Exploring Aksys’ otome announcements from AX2022

Anime Expo has come and gone, and has blessed us with a very pleasing amount of localisation announcements from the likes of MangaGamer and JAST as well as the anime industry in general. Aksys Games were part of all this excitement, too, and as an otome enthusiast, you can probably already guess which panel I was eyeing up the most.

We’ll be focusing primarily on the otome announcements today but it’s worth also acknowledging the other stuff they showed off: the Danganronpa-esque social thriller Inescapable; Pups & Purrs Pet Shop; and Spirit Hunter: Death Mark II, the follow-up to Death Mark and NG.

As I noted in our recent review of Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei, the otome genre is continuing onwards to greater heights here in the west; we’ve never had so many choices of titles to enjoy as we do today, and we’re still getting new localisations at what feels like an ever-increasing rate. No longer do we have to settle for the few releases we got across the PSP and Vita’s lifetimes, because now there is a hugely pleasing amount of variety in the stories available to us on the Nintendo Switch alone. We’ve definitely come a long way.

So, now that I’ve calmed myself down after the very eventful panel, we’re back at it again in compiling what to expect from each title, much like our rundown of Aksys Games’ otome localisation announcements from last year.

Norn9: Var Commons

Aksys: Norn9 Var Commons

Norn9: Var Commons was originally released on the PlayStation Vita. It was one of four titles on the system that made a Vita an absolutely essential purchase for an otome enthusiast — the others being Period Cube -Shackles of Amadeus-, Bad Apple Wars and Sweet Fuse: At Your Side. The latter was a digital download of a PSP title that quickly became very hard to find physically, so I suspect many people experienced it on the Vita. (I did! Urabe best boy. – Ed.)

Norn9: Var Commons is heavily sci-fi focused, involving superpowers, time travel and floating globes that hold small civilisations. Our main group of characters include three girls, who are the heroines of the game, and ten boys, nine of whom are love interests.

Seeing as this is a port of an existing localisation, we already know pretty much what to expect and there’s plenty of information to read up on prior to its rerelease — including our own review of it.

It’s one of the more unusual otomes out there in terms of the sheer amount of content in it. It stars three fully voiced heroines, each of whom is different in temperament, with some being quite an uncommon type of character for a leading lady — Mikoto the tsundere is everything. Alongside that, there are refreshing dynamics between the characters that not only make each relationship feel unique, but also allow the characters to make substantial connections between one another outside of the core pairings.

There are also mini-games that reward you with points to acquire even more bonus content, adding plenty of variation to the usual visual novel format.

The game overall has a very enjoyable balance of sci-fi and slice-of-life, with a big cast of characters that includes an all-time favourite trash fire of a love interest, Ron, who will certainly turn heads when a new audience gets to experience this port.

My main grip with the title, funnily enough, is that it has a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion, leaving many loose threads and questions unanswered. But this is supposedly cleared up with its fandisc — more on that in just a moment.

Norn9: Var Commons is slated for 2023 on the Nintendo Switch.

Norn9: Last Era

Aksys: Norn9 - Last Era

So here we are with that exact fandisc of Norn9: Var Commons, coming to us exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. This port marks the first time that the west will get Last Era in English, as we didn’t get the Vita version over here.

Much of Norn9: Var Commons feels unexplained until things come together in Last Era, with it playing out more like a sequel rather than a fandisc. Its core intention is to give all the routes a more satisfying and conclusive ending, while simultaneously explaining many of the confusing elements from the first game.

One interesting aspect worth noting is that its director and scenario writer is Ayane Ushio, who most recently brought us even if TEMPEST, an otome that has performed exceptionally well despite the few criticisms that can be levelled at it. Since Norn9 has much more breathing room due to its longer playtime — at least partly due to its vast amount of routes and multiple playable heroines — Ushio’s mystifying, intriguing dystopian world does wonders in sucking you in at a much better pace with far fewer feelings of time constraints, unlike her newer work.

Last Era will be separated into three parts – Concerto, which involves the two segments of Sun Concerto (after-story) and Moon Concerto (personal love interest origin conflicts); Fuga, the original story told from the love interests’ perspectives; and Fantasia, a selection of humorous “what if” short stories.

All in all, I’m excited to replay Norn9: Var Commons since it’s been so long since its release on the Vita in 2015, and I’m beyond thrilled to finally have a few of my questions about the very convoluted plot answered with this fandisc.

Norn9: Last Era is slated for 2023 on the Nintendo Switch.

Radiant Tale

Aksys: Radiant Tale

Radiant Tale is a rare example of an extremely light-hearted, wholesome otome — a fact which can be confirmed with the simple knowledge that it has absolutely no bad endings. Instead, the game has been repeatedly praised for its character interactions, self-contained, character-focused routes that make each one feel unique, and an interesting sense of worldbuilding.

