Cupid Parasite: our new otome obsession

There can be no denying just how enthusiastically impatient I have been for Cupid Parasite to release, and now that it is here, the excitement somehow only ever escalated with each passing hour I put into the game.

I’ll get straight to the point: I implore you to pick up Cupid Parasite sooner rather than later. I found it even better than the very best of this year’s otome offerings — which included heavy hitters like BUSTAFELLOWS and Olympia Soiree — and it currently stands as my favourite Switch exclusive otome as of now.

Because despite how rom-com heavy Cupid Parasite might seem, its unexpected genre turns over the course of its various routes make it a must-play — there is something for everyone to enjoy within its six main stories.

But first, how does it compare to those other big-name otomes? Some felt that BUSTAFELLOWS had an issue with its relatively short routes, making relationship development feel less than satisfactory compared to other titles, while in contrast to Olympia Soiree, Cupid Parasite has both strong routes and appealing love interests that will continue to entertain you over the course of its 60 hour runtime.

In regards to similar titles, it may be closest in execution to Café Enchanté, not only for sharing the same talented character artist of Yuuya, but mostly for the concept of “divine” characters living on Earth. This time, though, it is most certainly refreshing to see that our own main character is the deity — and the game gets nowhere near as tragically emotional compared to those events that transpired within the cosy café… well, aside two dramatic and bittersweet routes, anyway.

To sum up, Cupid Parasite strikes a good balance. It provides angst when it is necessary, comedy for the most part — particularly in the secret route — plenty of action and a compelling mythological premise. It all makes for a well-rounded experience that I never tired of.

So thank you, Idea Factory International, for localising the title and sending us a review code — without further ado, here are our thorough spoiler-free thoughts on this latest big-name commercial otome!

Synopsis

Cupid Parasite

In the span of six years, Lynette has worked her way up the ranks of Cupid Corporation, a heavenly matchmaking company. Her singular goal is to prove to her father, the God Mars, that humans are capable of falling in love without divine guidance — or more specifically, without the need for Cupid to use her bow and arrow to kickstart budding romance between compatible individuals.

In order to go unrecognised in the human world, she has to keep her identity a secret while she works hard at getting matches for the “Parasite 5” — especially now her talents have been noticed by the CEO, Shelby Snail.

The five troublesome bachelors each have their own personal barriers — they’re all walking disasters who will not be getting married anytime soon for a variety of reasons! Lynette certainly has her work cut out for her.

This is the basic set-up for Cupid Parasite — though there’s a mystery brewing in the background that gets fully addressed in the game’s “true” route.

Heroine

Lynette Mirror — who can be renamed if you desire — is one of the most enjoyable main characters we’ve ever seen in a western-released commercial otome. She is still highly valued and adored for her virginity and purity by the love interests; she’s never experienced love herself, despite being Cupid. However, this truly does make sense in this case.

She is a workaholic who prides herself on her work as the ultimate matchmaker, both as an actual goddess of love and as a human. She takes no time to even think about her own love life when she has an entire world’s worth of people to worry about! But where she truly shines is with that surprisingly well-rounded personality of hers.

She is headstrong, opinionated, and even quite perceptive at times, despite how her frequent misunderstandings of human conventions are played for laughs. Furthermore, she is such a genuine, positive and sweet individual that it makes it so easy for the player to want to see her succeed in her own love story — she deserves it after all those inhuman years she has spent matching everyone else up, after all!

So while Lynette is no human, as the stand-in character for the player she is admirable and sympathetic as she is both career driven and a hard worker who excels at her job. (Ah, someone who understands me at last – Ed.) She is quite vocal, often reprimanding the love interests for their behaviour and attitude, and is rewarded for it with their love — this attitude is the correct way to go about bonding with them.

Her naivety is a joy to witness when it comes to her actually experiencing her own romance for the first time, since she behaves like a fish out of water. Lynette is a positive and impressive take on the conventions of the otome main character — but arguably the very best we see from her is how she actually uses her powers in the routes!

Be it for humour, or by saving or helping another character, it is very refreshing to see a main character have such agency and make power moves of her own accord. And if it was not obvious already, you can be sure to see her demonstrate her assertiveness and take the reins in various situations; she’s very much the person who drives the plot on her own, impressively so in some routes. I love her as much as I love the love interests. And speaking of love interests…

Love Interests time

I cannot praise Cupid Parasite’s love interest pool enough, as there truly is someone for everyone here — pretty fitting for a game about matchmaking. The love interests are vastly different in their behaviour, looks, ages, professions and pretty much everything under the sun — but especially in how they view love.

