Introducing the Dating Sim Community Game-Along!

January’s Falcom Community Game-Along was so successful that I thought it would be a shame to have the festivities end after only 31 days! As a result, you can look forward to having monthly game-along themes for the duration of 2014, or at the very least until interest and participation starts to wane.

Since February is the somewhat official month of romance, what better way to celebrate than with some dating sim games? The dating sim genre hasn’t ever had its time in the limelight outside of Japan, where it’s actually quite popular with both men and women. In fact, the term “dating sim” isn’t even really correct, as it only encompasses romance games that have simulation elements (usually meters for stats that you have to raise to get the girl/guy you’re pursuing). The Japanese term ren’ai, meaning romance, is generally used to refer to any games that focus on the romantic pursuit of one of usually a number of selectable men or women, but since “dating sim” is more the well-known term in English, I’ll be using it for the purposes of this event to refer to any game with romance elements, be it simulation, visual novel, or otherwise.

The “otherwise” is important here, too, since there many games such as the Harvest Moon and Rune Factory series that incorporate romance. It should also go without saying that romance games aimed at anyone are fair game, be they catering to a predominately male audience (bishōjo) or female (otome). Here’s a quick sampling of titles available in English that fall into the dating sim genre:

Arino plays Angelique Trois

Katawa Shoujo (PC, Mac, Linux) – If you’ve never played a dating sim game before and want an affordable first experience, you can’t really go wrong with Katawa Shoujo. Not only is it free, but it tells a surprisingly heartfelt journey of a young man who suddenly finds himself with a life-threatening disability. There are five female romance options, all with different disabilities, and the game treats its delicate subject matter more seriously than most games in the genre. Be aware, however, that this is an 18+ game, which means it features sex scenes, but they can be skipped by selecting an option in the menu.

Hatoful Boyfriend (PC, Mac) – For those who are ready to go all in, you can’t go wrong with Hatoful Boyfriend. While it’s a dating sim aimed at women, you’re not dating men… not human men, anyway. All of the suitors are male pigeons! The free version allows you to date seven different pigeons, but the full version with a mysterious eighth pigeon only costs $4, so it won’t break the bank.

Hakuoki series (PSP, 3DS) – One of the few major official otome game releases in English, Hakuoki is a must for all serious fans of the genre. Fully voiced in Japanese and taking place during the Edo period in Japan, the game is a great example of the kind of otome visual novels that are currently all the rage in the land of the rising sun. If samurai warriors aren’t your cup of tea, you may want to try Aksys Games’s other otome release, Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (PSP/PSN), instead.

Of course, there are many, many more games than the couple I’ve listed here, but it would simply be impossible for me to include them all! Here are a couple more titles you may want to check out: Dandelion (PC, Mac), Aselia the Eternal (PC), Absolute ObediencePersona 3 and 4, and any entry in the aforementioned Harvest Moon and Rune Factory series. There’s also tons of free content available from last year’s Pulse Pounding Heart Stopping Dating Sim Jam! Finally, for folks who want to brush up on the classics, both the Angelique and Tokimeki Memorial series are great places to start. If you’re still having trouble finding something you’d like to play, let me know in the comments so I or someone else can help you out!

It’s easy to participate in the February Dating Sim Game-Along – all you have to do is play and write about dating sims in some form, be it on your blog, Twitter, or elsewhere! If you’re using Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram (or some other newfangled social media that also uses hashtags), please use #DatingSiMonth so that I can keep track of your submissions and include them in my weekly compilation posts. Of course, you’re also welcome to submit podcasts or any other critical work to the Game-Along – as long as you’re talking about dating sims, virtually anything goes!

I hope you’re all ready to date some cuties and share your experiences come February! I’ve got a pile of Japanese otome games and Katawa Shoujo calling my name, so I, for one, am all set!

About Anne Lee

Also known as apricotsushi. Anne can be written with the kanji for apricot (杏), and sushi was the most quintessentially Japanese thing I could think of when I was 13, resulting in my goofy, albeit memorable, nickname.

  • Jade

    Oooo I’m in the middle of rune factory! I got stuck in Ys and might be able to finish it today so I make the 31st lol. I forgot how long JRPGs could be they be it has been a while.

