By Benny Carrillo / January 16th, 2017
Otome: More than Just a Girl’s Romance
Otome novels generally revolve around a female protagonist and their efforts to fall in love with one of the several eligible bachelors. The word otome”itself roughly translates to “maiden” so, in essence, you can call these “Maiden Novels”. That said, don’t think that these are all just romance fests or the Visual Novel equivalent of a “chick flick”. If you’re a RPG fan, you probably tend to really care about how characters are portrayed and their individual struggles. It’s the characterization over plot approach that many RPG fans like. Otome novels are like this for romantic relationships. There’s a lot of thought and depth put into how the characters interact with each other and the thoughts and feelings of the female protagonist. If that’s the case, however, why aren’t these types of games more popular?
The first reason is that they are still Visual Novels. While Visual Novels have been gaining traction here in the West, the genre is still far from hitting mainstream acceptance among niche gamers, even though many niche games take elements from the genre. The second reason, I think, has to do with the fact that you’re a female protagonist trying to romance a male character. This concept tends to turn away a lot of male gamers, unfortunately. I can certainly understand it being difficult for heterosexual male players to wrap their heads around, as I once was in that position. Even if you are playing a female character, you are actively pursuing a male. It can feel a little awkward at first, but that’s where I think a good premise can help break through that. A good example is the first Otome Novel I played, Sweet Fuse: At Your Side
Sweet Fuse’s premise is kind of insane. You play as Saki Inafune who is attending the grand opening of her uncle’s video game-themed amusement park. During the opening, however, a man in a pig costume, Count Hogstein, takes over the park and holds several people hostage, including your uncle. Saki, along with six males, is tasked with playing a series of games throughout the park in order to save the others. Oh, and the kicker to all this? Your uncle is Keiji Inafune; yes, the famed game developer. With a premise like that, I couldn’t say no and eagerly picked it up. And it was very fun. I enjoyed the characters, the plot, and the relationships that we’re built. While apprehensive at first, I came to see that it was just a standard romance from another angle. That said, do these games need male players in order to be successful? Well no, obviously. A game being awesome is completely separate from who plays it. However, you also need to think of this from a business standpoint.
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