Shelby is too much of a workaholic, Ryuki does not pay attention to anyone who he deems to be not attractive enough, Gill is overbearing, Raul is a ladies’ man with no clue about romance, and Allan is… Allan. The common route does quick work to establish his particular quirks in this department, with his unique position as a love interest only coming to light a little later.

Things get bonkers by the latter parts of each route, taking on various genres such as a thriller escape segment, exploring ruins in Greece as an adventure, and a disaster/end of the world finale. No route is a weak link in this regard, and each one is just as entertaining as the last… but I admit the cream of the crop is Allan’s. It is safe to say he will be the game’s overall favourite bachelor for many players!

Our spoiler-free recommended route order is as follows:

Shelby Snail

First up we have Shelby Snail, the oldest love interest, and one who broadly fits into the kuudere archetype. He is portrayed by KENN, who many of us will already be familiar with thanks to his appearance as Limbo in BUSTAFELLOWS. You may have also heard him from Gakuen Club as Minakawa Asahi too. It was a nice change to hear KENN’s voice as someone more stoic and pragmatic.

Shelby’s character, and his problem when it comes to love, is that he is a workaholic who fixates on status as the only means of finding and keep love; this causes him to be regarded as the “prestige parasite”. But he also believes love itself is illogical, despite being the CEO of Cupid Corporation.

His route is effectively an office romance, since Lynette works under Shelby as his best advisor. The tropes and clichés covered here are highly enjoyable, such as their relationship being initially fake in order to uphold a rumour that Shelby is already married, and the latter part becoming an action thriller.

You can expect a lot of mushy romance with Shelby, since he’s an older love interest who has never experienced what it means to truly be in love — and he shyly comes to terms this as he unintentionally crushes on Lynette. His confident and assertive exterior is especially endearing when he struggles to maintain it around her. The way in which he bottles up his feelings throughout the route makes the eventual “release” especially satisfying.

When the viewpoint switches to Shelby in certain moments of his route, his vocalisation of his inner struggles is definitely a particular highlight of the game’s script. His character development sees him learning to understand that status is not everything — particularly as Lynette falls for him as a result of who he actually is, not his status. It is highly enjoyable to see the romantic build-up and relationship progression, and the whole story is very well set up.

It’s endearingly ironic how both Shelby and Lynette hold secrets from one another, but they come together through mutual respect, and accidently fall for one another as a result of faking a marriage. I could never get enough of their dynamic.

Ryuki F Keisaiin

Cupid Parasite

Next up we have Ryuki, the title’s tsundere, and a character voiced by Enoki Jun’ya (Dill from NEKOPARA – Catboys Paradise, Tachibana Chisato from Collar x Malice Unlimited, and Hansel from Ozmafia!!). I was particularly excited to see how Enoki would portray this archetype; thankfully, he does the character a great deal of justice

The youngest love interest at the age of 19, Ryuki has never experienced love due to his inability to see past his synaesthesia. As both a fashion designer and someone who judges those prematurely due to his superficial perception of others, he is regarded as the “glamor parasite”. And his route shows a satisfying amount of growth for him, considering how rude and judgemental he comes across as in the common route.

Your opinion of him will do a complete 180 over the course of his route — and I would say it is the fluffiest of the routes in the whole game. Rather delightfully, it plays out as a “makeover” plot, where the male lead learns to value the heroine as more than just an “above average” face.

Funnily enough this probably mirrors how the majority of its players will view him, since his route gradually uncovers not just that sort of good old, blushing tsundere we always love to behold, but a young man who is exceptionally hardworking and talented — and one who fails to see his own genuine worth due to his upbringing and the competitive nature of his business field.

Ryuki’s route makes for a good exploration of one of Cupid Parasite’s core messages: not judging a book by its cover. The love interests are all unexpectedly deep and complex, and Ryuki learns to understand this complexity alongside Lynette figuring out how to parse her own emotions; working together, they both eventually figure out what being in love is truly like.

