It’s a simple question. And my answer, as we talked a little about in the last Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, is an emphatic and resounding “yes” — I most certainly have picked up and/or stuck with a number of video games purely because I felt a sense of attraction towards the main character or one of the leading cast members.
And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Some might accuse it of being a shallow reason to enjoy something — but honestly, if something is enough to get you interested in trying a particular experience or ensuring that you remain invested in that experience, it has value. And Japanese devs have been aware of this for a very long time indeed.
Rod Land and my first waifu
By now, most of you will be well aware that I am the wrong side of middle-age, and as such I have played a lot of video games over the years. Some have stuck in my memory more than others — and one that has always stood out to me was Jaleco’s Rod Land, a single-screen platform game about fairies bashing monsters over the head and rescuing their mother.
Notably, Rod Land is the first game I ever played where I felt a sense of attraction to a main character. Specifically, I was attracted to Rit, who is the default “player one” character in Rod Land. I wouldn’t say the attraction was sexual in nature — I was pretty young at the time, after all — but I definitely thought she was pretty, and I wanted to spend time with her. And that’s why, despite never actually owning a copy of the full game for Rod Land, I played the absolute crap out of an Atari ST demo disk which had a few levels of Rod Land on it.
I felt an interesting relationship between Rit the character and me as the player controlling her. While I enjoyed the experience of being able to play as a cute fairy character — playing as a female character was notably unusual in gaming at the time — there was definitely a degree of separation between us that I appreciated. It felt like we were enjoying the experience of playing Rod Land together rather than Rit just being a generic avatar for my interaction with the game mechanics.
This feeling can be achieved in a variety of ways, but in Rod Land it was extremely simple: if you stop moving Rit for more than a couple of seconds, she turns to the “camera” and winks at you. The first time I saw this, my heart absolutely melted, and I knew that I was in love with this dumpy little fairy.
I knew then that her game would always be a favourite of mine, regardless of how much time passed — and, indeed, every time Rod Land has made some sort of reappearance in my life, be it through the Arcade Archives release of the original arcade game on Switch, the announcement that an upcoming Evercade cart will include Rod Land as part of its selection, or a friend helping me finally track down a boxed copy of the Atari ST version after 30+ years — I have felt inordinately happy.
I was also extremely happy when Soldam appeared on Nintendo Switch, revealing to me a sequel to Rod Land that I didn’t previously know existed — and with an all-new depiction of Rit that I also found extremely appealing.
This was obviously a slightly different Rit from the one in the original Rod Land — but I still liked her. She’d blossomed from a cute little fairy into someone who looked like she had a cheeky sense of humour about her. She was confident — you could tell by the way she stood — and she puts across the impression of someone who doesn’t take life too seriously. At the same time, she comes across as capable and willing to step up when the situation demands it — all very attractive traits. And, again, having the opportunity to hang out with her is a big part of why I like Soldam on Switch so much.
My goddess Neptune
The love of Japanese games that I have today has, in retrospect, clearly been present in my mind since I enjoyed some of the earlier anime-style games on classic computer and gaming platforms. But it’s something I didn’t really wholeheartedly embrace until around 2010 or so. At the time, I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the big-name releases of the time, many of which had left me rather cold outside of an appreciation of their technical achievements.
I was craving something that gave me the same feeling of emotional engagement and involvement that I felt from Final Fantasy VII when I first played it back in the late ’90s. And I was willing to look in places that I hadn’t considered before. And thus it was when a friend of mine happened to share a photograph of a haul of games she’d picked up recently, I quizzed her on the intriguing-looking PS3 game featuring the amply-chested anime girls in form-fitting leotards.
I’ve always had a thing for leotards and one-piece swimsuits, you see — I attribute this to that one scene in classic comedy movie Airplane! where they’re making out on the beach, a fact that I’m not sure whether or not to be embarrassed about — and, well, look at that cover. There is so much to enjoy going on there. But I digress. My friend explained that it was called Hyperdimension Neptunia, and (correctly) predicted that I might rather enjoy it.
