After experiencing the rather poor translation of Collar x Malice – Unlimited, I want to reassure otome enthusiasts immediately with the knowledge that this title is a notable improvement of a localisation by Aksys. While it does have a few noticeable typos, missed letters and misplaced letters, more so in certain routes than others (the worst I’ve seen was Yang’s compared to every other route), you should definitely be picking this one up sooner than later if you like your otome games on the more sinister side. Because underneath the pretty surface of Piofiore it’s not shy about its mafia theme. Let us rejoice for Piofiore is a mafia otome that delivers a more mature and darker tale for those more partial to romantic tragedies!
The brilliant premise
Its story follows Liliana, nicknamed Lili (name changeable) whose quiet days living in the Church located in the neutral Arca has been disturbed by her sudden attempted abduction. Three mafia families are currently in turbulent times, pitting themselves against one another with Lili being dragged into the violence for unknown reasons. The first family who were established are the Falzone, with current control of the largest area known as Falce. The Visconti, a faction that was originally Falzone is the second largest family and controls Creta, whose ideology is the opposite of Falzone’s with their recruitment-ship accepting all kinds of people and not exclusively Italians nor blood tied. Finally there is the Chinese Lao-Shu who currently controls Veleno, the most dangerous area of them all.
Depending on your few choices made before its first chapter which is surprisingly only an hour long, you’ll already be on your first route! The common route is made up of only two prologue chapters, and some more scenes and choices are added after an initial play through once obtaining a Best Ending. This often involves additional scenes with a newly pursue-able LI (more information below on this).
Piofiore is everything I wanted from Ozmafia! and more. With both games concerning an overarching mafia theme involving a magnitude of violence, the latter would not deliver on such a dark premise that could provide a wealth of different possibilities and outcomes. In fact, its only disturbing moment is in one short, side-lined route involving a sudden appearance of a brothel. Piofiore looks at a lot of dark themes in comparison to Ozmafia!, delving into the fields of drugs, abuse, sexual coercion, rape, torture and human trafficking simply off the top of my head. The majority of these are explored mostly in the very polarizing route of Yang’s (of course, there’s your warning!). While it provides a much needed difference in tone for otome gamers in the West, it also has a hand in making a major critique of mine all the more apparent, but we’ll get to that later.
A Girl Worth Fighting For
It always helps to have a likeable, interesting main character and as a heroine I found Fuka from Ozmafia! to be extremely flawed and awfully dim-witted. Lili may be just as much of a fair maiden and Mary Sue as the next one, but her naively kind nature is juxtaposed nicely with the LI’s and is often a reason why the guys fall for her, understandable what with the torments of their line of work. Though she suffers from the game giving her little development personally, by being a heroine who is flung into the messy warfare between mafia factions her character is able to act as an amplifier for the different interactions she has with the multiple LI’s. Lili impacts the story of each LI significantly enough and is even at the mercy and hands of her own LI’s in certain bad ends that are simply tragic, disturbing and unexpected in the worst ways imaginable. Her background as an orphan raised by the Church in a world set in 1920’s Italy gives her a further sense of pure innocence and honest morality that we can project ourselves onto.
Furthermore the fact that she is comparatively normal to the game’s LI’s is what often makes Lili feel more at home in her role as the heroic protagonist of Piofiore. She makes sure to stand her ground when needed (props to her being as understanding and strong as she was in Yang’s and Orlok’s routes specifically) and even at times where her own life is at risk. In this case she is a truly commendable and realistic heroine. My complaints are not in Piofiore’s heroine but instead in the boys. Let’s get into it.
Piofiore Routes and Characters
We’ll go in order of route suggestion and a brief discussion on each LI, what I liked (or maybe disliked) about them and a few hints thrown in there to help obtain their Best Ending. The game’s system of gauging what ending you’ll be on is decided by your level on two attribute scales, one being affinity while the other is unique to each LI.
Do note that certain routes are locked until others are cleared. Nicola and Dante are the only two initially available routes with Yang’s and Orlok’s being unlocked after either of Nicola or Dante’s routes are cleared. Gilbert’s route stays locked until all previous boys have been pursued. The suggested route order however goes as follows: Nicola, Yang, Dante, Orlok and then Gilbert to best avoid early spoilers. The story wraps up in a final, grand route indicated by a count down after each route’s Best Ending is cleared.
