Pretty boys join the Pretty Girls in eastasiasoft’s new IP Otoko Cross

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Prolific developer, localiser and publisher eastasiasoft has seen some solid success with its work alongside Zoo Corporation on the Pretty Girls and Bishoujo Battle series to date, bringing us a variety of fun casual games themed around attractive anime girls. But, as the name suggests, the series has focused exclusively on female characters — until now, that is. Today, eastasiasoft has announced a brand new IP and spin-off to the Pretty Girls series: Otoko Cross, which features fanservicey cross-dressing fun in its debut entry Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire.

As the name suggests, Otoko Cross is based around the otokonoko style and subculture in Japan, in which men with feminine features cross-dress and act in a feminine manner. While otokonoko culture is often fetishised to a certain degree, we have also seen a growing number of pieces of popular media exploring the phenomenon in more detail. The manga series Love Me For Who I Am is a great example, exploring not only otokonoko culture, but also its connection with (and contrasts from) other modern gender-related matters such as gender dysphoria, gender transitioning and non-binary people.

Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire

While we probably shouldn’t be expecting in-depth characterisation and soul-searching from a game called Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire, eastasiasoft is keen to emphasise that they have “taken great care in representing this theme with passion and authenticity, tapping into Japanese development partnerships, contracting fresh art and casting male voice talent that properly reflects what fans appreciate about the otokonoko style”.

There’s a few interesting things we can pick out from that statement — most notably that, in contrast with the existing Pretty Girls and Bishoujo Battle series, which draw artwork from Zoo Corporation’s back catalogue of nukige and mobile games respectively, Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire and Otoko Cross more broadly will feature all-original art and voice talent. Interestingly, Zoo Corporation themselves aren’t mentioned by name in the press release about Otoko Cross, but given the game style and the subject matter it’s probably fair to assume that they’re involved in those “Japanese development partnerships” mentioned.

Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire

Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire will unfold in much the same way as the existing Pretty Girls and Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire games, in which you match pairs of mahjong tiles in a series of increasingly complex layouts against the clock. Each stage involves three rounds, with the third round seeing your chosen companion character gradually transforming into a new outfit as you progress. In Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire, rather than simply changing into a new costume, it looks as if this transformation process will see them gradually switching from a more male-coded default outfit into more feminine attire — with increasingly spicy outfits showing up the further you go, from the sound of things.

There will apparently be five different characters to play with in Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire, and 60 different tile layouts in total to clear, with the exact pattern of tiles randomised each time you play. Like the more recent Pretty Girls and Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire games, there are also timer and combo mechanics, encouraging you to clear the stages more quickly for better positions on the online leaderboards. Alternatively, you can switch the game into the points-free Easy mode and make use of hints and the ability to shuffle the board.

Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire

Gameplay-wise, Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire won’t be anything we haven’t seen before — but the previous Pretty Girls and Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire titles are excellent casual games to have on hand for when you’re in the mood to play something simple, straightforward and perhaps mildly lewd. The really exciting thing here is the establishment of a new IP: once Otoko Cross is out there in the wild, one can only imagine what other games we might see under the brand name in the future. We can doubtless expect at least one Gals’ (uh, Boys’) Panic-style game — but from there, there are plenty of other possibilities to explore.

More than anything, it’s great to see some representation from this series — both for members of otokonoko culture in general, and for those who have an interest in it for one reason or another.

Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire

If you’re up for some playtime with the Pretty Boys of Otoko Cross, Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys Mahjong Solitaire is up for wishlisting now on Steam with an expected release date of May 19. Further details about additional platforms and new entries in the series are coming soon — but in the meantime, even if you’d like to play the series on consoles, it’s worth clicking that Wishlist button on Steam, because it helps show eastasiasoft how interested people are in this new series and the new game.

Right, I’m off for a thoroughly confused cold shower, I think.

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Pete Davison
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