OPINION: IFI, Otome, and Visual Novels

Monday, January 16th, 2017

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Idea Factory International | Idea Factory Logo

Idea Factory: Home of Neptune, quirky RPGs, and Otome

Back in November Idea Factory International announced that it would be bringing the latest game in the Hakuoki franchise to the west, Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds. While the West has been no stranger to the Hakuoki franchise, the previous games have been localized both by Aksys Games and Glozcus, the former handling the console and handheld releases and the latter handling the sole Western mobile release. What’s very interesting about all this to me is that this seems to indicate an interesting shift in what Idea Factory International is willing to localize. Mainly because these games have all been made by Otomate, a brand of Idea Factory in Japan. What exactly do I mean by “willing to localize”?  Why should you be excited about this even if you don’t care for Otome games, and what does this have to do with Visual Novels as a whole? I’ll do my best to answer all those questions, but first, let’s tackled what exactly Hakuoki is.

The Maiden and the Shinsengumi

Idea Factory International | Hakuoki

A familiar franchise now under new management.

In the Bakumatsu period in Japan (the end of the Edo era and end Tokugawa shogunate in Japan) a young girl is searching for her father only to be pursued by samurai. She is rescued by the Shinsengumi who, ironically enough, are also looking for said missing dad. The Shinsengumi allow her to stay with them as they continue the search and of course, romance ensues. Thus begins Hakuoki as well as one of Idea Factory’s largest franchises.

There have been five games (four published by Aksys Games, and one by Glozcus for mobile) and at least two anime adaptations that have made the journey west. However, this is the first time that Idea Factory International will be directly handling the series. This is actually quite significant as, to me, it indicates that IFI is growing healthily. Otome games or “Otoge”, sadly, are not exactly what we consider mainstream even in niche gaming. It really is some of the niche of the niche. For those of you who don’t know what an Otome novel is, let me explain.

About Benny Carrillo

A gamer since the days of the NES, this professional otaku adores Mega Man, Super Robot Wars, Yuri, Visual Novels, the Slice of Life anime genre, and of course Hyperdimension Neptunia. His mission on oprainfall is to help deliver the news straight to you.

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  • Mr0303

    Great op-ed. I generally agree with the sentiment here. I myself am not a fan of VNs, but seeing otome titles localised shows that the Japanese devs see the West as a viable market, which would lead to the localisation of many niche titles. I would’ve never guessed that IFI would localise Mary Skelter, doubly so when they stated that they won’t bring over games that they’ll have to censor, so major props to them.

  • Mr0303

    “Your uncle is Keiji Inafune” – so he’s like the creepy uncle you don’t leave alone with the kids.

  • Mr0303

    I actually have a theory why otome titles are not as popular. The overwhelmingly male core gaming demographic justifies why it would be a niche genre even within VNs, but I think that the concept of a woman chasing a man is so absurdly fantastical, that even gamers who deal with space marines and dragons on a daily basis have a hard time believing it.

  • Kazkari

    The first VN I played was Ciel Nosurge Offline, being a big Ar Tonelico fan. The thing is we’ve had VN style games in the west for years like Disgaea, Ar Tonelico, Cross Edge then Neptunia ect. Surely it was just a marketing issue now doing it sooner?

    But yeah I was abit “meh a VN it has no gameplay it’ll be boring”. But I found Ciel Nosurge wasn’t just a VN but a masterpiece in itself, it got me into other VN’s such as Amnesia, Norn9 (I prefer the anime partly because it shows the ship more),Code Realize and afew more. I’ve also since bought To Love Ru True Princess, Date A Live (they could localise this in the massive gap they’ve had between VN’s) and alot more obviously all unlocalised.

    I’d love to see more niche games get support so I’ll happily buy VN’s even if I’m not sure on them personally, I’d love to see the industry grow and have a chance of getting more games on general. Though especially Ciel though at this point KT just doesn’t care……..

    • Have you ever supported the adult VNs on PC?

    • Firion Hope

      I’d love if they did DAL, so stupid that they refuse to 🙁

  • Firion Hope

    This really didn’t need to be 5 pages long, could’ve fit it into 2.

    • Steve Baltimore

      We’ve trying out different formats. Thanks for the input we’ll try to cut them down in the future.

    • Firion Hope

      imo 3 should be the max, more than that and it start to feel like one of those top 10 lists where you have to click to see the next one.

  • Alistair

    Hmm it rather intreasting to see what otome games get the same treatment as ecchi fueled yuri games That SJWs loath.

    Most of them to my knowledge are uncensored that tells you alot doesn’t it.

  • Impractical Magic

    Excellent piece on IFI, VN, otome and the localization of otome games (and hopefully others). One thing I will say is that the Hakuouki community is thrilled! And is making a point of saying thank you. 🙂

    Hakuouki itself is a great title if you like swords, samurai, really cool history and a touch of the supernatural. Got the boys in my family interested at least in the anime and movies!