I had no idea what to think of Nicola initially. Appearing as the womanizer archetype, Nicola’s quickly noticeable as being not only good with sweet talking but also lying through his teeth. This is an early indicator of his secondary attribute to get on his good side being honesty. Be as honest as possible towards Nicola if you want his Best Ending! His route is filled with the most wholesome bond building moments often involving food (because of course Lili is a good cook!), and as the lying type, it’s damn adorable seeing him coming to terms with his feelings towards her (and yes their first kiss was pretty forceful, but I liked the passion and conflict Nicola goes through as he’s debating his commitments!).
Nicola is the perfect first route as it’s the least violent, but its bad ending still delivers on the tragedy you can expect from its upcoming bad and even good endings. Also worth noting is by not playing Nicola’s route first his consistent presence in Dante’s route can be very off putting as his attitude really stinks as a supporting character in Dante’s own route. This is one example of my problem with Piofiore overall; characters can act completely different and even unlikable in other routes!
Ah, Yang. One of the most questionable LI’s I’ve ever come across and I was given fair warning in advance. Yang is all about being entertained so if you do bore him you can start burying your own grave before he chucks you in it. While Yang can be argued as being either a psychopath or a very complex character whose true intentions and feelings are always hidden, all you need to know is he’s an abuser and manipulator who plagues Lili throughout his route. I don’t think I want to bother to understand him. However, at the very least it’s very telling when he’s fallen for Lili despite his problematic attitude, so it’s reassuring when he performs very caring actions (a certain gift being the first instance of this) and words, topped off with his very personal final act of love towards her in his Best Ending. It also happens to be the most smutty of the bunch, so try to not put his route on docked mode if you have friends and family around.
I’ll give him kudos where he deserves it though; his Bad Ending is unforgettable, and with one of the most remarkably bittersweet good endings his route certainly wasn’t a snooze. How fitting. And just as suitable to his unpredictability, gauging what he likes to be told can be difficult to decide on. But as the opposite of Dante, being respectful towards him will not win you brownie points. Be as upfront, headstrong and clever as you can be in your responses and hope for the best!
The romance in Dante’s route is more of a slow-burner, understandable with it being the longest route of every LI. It can reach over 6 hours depending on your reading speed while the others are around 4 hours or even less (my beloved Orlok deserved more screen-time!). This also reinforces how Dante appears to be the “true” route, which is an unusual choice considering he’s immediately available to pursue. In any case, you’ll be begging Lili and Dante to just kiss already with all the teasing and tension they make us go through on the opposite end of the screen. Dante is initially the kuudere type, but he has a lot going on underneath the cool as a cucumber exterior. He’s bloody cute, that’s what it is! Be sure to be as respectful as possible on his route because as you can expect from the head of the Falzone, respect is what he wants from his partner-to-be.
Cinnamon roll alert! Orlok is the mysterious, quiet type who has many secrets to be revealed. In previous routes we see him as an informant for the families. As the youngest LI, two years younger than Lili in fact he’s the most innocent of the LI’s, with the cutest relationship progression between the MC and LI of the lot. There’s plenty of heart melting moments between the two with Orlok not even understanding his love for her and Lili being just as naive to his newfound feelings. All the fluff is juxtaposed with the hefty violence of this route in particular. Maybe not a shocker when he’s the strongest fighter of the LI’s.
He has a very sympathetic background to discover, so not only does he look like a sweetheart, he’s got the sad origins to reinforce it. As a tip, you want to be less honest with Orlok compared to every other LI, as Orlok is very strict with himself when it comes to doing the right thing for Lili, so much so that it can be more detrimental than helpful. Worst yet is Orlok’s route having the most heart wrenching endings. Nothing can nor will prepare you for that bad ending.
He’s voiced by Showtaro Morikubo (Trash boy Yosuke in Persona 4, Okita from Hakouki and Impey from Code Realize!), what else matters!? This makes me pretty sad he’s locked in as the fourth route, just look at how handsome he is! Voice acting and looks wise aside, Gilbert’s route is my absolute favourite (maybe no surprise). It’s the most romantic, typical route for an otome, with the factions working together to bring down a common enemy unlike every route that’s come before it. Gilbert and his route are the most forgiving to Lili so it’s a mostly deserving, calmer ride before the emotional hit of the finale.
Gilbert is the ladies man and all round good guy. He’s the peacekeeper of all the leaders of the families, and not only is he considerate and caring of his own family but he’s just as much for the general public as well. Gilbert is a confident, Ore-sama type who is the opposite of Dante’s traditional outlook.
