Ah Otome, we meet again. I mention this everytime I cover an otome game, but new readers don’t know of the old dust-ups otome fans and I got into when this site first started. That’s right: that is where it all started for VNs Now. So whenever we do discuss otome again, it’s always a bit of a nostalgia bomb for yours truly. And NaNoRenO is always a reliable infusion of otome in the year. So, where do we begin? Ah yes: a story of long-lost love and another that celebrates everything that makes otome…Otome. You’ll see.
Are both VNs all set? Ready? GO!
In my time as a reviewer, I have had my share of light-hearted jabs at otome games and the otome faithful. There were times where those jabs turned into bare-knuckle brawling, however it was always fun to point out some of the tried and true tropes that keeps the subgenre moving forward: wistful maidens, charming love interests and the inevitable root canal that you’ll need after swallowing that much technicolor saccharine. However, it’s always nice to someone parody the subgenre without the bite that yours truly can bring to the table. It makes a Hell of a difference and misSHAPEn Love shows that clearly.
The setup is simple enough: a young woman is bored in one of her classes and starts daydreaming ridiculous otome scenarios using geometric shapes. The two (arguably) most popular otome tropes are here: the tsundere and stoic intellectual along with a GxG route. The game benefits a great deal by simply embracing the insanity of its premise and squeezing as many otome jokes out of it as possible. And yet, those jokes never feel like they come from a place of cynicism or contempt, but rather from someone who enjoys them while also appreciating the absurdity of them.
More importantly than that, the protagonist is probably the most relatable EVN protagonist I’ve ever read. As much as I like Hoodie, Kangai, Rosa and Madeleine Valois, there is no situation in reality where I can physically be in their shoes. I’ve physically and mentally been in this girl’s shoes because there have been thousands of times where I was in the middle of something boring and started writing a story in my head to pass the time. Considering this is me we’re talking about they all eventually took at GRRM route and got a little bloody, but beyond that it’s an experience most people reading this game can relate to. Capturing the absurdity and fun of it is an excellent bit of work and made the entire game a delight to play through
I don’t like using ‘cute’ or ‘fun’ as synonyms for ‘good’, but I’m making an exception here because it takes cute and fun and actually makes them into a good story. And all the writer had to do was make a few tsundere jokes and lean on the fourth wall a little. Who knew?
Sweet and Spices
Sweet and Spices is a bit more traditional and follows a young man who was recently hired to work in a bakery. Throughout the main character’s employ, he has the opportunity to interact with the owner, Miera, and learn more about her and her long lost friend. I may have spoiled the entire game just that fast now that I look at it; although only hardcore romance game fans will put two and two together. But to be fair to all of us, there are no real surprises in this one as it paints strictly within the lines.
Every time you go to work, you’re given options that will lead to a separate ending. The writing is on the wall pretty much immediately as far as plot revelations go. However, because this one is so short, the rationale tying together the story’s logic is paper thin. The only thing that really stood out here is the voice acting for Miera which, considering the material, wasn’t terrible. But it’s hard to properly gauge what can be taken away from this and used for personal growth. It’s far too ‘paint by numbers’ if that makes any sense, and the developer will have to either try a longer story or something a little more out of box before we really know what work actually represents them and not just the romantic subgenre.
I really wish I had more to say, but there really isn’t more to the game than that. It’s passible in a stretch and complete (which is more than I can say for some), but hardly memorable.
No contest here, misSHAPEn Love just hits all of the right buttons. It’s a parody done right of one of the best subgenres in the world to riff on backed by an honest, but sharp sense of humor. Hopefully in the future we’ll see more from S&S’s developer, but for now shape otome moves on.
Editor’s Note here. As you can obviously tell, I didn’t even come close to my goal of playing all NaNoRenO games in a month. However, I will continue to cover the NaNo releases for this year in this format until it gets done. It’ll be mixed into the regular reviewing schedule and when it’s over, those two reviews will go on as well. I apologize for the inconvenience and there’s nothing left to do but keep playing ‘em.