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Published March 21, 2014

Well, welcome back everyone to You Asked For It: a feature on the site that is roughly equivalent to downloading a semester’s worth of World Literature 101 directly into your brain. So far in the history of this small column we have made it infamous. We were blamed for the failure of the Jacob’s Island Kickstarter AND demonized by an entire fandom for deriding the porcelain dolls called a cast in Starswirl Academy. But, despite my clever and acerbic wit, I do want to say for the record that this feature isn’t about mocking works in progress…despite the fact that I often mock works in progress. No, this is about a higher calling that will be put on display today as we dig into the festering, Technicolor underbelly that is Otome.

Seduce Me has already been successfully crowd-funded and is currently sitting on $8,236: more than double what the creative team asked for in backing. So, I think we should start with congratulations! No, seriously; we should all congratulate Seraphim Entertainment. Crowd-funding is far from a simple endeavor and to get over double of your requested budget means that they managed to connect with an audience that has no problem investing in their dreams. That is an accomplishment and we here at VNs Now celebrate accomplishments. So, good job guys!

Oh I see it on your faces: you’re waiting for the Hammer to drop. Relax! Anyway with a demo now released, it was only a matter of time before someone suggested this title to me and, lo and behold, in the most recent news update someone did suggest I play this very demo. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t planning on ripping this one a new one. I mean, c’mon: a teenage girl stuck in a house with a bunch of sex demons? The jokes write themselves on that one.

But first and foremost, as a servant of the people and a champion of good standards, I feel it is my duty to at least pretend this isn’t going to be the bloodbath everyone in the otome faithful are assuming it will be. So I played the demo and, ironically, had a good deal of fun with it. The question isn’t whether it is bad or good though, but rather if there is anything I can say that’ll make it better. Surprisingly, I did come up with a small list of notes I took while playing the demo.

So, join me as we discuss why this doesn’t exactly suck, but still has a LOOOOOONG way to go before living up to its investment.

Seduce Me follows a nameable Protagonist who is plain and ordinary in every way that every other otome protagonist kind of is. Anyway, her absurdly wealthy Grandfather dies and leaves her his estate, which her Father decides to move her into. Upon moving day she discovers five young men in the residence making quite a mess via their blood spilling onto the marble. It turns out the five are incubi: demons who have sexual intercourse with human women. However, they have their own problems with a group of ‘Misfits’ who handed them their collective bishonen asses so they decide to shack up with the Protag until they are ready to take them on again.

Let’s start with the overall tone of the game. The Protagonist is clearly supposed to be sympathized with as everyone outside of her close group of friends looks down on her, deride her or ‘abuse’ her…we’ll get to it. However, at the same time her life doesn’t automatically bring out your sympathetic side. Her group of friends is small, but it is clear that they are close. While she may not be too keen on the path she’s on in life, it’s obvious she’s never lacked for anything and grew up in a stable, happy home. So unless you’re an angsty teenager, or a part of the otome faithful, this type of Jekyll and Hyde characterization won’t resonate with you.

And while I could mock this refusal to pick a road and stick to it, I’m saving my best pipe bombs for later. It also helps that the writing in Seduce Me isn’t as broken as you might think. This is actually a classic issue with up-and-coming writers who want their audience to sympathize with the main character, but don’t know how to do it. So they make everyone around the main character unlikable, forcing the audience to sympathize with them by default. What these writers, and the writer for this game in particular, doesn’t realize is that what they’ve written is already a decent foundation for the type of drama they were shooting for.

Everyone brought pencil and paper to this class right? Good.

At the funeral for the Protagonist’s Grandfather, we come face to face with her Father who perfectly reflects what I was talking about earlier. The game makes it clear that the two have issues dating well before the Protagonist was born…although it didn’t stop them from working together at the family company. Well, now my review is going to be littered with Bronfman references…if anyone here was old enough to GET a Bronfman reference. But back to the point, Dad and Granddad never hashed it out and the old man decided that his son wouldn’t take over the company upon his death. In fact, he isn’t willed anything but the Protagonist gets the house.

Now the scene after the funeral could’ve played out many different ways, but what we get is the Protagonist needling her Dad about his broken relationship with his now deceased father. Her Father slaps her for her insolence and, makes no mistake about it, she deserved it. This is supposed to be a moment that, like I mentioned before, garners our sympathy because Daddy Dearest dared to lay a hand on his sweet, innocent child who is clearly in mourning. What a jerkface, am I right? However, even if you were and old crow like me, it would be negated in the next scene the two are together in.

The Protagonist’s Dad picks her up from school to take her to her new home and it is made clear that he loves her, even though he won’t say it. The weaknesses come in right here with the Father refusing to say that he loves her or even walk with her to the house; again in a misplaced attempt to make the audience sympathize with the Protagonist. Ironically, the way to achieve the goals of the scene would be to write it in the exact opposite way it’s written.

Walk with me on this one. Clearly both where emotional after the funeral so have them BOTH apologize for getting out of line and have them both say that they love each other. Then have them talk about the future, the weather, Breaking Bad, ANYTHING other than their Grandfather. And then when they reach the house that more than likely the Father grew up in and hasn’t seen for a very long time, have him walk into the house with her.

‘But JP that’s not angsty enough!’

No it isn’t. Angst is for pinheads. What this route does do is create sympathy for the protagonist because we have all gotten into fights with our parents. We’ve all step out of line at some point, but that doesn’t mean the parents are assholes. It just means that they have a normal relationship: one that is complex and hard to define most days. What I just laid out connects the audience and the characters, which is vital for this type of game. Instead, what we get in the demo just made me groan until my teeth rattled.