With a cute pet dog exclusive to the route, some excellent character growth, a compelling backstory that explains his attitude and an ending with a satisfying resolution, Ryuki’s route increasingly becomes more feel-good and joyful the further you venture into it. I would have hated to say goodbye to him… if only the next route wasn’t this next guy…

Gill Lovecraft

Gill Lovecraft is played by Kimura Ryohei, who will likely be one of the most familiar voices here in the west — he played Nicola Francesca in Piofiore: Fated Memories, Shiraishi Kageyuki in Collar x Malike and Mukami Kou in Diabolik Lovers. And this was particularly exciting for me, since Gill is a very different character to what Kimura normally plays.

Gill is the lovelorn parasite, and becomes a part of the Parasite 5 due to never having gotten over his lost love from university. Rather inconveniently — or perhaps conveniently — this lost love just happens to be the heroine herself.

He is an extremely patient and understanding love interest who is best categorised as the deredere type, since he’s lovestruck since the very beginning of the game. His growth over the course of his route sees him learning to value Lynette more as an equal, while he also begins to recognise the importance of living for himself too.

His route is the first to take a turn into being highly fantastical. It starts out with plenty of flashbacks touching upon the moments before Lynette became a part of Cupid Corporation — since the two were familiar with one another as roommates during their university days. Gill teaches Lynette how to live as a human, since he assumes she is simply a rich kid who never had to be independent, but he also happens to be the first human Lynette makes contact with since arriving on Earth.

The humorous misunderstandings and Gill’s utter adoration for Lynette does frequently lead to some unexpectedly steamy dialogue moments — which is just as well considering it prepares us for Raul’s sexuality onslaught right after! Overall, it should be no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed Gill’s route, as he was the love interest I was most excited about for his wholesome and devoted behaviour alone. He gets easily overwhelmed when finding Lynette cute, no matter what route the player is on, and dotes on her excessively.

He has some humorously adorable habits Lynette struggles to improve as his advisor, such as his exceptionally lengthy walls of text when messaging, and waiting an hour or two before a date meets him. He’s cute as all heck, and his personal journey was especially satisfying to see develop and conclude.

Raul Aconite

Cupid Parasite

Yashiro Taku voices Raul Aconite, an exciting, new name for many of us here in the west. So far as English otome titles go, he’s only appeared as Shizo in Liar! Uncover the Truth, but he also plays Vulcan in the Fire Force anime, and Natsuo Fujii in Domestic Girlfriend.

As the heartthrob of the title, Raul is a famous and popular movie star. He finds himself as part of the Parasite 5 after his agent determines that his acting skills are lacking when it comes to love scenes.

It’s especially important that he gets his acting straight for his upcoming movie, since romance is one of its main genres. But as a mythology fanatic, maybe having the one and only Cupid teaching him a thing or two about love is too close for comfort! Despite this, he welcomes her with open arms… and then some.

Because of this, their dynamic is the most humorous and playful in the game, with Raul loving every second of Lynette’s suspiciously vast amount of knowledge about the topic of love; he finds this particularly endearing, since he has no clue to her real identity.

Despite plenty of funny dialogue and scenes, Raul may be the most polarising LI of the cast. He ends up being far more complex than expected, even beating out the other guys in depth. For example, Raul is in the same boat as Lynette when it comes to love – he has never experienced a “first love”, but has plenty of his own opinions on the subject. That and he can talk anyone’s ear off once he finds and opportunity to bring up the subject of mythology; this is his main source of conversations.

Interestingly, his route delves into an area almost completely untouched in other otomes, and especially so on console-first releases: the difference between lust and love.

He is quick to jump into bed with anyone who is willing to do so just for the pleasure of it, with his issues about finding and securing intimacy being surprisingly nuanced for the genre. It’s enjoyable to see him grow in maturity and sensibility, and his route also happens to have the most exciting genre twist in the latter section of the route — it becomes an adventure-turned-costume drama for its grand, flashy finale. This is topped off with the steamiest CG I have ever seen in an otome game on home consoles.

As expected for the first locked route, this is where the story takes some shocking twists and turns, albeit at the expense of truly validating this pairing. I still really like Raul as a character, but this route did make their match-up feel less appropriate. The same, however, can not be said of the next route.

Allan Melville

Cupid Parasite

As the only love interest who is quite literally out of this world — he is an incubus — the pairing of Lynette with Allan is another case of forbidden love, a common theme in otome titles.

