One of the reasons Elf’s classic dating sim Doukyuusei — recently resurrected, remade and localised for western audiences — has always been such a well-regarded game is because of the fact it doesn’t idealise or oversimplify its view of hormonal teenage romance.
It’s a complicated time in one’s life, after all — hence why there are so many works of popular fiction based around it — and thus it is silly to assume that any romances are fairytale ones, free of tension and strife. One of the best things about Doukyuusei is how the more complex considerations over starting new relationships gradually come to light rather than immediately being thrust into the player’s face; this is not a game where you walk up to a character and they immediately tell you their life’s troubles — those troubles are things that come to light as you get to know them.
Interestingly, though, sometimes those troubles are of your own making, also. No-one is infallible — not even dating sim protagonists — and sometimes despite your best efforts, you find yourself doing something stupid that you subsequently have to deal with the consequences of. Ultimately it all comes down to communication — intimate personal relationships are, after all, built on a fundamental connection between two people, so it’s important that both partners are on the same page and understand what each other wants.
One of the earliest examples we see of this in Doukyuusei is not actually something that directly involves you as the player-protagonist at all. Right at the start of the game we’re introduced to “your” best friend Kazuya, and he is established as being in a relationship with your mutual friend Kurumi. All of you get along well together, and you seem happy for Kazuya and Kurumi. The game itself spoils that this situation probably isn’t going to last by virtue of the fact that Kurumi is a love interest, but it’s how it’s handled that is particularly interesting.
At first glance, Kazuya and Kurumi seem to have one of those fairytale relationships. They’re both good-looking people, and they seem to have a good dynamic together. Kurumi is a relatively delicate, somewhat child-like character in terms of personality — she has the vocal tic of using her own name rather than “watashi” when referring to herself, for example — while Kazuya is a broad-shouldered, attractive dude who speaks with confidence but not arrogance. He’s a stark contrast to the “rival” character Kenji, for example, who is a good-looking chap but a complete penis.
The more you encounter Kazuya and Kurumi over the course of Doukyuusei, the more it becomes apparent that there’s a certain amount of trouble in paradise. Kurumi is quite happy with the way things have been proceeding with Kazuya and seems to have genuine affection for him, but Kazuya is suffering from the effects of teenage hormones and is desperate to have sex with Kurumi. Despite her youthful personality, she knows what he’s up to, and she’s very firm in her refusal; not only does she have strong beliefs about sexual intimacy, but she’s also intimidated by her family, who are not a big fan of her interacting with anyone.
Indeed, as time passes we see Kazuya resorting to increasingly desperate measures in an attempt to trick Kurumi into bed, culminating in you catching him trying to take her to the local love hotel. She clearly doesn’t want to go, and your arrival on the scene empowers her to make that abundantly clear. Kazuya is disappointed and frustrated — particularly with what he sees as your interference — but seems to accept her response.
That is, until you catch him at the station one day with an older-looking woman who most certainly is not Kurumi. He refuses to acknowledge that he knows you, but mutters under his breath that you’d better not tell Kurumi what you saw. Completely independently of this, you run across Kurumi forlornly wandering around by herself, and she complains to you that Kazuya seems “different” and “more distant” — and, of course, the story continues from there. I’ll leave you to discover the details.
There are other examples throughout Doukyuusei that involve you more directly, too. A great one concerns your relationship with the local drugstore clerk Ako, who is a little older than you, quite defensive and, you discover as you get to know her a little better, also quite childish. One gets the distinct impression that Ako pines for her lost youth for a certain degree, and as such when you have the opportunity to go to a small park together, she’s almost immediately on the play equipment — culminating in her getting her formidable backside stuck in the slide.
Upon freeing her, you end up kissing her roughly 50% accidentally in one of those situations that only happens in Japanese popular media, and she promptly flees, locking herself in the back room of the drug store for several in-game days and forcing her sister, the school doctor and the drugstore owner, to come and take over running of the store while she’s working some things out for herself.
Again, Ako has her own reasons for behaving in this way, and upon finally emerging from the back room, willing to face you once more, it’s worth being careful with your words to ensure that she isn’t scared away immediately. The protagonist character in Doukyuusei sometimes (particularly towards the beginning of the game) comes across as a cocky little shit, but he does at least have the decency to treat situations with an appropriate amount of delicacy when required. For the most part, anyway.
One of the most uncomfortable scenes concerning a new relationship in Doukyuusei comes when you convince your friend and local flower shop employee Miho to go on a date to the cinema with you. Miho is the most “loli” out of the main cast; she’s canonically the same age as you, but comes across as very young thanks to her little girl haircut, flat chest and manner of speaking.
