I won’t lie to you, readers: I’ve been excited to write this Web Crush for a while now. Strong as my love is for dating sims, I’ll be the first to admit that the setups usually draw from the same pool. School romances with various magical trappings; the new woman in a business where all her other co-workers are men: the tropes are familiar and comfortable, but sometimes we all need a little spice in our lives. A little something to shake things up. So today I present to you a dating sim that breaks out of the more typical shoujo romance mold and thrusts you into a world of corporate intrigue where romance may be the last thing on your mind.
You may recall earlier this year when I spoke of Mystic Messenger, the mobile dating sim game created by Korean company Cheritz that blew up in certain circles on the internet. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the game, I lamented that Jaehee’s route—the only woman on the datable cast—left off on a wholly unsatisfying note. To that effect, not too much later I recommended a fic that I hoped would soothe the pangs left by Cheritz. This time, I aim to do the same, but through a different medium. Though the fandom has quieted, if you’re like me and still eagerly, but silently, waiting for more Mystic Messenger content, I bring to you this fan-made game starring none other than the queen of the RFA: Jaehee Kang.
As opposed to many people who shared my excitement, the release of No Man’s Sky was just about everything I expected. However, what I didn’t expect was that, for me, its release would be completely overshadowed by another game. Back in July, messing around on Tumblr, I found some screencaps of a mobile dating sim and thought to myself, “what the hell, I’m not doing anything else right now,” and downloaded it. Looking back on it now, this could have been the biggest mistake of my summer, but only because Mystic Messenger is perhaps one of the most engaging dating sims, mobile or otherwise, that I’ve ever played. Three months of playing and still going strong, I figured now was about the time to write about it.
As the game itself does have a potential pay-to-play quality to it, I’ll be writing from the perspective of someone who has only done all of the character routes—not the after stories or secrets.
Spoilers for Jaehee’s route behind the cut.
Spoilers for Life Is Strange below this line.
I’ve spoken about Life Is Strange a few times on this blog before: the episodic game by Dontnod Entertainment came out January of last year. Focused on the time-travel gifted teen Max Caulfield, the game places both Max and the player in the middle of a mystery surrounding her hometown of Arcadia Bay. As interesting as the story was, and as relatable as the characters were, Life Is Strange had one major problem: killing off the main wlw ship. Okay, so technically Max didn’t have to sacrifice her best friend/girlfriend Chloe Price—the option to “save Arcadia Bay” forcing Max to accept Chloe’s inevitable death as she gets murdered—but upon choosing to stay with Chloe instead, the girls sacrifice everyone in Arcadia Bay for their love. I don’t think I’ve met anyone that didn’t agree this was a super shitty way to end Life Is Strange’s story, and an especially shitty way to handle one of the few positive wlw relationships that I can think of in a recent non-indie game. But today, have I got a solution for you!
Back in November, I spotlighted a little up and coming dating sim called Hustle Cat. Back then, the folks at Date Nighto had just met their Kickstarter goal for initial development and were on their way to distributing this fine feline troupe of characters to the masses. Falling upon some unexpected generosity, I recently had the chance to play the finished product. If I thought it looked cute before, holy shit, that was nothing compared to what I experienced. Which is to say, Date Nighto really hit it out of the park.
Mild spoilers behind the cut.
Oh my god, you guys. I’ve been waiting to bring this team and their amazing game to your attention, and now the time has come and I have no idea how to coherently put my thoughts on virtual paper in a way that isn’t me just shrieking in delight. Mirroring my descent back into the genre, the fine folk at Illus Seed recently released their first game—an otome game—that plunged me straight into feels hell and left me wishing on every star for more.
It’s not any secret that I adore visual novels, especially dating sims. Yet, at times I do find myself disappointed at the self-imposed narrative limitations that creators tend to put on the genre; namely that they’re typically very straight and tend to rely on clichés and harmful tropes. Fortunately, I’ve come across a new dating sim that seems to blast past aspects that other authors may fear to tiptoe over, in addition to bringing their audience the plot and agency we’ve come to love in this genre.