The fact that Radiant Tale is so low in conflict and drama will doubtless be a plus point for many potential buyers — simply because there are so many otome titles out there with intense, involved plotlines, with the well-known Collar x Malice and Piofiore providing just a couple of high-profile examples. Heck, even the most unassuming, cutesy-looking otome on the Switch — Café Enchanté — ended up hurting our feelings with a couple of unexpectedly angsty routes!

In Radiant Tale, the story follows Tifalia, an orphan who craves excitement in her life instead of being confined to her aunt’s inn. She gets her wish fulfilled when she is recruited into a circus after their first show is a massive disappointment. They seek out Tifalia to become their producer and steer them in the right direction in order to have their own wishes realised and granted.

Radiant Tale performed exceptionally well upon its initial release, debuting in fourth place as the best selling Nintendo Switch title during its first week of release with 7,311 units. This is the highest opening for a non-sequel title from Otomate on Nintendo Switch, having beaten a number of extremely well-regarded other titles.

An impressive debut like this is understandable, given the talent behind its creation. Producer Shinobu Iwata previously worked on Collar x Malice and Variable Barricade. The scenario writers Arino Sachi and Kojima Nao have previously worked on titles including Collar X Malice, Code: Realize, Variable Barricade, Café Enchanté and Hakuoki between them. And the game’s art shares the spolight between two main artists: Kageroo Usuba of Variable Barricade fame on main character design duties, and Miko of Code: Realize fame on side characters.

It’ll be rather interesting to see their distinctive character designs come together in a single product and on the same screen — and it’s an exciting prospect to witness first-hand.

My personal highlight for this title is the cast of voice actors. We’ve got Yuichiro Umehara (Benkei from Birushana, Demento from Period Cube, Canus from Café Enchanté) as Paschalia. There’s Yuma Uchida (Yosuga from Olympia Soiree) as Vilio, and Junya Enoki (Ryuki from Cupid Parasite and Dill from NekoPara Catboys Paradise) as Zafora. And a fan favourite here in the west is Nobuhiko Okamoto (Hiroya from Period Cube, Yang from Piofiore and Peter from Cupid Parasite) as Radie.

Radiant Tale is slated for 2023 on the Nintendo Switch.

Shuuen no Virche -ErroR:salvation-

Aksys: Shuuen no Virche

Here it is, the big one. This one is set on an island where people die before they reach the age of 23. To combat this, the technology of the land has gotten so advanced, people are always reborn upon their deaths due to “ReLife”, a memory download system that allows memories to live on in new bodies.

Our heroine is Ceres, a young woman who, at the age of 18, decides to kill herself due to her belief that she brings misfortune to everyone around her — that is, until a voice leads her towards discovering the truth behind the island.

The game is one of the most requested otome localisations, and I’ve shared that enthusiasm because of how promisingly dark and macabre it sounds. VNDB’s tags for the game include but are not limited to body horror, thriller, revenge, murder mystery, dark fantasy, suspense, horror and utsuge (“depressing game”). To say that this will be the polar opposite of Radiant Tale would appear to be something of an understatement.

The game appears to force players to experience bad endings, much like how even if TEMPEST went about things, all for the sake of reinforcing the tragedy of it all. Its happiest outcomes only come along once you’ve experienced each route once.

Having read up on a few reviews of the Japanese version, it seems that it really runs with the idea of despair, and is recommended to those who can stomach a high amount of violence and hopelessness. I truly hope this will end up being of the same quality as Red Embrace: Hollywood, which resolutely stuck to its guns with its bleakness, no matter the ending.

As far as most notable staff members go, its main scenario writer is Satomi Nakayama, of Café Enchanté, Code: Realize and Variable Barricade fame. Its release will mark the very first time that the west has seen an otome with art by Yomi, who has previously worked on the character designs of the highly rated Ken ga Kimi series.

The voice cast features Yashiro Taku (Raul from Cupid Parasite) as Adolphe, Amasaki Kouhei (Emilio from Piofiore) as Mathis, Okitsu (Kyrie from Ozmafia!!) as Ankou, Daisuke Hirakawa (Saint-Germain from Code: Realize) as Lucas, Hosoya Yoshimasa (Shu from BUSTAFELLOWS) as Scien, and finally Soma Saito (Shungen from Birushana) as Yves.

It most certainly sounds like it will be an emotionally draining and heart-wrenching time. I’m looking forward to it! Shuuen no Virche -ErroR:salvation- (which may change its title for the English release) is slated for 2023 on the Nintendo Switch.

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