When I decided February’s Community Game-Along should be all about romance and dating sims, I had absolutely no idea whether it would be as big a hit as January’s Falcom theme. Imagine my surprise when it quickly turned out to be vastly more popular than its predecessor! The combination of some friends in high places helping me get the word out more and what I assume to be the gaming community’s skeptical fascination with dating sims in general has really helped lots of folks jump into the genre over the past couple weeks. And honestly, that’s all I ever wanted to achieve with these Community Game-Alongs, so I’m really glad to see people enjoying them!
First of all, I need to give a massive shout out to my buddy Elliot Gay, who was kind enough to start a Dating Sim Month thread on NeoGAF! Since I’m still only a junior member (what can I say, I never post!), I’m not able to make threads of my own, so I would’ve never been able to have one without his help! It’s a great place to interact with other participants if you prefer doing so in a forum setting. While folks seemed really excited to join in when it was first announced, things have slowed down significantly in the past week or so, so I hope that doesn’t mean interest is waning…
The Dating Sim Community Game-Along was also picked up by Chic Pixel friend and prolific writer Pete Davison. He’s been dedicating his weekly JPGamer column over at USGamer.net to dating sims, which has done wonders for getting the word out about some niche titles available in English, as well as this event in general! His first installment focuses on Aselia: The Eternal and comes with a great introduction to the term “dating sim” and all the nuances that surround it. Aselia: The Eternal is unique in that it combines RPG battles and traditional romance visual novel gameplay, making it a more interactive experience than many other dating sims currently available in English. The second game he covers, Magical Diary, however, is an otome game by a western developer, which is something we haven’t seen many participants tackle so far.
“Magical Diary really highlights one of the best things about dating sims and relationship-centric visual novels: the fact that the relative lack of other ‘gameplay,’ for want of a better term, allows developers and writers to focus on exploring characters in an extremely in-depth manner, both as individuals and as parts of a relationship.” – Pete Davison, JPGamer: Dating Sim Month: Magical Diary
I believe this is the first time we’ve had video submissions, as well – Tobiichi Karlsson has done a series of Let’s Play videos of the Japanese PSone game Magical Date! She chronicles the entire playthough in four videos, which are definitely worth a watch just to see all the weird mini-games.
Falcom Month contributor Davzz returns with a very interesting niche pick, Mujintō Monogatari R for the Sega Saturn! This bishojō game finds the male player character stranded on a tropical island with, you guessed it, a bunch of cute high school girls. The game is unique in that it actually has you managing your party members and scraping to survive by scrounging for food and attempting to be rescued while at the same time trying to woo the ladies. What is even more interesting, as Davzz notes, is that the game actually had male romance routes in the original PC version, but they were removed for the Saturn port. It’s very rare to find a bishojō game with male suitors!
Kamion over at Gaoism decided to join in the fun, and her first game for the month is an odd little otome title called Otometeki Koi Kakumei★Love Revo!. The whacky and rather offensive game’s premise revolves around, if you can believe it, losing weight to get the guy of your dreams. I actually have a copy of this on the PS2, and am considering popping it in for this month’s festivities… if I can stomach it!
While I had a rather bad track record during Falcom Month (just organizing is a lot of work, you know!), I’ve already made my first submission to Dating Sim Month in the form of a podcast with the lovely Amanda Cosmos! Be sure to give it a listen if you are at all interested in dating sims aimed at a female audience. In a related piece, Amanda gives a great introduction to otome games, starting with the origins of the genre, on her own blog. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re new to the genre!
Finally, Kerry Brunskill, aka Kimimi, wrote a very interesting piece for Push Square regarding her feelings playing Mōjūtsukai to Ōjisama and how nice it felt to be catered towards as a female gamer for once. I definitely would like to see more posts like this that explore how playing dating sims (and romance sims, visual novels, etc. etc.) make people feel!
“As someone’s who’s trained herself to sharp-elbow her way into a hobby that can be unwelcoming and in some cases downright threatening to anyone that’s not part of the perceived ‘norm’, it’s a strangely novel feeling to come across a series that’s actively pursuing me as a consumer.” – Kerry Brunskill, Soapbox: How a Niche PS Vita Exclusive Made Me Feel Wanted
As always, I’m sorry I can’t include every tweet or forum post! If I’ve missed your article, though, please let me know and I’ll be sure to include it in the next one. For future Community Game-Alongs, I may stick to a bi-monthly roundup schedule, as keeping to weekly roundups proved a little too tall of an order for me. But if you have a preference, please let me know so I can consider it for next month! Also, it may seem early, but I’m already starting to think about next month’s theme, so feel free to shoot me any theme ideas. But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s be sure to end Dating Sim Month with a bang!