  • Electr0cuted

    Awesome idea!
    Currently playing Rune Factory Frontier, Harvest Moon: ANB & Hakuoki on 3DS. This is the perfect time to start Dandelion!

  • You know I’m ready for this, Anne. Yeehaw! Got my copy of Sweet Fuse all ready to boot up this weekend 🙂 BTW, what’s the game in the last photo — the one with the guy in the shower??

  • kamion

    That’s a Persona 3 Portable fanart, with the female Protagonist. The guy on the DS Screen is Akihiko 😉

  • kamion

    This is a pretty cool idea. I have a lot of unfinished VNs/Dating Sims.

    Well actually, no Dating Sims, none of them have the Simulation Part. I finished all of these already, though I thought about getting Photo Kano.

    Will probably play White Album 2 Closing Chapter or Chaos;Head Love ChuChu for this :3 Wanted to get those done forever. Thanks for the incentive.

  • Darn it! Anyway, thanks for letting me know, kamion 🙂

  • Woo, I was planning on playing ef – the latter tale and now I have a reason to stop dawdling!

    Since I was unable to participate in the last game month, we can basically just post about our chosen games however (Twitter/blog/etc) and then share those links with you?

  • I’ll see if I can find the time this month for a run through of Love Plus! Now there’s a dating sim that deserves a localisation! 😀

  • Liminal18

    Would Versu count? Sadly Princess Debut (natsume/cave ds game) is out of my reach at the moment as is gainax’s princess maker (unless there is an iOS version now…) so Versu will probably be it. Emily Short is great anyways.

  • apricotsushi

    I’d never heard of Versu before, so I did a quick Google search, and it looks fine to me! As long as it has an emphasis on romance, really, it’s a valid pick for Dating Sim Month! It looks really interesting… I might give it a shot, if I have time!

    Speaking of Princess Debut, though – I really wish I could get my hands on a copy of it, too!

  • Liminal18

    Versu is by Emily Short with a.i. Written by her long time collaborator / former Sims programmer whose name sadly escapes me. It’s really interesting, but can be a little disturbing on occasion (I had a lot of trouble convincing the other player that I was not interested in him). Do give it a look it’s worth the effort. Anyways, ended up looking for graphic novels on iOS and got Juniper’s Knot which is interesting.

  • Oh, right! Completely forgot about that game. Hmmm, may have to check it out someday even though I have *no* real interest in the characters (based on the designs I’ve seen).

  • I like it so far, although I’ve barely scratched the surface. Just an hour or so into it. Haven’t even faced a puzzle, etc., yet.

  • apricotsushi

    Oh, I think I’ve downloaded Juniper’s Knot, actually! I’ll definitely give Versu a shot.

  • apricotsushi

    It’s actually criminal that I don’t own it myself. A friend had it and I played through it when I was in Japan, so I never ended up getting a copy. To eBay!

  • Here are some other English translated otoge (short for otome game) options (Free to Play & Paid) that can be found on iOS & Android mobile platforms. Listed by company and alphabetically for convenience:

    Free To Play Otoge (Daily Tokens/Cash Shop):

    アリスマティック Bishoujo/Yaoi/Otoge:
    ・Arabian Nights
    ・Beautiful Girl Squad 3D (Bishoujo)
    ・Contract Marriage
    ・Starstruck Love
    ・Vampire Darling (BL, Yaoi)

    KOYONPLETE Inc. Otoge:
    ・Love Academy
    ・Love Academy – YAOI
    ・Man with a Pearl Earring (Novel)
    ・Purelove
    ・SUZAKU – Mystical Butterfly
    ・Seal of Lycoris

    M&A Online Otoge:
    Forbidden Love

    NTT Solmare Otoge:
    ・In Love: Memories Can’t Wait
    ・Shall we date?: Angel or Devil?
    ・Shall we date?: Can’t Say No
    ・Shall we date?: Destiny Ninja
    ・Shall we date?: Hero in Love
    ・Shall we date?: Magic Sword
    ・Shall we date?: Mononoke Kiss
    ・Shall we date?: My Fairy Tales
    ・Shall we date?: My Sweet Prince
    ・Shall we date?: Ninja Love+
    ・Shall we date?: Ninja Love for GREE (Original Free to Play Version)

    O K K O Otoge:
    ・Office Lover
    ・Sweet Scandal

    Voltage Inc. Otoge :
    ・Be My Princess for GREE
    ・ My Sweet Bodyguard for GREE
    ・Celebrity Darling for GREE