Consequently, when the situation in the cinema causes you to become overwhelmed with hormones and unable to stop yourself from kissing her and feeling her up in the dark, she is understandably traumatised and more than a little hesitant to see you again. And the game really drives this home by making you do all these things as she continually protests and clearly isn’t enjoying herself; this isn’t your usual hentai-style “n-no Senpai, if you keep doing that, I’ll…” situation, but rather a young girl who is extremely uncomfortable with the situation in which she’s found herself, and much too intimidated to make a clear statement about consent — or the clear lack thereof.
To our protagonist’s credit, he absolutely knows he’s done something really dumb after Miho runs away following the date, and this is further emphasised by some extremely negative reactions from both your mutual friend Misa and Miho’s mother. Just to make things even more awkward, Miho also has a tendency to show up every time you’re taking a girl who isn’t her to the local coffee house to have a chat; in terms of the game world, her flower shop is just on the next street over, so it’s understandable that she’d be in the area, but her timing is consistently impeccable.
And then there’s Reiko. Reiko is a kimono-clad older woman who lives across the street from you. You first notice her when you happen to be looking out of your bedroom window, and you make eye contact. Subsequently, you run into her on a couple of other occasions and strike up friendly conversation, culminating in a situation where you have the option to help her carry her heavy bags back home from the station.
From the moment you start to get to know Reiko, it’s apparent that she’s carrying a great deal of sadness around with herself. She lives in a huge house, seemingly by herself, and appears to constantly have a lonely expression on her face. She’s quick to latch on to you once you give her the time of day, and it’s not long before you discover the source of her loneliness: her husband is away a lot for his work, and has left her to pretty much fend for herself.
On the one hand, Reiko is very prim and proper and wants to appropriately thank you for helping her with her heavy bags by gifting you a pair of shoes that her husband has never worn. Unfortunately, while attempting to retrieve the shoes from on top of a cabinet, you once again find yourself in a Japanese popular media cliché, with Reiko having fallen on top of you as you spun her round to protect her from hitting the floor.
Incredibly touched by someone showing her even the slightest bit of consideration — it transpires that as a single woman living alone, she has been subject to some fairly disgusting harassment — she becomes overwhelmed by emotion, kisses you, strips off and even goes as far as letting you penetrate her, but then she loses her resolve, kicks you out of her house and politely requests that you forget about the whole situation. It’s hard not to walk away from that one feeling really bad, not only because you committed an indiscretion with a married woman, but also because you were unable to “save” her from her loneliness.
Then there’s Hiromi, a baby-faced office worker who has been interested in you for quite a while when you first meet her; she often sees you walking past from her office window and became curious about you. Trouble is, she has a boyfriend, and is in a bit of a pickle with him; he’s not really the “going out” type, and as such any “dates” they have tend to be in the middle of the night in weird, abandoned locations.
Hiromi, understandably, is keen for a taste of a slightly more normal life, but is also hesitant to break up with her boyfriend for reasons that aren’t initially apparent. She does agree to go on a sort of “trial date” with you, though, and you meet up at a pleasant park to chat together — with the intention that Hiromi sort out her feelings and, ideally, start dating you instead.
Unfortunately it doesn’t quite go that smoothly; not long into the date it becomes apparent that all Hiromi wants to talk about is her boyfriend, and that despite saying she was going to break up with him prior to your date, she hasn’t done so yet. He started crying, you see, and she didn’t feel like she could kick him when he was down. Fair enough, you might think — until you happen to run into said boyfriend lurking outside your house one afternoon, and he reveals himself to be a real jerk. It subsequently becomes clear that helping Hiromi escape from this asshole would be a thoroughly decent thing to do.
Most of the things we’ve talked about today — and a few other interesting events besides — occur during Doukyuusei’s second in-game week, and this raises an interesting point about how the game gradually escalates over time.
The first in-game week actually establishes a certain amount of that “fairytale romance” aspect we talked about before; you’re meeting new people, getting to know them, going on first dates and generally having a good time. The second week then shows that life isn’t as simple as the first week might have implied, because everyone has their own burdens to bear, and their own contrasting attitudes towards things. At the time of writing, I’m yet to reach the third week in my own playthrough, but I can only assume that a number of these narratives come to a more climactic head during this time.
All this helps Doukyuusei feel like an incredibly well realised game. This isn’t just a game where you click on girls until they like you more; this is a game with its own little world where people are going about their business, and you have the opportunity to stick your nose in as much or as little as you like. Let’s be honest, though, it’s going to be erring on the side of “more”, though, isn’t it?
Only trouble is, with all these thoroughly interesting young women scattered throughout the world of Doukyuusei, I have absolutely no idea who I might want to be my “one true love” — and doubtless I’ll have to make a decision at some point in that regard.
Oh well. That sounds like a job for Week Three Pete, so I’ll continue to enjoy my virtual youth in the meantime…
Doukyuusei is available in all-ages form on Steam and in 18+ form from Johren. The Steam version can also be patched to add the 18+ content; said patch is free. Note that the 18+ version also features considerably racier dialogue in general compared to the all-ages version, as well as the added erotic scenes.
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