The magic academy-themed yuri visual novel Perfect Gold: The Alchemy of Happiness is the third game by the Philippines-based indie studio YangYang Mobile, and the Nintendo Switch and iOS/Android ports have just been released just in time for Pride Month. As a short and sweet romance with gorgeous visuals, I couldn’t resist checking it out!
I’ve been following YangYang Mobile’s titles since their first release, The Letter, a horror visual novel. Their second title, Love Esquire, is a romantic comedy dating sim with RPG elements with a clear bishojo influence. It’s really fascinating to see their trajectory (they currently have a new horror title, Saint Maker, coming out later this year), but I was admittedly a little apprehensive about how a company without any yuri titles in their lineup might handle the subject matter.
A lot of properties have gotten the Warriors treatment, from The Legend of Zelda to One Piece, but Touken Ranbu might be one of the best-suited series for the Warriors format from the premise alone. Originally a free-to-play browser game released in 2015, Touken Ranbu features a huge cast of anthropomorphic historical swords in the form of handsome men designed by various artists. Since then, it’s become immensely popular, particularly in Japan, and has multiple adaptations in the form of anime, manga, stage plays, and even a live-action film. There is now also a mobile version, as well as an English localization of the game that was released in 2021.
The premise of Touken Ranbu is that the Touken Danshi (“swordsmen”) are elite fighters sworn to protect history from the History Retrograde Army, who are threatening to change the course of history by going back and time and interfering with significant battles and historical events to further their own goals. Players of the browser/mobile game take on the role of the Saniwa (“master”) to manage and deploy the various Touken Danshi on missions to protect the timeline – and, of course, create new Touken Danshi as they’re added to the game through the gacha mechanic.
While the source material has limited gameplay that is mostly automated, it’s easy to see how a bunch of sword boys fighting forces that are trying to change history makes for a natural fit for the “1-on-1000” action format of Koei Tecmo’s Warriors games. Of course, Warriors developers Omega Force are behind Touken Ranbu Warriors, but Ruby Party, Koei Tecmo’s team best known for their otome game titles, also assisted with this release. That effectively makes it the first Ruby Party game to come out in English for PC and Nintendo Switch!
It’s not often I pick up a game based solely on a tweet, or find myself so enthralled by a game that I need to review it just to see more people talking about it, but here we are! Garage: Bad Dream Adventure came out on iOS and Android for the first time in English on December 16, 2021, and despite being an obscure Japanese video game with a unique, unsettling vibe, I’d never heard about it before my Twitter friend @furnuss posted about the release. (Update: As of July 2022, it is also available on PC!)
Immediately intrigued, I read up on the original game from 1999 and its journey to finally being released in English and knew I had to check it out. Since there seems to be very little talk about this exciting release, I had to share the news and my thoughts after fully completing the game!
Olympia Soiréeis the latest in Aksys Games’ lineup of localized otome games from Japanese publisher Otomate, and it comes with an extremely high pedigree. Featuring art from acclaimed otome game artist Satoi (Diabolik Lovers, Ozmafia!!, Nil Admirari), a team including Nil Admiari‘s director Tanabe Wataru and scenario writer Yuma Katagiri, and an all-star cast of voice actors and a compelling fantasy narrative, it’s no wonder this release came with a lot of fanfare!
In Olympia Soirée, you play as Olympia, a young woman who is the last remaining survivor of her clan, and as a result, is the sole bearer of her clan’s duty to perform a ritual dance to keep the sun shining on the world. On her 18th birthday, she is finally able to enter society as a woman of marriageable age. However, the world is governed by a strict class structure, where people of different color clans are segregated and treated differently based on the color they are born into, with “colorless” people and criminals who break the class rules relegated to the underground world of Yomi.
My Dear Frankenstein is the latest English localization from Moonchime Studios, arriving just in time for spooky season. Developed by Japanese indie team Number7, this point-and-click adventure visual novel features a gothic tale inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and is available for PC and Mac as a digital download for $4.99 USD. If you’re looking for an atmospheric adventure game that deals with some dark themes without scares, this quaint game is the perfect Halloween romp.
Neko Works, creators of the popular NEKOPARA series of visual novels about cute catgirls in cafes, made more than a few catboy fans very excited and then extremely disappointed back in 2019 when they revealed NEKOPARA – Catboys Paradise as an April Fool’s joke. But two years later, in a surprising turn of events, Neko Works announced that they were making the game “for real” due to fan interest! The free game was released today and I’ve had the pleasure to play through all the routes. I’m happy to report that it is indeed very cute and earnest, showing that Neko Works can cater to catboy as well as catgirl lovers.
In NEKOPARA – Catboys Paradise, you’re a young adult woman who has taken over running her late grandfather’s cafe (sound familiar?). To help you run the cafe are four live-in catboy employees who apparently go to school to learn how to be good catboys and prepare for a life of being owned by a human. In terms of story, it’s pretty rudimentary and really just a setting for you to watch cute interactions with the characters, as the game can be completed in 2 or so hours, depending on your reading speed. But despite this, I found myself surprisingly charmed by the four different characters and was really happy to find Catboys Paradise to be an earnest, polished experience despite its origins as an April Fool’s joke.
Of the four characters, I most enjoyed the route for “rare” male calico Dill, who loves fashion and makeup and is the “younger brother” type of the group. Fennel, the glasses-wearing butler-like cat who enjoys things like reading and Japanese history, was also a highlight. Each character has two CGs, and the routes involve getting to know them better as you and your employees learn the ins and outs of running a business on the fly. None of the routes have any real closure to them, but instead act as introductions to the world and characters, making the game feel almost like the prologue chapter of an otome game. Even so, the writing (with a solid English translation!), art, and voice acting were all so charming that I didn’t mind playing through the equivalent of a video game candy bar (short and sweet!).
Catboys Paradise doesn’t have any player choices outside of which character’s route to read through, but it includes a fun variety of reactions from the player’s perspective such as nodding in response to things the characters say. But since the experience is free and so short, I’ll refrain from saying much more and encourage you to go check it out for yourself on PC, iOS or Android. Keep in mind that unlike the NEKOPARA games, which have adult content, this game is a completely PG experience.
I hope that NEKOPARA – Catboys Paradise does well for Neko Works and encourages them to do more content with male characters in the future! If they keep up this level of polish, they have the potential to make some really enjoyable titles.
MARS RED is a multimedia vampire narrative set in Taisho Era Japan originally conceived as a stage play by Bun-O Fujisawa performed in 2015. The story focuses on a secret vampire military unit of vampire hunters known as Code Zero and is currently in a rather delayed renaissance with the release of a manga in 2020, followed by an anime and a video game adaptation released in English for mobile phones on May 20, 2021. The game, titled MARS RED: Edge of the Nightmare, features an all-new storyline written by Bun-O Fujisawa and stars a character absent from the anime named Yatsufusa Yuki.