Not all of us always enjoy games that are challenging as they can make us feel stressed when they are too difficult to complete. There are times when we play games just because we want enjoyment and relaxation, or simply to temporarily escape the harsh reality of life. Therefore, sometimes, all we need are casual games that don’t require much brain power. A genre of simple, casual games that has been popular among Japanese girls is otome games (乙女ゲーム). They are typically games based on romance wherein the players would, for the most part, only need to pick the dialogues of their choice to progress in the game. Hence, the story in the game would unfold depending on the player’s choices.
Some of you who like video games and often watch walkthroughs of games by popular YouTubers such as PewDiePie may be familiar with the games developed by Telltale Games, an independent American video game publisher and developer. Among the popular games released by them are The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Wolf Among Us. These games heavily rely on the player’s selection of dialogues to proceed in the game, and as such, the gameplay bears resemblance to otome games which is also like storytelling.
The major difference is that otome games usually have plots focusing on romance, the character controlled by the player is typically a girl admired by many guys and that the player can choose a romance with whichever guy. It is like a shojo (少女) setting with a reverse harem. Besides that, Telltale Games are usually in 3D designs with more movements, while otome games feature 2D illustrations with limited movements.
Playing otome games is very similar to watching a shojo anime series. So the question, “Why play a game instead of watching an anime,” may be what’s on your mind right now. I’ll have to say that the main benefit of playing otome games instead of watching a shojo anime series is that we get to choose who among the potential love interests the heroine would end up with. It can be frustrating when the heroine in an anime series falls for and ends up happily ever after with the guy we don’t root for! Even though in a shojo anime series, we can pretty much already figure out that the lead female character would end up being with the lead male character, some of us still have a preference for the other male character in the series.
Despite that, we would still watch the anime series due to its interesting plot and cling to the small possibility that the heroine would choose the other guy at last, but will end up disappointing ourselves in the finale of the series even though we have already quite expected that to happen. Therefore, playing otome games is fun because we have some control over where the story is heading to!
If you are already familiar with otome games, you would have realized the major drawback of loving this genre, which is that such games are often only available in the Japanese language for some reason. Very rarely would you be able to find otome games that have been translated into English, so English-speaking individuals do not have many choices of otome games. Perhaps there has not been much demand from international gamers, but I believe this is due to a lack of exposure to this genre, rather than a lack of interest. The style of otome games would easily attract girls who swoon over romantic stories. After all, many movies with a romance theme have been pretty successful around the world in spite of the men who roll their eyes over them. Therefore, I am quite certain that otome games would have a generic appeal to many girls around the world.
— ボルテージ広報 (@Voltage_PR) January 10, 2017
In recent years, things have improved for us who speak English and love otome games. There is a company called Voltage Inc. (株式会社ボルテージ) that has been churning out many otome games available in English! Voltage Inc. is a company founded by Yuji Tsutani (津谷祐司) who is the CEO and chairperson, and his wife, Nanako Higashi (東奈々子), who acts as the co-founder and vice chairperson.
The couple initially struggled with the type of games they were going to produce. The original plan of Voltage was to provide male-oriented battle games instead of dating games for the female audience. However, that initial plan was not successful so the company changed their ways 180 degrees and decided to produce otome games for girls instead. It was a game changer (notice the pun?) which led to a billion dollar success story. In 2014, the Japan-based company earned over 80 billion dollars!
As Voltage started publishing otome games in 2011, they so far have released quite a handful. Therefore, if you fall in love with one game, you can always try another one! Their games are available on the App Store and on Google Play which makes them accessible for many people. There is no need to buy a console and it is so easy and fast to install the game on your mobile device.
The games are, however, not free to play. It may be difficult for newbies to decide on which games to purchase but Voltage offers free prologues for some of their games so you can get a taste of how the story would flow and how the characters are like. Even so, you may still have a hard time choosing from the games so I will introduce to you 6 of their more popular titles:
1. Kissed by the Baddest Bidder
The heroine that the player will be controlling is working as a housekeeper at Hotel Trespade, which is Japan’s first hotel and casino. During your shift, you are tasked to serve the wealthy and popular folks who are attending a party at the hotel. Somehow, you wind up in a hotel room that contains many expensive items, and you happen to break an expensive glass Venus statue! What’s even more puzzling is that you later get caught up in a strange situation in which you become an item in a black market auction as compensation for breaking the statue. It is actually in contradiction of the black market auction rules to have participants who are not willing, and therefore, you are saved by 5 dudes who buy you for a sum of 20 million dollars. You, as the player, will then be given a choice to pursue a romantic relationship with one of the bidders.
