Hey Hey Heroes, Travelers, and Wandering NPCs, it’s been a while since the last Beginners Guide post, life kind of got in the way of my blogging for a bit, but, I’m going to make an effort to revive this blog if it’s the last thing I do! *ahem*
This is the second A Beginners Guide to Otome Games post, if you’re a newbie to the Otome Games fandom, I highly suggest taking a look at the first post, What Are Otome Games?! for a general overview of Otome Games, from common terminology to gameplay. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between an ‘otome game’ and an ‘otoge’ was (hint, they’re the same thing) or don’t know the difference between CGs and sprites, this is the post series for you!!
In these posts, I’ll give you guys a crash course on all things otome games, but, in a way that is easy to understand for folks unfamiliar with the genre. So, if you’ve been curious about otome games, but didn’t know where to start or who to ask, this is the place for you! This series is for you guys, so at the end of each Beginners Guide post I’ll have a poll where you, the reader, can vote on the next topic I cover! Last post, you guys voted and I listened, so for Part 2, I’m going to cover Types of Otome Games!
Like last time, if there is something in this post that you think should be expanded or needs more clarification, please let me know and I will update this post accordingly!
A Short Recap: What is an Otome Game?!
So we covered this in part one, but, it’s important enough to warrant repeating and who doesn’t love a good refresher course every now and again? So, for those of you just joining us, I highly recommend checking out Part 1 first, if you want a more “in-depth” look at otome games in general.
For everyone else, we know that Otome Game (乙女ゲーム lit. otome gemu) is a Japanese term used to describe a series of story based games targeted primarily towards women. Usually, the term “otome” is used as an umbrella term to refer to the more traditional reverse harem styled video games where the main objective is to romance various love interests. These games can cover a wide range of topics and take place in various unique settings/time periods, but they all generally share the same romance themed narrative.
And if you’ll remember from part one there are quite a few terms used to describe otome games, but for the purposes of this particular post, when referring to the genre as a whole, I’ll stick to either otome games or otoge (shorthand for “otome gemu”, OTOme GEmu).
Types of Otome Games
As I mentioned earlier, the term otome game is an umbrella term for all female oriented story based games, but even that can be broken down further. Just like with anything else otome games fall into different categories and sub-genres based on several factors, typically gameplay style and/or subject matter. However, not all games within a given sub-genre or category will be considered an otome game (similar to the squares and rectangles argument). So, what are these categories? What are the types of otome games?
Well, to keep things simple, I’m not going to go into the various genre categories (ie Supernatural, Historical, Slice of Life), because those exist within just about every form of media and most folks are familiar enough with the nuances of those already. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to define the various types of otome games by their gameplay styles/content and platform, since that is what people typically use to differentiate between games anyway.
First up are the visual novels (or VNs for short). Technically, otome games are an offshoot of visual novels, as they are defined as any interactive story driven game that features visuals (static images, graphics, and occasionally animated elements) to help tell a cohesive narrative. They can have romantic subplots, but, it’s not a requirement. So while most otome games are visual novels, not all visual novels will be considered otome games.
Visual Novels involve very little in terms of gameplay, with a majority of the player’s in game actions boiling down to clicking (or tapping) through text while making choices to advance the plot. VNs are known for their branching plotlines and varying story outcomes, which are determined by the player’s in-game decisions and responses to multiple choice questions that appear at varying intervals throughout the game.
In recent years, VNs have taken to incorporating elements from other gaming genres, such as RPGs and Adventure games to supplement the traditional novel based story elements and add even more player interactions.
Example of Visual Novels:
- Hakuoki- Kyoto Winds – a historical romance otome game, the majority of gameplay consists of reading through text and making in game decisions that effect the overall outcome/ romantic progression of the MC.
Example of RPG Based Visual Novels:
- Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ – a sci-fi/fantasy otome, with a simplified turn based RPG battle system in which players can “fight” against in game monsters and opponents.
Example of Adventure Game Based Visual Novels:
- Sweet Fuse~ At Your Side~ – a romance mystery with elements of adventure games, featuring several interactive puzzles for players to solve.
Kinetic Novels are very similar to visual novels, except they DO NOT feature any interactive story elements or involve any of the decision making prevalent in other visual novels. Note, that kinetic novels are generally shorter than other visual novels as their storylines lack the branching plotlines and multiple endings/outcomes available in other visual novels. The focus of these games is placed on the story telling, so overall Kinetic Novels tend to have a more cohesive narrative with a well defined beginning, middle, and end.
