On the August 6, 2021, Aksys held their “All Aksys” showcase — an event that ended up revealing an unexpected amount of otome releases set to drop this year and in 2022.
Here we’ll be taking a look at what we can expect from each of these hotly anticipated otome releases, and celebrating just how much exposure our beloved genre is currently getting. We’ll be taking a look at all seven upcoming titles — but don’t worry, we’ll be keeping things spoiler-free!
Olympia Soiree – September 9, 2021
Olympia Soiree currently holds an overall total rating of 8.10 (“very good”) on vndb, so it was always going to be one worth checking out.
We play as Olympia, who is swiftly tasked as soon as she turns eighteen with finding a husband within one year in order to continue her rare white bloodline. With a high fantasy setting, an appreciated cute animal sidekick (Daifuku is a treasure), and a world that meshes different Japanese traditions and technology across the ages, Olympia Soiree offers a story rich in detail, oozing in style and layered with romance.
The otome appears to not utilise the usual group dynamic of love interests as seen and enjoyed in other otome titles — it’s quite a contrast to games like Code: Realize, NORN9 and BUSTAFELLOWS. Instead, its plotlines are heavily focused on each individual, making the already lore-heavy overarching story all the more enriching, as playing through each love interest’s route uncovers even more backstory and information relating to the overall world and its intriguing “colour class” society.
Additionally, while the game seems to have a focus on addressing discrimination and a corrupted society, its deep lore and world building frequently presents misogyny and violence against women, which further driven by the core premise of the entire story being a young woman forced into find a partner in order to continue her clan’s bloodline. It goes without saying those sensitive to such matters should probably read up on the subjects covered in this game prior to playing, since we get into some rather dark territory at times.
But because of the fact it doesn’t shy away from those dark themes, Olympia Soiree has a very mature story to tell. While our heroine is naïve to the world around her due to her sheltered upbringing, her own ideals and strong willed want to learn and give back to the world makes for a lovable and always developing main character. With a strong establishment and exploration of lore and world building, the time and effort spent on that does take away from a sense of natural relationship progression at times. However, there’s plenty of romance (and even some spicy dialogue) in the good endings, making this one a treat to behold as far as console otomes go.
The game has an enforced play route order, so anyone eyeing up either the mysterious Himuka and the game’s poster boy Akaza will have to play through the equally lengthy routes of the other four love interests before getting to these last two bachelors. Expect this one to keep you busy for a while!
Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani – December 2, 2021
Dairoku currently holds an average score of 6.88 (“decent”) on vndb, and sees a return to the west of for artist, Suoh, who was the character designer of the underrated Bad Apple Wars on the Vita. This is all the reason I need to play Dairoku!
But for those seeking a bit more information to determine whether or not to take the pre-order plunge, Dairoku has us playing as Shino, who has been able to see spiritual entities ever since she was a child. Now as an adult, she has joined the ranks of the Occult Action Department, and is employed to monitor the spirits who traverse her own world and in between. Its focal plot focus feels reminiscent of Café Enchanté’s otherworldly premise — other than the workplace juxtaposition here; rather than the story being established in the main character’s cosy café, the use of an office setting certainly sounds interesting.
Reportedly, it is not as long nor as plot-heavy as other big otome hits like Code: Realize or Collar x Malice, and is on the more relaxing/slice-of-life side despite its supernatural elements. I also happen to be quite excited to see another rare example of a short haired heroine — and supposedly, she’s quite a catch for players! Always a plus in our books.
Dairoku’s reviews highlight a weak story and little romance as its major letdowns. Many have noted how Dairoku is a character-centric game first and foremost, with the romantic aspects shoved in at its final stages, feeling a tad unnatural with little to no development.
The game instead focuses on the interactions and relationship dynamics of its large cast of characters, and with a setup as interesting as this one, it sounds like it will still be a worthwhile play — just maybe not as satisfying as other otome games if you are mostly here for the romance. But how could witnessing traditional spirits getting to grips within modern Japanese society not sound like an intriguing hook at the very least?
There will also be no enforced route order other than the “grand finale” being unlocked after playing through its five main routes. Looks like we can enjoy Dairoku at our own convenience and pace.