2. Kiss of Revenge
Due to a medical error 12 years ago, your mother died and the malpractice was covered up by the hospital. Ever since then, you vow to avenge the death of your mother. Your way of revenge requires you to work in the hospital, so you spend years studying to become a doctor. After studying and working your way up at the hospital in your hometown, you finally get posted to Ebisu (恵比寿) General Hospital where the tragic incident took place. You want to exact your revenge as you have been hoping to all these years, as that appears to be your one true goal in life. However, once you start working in the hospital, you begin to have mixed feelings when you fall in love with one of your men co-workers. Therefore, you face a situation where you have to choose either to get on with your revenge, or forgive and move on with your life instead.
Kiss of Revenge is a story about love and forgiveness, and it has quite a dark theme to it.
3. True Love Sweet Lies
In this game, you will be playing as a female character who is working as a freelance photographer in Tokyo, Japan. Your first big break in your career happens when a photo you snapped managed to make it into the front page! The photo in question is about a secret meeting between rival politicians. Soon after, you realize that things started to turn out really good for you. For instance, you met the most attractive actor in an elevator! Other than that, a dashing news reporter has also asked you out for a drink. It all seems blissful until you realize that all those are just lies as many people are only trying to get the data from your photograph! Not only that, but your life is also apparently in danger…
4. Love Letter from Thief X
In Love Letter from Thief X, you will be making decisions for the female lead who works as a curator at a museum in Japan. Your grandfather is a legendary artist nicknamed as the “Leonardo da Vinci of Japan.” A group of thieves who are known as the Black Foxes breaks into the museum you are working at and steal some items. The thieves are known to take art pieces that were stolen and then have them returned to their rightful owners. The thieves notice your ring and later leave you a message on a card stating that they will be coming after you at night. The ring was given to you by your late great grandfather. Later that night when you are in bed, the thieves come to your house and bring you to their base. According to them, they need your fingerprints to retrieve the masterpiece your great grandfather had left for you!
5. Dreamy Days in West Tokyo
Dreamy Days in West Tokyo is a story which many girls would be able to relate to as it deals with childhood crushes. Hence, the story has a pretty realistic setting.
In this game, you will be playing as a character who just recently returned to her hometown after being away for 10 years. As you wander around your hometown, you stumble upon some of your childhood friends and one of them used to be your crush! You have known him for a long time as you went to school together. Talking to him about memories of the past feels nostalgic and also reignites the feelings you used to have for him. Now you are falling head over heels for him all over again! It feels like reliving your childhood.
6. 10 Days with My Devil
You are walking home one day and before you could enter your room, a dog prevents you from doing so. Then suddenly, there is an explosion in your apartment! The explosion could have killed you but you are so lucky to avoid it, all thanks to the dog. Soon after, a group of devils reveal themselves and tell you that it was supposed to be your destiny to die but you have evaded it, and thus, the devils are now here to claim your soul. As it all happens too quickly, naturally, you are very anxious and beg the devils to give you 10 more days to do everything you want to do before you are ready to leave this world forever. The devils agree as long as you give up your life to them after the 10-day period.
As you can see from the above examples of the games offered by Voltage, they all have pretty distinctive plots which make them quite creative and not boring. Thus, you get to choose from a wide variety of genres that you like, be it fantasy or more down-to-earth, logical stories which mimic real life.
It can be said that there is at least one game that can fulfill the fantasy of every girl! Each of the romantic interest in the stories has a unique personality, background, and storyline. Even if you are not that into some of the characters, you may still end up liking the story. Or you can choose to explore all the possible stories with every character if you want to!
If you have not tried any otome game, why not start with one of Voltage Inc.’s games? You can try out their free prologues and see why otome games have been successful in Japan! If you love shojo anime series, then I highly recommend you to try playing otome games due to their similar theme. And if you already love otome games but have been out of touch lately due to the lack of English otome games and have not known about Voltage, quickly dive in and try their amazing games!