Developed and published by Jellyfish Parade, Belle Automata is an otome visual novel that saw its initial release on March 3, 2023 for Windows and Mac OS systems. This first release is known as “Belle Automata: Chronicle I” and contains two routes – Victor and The Nightmare Prince – out of the six that it will eventually have in total. This version also includes six out of the full release’s 18 endings, five CGs for each love interest and about 15 hours of material, depending on your reading speed.
Its story follows the heroine Aureve, a Dreamweaver whose master recently passed on. She is sold by her masters’ relatives and finds herself in a new establishment, purchased by a reclusive buyer. Now fending for herself, Aureve learns what it means to live for herself for the first time ever.
If you’re even a little interested in what the game has to offer as a female-oriented romance involving both robots and humans, then I’ll just say this up front: play it immediately. For £15, Belle Automata is already one of the best indie commercial releases within the otome genre that I have ever had the pleasure of playing.
Thank you very much to the developers for the review code.
A labour of love in every single way
As soon as you boot up the game, Belle Automata’s opening cinematic plays, capturing and illustrating the sheer polish of the title with its gorgeous visuals, a memorable soundtrack that is easy on the ears with chill electro/lofi tunes and a thematically fitting overall style. Its UI shows how the developers have paid the utmost attention to consistency of style throughout.
Every single named character is fully voiced, including Aureve herself. This features immaculate attention to detail — for example, the android characters have a neat voice filter to help emphasise their non-human nature. Furthermore, keeping the heroine’s default name will allow the voice actors to say it out loud, which further helps with the immersion across playthroughs. Combined with the exquisite sprite work and character design, the title oozes quality.
Both available routes take place entirely in Aureve’s new home, and there’s a really nice visual touch that helps signal how she becomes her own person in each new route: she adopts a different hairstyle once a route is decided. With this acting as a starting point on her journey to explore her new life options and freedom, it’s always an exciting prospect to see the new hairstyle she dons for each new route.
A glorious array of characters you will be well and truly captivated by
Belle Automata’s entire cast is insanely likable and refreshing due to their diverse designs. Alongside the stoic, tsundere butler Victor and Aureve’s new and reclusive owner, The Nightmare Prince, are future love interests Zaffre, a friendly former virtual popstar; Diego, the honest handyman of the establishment; Klaus, a psychologist and mechanic who tends to the androids in Aureve’s new home; and Roman, brother to The Nightmare Prince and confident flirt.
It makes it easy to look forward to the rest of Belle Automata’s volumes thanks to how we can already see the way in which the other love interests interact with Aureve in the prologue and across the two currently available routes. This is a real selling point of the game, as the dynamics between the cast as a whole are an important part of the overall experience. Outside of witnessing Aureve’s closest relationship hopefully blossoming into romance, her developing friendships with the other love interests and how they quip with or at one another is just as much of a highlight.
We never get enough of individual love interests in the genre conversing with one another, and with the majority of them living under the same roof in Belle Automata — similar to localised titles such as Cupid Parasite and Code: Realize — we get to see much more of them than usual for the genre outside of their own respective routes. This gives us a good idea of how they will act in their own routes and builds unity between the characters, but it also makes them all the more believable and layered for these wider connections and unique bonds.
I am already highly anticipating Klaus’ route in particular. I am confident that he will be my favourite guy since he is the most adult, mature individual in the love interest pool. But he also comes with a few particular quirks in his behaviour despite the intelligence and wisdom he already shows, like being really bad at directions, or being very susceptible to losing his trail of thought due to the most ridiculous of distractions.
With all that said, considering the premise of the game it does have its more dramatic and deeper moments alongside the light-hearted “found family” element outside of the romance. For example, the Nightmare Prince’s route is a striking storyline involving Aureve discovering how she can feel valuable once again after feeling lost and directionless with her newfound freedom. This is alongside an angsty character arc for the Nightmare Prince involving interesting themes of loneliness, grief and identity.
A heroine worth building up
The game does not need to do much to push you into embracing what it is going for. Aureve has the chance to explore who she really is as a free-roaming android. You’ll want to leap at the chance to help her find the resolve to pursue a purpose in her life, establish a new family and discover what it means for her to become her own person – with personal goals and motivations now in sight.
Belle Automata reminds me of Detroit: Become Human in a lot of ways due to Aureve’s development in particular as she learns how to make a life for herself of her own volition. You actively guide her in growing more confidence and to better understand what she truly desires and feels. She’s a strong heroine in both routes as she pushes on regardless of her circumstances, and she’s a character you actively root for to see her obtain her well deserved happy ending.
At the same time as being a heroine who continues to grow and develop, Aureve is an extremely entertaining heroine to play as too. She does not shy away from making the love interests flustered and can even go as far as to prompt them to come clean about their own thoughts and feelings after she learns how to do so in her own time across her new experiences. She becomes increasingly assertive as time goes on and, as a result, has even more agency later in the game than when we first meet her.
A triumph for the indie otome sphere
Belle Automata’s writing is top-tier with some of the most captivating writing in its romance that I have seen in a while – minus a few very minor errors such as missing words in a couple of sentences across the two routes.
The blossoming relationships in both available routes are believable and well-paced as well as being unashamedly wholesome to boot. Seeing Aureve and her love interest support one another, putting each others’ interests over the other one makes for some of the healthiest depictions of love within the genre to date. Plus, it’s extremely fluffy overall, especially during its CG scenes that will absolutely get a squeal out of you.
With both currently available routes being extremely different to one another in terms of character arcs and romantic relationship progression, this makes me very hopeful for the sheer amount of possible deviations and depths the other upcoming routes may explore. With the setups for each route being the same as any good otome, the building up of a rapport and the breaking down of the barriers between Aureve and her love interest is easy to invest in. Notably, the Nightmare Prince was quite impactful since the contact between himself and Aureve is a very distinctive situation.
Belle Automata is rather challenging for an otome in regards to selecting the correct choices. There is no visual or audio cue to suggest if the selection made is the “right” answer. This ultimately makes it so that you will most likely require multiple playthroughs to land on the run that directs you to the best endings – this being referred to as the “perfect” ending, while the normal endings are “neutral”. It is worth noting that to obtain all the endings playing through the bad ending is compulsory to unlock the entire CG gallery.
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