Example of a Kinetic Novel:
- Sweetest Monster – an indie supernatural horror kinetic novel developed by Ebi-Hime.
- Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet – is a post-apocalyptic kinetic novel developed by Key.
Stats Raiser/ Stats Based
These games are a bit more intensive than normal visual novels, as they require varying degrees of stats raising in addition to in game decision making for players to obtain desired endings/outcomes. While the mechanics of the stats raising elements can vary in complexity and difficulty from game to game, most stats raising games require players to perform specific tasks/actions in order to build stats specific to a particular character, game outcome, or ending. These stats can be any number of things, but generally involve some form of personality trait or skill. Some are specific to determining the personality of the players’ in-game avatar character, while other times stats solely exist for the purpose of building a relationship with a love interest.
For example if a particular love interest is studious, the player may be required to study in the library or spend time doing homework to build an academic stat. Doing either of those tasks will increase said stat, while failing to do so will result in not obtaining the stat or in some cases decreasing existing stats points.
Stats can make or break which ending you achieve, so games usually make it clear at the start which stats are necessary for which in-game outcomes and what the minimum stats requirements are to achieve each desired outcome.
Examples of a Stats Raising Games:
- Brother’s Conflict – Passion Pink & Brilliant Blue – are a pair of slice-of-life otome game developed by Otomate, that features elements of both a stats raiser and a life simulator, with players being tasked with raising stats for love interests and the player character in addition to planning dates and attending school.
- Always Remember Me (OELVN)– is an English VN that features an extensive stats raising element. Each love interest has a primary stat and a secondary stat that must be raised to a certain level to obtain the “Best/True” endings of each route.
Life Simulator/Dating Simulator
These are very similar to the previously mentioned stats raising games and sometimes they are often used interchangeably, However, life simulators are a bit more intensive than your run of the mill stats raising game as they give players full control over all aspects of their in-game avatar’s life and activities. From school to work to friendships, and even romance, the power is in your hands!
While, dating sims take players through the intricacies of dating, from the first meeting all the way to the wedding or in some cases, long after that. Players craft each minute detail of their 2D romance experience. So, think Sims, but with an endgame of getting with someone special at the end of the game.
Examples of a Life Simulator/Dating Sim Games:
- Storm Lover series– is an intensive high school romance life simulator otome game that allows players to control every aspect of their player characters personal and school related activities. In addition to personal stats, players must also earn affection points with each of the available love interests, but unlike other otome games, players have the option of switching between love interests at any time.
Also known as Fan Discs or FDs, are supplemental content released to supplement an existing game. FDs can feature additional storylines, CGs, music, minigames, etc; anything that expands on an existing game title.
Examples of Fandiscs:
- Amnesia- Later– takes place after the events of the first game and follows the continued romance between the MC and her chosen love interests. There are also additional romance options and events.
- Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~– takes place after the events of the first game and follows the continued romance between Cardia and her chosen love interests. There are also additional romance options and players can revisit past events from the perspectives of different characters.
English Otome/Indie Game/Doujin Games
English Otome Games are otome games that were created by non-Japanese independent or commercial game developers for western audiences. They follow the same framework of traditional otome games with an in game player character romancing several love interest, however, these games typically cover more diverse plotlines and characters, while focusing on more westernized themes and subject matter. Also as the name suggests, these games are usually available in English (some also offer other languages).
Doujin games are just fan games created by amateur creators, usually, they’re based on existing media (ie. anime, novels, film, etc) with a wholly original premise or story. However, some doujins are entirely original creations.
Example of English Otome Games:
- Mystic Destinies: Serendipity of Aeons– is a supernatural fantasy OELVN from Aeon Dream Studios.
- Cinderella Phenomenon– is a fantasy romance OELVN by Dicesuki that borrows elements from popular fairytales.
Example of a Doujin Game:
Higurashi When They Cry– is a murder mystery doujin game.
R18 / 18+ / Eroge
It’s all in the name with this one. These games feature more mature plotlines and characters, including, but not limited to, sexual situations and/or images. 18+ games typically feature sexual situations between the players’ in game character and the various love interests. The main draw are the in game CGs which feature characters in said sexual situations, due to this fact, these games are intended for mature audience.
At face value these are porn games, with some being little more than smut with (or without) plot, while others use the sexual situations to enhance the romantic aspects of the gameplay. Some games offer censored and uncensored game content.