Variable Barricade – February 2022
With a current average total score of 7.43 (“good”), on vndb, Variable Barricade was most definitely a visual novel I couldn’t wait for ever since this year rolled by. And there’s plenty of reasons as to why we’re all so excited.
Variable Barricade sounds extremely promising due to its comedic aspects; it sounds as hilarious if not more so than the super entertaining Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome, and provides a new take on the otome genre with its heroine being actively pursued rather than the usual vice versa.
Our heroine Hibari, only daughter of the esteemed Toujou family, has been set up by her grandfather to live together with four potential candidates for her hand in marriage — but rather understandably, she has other ideas.
She seems to be a promising heroine, as a stand-out example of being a great player character, such as being vocal about her opinions with a stand-offish attitude, and the fact she is voiced helps reinforces her own ideals and strong personality.
The game spins the otome genre on its head, as players are technically a “route” for all its love interests, because the boys are the ones having to put the work in to win us over! It also features a female best friend in the form of Tsumugi. It is ticking all the boxes for us.
Additionally, Variable Barricade marks the first release where western otome players will be able to treat their eyes to the artistic talent of Usuba Kageroo, known for Wand of Fortune and Reine des Fleurs. Its chibi art is handled by a different artist, known as Kiichi, who has also worked on Reine des Fleurs, and Beast and Princess. And if you are already familiar with such games, then I am certain we share the same enthusiasm to see these beautiful illustrations on our own home consoles in the future. They’re truly works of art that deserve to be proudly displayed everywhere and anywhere.
On a final note for this entry, three different names are credited as the scenario writers for the game, including Fukase Kearu, who will likely be unfamiliar to western players. Kojima Nao and Nakayama Satomi have previously been credited for previously localised games, however, having been responsible for some emotionally heavy routes in other otomes including Café Enchanté, Hakuoki and the Code: Realize series. It seems safe to assume that the game will not be overtly humorous across its entire runtime but also feature a certain amount of angst in some routes — alongside a supposedly shocking and memorable true route!
Lover Pretend – 2022
With a current average score of 7.71 (“good”) on vndb, Lover Pretend is one of the titles many otome fans were hoping to see be localised. One of the main reasons for this is due to its heroine, Chiyuki being on the more mature side compared to what we are used to — she is a hard worker who is currently studying in university, holding down a part-time job, and aspiring to be a screenwriter. She is also aiming to locate her father who she has never met before, further adding to her own agency as a main character.
And our excited compliments for its cast do not end here, with a serving of a variety of different types of love interests being included here. Some examples of well-established archetypes include best friend Kazuma, tsundere Harumi, and the flirt/playboy Sena Yukito. At a total of five love interests with its last (and considerably oldest) being locked until sufficient progress is made, the game looks to be a treat what with its gorgeous visuals and grounded plot that sounds delightfully “romcom”.
Once again, Lover Pretend will not necessarily cater to every otome gamer’s needs, as reviewers of the original Japanese release have noted that the title focuses more heavily on its characters and romance over a more ambitious sense of “plot”. It should also be noted that the title is on the shorter side and is a non-dramatic, overtly fluffy, cute and laid-back experience. And with a Switch library already comprised of mostly heavy and eventful otomes, I’m certain there are plenty of us eagerly waiting with bated breath to give Lover Pretend a go as some much needed wind down time in-between such releases.
Paradigm Paradox – 2022
Paradigm Paradox currently holds a total score average of 5.44 (“so-so”) on vndb, with the majority of Japanese reviews being mixed. From doing a bit of digging, we might be able to pinpoint one of the major reasons for half of its players having felt so unsatisfied – it seems the game’s marketing led to its players to expect the game to be as sweet and cheerful as it appears on the surface throughout its runtime.
Paradox Paradigm actually happens to have unexpectedly angsty moments that at times cause a sense of tonal dissonance in contrast to how it first starts, what with its bright and vibrant colour palette and playful setup concerning magical girls. It is not as light-hearted as it may initially appear, with the game shifting to depressing and bleak in its routes.