    Paid Apps (Buy Individual Routes):

    NTT Solmare Otoge:
    ・Shall we date?: Actor to be
    ・Shall we date?: Heian Love
    ・Shall we date?: “KONKATSU” for marriage
    ・Shall we date?: My Sweet Prince
    ・Shall we date?: Ninja Love
    ・Shall we date?: School Carnival
    ・Shall we date?: Strawberry Love

    Voltage Inc. Otoge:
    ・10 Days With My Devil
    ・A Knight’s Devotion
    ・Be My Princess
    ・Class Trip Crush
    ・Dreamy Days in West Tokyo
    ・In Your Arms Tonight
    ・Kiss of Revenge
    ・Love Letter From Thief X
    ・My Forged Wedding
    ・My Sweet Bodyguard
    ・Office Secrets
    ・Our Two Bedroom Story
    ・Pirates in Love
    ・Seduced in the Sleepless City

    I further support the following games already mentioned by the blog:

    ・Dandelion (PC)
    ・Hakuouki (PSP/3DS – Soon to also be on PS3;with more content)
    ・Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (PSP)

    Additional Suggestions:

    PC Otoge:

    The Second Reproduction

    OELVN (Original English Language Visual Novel)

    Unbroken Hours Otoge:
    ・Frozen Essence
    ・Heartstring Bugs
    ・Legend of the Piper Girl
    ・Princess of Ruin (TBA)

    For Additional Releases:
    http://www.englishotomegames.net/list

  • apricotsushi

    Thanks for the great list of iOS and Android games! I don’t play many of them myself so I didn’t know what to recommend. Will you be taking part in the Dating Sim Community Month?

  • apricotsushi

    Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s 100% visual novel like Hakuoki! There are no puzzles to speak of

  • Oh! Did you like it well enough?

  • I shouldn’t have said “puzzle,” as I knew there aren’t any in the game. I guess I meant “decisions”? Basically, I haven’t had to do anything other than click through text so far…

  • Happy to help! =D My blog tends to have a lot of posts involving otomes, primarily Voltage Inc.’s paid apps. As of January, I’ve started a chain posting of Voltage Inc.’s updates. Not sure if that stuff qualifies as part of the month’s event or not since I already kind of do it. But happy to join in all the same. =) I’ll tag things that are more specifically mine with the tag you mentioned. I use tumblr, mistressjaskra.tumblr.com

  • Setsuna

    Can you do a review for Devil in my arms by koyonplete too? It’s currently available for android users.
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.koyonplete.koyondevil&hl=en_GB

  • apricotsushi

    Sure, I could do that! I haven’t played too many Koyonplete games but Love! Sushi Rangers was pretty silly XD

  • apricotsushi

    So excited to hear what you think of it!

  • apricotsushi

    It is parodying a real game, though – a DS otome game called Duel Love where you wipe sweat off of boxers :3

  • apricotsushi

    You know, I actually didn’t realize that! I thought it was official art for the DS game Duel Love (which must be what it’s parodying). Thanks!

  • apricotsushi

    Yes! I really want to try Dandelion myself. The art is super cute. Glad to hear you’ll be participating!

  • apricotsushi

    Awesome, so glad you’ll be participating! I haven’t played either of the titles you mentioned, so I’ll be very interested to hear more about them.

  • apricotsushi

    So glad you’ll be playing along, Marcus! And yep, all you have to do is write/talk about romance games in some form or another, really. I hope some people might do more general posts, too, so it definitely doesn’t have to be about a specific game (though that’s great too!).

    I really like being able to get all sorts of people talking about a similar theme and playing games together, that’s all! 😀

  • apricotsushi

    Awesome! I hear there’s a fan translation of the first one?

  • apricotsushi

    I know what you mean about games taking a while to finish… And Ys isn’t even long by JRPG standards! I really need to get back to Rune Factory

  • Camille

    There’s also Cybird’s Midnight Cinderella and Destined to Love.

  • Scarlet Garza

    I’ve been looking for a good dating sum game aimed for women. Something that you can make choices and has some real romance. Would enjoy if it had some kinkiness to it. (I would actually love that) but something for the 3DS that is just absolutely heart throbbing.