Examples of R18/18+/Eroge Games:
- The Bell Chimes for Gold– Features mature themes and extensive sexual scenes between the MC and her chosen love interests.
Mobile Games (Mobage)
Quite simply these are games you play on your mobile device, be that a cellular phone or a tablet. While most of these games feature the same elements you’d find in other otome games, many have been modified to work with the mechanics of a mobile device (ie. tapping instead of clicking or pressing a button).
There are several types of mobile games from rhythm games to ticket based free to play games to standard pay to play games. Each comes with their own mechanics that have been adapted to work with the limited gameplay abilities of mobile devices. Some games were built specifically for use on mobile devices, while others are merely ports of existing console and PC games.
Examples of Mobile Game Otome Developers:
- NTT Solmare offers both paid and free-to-play/freemium games and their popular Shall We Date mobile game series which features a wide range of romance stories, characters and settings.
- Voltage Inc. offers both paid and free-to-play/freemium games, though they currently favor paid mobile games and their new portal app Love 365.
So, I decided to lump these two together because Steam is just an online (some games are available offline) gaming platform. So while technically Steam games are still just PC games, not all PC games are Steam games (think squares and rectangles). They’re different, but not different enough to warrant a separate section for each.
PC Games are any games you play on a computer, be that a laptop, desktop, or one of those minis. You can either play these games online or download them directly onto your computer for offline play (sans internet). PC games are also available digitally or as hard copies (ie CDs). Typically these games rely heavily on the user’s keyboard and mouse for gameplay, but, some just require a mouse for clicking through dialogue and/or making choices.
Steam is a free digital gaming platform developed by Valve which offers a wide range of gaming and social activities, included but not limited to: multiplayer & single-player gaming, video streaming, and social networking. There are a wide range of games available on Steam for gamers to enjoy, from indie games to ports of console games. While the platform itself is free, some of the games are commercial releases and must be purchased and installed. Steam games are played through the Steam platform, but can be played in offline mode. Additional features are also included to help promote networking between gamers, such as chats and forums.
Examples of PC Games:
- Dandelion~Wishes Brought to You~– is a Korean fantasy romance visual novel by Cheritz. The was available exclusively for PC (Windows, Mac, and Linux), but has since been released through Steam.
- Seduce Me– is an indie supernatural romance OELVN.
Last, but certainly not least are the Console Games. So, the long and short of it is, if you play your game on a console, (ie. PS4, XBox One, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS, etc), then your game is a console game. Simple enough. Any game that requires a console to play it (digital or physical) is a console game!
Typically otome games are released primarily on handheld gaming systems (ie. PS Vita or Nintendo DS/3DS), however, more titles are being released for the PS4 and there have been a few mentions of a jump to the new Nintendo Switch system in the near future.
Examples of Console Games:
- Norn9: Var Commons– released on PS Vita
- Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi– released on Nintendo 3DS
- Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~– released for PS Vita and Playstation 4
In this post I covered the most common types of otome games, rather than going by genre, I broke otome games down into two distinct categories: Gameplay Based and Platform Based.
In the Gameplay Based category I talked about the different types of otome games based on their gameplay features, from the more traditional Visual Novels to the much more immersive life simulators and everything in between. While, in the Platform Based category I highlighted the most common otome game platforms, however, I want to note that many of the newer game releases are available on multiple platforms. I even threw in a few examples with links, so you can check out the games and explore the differences between types on your own.
As always, this is just an overview, there’s loads more about otome games I didn’t really go into, but if I put it all in one post, it’d be a bit overwhelming. But, fear not, I’ll be releasing more of these Beginners Guides to Otome Games fairly regularly on specific aspects of otome games and their associated media. So, if there is a topic you want me to cover, please feel free to let me know (either in the comments section, the contact page, or drop me a line on Twitter) and I’ll make sure to write something up!
As of right now, I have three potential topics for Part 3 of the Beginners Guide to Otome Games, and while I could just pick a topic and be done with it, I want to add a bit more reader engagement… so, vote in the poll below and the topic with the most votes will be the next topic I cover! Also, if there is something in this post that you think should be expanded or needs more clarification, please let me know and I will update this post accordingly!
Welp, that’s all I have for you guys for now. I’m going to try and make this a regular thing, but I’m still working out the kinks with this one since it wasn’t exactly planned. So, feedback is greatly appreciated! So, I want to hear from you guys… What do you think of the new series? Have any ideas for future posts? Suggestions? Just wanna chat? Let me know down in the comments section and as always, THANK YOU GUYS FOR READING!!