The thing that surprised me most — and which I’ve always particularly appreciated about the Neptunia series — is that the whole experience goes far deeper than “here’s some sexy girls”. Sure, the sexy girls might be enough to draw someone in — as they were for me — but spend some time engaging with these characters and you’ll discover that they’re wonderfully written with a delightful sense of wit and simply enjoyable to spend time with.
What’s especially great about Neptunia is that it’s never been afraid to experiment with different game styles — and in doing so it successfully managed to create an ensemble cast who successfully transcended their original appearance and became something much more than those sexy anime girls who were in that one game one time.
While some fans are frustrated that there hasn’t been a supposedly “mainline” Neptunia game in a long time, the fact is that Neptunia was never about being “mainline” and having a sense of coherency — instead, it’s a satirical series whose strengths are in making mock of current happenings in the games industry when they’re released, and outside of that, simply providing a variety of different situations in which to enjoy the company of these wonderful characters.
I should probably add at this point that if I had to declare one single character as my all-time best ever waifu for laifu, it would be Nepgear, who first appeared in the second Neptunia game. My initial attraction to her was primarily down to the image you see above, for less than wholesome reasons — series character designer Tsunako really knows how to draw exciting curves — but after playing her game and finding someone eminently relatable whom I very much appreciated the company of, I knew it was love.
Seven Pirates H
There are myriad other examples of characters I’ve found attractive in video games over the years — and how those characters have encouraged me to either try out games I would have otherwise been on the fence about, or stick with games that might otherwise have been a bit of a slow burn — but in the interests of time I’ll just jump forward to one of the most recent examples. And that is Parute Kairi from Seven Pirates H, the fourth installment of the Genkai Tokki series, which has recently been localised and released on Switch by eastasiasoft.
Now, based on past experience with previous Genkai Tokki games, I knew that Seven Pirates H was going to be a fanservice fest. But in the run-up to the game’s release, I found that the 2D art for the characters was… not leaving me cold exactly, but not quite aligning with my particular tastes. Here’s the cast as depicted in the 2D art, for example, with Parute in the front:
There’s a lot I should like about that, most notably the one-piece swimsuit that doesn’t actually reach her tits — but something about it felt just slightly off to me. I think it was the fact that the artwork makes her look a bit more “loli” than she’s depicted as in the game — particularly with her default flat chest — and, for me, that doesn’t align with my personal tastes. (This isn’t a slight against those who do prefer their anime girls on the more petite size, I hasten to add!)
But once I got into the game and had spent a bit of time with Parute — and buffed her breasts up a bit — I suddenly found her absolutely, completely and utterly irresistibly attractive. Something just clicked about the combination of her design and personality with me, and I knew that I would be fighting through Seven Pirates H from start to finish alongside her, no questions asked.
Yes, the boobs helped, for sure, as did her formidable thighs — but it was getting to know Parute in context that made her so appealing. She’s a loveable character whom you can’t help but like, and seeing her interact with the other characters in Seven Pirates H is just a joy.
It helps that Seven Pirates H is a fun RPG, of course — but I’m pretty sure that my feelings towards Parute have ensured that I’ll be blasting my way through to its finish line sooner rather than later instead of setting it aside to maybe come back to in a month or two.
All right then, over to you: what main characters or cast members have you found so attractive that you wanted to either pick up their game or stick with it when you might not otherwise have bothered? I’m pretty sure everyone has at least one example — let us know yours down in the comments, via the usual social channels or on the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!
Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on them. This is at no additional cost to you and helps support Rice Digital!
- eastasiasoft looks ahead with another new showcase - July 5, 2022
- Upcoming indie duo cart features Evercade’s first native game - July 5, 2022
- MangaGamer is bringing us more Rance and BL funtimes - July 4, 2022