Ranking the Code: Realize Love Interests

We’ve reviewed the original Code: Realize (CR) title before, so I am now throwing my own two cents in the ring in discussing the best part of the title. The love interests of Code: Realize are all delightful, with plenty of emotional backstories and distinctive personalities to have all our wants met and as engaging stories told throughout each route. Here I’ve taken the plunge in ranking each bachelor from worst to best, based on their respective route, personality, their chemistry with the main character, Cardia, and other attributes such as voice actors and character design.

5. Lupin Arsène

For the poster boy of CR to be at the very bottom on my list has made me sure that I have upset plenty of my fellow otome enthusiasts out there but hear me out! Throughout the lengthy common route of CR, Lupin is not only dangled in front of us at every given opportunity, almost like a telling sign that he is the only right answer as Cardia’s LI, but even Cardia herself has her inner thoughts and dialogue exclusively in the interest of Lupin over every other LI. It’s not unexpected considering the fact that Lupin is one of the first individuals to show care and consideration towards Cardia, and is the reason she is saved from her lonely and insignificant existence. But this really undermines the significance of even having the other available LI’s.

With how fated they appear to be together, their eventual falling into a relationship feels a lot less eventful and heartful compared to the hardships Cardia faces with the other LI’s and how powerful and emotional their development is. For example, as the “true” route of the game, Lupin’s emotional backstory has far less gravity compared to his love rivals. The route alone does tick a lot of boxes, such as it being one of the most natural and indicative showings of a romantic build up since Cardia had been interested in Lupin since day one and Lupin’s interest in her seems apparent since the common route, even suggested in Saint-Germain’s route. It even holds the most significant reveals of the entire story while nicely involving and concluding the other LI’s, making it appropriate to be the “true” route as everyone gets a happy ending. And since Lupin and Cardia’s goals were always shared in locating her father, her poison is even solved by the end of this route, of course being the only one to solve the issue permanently.

But the majority of Lupin’s route is surprisingly underwhelming compared to the others’ intense events exclusive to their stories and conclusions that were played out in great detail within their respective routes. Even with a route such as Helsing’s that had very minimal romance as its main let-down, Cardia’s personality shines brightest in this one for her absolute resolve. Meanwhile in Lupin’s route, she is saved by him over three times. Twice may be a cute and worthy of being gushed over for his heroism, but Cardia overall felt very weak willed compared to how she become her best self in the other routes. And on top of this disappointment, considering how well rounded and overall good guy Lupin is, the word heroism can be labelled to describe Lupin. He’s a perfect hero with or without Cardia where it makes the effort and character development of every other LI far more deserving of Cardia. Additionally, he’s so much of a main love interest that it makes him the least interesting and impressionable of the cast even with his goofy yet reliable persona. I feel that by the end of the game my heart had already been taken and no amount of Lupin left much of an impression on me.

4. Impey Barbicane

And now we already come to the LI who stole my heart. For one of my favourite LI’s ever to rank this low I’m sure I’ve surprised even more of you than with my previous choice. Impey is an absolute delight to see on the screen and get to know, whose constant flirtatious compliments as soon as he meets Cardia are indicative of his immediate falling for her at first sight. While how easily flustered Cardia gets due to his pining for her is a wonderful sight to behold, Impey’s route and backstory is unfortunately far less significant compared to his love rivals. This does not damper how enjoyable his route is however, with Impey being extremely reliable and trustworthy, so much so that he becomes a source of strength for Cardia’s impressive growth and development in his route alone. In fact I find their chemistry and dialogue together to indicate them as being one of the best pairings, with so much love, support and cheekiness between the two within each scene. They play off each other so well!

The revelation of Impey being a vampire is a surprise, and sets the bar for other revelations to continue to follow with each route, but it is the only moment of significance within the route even with Impey saving London from major damages (we’ll see this on a much more impactful scale next). His route does provide multiple moments of the most romantic and fluffy scenes however, from falling through the sky as they confess their love for one another, to the first time Cardia also flirts back with him as he saves her from danger. It makes an overall fitting route suitable as the first play-through as things only get heavier from here.

3. Abraham Van Helsing

Van Helsing’s route is a slow burner, and even by the end of it, we’re not even rewarded with a kiss! Poor Van Helsing, after everything he has gone through. At least the fandisk rectifies this, but we’re talking about the first title only here! Van Helsing does a lot, and I mean a lot of pushing away Cardia during his play-through since his life goal is fixated on revenge after his family is slaughtered by vampires. In fact, Vampires were framed to be his enemy, in a carefully orchestrated plan by Alistair who actually killed Van Helsing’s parents, making his revenge of wiping out the entire vampire race cruelly unnecessary and misplaced. Worst yet is him being brainwashed by Hidden Strength, going as far as to be manipulated by Alistair and taking every order from him blindly, with his first task to kill Cardia. It’s high tension, even beating out Victor due to the severity of the situation and with Cardia having to handle the issue on her own. In fact this is a highlight of the route exclusive to it, with Cardia behaving independently and without ever giving up on Van Helsing which I felt was especially strong of her and reinforces how great of an MC she is.

