -> Expensive necklace -> ‘But we only just met... I mean, go out with me?’ -> Good Ending
Jun – The Playboy Jerk. (A filthy-mouthed one, at that.)
Here's your childhood friend. He's actually a pretty big twat, and my personal advice would be to disassociate yourself from him as soon as possible. There are many retarded and/or criminally insane fangirls who are ready to sacrifice their souls to the devil for a crack at Jun. Leave them be. They deserve this idiot, while you should salvage the remainder of your dignity.
Rooftop -> Go home with Jun -> Harass over the phone for a home visit -> Video game -> Beat his ass -> Stupidly rushed confession -> Run away like an idiot -> Receive note on desk -> Go to pool -> Get pushed in by murderous psychopaths -> Jun’s CG drowning rescue -> Refuse to go to basketball game -> Go anyway -> Playground meeting -> ‘Spontaneously go out with me?’ -> Good Ending
(If for some reason you say you’ll go to the basketball game, you’ll get an Uncertain Ending instead. You’ll go anyway though. What the...?) Also, these CGs don't really resemble the characters they dumped into this game. Maybe I just have poor character recognition.

No comments:

Post a Comment