With the recent news that the PS3 and Vita stores would remain open after considerable backlash to Sony announcing their closure, the pressure to grab certain titles before it’s too late is off somewhat — but it’s evident that price-gouging is still a bit of an issue on second-hand sites online, so we should heed this as a warning for the very worst to come.
With that in mind, if you can obtain any of the titles we’re about to talk about for a good price, pat yourself on the back and know that it was a worthwhile investment. If otome games are your cup of tea, of course.
It’s worth noting that many otome titles that were once Vita exclusives have seen ports to other platforms — Amnesia: Memories, 7’scarlet, London Detective Mysteria and the definitive version of Hakuoki (split across two games called Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms) are all purchasable on Steam. Meanwhile, Collar x Malice and its fandisc are available on Switch, as are Code Realize’s original game and its two fandiscs.
Unfortunately, there are a select few otome titles that may very well never see the light of day elsewhere, making it especially important to pick them up sooner or later — be it on the PS Vita digital store, or physically.
Let’s cover if they’re worth picking up, and celebrate them while the Vita continues to cling on to life for now.
Norn9: Var Commons
Norn9 is an otome I have yet to mention on Rice Digital simply due to how long it has taken me to fully complete. With a whopping nine love interests — three each exclusive to the three separate main characters — Norn9 is jam packed with content.
The title will appeal to anyone who gravitates towards mystery and sci-fi stories; its premise is unique and quite unlike any other otome. It meshes together elements of exploring the everyday lives of its superpowered characters with their relevance to the overarching mystery of their surroundings: a floating ship.
Norn9’s major appeal as a stand out otome experience is its narrative being told through three very different main characters, each of whom is fully voiced, and who often interact with one another within their respective routes.
They each have solid personalities, and despite sharing the same universe, the variety of character archetypes covered between the main characters and the love interests adds even more incentive to play through the entire game to see how this diverse cast of characters develops and interacts with one another.
But despite the game’s focus on relationships and some well-done development in its heroines and romantic scenes, a lot is left to be desired from its plot.
While the game has a lot of ideas, its execution was questionable in certain aspects. It’s become better understood in recent years that the game was not intended to be a standalone; an as-yet unlocalised fandisc answers many of the questions left in this title.
Despite this, Norn9 is an otome you should play — not for its inconclusive story, but for its character interactions, and its three strong and different heroines providing the many perspectives on this unusual adventure.
Speaking of the previously mentioned amount of content in here, the Vita port of this original PSP game offers a lot of side content for its genre.
The Hiyoko Channel segment has players collect interviews of its characters, and its Norn9 Quest mode is an 8-bit-style game that awards you points to spend in the Norn9 Store. In this in-game store, you can spend your points on short character stories and unlock other goodies such as BGM tracks and illustrations.
The additional content makes Norn9 a really appealing otome despite it lacking a bit in the plot department — and with so many loveable characters to warm up to, it’s easy to be immersed in its world if you can forgive its anticlimactic moments and disappointing endings.
Bad Apple Wars
Bad Apple Wars best thought of as a dating sim set in a world like that seen in Angel Beats! — and if this is not enough of a selling point alone, then its colourful and deep cast of characters will certainly keep your attention.
We all like our angst here, and Bad Apple Wars has plenty of it; the origins of the five love interests are all deeply moving and heartbreaking.
Its premise may not be anything new, with the themes of its plot concerning morality, the meaning of life, and overcoming human regrets, but the game is overall memorable. This is helped considerably by its stunning soundtrack, high quality voice actors (best boy Higa is of course voiced by the one and only Junichi Suwabe), and interesting “gameplay”.
The “touch” interface instead of the typical choice options found in other otome titles adds a charming and unique aspect to the game. It is at these CG moments where our bachelor of choice bares all to us as we touch the screen in the correct areas to deepen their relationship. This mechanic is pretty much the closest an otome title has gotten to the intimacy mechanics in the Criminal Girls series — and I’m all for it.
However, Bad Apple Wars does suffer from a few shortcomings. Certain questions are never quite explained or answered, despite the game’s promising and appealing purgatory world, and its very plain and disappointing main character has very little characterisation and reason for even existing in the setting.
And yet, it is an otome that deserves to be in your collection. It is, after all, one where I simply cannot choose a favourite love interest because more than one of the routes and characters are absolutely perfect.
For me, the only Vita exclusive otome title that you can safely skip if you’re not concerned about having a complete collection is Period Cube. It is, for me, the weakest of the three Vita exclusive otome titles.
The merits of Period Cube start and end with the game’s sleek production values and presentation, featuring those talented voice actors we fall in love with just by hearing them play any kind of character.
Its music has its highlights, with the gentle piano piece of “By Your Side” being one of my favourite BGM tracks in an otome game; its sprites come to life through movement unique for an otome, and its love interests are mostly all adorable, albeit not the best within their respective archetypes. I would have rather had one of the game’s side characters be a love interest, after all.
The game’s prologue is so short that you will be on a love interest’s route by your third choice, and the run-time of each route can end within only 3 hours, depending on your reading speed. It leaves very little room for natural relationship progression, but this is not the greatest sin in the game.
The overall aesthetic of being in a video game within a video game is visually appealing and is creatively depicted in the game’s UI, providing features such as health bars and status afflictions in the menu. And while its MMORPG aspect is an appealing focus for many, Period Cube ultimately fails in exploring and maximising the potential of the exciting, online world it creates.
If you can ignore many plot-holes and a lack of depth in its story, then Period Cube does have its moments worth experiencing, such as surprisingly dark bad endings — and an even more loveable side cast of characters quite unlike that found in many other otomes.
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side
Now we come to one of the greatest otomes available in the west (in my humble opinion). (100% agreed! – Ed.) While downloadable for the Vita on the PlayStation Store, its physical copy for PSP has become increasingly hard to obtain for an affordable price. So before it’s too late, nab this one whenever you can!
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side has got it all. A strong heroine? Tick. One of the best husbandos? Tick. An appealing plot which can appeal to any and all players? Tick.
The game is built on a strong premise where the main character is trapped in their uncle’s amusement park by a masked villain. (Oh, and their uncle is Keiji Inafune.)
The little sprinkle of gameplay called “explosive insight” where players race against the clock to piece together correct phrases to solve puzzles adds a nice break from the visual novel format to provide something of a pull for those less familiar with this style of game.
It’s an easy recommendation for anyone new to otomes, and with its layered mystery, amazing cast of love interests, and one of the most memorable hidden routes within the genre, Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is a blast to play.
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