Unresolved romances in Doukyuusei

Doukyuusei

One of the things I was curious about with Doukyuusei was exactly how it would handle the inevitable moment where you have to make a decision as to who your “one true love” — if anyone — is. Because, as a dating sim rather than a conventional visual novel, its inherent structure means that there’s no need for it to lock you in to a particular character’s route early on; instead, it makes much more sense for it to allow you to play the field to a certain degree, then make a final decision once the in-game time period is up. That’s what True Love ’95 does, too.

Thankfully, with what appears to be one notable exception, that’s exactly what Doukyuusei does — and the way it makes you continue to ponder who the right person might be for you and if you’ve taken the best actions along the way is really well handled.

To put it in simple terms, “completing” a storyline in Doukyuusei — that is to say, seeing all a character’s major “heart” events — tends not to resolve things neatly. Rather, it brings things to something of a climax (quite literally in the 18+ version, since the characters’ erotic scenes tend to coincide with their final events) and then leaves you with a cliffhanger to one degree or another. To keep things interesting, the exact severity of said cliffhanger varies quite considerably from one character to another.

Doukyuusei

You may recall in a previous part of this feature we looked at the character Reiko, whose narrative arc saw you getting close to her, learning about her position as a lonely housewife suffering harassment, ending up getting taken advantage of her then getting unceremoniously kicked out of her house just as things were turning sexual. This is a good example of how Doukyuusei handles things in terms of “completing” its narrative paths — once Reiko’s given you the boot, there are no more major events for her marked on the game’s timeline, and it’s unlikely you’ll see her again for at least a little while.

This, of course, leaves you with a fundamental feeling of dissatisfaction at things not being resolved properly — and thereby provides you with the incentive to seek that resolution when the conclusion to the game rolls around. But seeking that resolution marks a major moment for the main character of Doukyuusei — although he has no problem swanning around getting to know all manner of different girls over the course of the summer break in which the game unfolds, one gets the distinct impression that he’s actually in this to find “the one”. And taking a step as major as attempting to patch things up with Reiko is a pretty clear statement of intent: she’s the one he wants to stand beside.

Reiko, of course, is not the only example where this happens. Hiromi, who is another character we’ve previously discussed, is a slightly different twist on the same formula. As we’ve talked about previously, you strike up a relationship with Hiromi because she’d had a crush on you from afar for quite some time, but she was also having a bit of trouble with her boyfriend, and as such hadn’t felt like she could (or should) do anything about her feelings for you.

Doukyuusei

As you demonstrate to Hiromi that you’re willing to be there for her as a friend as well as a potential lover, you start to learn more about her and her relationship with her boyfriend. You learn about their lack of physical intimacy with one another, but also the way in which their relationship was founded on a shared interest in doujinshi — something which Hiromi hadn’t felt she’d been able to share with others before.

Eventually, Hiromi seems to want to bring things to some sort of conclusion, and promises you a “present” that she’s left at her workplace. It’s pretty abundantly clear what her “present” is going to be well before you arrive, she strips off and makes it abundantly clear that she wants nothing more than a good fucking — but, rather surprisingly, in the heat of the moment, Hiromi completely loses her resolve and starts believing that she is a terrible person. Since a crying woman crippled by self-doubt is a pretty formidable boner-killer, that’s where that whole situation ends, with both Hiromi and you thoroughly confused.

Again, that’s a solid cliffhanger that leaves you with a good incentive to chase her down and sort things out once and for all. And, again, taking that step to pursue Hiromi and attempt to convince her that she should value her own happiness more would be a major moment for the protagonist: a clear statement that, although some might question the way in which their relationship began, he is willing to see things through and make it right.

Doukyuusei

A different angle on this kind of thing can be seen with the character Kaori. Early in the game, you simply run into Kaori quite regularly as a sort of mysterious older woman who is perpetually dressed rather glamorously and covered in makeup. As time goes on and you explore some of the more colourful events that unfold in the game, you learn that Kaori is a hostess in the game’s entertainment district Yabuki-cho — a hostess that provides sexual favours as well as simple company for the evening, that is.

Your relationship with Kaori develops in quite a touching manner. Once you’ve had an intimate encounter in the club where she works, Kaori feels emboldened enough to start talking to you honestly; you know both her “identities”, after all, and by listening to her woes you prove yourself to be trustworthy. As such, you quickly become That Guy Kaori Complains About Work To, and finally having someone she’s able to be completely open and honest with makes her realise that she’s not happy in her current position.

Things with Kaori come to a head after you take a completely different girl — who also used to work as a hostess — to a local bar, thereby unlocking it as a location you can visit, and happen to run into Kaori, blind drunk, on a subsequent visit. Being a thoroughly decent sort of chap, you choose to look after the drunken Kaori for the evening, going along with her silly requests and making sure that she doesn’t come to any harm.

Doukyuusei

As a member of the Yabuki-cho nightlife, Kaori is obviously known by some less than savoury characters, and it’s while you’re eating yakiniku with her and attempting to make her feel better than one of these scumbags pops up out of the woodwork and starts making horrible comments about her. Kaori urges you to ignore it, but once she passes out on the table, the player-protagonist is unable to resist laying the smack down on this creepy old dude — largely because he seems pretty insistent on dragging the comatose Kaori away and raping her.

After being banned from the yakiniku restaurant for causing a scene, you eventually manage to get Kaori home, and, of course, she’s incredibly touched that someone would actually stand up for her rather than just looking at her as a “whore”, as the creep referred to her. With this in mind, you end up invited up to her apartment for tea and, predictably, sex. Initially in Kaori’s erotic scene, she seems to be demanding that you be rough and violent with her, which might make you question her sense of self-worth — but the moment she turns the tables on you it becomes clear that yes, this is just how she likes it.

Kaori’s story doesn’t end so much on a cliffhanger as it does a loose thread left tantalisingly dangling. After spending the night with her, she’s made the decision to quit her job at the hostess club that is exploiting her — but she has no intention of leaving hostessing behind, instead hoping to seek a job at a club which will treat her better. In other words, she’s not a character who seems to feel the need to be “saved” from her life in sex work — but, again, taking a further step from here beyond that initial erotic encounter is a clear statement of intent.

Doukyuusei

When playing on the Doukyuusei remake’s Easy mode, it’s relatively straightforward to bring almost all of the narrative threads in the game to this climax point in a single playthrough — with the exception of two pairings, which are dependent on whether or not you make it to an appointment right at the start of the game. Make it to that appointment, and you’re able to explore the character Natsuko’s story; fail, and you have the story of Kurumi’s troubled relationship with your best bud Kazuya as he ends up pursuing Natsuko instead.

No matter how many threads you manage to see through to their mid-game cliffhangers, though, you’re still going to have to make an important decision come the end of the game. At least the game has, by this point, made it clear that in the meantime you can take the time to get to know pretty much all of the cast fully before having to make that commitment, which makes me feel slightly better — though it’s definitely not going to make that eventual, inevitable choice any easier!

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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Pete Davison
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