Recently, I’ve been getting back to my otome game roots. However, I find it difficult to recommend most of them here because they can be very hard to get your hands on legally. Lately, though, indie devs seem to be trying their hand more and more at these visual novels/dating sims. And while we get some truly atrocious ones, sometimes a treasure like Cupid is made and everything in the world seems right again.
(Trigger warning for written depiction of self-harm in video.)
FERVENT studios has consistently received positive reviews across the board for their flagship game, Cupid, released on Steam last month (and released independently back in 2015). Cupid takes place in 18th century France and follows the story of Rosa, a child who seems to be cursed with both an uncanny ability to make men fall in lust with her and a mysterious caretaker who leads her through her decisions. Rosa eventually befriends a woman named Catherine, who is the betrothed of the Marquis Guilleme. Unfortunately, it is not too long after that Catherine dies—and both Rosa and “Mother” believe that the Marquis is to blame. Rosa must then discover what the Marquis has been up to and what he really is, and given the game’s four normal endings (and one secret one), Guilleme is not the only one who has been up to something.
What really sets Cupid apart from other visual novels is that the player doesn’t end up controlling the protagonist. Instead, players take on the role of “Mother”, a mysterious, condescending figure who offers her opinion at various points in the game. More interesting, though, is that it seems as though the characters can begin to question, or even disagree with, what “Mother” tells them to do.
Furthermore, Cupid is devoted to its darker themes. FERVENT was kind enough to add a gore filter, for those who aren’t really into seeing blood everywhere, but even beyond that the summary for the game makes it seem like the goal is to murder the Marquis and ends with the ominous line of “But will [Rosa’s] own dark desires consume her or liberate her?” Upon reading other non-spoilery reviews of this game, it seems like the character of “Mother” deserves her own trigger warning. Just from seeing the introduction, I can see why. “Mother” is easily one of the most manipulative, potentially cruel characters in the entire game. Even the kinder options the player is given at the beginning have “Mother” belittling Rosa for her choices—and at this point Rosa seems to be barely a teenager. I can very easily see how this could cause a lot of anxiety or panic if you weren’t expecting it, and I can only imagine “Mother’s” reactions become more toxic as the game continues.
FERVENT struck gold with Cupid and I’m excited to give the game a shot in the future, though it’s a far cry from the typical gooey-lovey otome games that I love. If the game has caught your interest, but you’re worried about price, fear not! On their itch.io, FERVENT is offering the game at a very lovely “name your price” deal, so even without money or Steam, you can give Cupid a shot (although supporting your local indie devs is always a kind thing to do). And, of course, you can still download it on Steam for free if you’re about that achievement lifestyle. FERVENT isn’t calling it quits here, though: make sure to keep up to date with their newest projects (their visual novel in the works seems to be about the consequences of wishes, and I’m here for that 100%) at their dev blog, or follow them at their Twitter!