While it proves to be a near-impossible task to deny his flirtatious comments every single time he opens his luscious mouth — thanks mostly to his voice actor Furukawa Makoto (Adage from Steam Prison, Kamiyoshi Reo from Princess Closet and Lugus from Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk) — you should save him for last because of how linked his story is to Lynette’s home realm. He truly is the thieving parasite – none of us are safe from his temptation!

So for spoilers’ sake, we’ll hold back on the details for now and just say that his route is perfection. I have never played through an otome route as quickly as I have this one, nor have been as touched by one on this level before. Even that feels like I’m undervaluing it, as it manages to pack a bit of everything within it: a satisfying romance with one of the best scenes in the game, and the way in which it is poignant and dramatic with its unique genre twist.

You can tell that this route was written by Yoshimura Ririka, as she goes to town on the angst even harder than in Rindou’s route of Café Enchanté — and it makes for a bittersweet story I want to experience again as soon as possible. Buy the game for Allan alone; his route is easily the best of the title, let alone being one of the very best within the genre, period. It’s high stakes, narratively gripping, and emotionally captivating – I loved every single second of it.

Characters and story

Cupid Parasite plays out like an interactive romantic movie, with different takes on love and the clichés of the medium used as the basis for its humour and narrative beats. Take for instance, its “reality show” side that imitates a harem setting; it never lets up in its teasing. When the love interests take off their clothes and compare their sizes to one another, you know the game is delivering in its primary genre.

But despite this moment being a selling point of the game, it is much shorter than you would expect — the love interests are rarely ever seen as part of a group dynamic other than in this initial scene and in the true route, but it makes the moments the guys pop up in each others’ routes all the more surprising and entertaining.

This is especially true for when they make certain unexpected friendships between the guys apparent. And speaking of friendships, we have our otome trope of a female best friend here in the form of the stunning and free-spirited Claris Tia, who has been friends with Lynette and Gill since their university days, and is currently her roommate. There is never a dull moment with her, and we see more and more of her the further we go into the game.

Other characters have plenty of moments to shine despite how briefly they appear in certain routes. Highlights include the charismatic and eccentric Cupid Corporation member Catherine Spade, and Lynette’s father Mars, who effortlessly plays up humorous moments with his complete lack of understanding of Earth — and how he really can’t stand up to his own daughter when she gets serious. Some God of War, huh?

Cupid Parasite

For the majority of its run, Cupid Parasite is a romantic comedy through and through, with even its bad endings playing up on the comedy of its events and situations, or as alternative endings of the routes. To reinforce how inconsequential these endings are, they are mostly all quite short, but they should still be experienced. Their entertainment value alone make for some of the most memorable moments in the game.

When it comes to the routes themselves, there is some great foreshadowing of certain revelations, mostly in Raul and Allan’s routes. On the other hand, its secret character leaves a trail of breadcrumbs as hints across all routes, making their reveal lacklustre and obvious — even ignoring the fact that he’s already singled out with a character profile on teh game’s official website!

Speaking of the secret route, the character in question is super lovable, with their true, good intentions coming to light here, delighting us with their unexpectedly adorable and endearing personality despite what your first impression might be of them.

It also happens to be one of the rare times in an otome that the existence of the true route does not come across as completely cancelling out or invalidating the other love interests — Allan did that on his own after all — and I appreciate this immensely.

But if I had just one major complaint of the game, it is with some of the more troublesome traits of each love interests at certain points of their routes. These toxic traits will likely not be changing anytime soon for the genre — just like in any other piece of entertainment, these things are tropes for a resason — but I find them worth mentioning still.

In one route, a love interest kisses Lynette whilst she is drunk, and another when she is asleep. Then a different route has the love interest in question happily showing off pictures of Lynette without her consent or knowledge, with the worst being when she is asleep — although this moment is played for humour rather than to be sinister.

Possibly my most disliked example is with the serious issue of the “born sexy yesterday” trope, where a love interest takes an immediate interest in the main character because of her naïve, “baby” behaviour. But all is forgiven when we see how each of the love interests learn to outgrow and better themselves by the end of their respective routes — you can’t help but love them in the end!

System, performance and localisation

Cupid Parasite

A major selling point of Cupid Parasite’s mechanics is the Cupid Test that appears within the first few chapters of the common route. It is a highly appreciated feature that adds some much needed substance over and above the typical visual novel format of simple choices affecting affection points. While it becomes almost completely useless after a single playthrough, what it does do is add a significant amount of “player projection”, allowing the player to feel like they are truly expressing their personality, and having an opportunity to learn who from the cast they would typically match up with.

