Squeals of delight were heard far and wide when Aksys Games stealthily announced on Valentine’s Day that they would be localizing Sweet Fuse: At Your Side, one of the many otome games on the PSP. The game, which is scheduled to debut in North America this summer, marks the second otome game the company has brought over, with the first being the Edo-period fantasy visual novel Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom.
Though traditionally otome games, or games focused around romance aimed at a female audience, have caught a lot of flack for being unmarketable outside of Japan, Hakuoki proved successful enough for Aksys to localize a spin-off title within the same series, Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi.
As an avid otome game fan for many years, I can personally guarantee to Aksys or any publisher so bold as to attempt to acquire an otome game license that any of the following picks would be perfect for the blossoming English otome game market, so start taking notes. Localization gods be kind, we may even see some of these in English someday!
Alice in the Country of Hearts~Wonderful Wonder World~
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom was a perfect choice due to its large fanbase and manga and anime adaptations, providing multiple opportunities for the franchise’s expansion. Since the manga version of Alice in the Country of Hearts has already been published in English, it goes without saying that there is already market for the colorful otome game series. Based heavily on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the game features a strong-willed heroine, humorous and often delightfully suggestive scenarios, and, of course, plenty of eye candy.
Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ Repeat or Starry Sky (series)
Everyone needs a good dose of adorable fluff, and the Starry Sky series and Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ Repeat have fluff in spades. There’s no denying that both have stellar visuals, with gorgeous casts of men to choose from – between Starry Sky‘s four games, there are a whopping twelve men available to romance. Both take place in high school settings, but Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ Repeat features a special school for performing arts. Since the game centers around music, there are even a handful of rhythm mini-games, which are perfect for those who like their otome games to be more than just reading with the occasional “A or B?” decision thrown in.
Starry Sky, on the other hand, follows the first girl to ever be admitted to a former all-boys school specializing in astronomy. While the four games, categorized by seasons, are straightforward visual novels, the series excels in the wide variety of different male suitors, each based off a different astrological sign. The series is popular with otome fans for its star-studded cast of voice actors and appealing cast of characters.
Harukanaru toki no naka de 3 or 4
Harukanaru toki no naka de may be a mouthful, but it’s considered by many to be one of the best otome game series of all time. The games set themselves apart by combining RPG-like gameplay that has players fighting battles to raise their stats with the different characters, along with traditional visual novel-like dialogue sequences. Fans of the Fushigi Yuugi anime and manga might find the premise eerily familiar: girl and friends get transported to fantasy world, girl becomes priestess to destroy evil threat, legion of hot male protectors flock to her side. Sounds like the perfect premise for romantic bonding, no? While Harukanaru toki no naka de 3 is often regarded as the pinacle of the series, the more recent 4 has a slightly flashier presentation that might prove more appealing to a western audience. And, like Alice in the Country of Hearts, this series already has a manga translated into English.
Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side 3rd Story
Tied with Harukanaru toki no naka de in the “Best Otome Games Ever” awards is the Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side series by none other than Konami. Tokimeki Memorial is generally credited as being the first dating simulator game, and as the name suggests, Girl’s Side is a spinoff series aimed at a female audience. The series features the most “gameplay” out of all the picks mentioned, as it incorporates a stat-raising system that forces players to micro-manage how they spend their time in order to raise the appropriate stats to appeal to the boy of their dreams, a format typical to dating sims. With high-quality graphics, audio, and a huge variety of situational dialogue, Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side 3rd Story is both the latest and most polished in the series. There’s even a “love triangle” feature that can lead to some very interesting scenarios…
Gekka Ryouran Romance
Finally, for something a little different, we have Gekka Ryouran Romance. This may seem like yet another PSP otome game, but it has a dark side: protagonist Nazuna has been enrolled in a boarding school and unintentionally gets caught up in the “Forbidden Dates Club,” where beautiful, talented students get their kicks from seducing fellow classmates. Unlike many otome games, each character has both “forbidden love” and “pure love” paths for each romantic partner, giving players the power to choose what kind of story will unfold. Gekka Ryouran Romance not only gets points for this unique system, but also for its stylized art, dark atmosphere, and one very rare option: the ability to pursue a female character as a potential romantic interest.