Additionally, players seem unsure of how the romancing develops when the love interests can transform into women — reviewers of the game have noted that their female counterparts only appear during fights, and the romancing is shown and developed only when they are male.
I do not know about you, but such a premise that seems to parody the magical girl genre that shifts to being dark and twisted, similar to that of Madoka Magica and more recent works such as Magical Girl Site, has got me highly intrigued to say the least. And chuck in the good old option of romancing either its heroes or villains and you’ve already sold it to me. There’s not a great deal else we know as yet, other than the fact our heroine is nameable, and features an enforced route order due to locked routes.
Kimi wa Yukima ni Koinegau – 2022
While we’ve been able to scour the internet for more details on most of these titles, there is far less readily available information for just this title. But from what we can gather, it seems to be promising. There’s obvious potential when you look at its three scenario writers: Oogi Saya (known for writing routes of Period Cube), Sasaki Maro, and Yuuki Yoshino.
English players may know Maro’s name as the scenario writer for Cafe Enchante’s Canus route, which in itself is promising enough. But anyone familiar with Japanese-only games will know they’ve also worked on the excellent Trigger Kiss and Cendrillion Palika. Yuuki Yoshino, meanwhile, who we have previously mentioned before for their work on NEKOPARA: Catboys Paradise, was also responsible for the very well received titles Clock Zero and, again, Trigger Kiss. Good games and good track records all round here!
With all things considered concerning the game’s talented staffing across the board (and we have not even mentioned the heavenly iconic character designs by Nagaoka!), its current total average score of 7.83 (“good”) on vndb is no surprise, with Famitsu having also scored the title highly. And as an otome with a historical, Edo period setting mixed with supernatural elements, the title sounds like it will be an instant buy for many of us. Anything similar to Hakuoki on today’s console systems most definitely sounds like a good deal.
From what we have managed to see mentioned of the game online, it has been recommended that players go in blind without checking a guide due to there being potential spoilers in “recommended” play orders. And it seems that the game will provide the most bang for your buck out of all of the upcoming announcements, with a total play-time averaging at a whopping 70 hours to fully complete.
On a final note, I feel it worth mentioning that supporting this game may open up the possibility of the artist’s other works making it to the west – specifically the aforementioned Clock Zero, which is a title that was very well received in Japan, and by those who read Japanese here in the west. Fingers crossed — but otherwise, we have plenty to be occupied with in the near future!
Piofiore: Episodio 1926 – 2022
I do not believe for a minute that the announcement of the entire line-up that was the most hyped of them all was anything but Piofiore: Fated Memories’ sequel, Episodio 1926. It just has to be. Piofiore: Fated Memories has gone down as one of the best received otomes titles in recent times, and its sequel was begging to see a localisation after its predecessor’s success. Better yet, it is no fandisc as one might typically expect; Piofiore: Episodio 1926 is a sequel jam-packed with new scenarios and plotlines!
The game is separated into three parts — BURLONE, which comprises of the “after stories” of the love interests’ good endings and true route, ALTERNATIVE which covers their previous stories from the love interests’ point of view, and HENRI, which contains Henri’s after story. The ALTERNATIVE aspect is what I’m looking forward to most for how suspenseful and tense its story reportedly is. Other than that, I’m really looking forward to seeing how they will be exploring and delving further into our dear mafia boys — but especially everyone’s favourite, complex trash-boy Yang.
Not much else can be added here, since artist RiRi and scenario writer Kazura Ringo remain, ensuring the same quality and plot hooks will be consistent from its original. Better yet, from looking into reviews based on the Japanese release, we can expect more action, more engaging plot-lines, and more depth and backstory on the boys we’ve already fallen for.
Reviewers have also been sure to highlight that the sequel is somehow even darker than its prequel (and at 8.46 on vndb as its overall total rating, it beats out Fated Memories’ score of 7.78 as the overall better game as of now), so be sure to check up on its tags and trigger warnings in case some of the material is something you might have difficulty with.
And in case it’s not evident enough, if you have yet to play Piofiore: Fated Memories — do so immediately to be well prepared for its sequel’s release!
And that’s it for now! Which upcoming otome are you looking forward to most?
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