Localised otome titles have hit the west hard as of recently and due to the sheer amount to tackle, taking a breather here and there has become that much more of a necessity throughout 2023. So as of recently my focus has gone towards shorter indie titles in between my actual breaks from the genre itself with other things dating sim related. Maybe look out for a possible upcoming article on that front, since certain life and farming sims have been more my cup of tea as of late!
So without further ado, here is a early thoughts roundup of recent indie otomes that I have played enough of to either recommended or recommend you steer clear of!
Glass Heart – Recommended
As indie otome studio Eternal Love Studios’ very first release, the group has established itself incredibly well with this release. Glass Heart follows its heroine Meira, whose fragile heart has prevented her from living any kind of fulfilling life. But with an impending chance of finally getting a future for herself with a surgery that has a 20% chance of success, she will have to find the strength to keep hope alive.
With six routes and full voice acting in English, the love, polish and attention to detail here is well worth noting. It also happens to be on the shorter side; I completed two routes within six hours, and since its prologue is the only chapter before a route commences, it shouldn’t take too much longer to see the rest. With all that said, it is proving to be a highly enjoyable otome title.
Some of the writing relies on repeated conflicts — at least in the two routes I’ve played so far — and these conflicts tend not to be between the heroine and love interest, but instead due to other circumstances. The heroine is also rather prone to fawning over the fairly shallow love interests, but the game overall continues to grip me with its focus on overcoming hopelessness and melancholy. Experiencing the feeling of accomplishment and closure upon obtaining any one of its happier endings is such a great feeling.
It’s a ride and a half but that is to be expected when its formula feels like an interactive soap opera. With the typical bad and good endings obtainable, the sweet and seductive epilogues are the cherry on top. And there is even more content yet to come! If you’re looking for something fluffy and cute but with a bit of a dramatic edge to it, then look no further.
Dormitory Love – Tentative recommend/wait for sale
Dormitory Love came about from a sudden release announcement via Twitter and it remains exclusive to the Nintendo Switch for now. With it releasing worldwide on April 28, 2023, and as the only game release from indie developer Hase im Haus, its set-up is quite the unique and intriguing one. Featuring a sort of throwback of a premise that reminds me personally somewhat of Hetalia, players find themselves in charge of a dormitory of exchange students, all coming from different cultures and backgrounds.
As of writing this piece I have only played through Sasha’s route to its entirety and I already have a few issues with the game. Namely, its presentation is very rough around the edges. It is evident enough that this is a Japanese indie game, with the UI specifically being rather worse for wear. Any bit of loading in of a chapter or fast-forwarding is laggy, its save system being auto-save only makes for painful playing for the most part, and the default button mapping is absurd. Accidently backing out of the game only to come back into it with a loading screen every single time will test any player’s patience.
On the other hand, I am beyond delighted by the individuality and authenticity of this little title. Its story progression may leave a lot to be desired for some players since it jumps around the timespan of the heroine and the chosen love interest’s blossoming relationship alongside the rest of its characters. But that in itself makes for quite unorthodox storytelling, and a tale that can be easily digested even with numerous breaks, regardless of how lengthy they may be. (Looks guiltily at Code: Realize – Ed.)
All of its characters have been very much present for the majority of the time in Sasha’s route which further perpetuates a more friendship focused takeaway rather than just romance in this otome title. It’s refreshing to see, as is the fact all the love interests are being fully voiced, and the game comes chock full of CGs.
While Love Dormitory asks for a pretty penny and has a few rough edges, I encourage you to support this indie Japanese title on the Switch. I do not regret purchasing it at full price, but do keep in mind its performance issues and seemingly short runtime.
Doki Doki House – Avoid
In Doki Doki House, its heroine is the temporary runner of a guest house, one which also houses the love interests. With its main hook being the “living under the same roof” setup for its entire main cast, as well as past encounters between the heroine and love interests providing the pieces of intrigue for its routes, Doki Doki House is sadly not nearly as funny or lively as it attempts to sell itself as.
As of writing this, I have dropped the title completely. I was very quick to purchase it upon its release of December 1, 2022 due to its art style alone, but there seems to be little to no depth here. Its writing is uninteresting, which is probably not helped by the rather weak translation. Dialogue prompts, too, are not all that different from one another, and the intention is clearly to try and be humorous with each and every one of them rather than provide meaningful choices.
The game’s key features are nothing special either, and are instead like any other standard otome game out there while having presentation seemingly optimised for mobile devices. Doki Doki House simply fails to maintain or at least capture any initial interest. It’s worth noting that the title was developed by Chinese company Ju Yin Youxi and published by Giiku Games, the latter being the ones who brought us the superb but supremely undervalued horror detective game Novena Diabolis.
Comparatively, Doki Doki House is one to avoid. While its overall look and feel might initially seem quite similar to Billionaire Lovers, the latter actually provides the player with a uniquely intriguing and wickedly devised storyline that has layers and costs just £2.09 instead of £10.99. So maybe go straight for that one instead!
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