The art and music are gorgeous, fitting to the style of the title. Most noticeable is the many CG’s featuring our lovely heroine, with the majority of them depicting her with a new hairdo and gorgeous outfit. It’s refreshing to see how many outfit changes she visibly goes through depending on the route/events, and shows how much attention to detail has been put in this title.
The whole game has a very cinematic feel to it, with its impressive opening video providing a bit of backstory to its world and current events concerning the opposing families. And within each route a “Meanwhile” system frequently occurs that changes the viewpoint to a different character, most times being the route’s LI, or a side character such as the prologue opener of new to the scene detective Roberto. This is indicated by a film real that indicates the character’s viewpoint change. This provides a lot of motivations being explained, and more showing and not just telling that many visual novels tend to suffer from. It’s a nice, innovative little mechanic that helps Piofiore stand out even more than it already does.
Mechanically, Piofiore plays like any other visual novel, but when it comes to choices it’s similar to Nitrochiral’s Sweet Pool in its “attributes”. This is not very clear nor explained well at all but depending on all of your choices during a route the selections change two attribute levels in relevance to the LI; affinity and a secondary attribute unique to each LI. This keeps each route plot not only fresh but each character feeling very different and importantly reinforces their own personalities, preferences and storylines. This is indicated on the Status screen by a blooming flower to show you’re on a good route, potentially best one, or it’s covered in ink, depicting a bad only route. It encourages multiple playthroughs much more than the typical otome, an incentive that keeps you coming back for a different take on this dark scenario that’s been played around in full exploration to provide many different conclusions and even plotlines from the good ending to the same route’s bad ending. There’s a hefty amount of unexpected and surprising conclusions to get to so it’s well worth the time investment!
The importance of its side characters also shine through depending on the route taken as many are extremely forgettable until you feel closer to them and understand their motivations once on their family’s LI route. I felt this most with Yang’s twin guards Lan and Fei, who are strong fighters but are still merely children. Bonding with them on Yang’s route made me feel so conflicted during confrontations when siding with the opposing families. I also loved the bubbly and sweet personality of Leo, a young member of the Falzone Family and the motherly figure of Guila Ceste, who are especially lovely and endearing during Nicolas’ and Dante’s routes.
My one complaint
But as a minor nitpick I felt many characters acted very out of character on other routes or whose actions felt forced in certain endings. This actually makes almost every character be unlikable due to a certain ugly scene reminding you of a time where your favourite LI was pretty damn scary (an example being the very out of left field turn of a LI becoming a Yandere in their bad ending but the reason as to why they did does not affect them in the same way on a different route). The most “infamous” telling of this is in Orlok’s Bad Ending, which I’m sure will get a lot more attention with it reaching Western audiences. So while this inconsistency is definitely more noticeable compared to other otomes, Piofiore really holds up for being such a dark take for the otome genre.
While characters may feel inconsistent, it makes for each plot-line of each LI feel unexpected and surprising. On the other hand when it does work exceptionally well is when it is not out of character. For example, Yang’s Good Ending is not far fetched due to his prior exploration during his route compared to his other love rivals. And what I loved most about this title is how important it is to experience the bad endings despite how disturbing they are. It adds to the tension, tragedy and drama of each route, and if you’re not following a guide, it’s very unexpected when you’ve arrived to the bad ending until you finally witness the last, shocking CG of the route. This is due to the bad endings often being longer than the good endings! It’s very well executed and provides so many endings I won’t be forgetting about any time soon.
The finale of Piofiore is well worth the emotional, tragic ride of well over 50 hours to get to. It encapsulates the overarching themes of Piofiore with an emphasis on the cycle of revenge and grief. With all the LI’s coming together and Lili not being paired off with anyone for the grand finale has always been the cherry on top of a handful of otome title (for example, Amnesia and Steam Prison). It offers plenty more moments of feeling connected with the now platonic relationships with the boys while providing a grand ending that wraps up the remaining mysteries and questions revolving around the unknown origins and importance of Lili. And even after finishing all six routes, short stories and episodes following from the bad and best routes of each LI and the final route open up for additional content!
In a single sentence, I want to sum up how I feel about this otome with “What I wanted from Ozmafia!!”. It’s got a great balance of tension and drama relating to the mafia side while having sprinkles of adorable, chemistry building moments with our MC and LI’s. As a mature otome title many of us fans have been waiting years for any enthusiast of the genre should pick it up!
Who else is excited to see if Cafe Enchante is even better? Let us know in the comments!
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