I have said it before and I will say it again: by giving players more agency to reflect our true selves without forcing a bad end upon us, and with more opportunities to do just that, it makes the main character all the more satisfying and appealing. And the game manages to hit two birds with one stone here; Lynette is still very much her own woman throughout the story with her own goals, characteristics and traits.

The game’s options include everything you would expect — volume, skipping, message speed and all that jazz. One thing particularly worthy of note is how the game offers four different text fonts, which was a very appreciated option for those who have difficulty reading the game’s default text — Bad Apple Wars could have done with an option like this. The “love surge” indicator can also be turned off if players wish to play routes blindly.

The game also has not only a ‘skip all’ button for getting through already played scenes quicker, but its ‘jump to choice’ mechanic has truly been a saving grace when having to replay the game multiple times for alternative paths/endings. Other visual novels could learn from this!

As far as issues with the performance goes, some scenes do suffer from a noticeable lag where it can take a few seconds to load the screen, such as when a new chapter’s title animation has yet to kick in, and when items come onto the screen as illustrations.

But arguably the most important detail is about its localisation, which Idea Factory have thankfully commented on. There are around 3-8 typos, missed words and grammatical errors across most of the routes, with the worst offenders of this being seen in Ryuki’s route at a much more frequent rate. Raul’s route also had a number of noticeable mistakes, as well as instances of the text box being overfilled with too much text that makes the ending words of the sentence unreadable.

However, Idea Factory have promised an update 4 weeks after the game’s initial release to improve and polish these mistakes! Props to Idea Factory for their transparency and updating us all on the matter.

Art, Sound and UI design

Cupid Parasite

Artist Yuuya delivers some of the very best character designs and CGs I have seen to date within localised otomes. The colour motifs to represent each love interest are exquisite and do well to differentiate the characters and their unique quirks. Better yet is the vast amount of love interest sprites and main character portraits, with different outfits for certain events across the routes!

If I had just one issue when it came to the art, it would be the fact that certain recurring characters don’t have their own sprites. These characters appear frequently enough that I was certain that they would have one!

The sound production here is simply brilliant, with BGM tracks that carry a sound fitting for the game’s “alternate New York” setting, and a shift to a more ethereal sound when in the otherworldly realms. Additionally, the subtle additions of simple sound effects to reinforce particular events in a scene further aid with immersion — the opening of a door, footsteps, crowds clamouring and audiences cheering at the Parasite TV show airing are just a few great examples.

But where the sound design really shines is in the game’s vocal tracks, with the rock unit The Biscats delivering the catchy opening number, and each love interest having their own theme songs with English lyrics that capture their unique quirks and traits. While the music can understandably get repetitive the longer your gaming session is, the vocal tracks are always be a delight each and every time we hear them.

The game’s UI is stunning despite initially appearing to be a vibrant onslaught to the eyes, as a lot of information is presented on the screen at all times. Fonts are bold and exaggerated, with bright colours and illustrations clamouring for your attention on the screen — but it all comes together splendidly in its menu and layout design, and is ultimately endearingly fitting as a representation of the glossy, American movie look the game is going for.

All in all, Cupid Parasite oozes with style, and while it can initially feel a bit cluttered, it feels fitting and endearing. We simply wouldn’t want it any other way!

Conclusion

Every day I had playing the game was an absolute delight. I hold Cupid Parasite up to the highest standards of the otome genre — and I am happy to say that it exceeded my expectations even with all my pre-release excitement, and would easily recommend it to anyone who is partial to a good rom-com.

In fact, I would encourage everyone to give it a try, considering how much ground it covers across a variety of different genres, and how much of a solid visual novel it is overall. No love interest nor route can be considered “poor”, and even with the few minor nitpicks I had along the way, Cupid Parasite is as near as dammit perfection in my book.

Cupid Parasite is super entertaining, and it is a breath of fresh air for the genre in the west. I’m hoping and praying for even more games of this calibre to be localised in the future, because now it’s all over, I wish I could play Cupid Parasite blind once more.

So go ahead and do that on my behalf! Grab the day-one edition or limited edition now; you should not wait any longer.


Cupid Parasite is out on November 5, 2021. You can pre-order a digital copy on the Nintendo eShop. Thanks to Idea Factory International for the review code.

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Lilia Hellal
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