But the route struggles to deliver a proper connection between Van Helsing and Cardia, owing to its lack of romance, which is understandable with Van Helsing’s angst and revenge. However, it still makes for a hell of a thrill ride, with a really well done fake out by its climax that had me worrying on Van Helsing’s fate! Who else thought they encountered a bad ending? Van Helsing’s route is just short of being the very best of Code: Realize, but I actually prefer a certain someone else matched up with our precious Cardia.

2. Victor Frankenstein

When we talk about angst and emotional baggage, the first indication of how dark the game gets is in the second suggested route play-through with the shy, introverted genius, Victor. A common complaint of CR is with its imbalance of having 9 chapters and only 5 for the character routes, making the romantic build up problematic with too sudden of a change in their feelings from both Cardia and the LI. In feel that in the game, this is felt the most here as, when playing through this route, it feels like Victor’s love for Cardia comes from seemingly nowhere other than him feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt due to his past inventions that were used for destructive intentions and wanting to make things right.

But with the bigger focus on angst, the route is intense and even features a countdown by the end chapter which is exclusive to Victor’s route before London is overrun by an outbreak its own Queen Victoria unleashes. Even so, this uncertain change of feelings does not downplay how perfect the pair are as a couple, with both being just as innocent and kind as the other one. In a simple scene of Victor examining Cardia’s chest to assess the state of her Horologium. He had done this multiple times before such as on the common route, but the pair become embarrassed with the close contact, making this moment a first for them in indicating their newfound, romantic feelings being felt and expressed. This is also why it ranks above Helsing’s exquisitely written route since Victor’s has a better balance of tension and romance.

The first kiss is also my favourite of the lot since the sense of urgency is there to save Cardia through passing the liquid Victor made to stabilise her transforming Horologium. It’s also important to note its significance in second place as my second best route overall, because despite my feelings on Helsing’s having the second best story and writing, Cardia’s poison is almost completely negated when partnered with Victor. Therefor, Victor just on his own can provide and help Cardia, but only one other guy beats him in this category.

1. Saint-Germain

If I was to ever make a ranking for most memorable character routes within the visual novel genre, Saint-Germain’s will be high ranked even with such wider competition. Saint-Germain should be played as the fourth route before Lupin, and for good reason. The certain revelation of an organisation that runs the world is one thing, finding out that Saint-Germain is over 200 years old is something else. I might have put too much importance on the latter there.

Initially, Saint-Germain was my least appealing LI, so when I got treated with one of the most emotionally hitting LI routes within the otome genre I’d ever experienced, it was the most surprising moment within the game. As I previously mentioned, certain character routes unfortunately suffer for having such a short amount of time to establish meaningful connections with the MC – this ends up feeling far too short to validate the romantic build up with its LI’s and Cardia. Saint-Germain’s route, however, managed to feel extremely genuine and intense enough to capture the overwhelming love the two have for one another in such a short period of time. In the first few hours of his route, Saint-Germain erects wall upon wall of inner defences to prevent feeling attached to anyone else in order to continue carrying out his ruthless job for the stability of a brighter future for humanity. Thus, we begin emotionally to invest just as much as the MC does in chasing Saint-Germain deeper into his true feelings . Seeing the walls of Saint-Germain’s defenses crumble through his journey in falling in love with Cardia was so raw and written brilliantly. Daisuke Hirakawa provides the best scene within the game single handily where Saint-Germain’s always measured and soft voice completely shatters under his immense and new feelings of wanting to finally live for someone else’s sake after over 200 years. It is the most heart-breaking, gut wrenching delivery of dialogue. No amount of tissues will save you from tears to the point of ugly-crying uncontrollably.

It also has to be mentioned how these ‘fated’ lovers mesh so well together when considering how both their turmoil is believing that they are monsters who are undeserving of being loved and being alive. Through their partnership, they find new hope and reason in each other, with Saint-Germain pointing out twice how he is the only one out of the LI’s who can love Cardia physically even with her poison. I also must mention how Saint-Germain’s sprite appears to change only when getting the good ending with Cardia, with his eyes fully opened. It comes across as him finally achieving a level of contentment in life only if he is with Cardia. Yes, it may seem far fetched but this is who my poster boy would have been even if it’s just for this reason!

Do you agree with my ranking? What other otome title would you like to see me tackle next?

Lilia Hellal
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