Oh, and another benefit of this route is that the Dad becomes a potential victim of demonic power. But, we’ll get to that in time.

This bleeds over to the supporting cast who are presented as shallow, but with green shoots of potential. This is especially true for the local bad girl who secretly has a crush on the Protagonist. Oops! Did I let that cat out of the bag too early? She acts like a jerk most of the time, but in the scene right before Pops arrives the Protagonist has an outburst thanks to the Mean Girl’s taunting. She demands to know exactly what the Mean Girl thinks of her, and the Mean Girl’s response is to stare at her in a way, to quote protagonist, ‘She couldn’t understand and hasn’t seen before’.

That description is manga-nese for ‘obsessive crush’ folks. So if you didn’t know, now you know.

This has some potential if, like the Protagonist’s Dad, is taken off the tracks it’s currently on. I’m not saying my suggestions will make it any more palatable or even good. The premise, in and of itself, makes it easy to fall into tropes and any proper character development can easily be shelved for what we got now. What makes that reality worse is that no one will complain about the mixture of bland and outright bad. But hopefully that segment will give the writer pause and consider a path even I haven’t thought of before reaching into the multicolor sugar to feed the fandom.

See? Wasn’t that nice? I hope you thought so because the bomb dropping starts now. Yup, it’s time to dissect the bishonen.

Bishie Bashing. If this website had a past time, this would be right up there with Saturday afternoons and Mom’s Apple Pie. While there is a lot of remove for improvement in the Protagonist and the supporting cast, the romancable cast is pretty much a lost cause. If you have seen a pretty-boy stereotype before in anime, we got it all shamelessly paraded here. Let’s see…the one in the middle is the responsible, megane older brother type, the one on the center-left is the narcissist playboy, on the center-right we have the reckless yet lovable delinquent, the last on the right is the cool, quiet type and the last on the left is the shota. I don’t even WATCH that much anime. I shouldn’t know these stereotypes!

As bad as it is, what makes it roughly ten times worse is the fact that they’re basically tofu incubi the same way Edward Cullen was a tofu vampire. See, they don’t have to have sex with someone to get their daily bread. Oh no, that can be accomplished if they hold your hand for long enough. In the demo, the popular way of ‘feeding’ is via kissing with the delinquent stealing our fair maiden’s first kiss. Whoop. So, at the end of the day you can squee over them all you want fandom! They are as harmless as a toothless Bull Mastiff!

WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHY?

Okay, everyone knows me pretty well by now right? I’m the Southern Baptist kid with the hangs up with sex in fiction? I can think of roughly fifty good reasons why there is no real need to have sex scenes in any form of fiction, unless you’re indulging either the reader or the writer. However, today I have to check my own opinion at the door and say (and I can’t believe this sentence is leaving my fingertips) that if ANY game requires unchained sexuality it’s this one. It should be Rated R just from the dialogue alone. Yet, the most this chick has to worry about is her very precious first kiss being stolen?

EVERYONE BACK TO THE CHALK BOARD!

I mentioned earlier that my imaginary (read: preferred) route in this game is if the Protagonist’s Father walks her into the house. This is because the demons are already in the house wounded and what not. So why not have them attack him and beat him down in order to get to his daughter? It deepens their relationship because she has to watch her Dad take a beating in a fight he has no hope of winning and it establishes something pretty important…

THEY. ARE. DEMONS.

Acknowledge their nature allows for much more creative freedom rather than them being super-powered kittens; which is pretty much what they are in the demo. You can experiment now with their personalities as the Protagonist is pretty much a buffet throughout the game (this is starting to sound like that otome game with the vampires) but through willpower and determination maintain equal footing.

‘Wait, what?’

Oh you slack-jawed yokels. There is no such thing as a stand-alone scene with the Great One. Adding a normal human conversation between the Father and Daughter puts Dad in the house. We put Dad in the house so that he can get beat down by demons who want his daughter to heal themselves after getting their asses handed to them. And the fact that they already wounded means that, at least within the story, they and she are on equal footing which means she can literally resist temptation. And then, once they realize she’s not going to be so easily conquered, you can commence with the plot proper; only now there is equal curiosity on both sides.

Again, I’m NOT the writer of the project and I’m not suggesting they take what I’m saying verbatim. This is just their concept without the hang-ups of the atypical otome storyline attached to it like a Remora Fish. From that imaginary point you create actual tension because it is clear that she’s their prey first and use it to shape how each demon reacts to her. From there you can build out to the larger story of them hiding out from the Misfits.

I dunno. It sounds a bit more interesting than these prats cooking her dinner after a few smooches.

Without their teeth, you’ve seen ALL of these characters before and better. Near the end of the game there is literally a roll-call moment where they all exhibit their VERY familiar tropes just in case the imprint in your frontal lobe wasn’t deep enough already. I didn’t walk into the writer’s house and demand, at gunpoint, that this world would be the one they set their game in. This was chosen by them and it’s being floundered in the name of the familiar. If this is the route they want to go with these five; so be it. But I hope my examples show that much, MUCH more can be accomplished through them than just looking for a moment to feed the faithful. And, considering recent Japanese otome titles, the faithful can handle an unsanitized environment. I’m not saying write porn, I am saying you can push the line and do MUCH more than what has been presented.

But, with all that being said, nothing can replace just how much fun I had with this demo. And when I say ‘fun’, I mean rolling on the floor, choking on manic laughter kind of fun.

Even if you’re not into Otome, this game is fun. A lot of that is due to the humor that comes up; from the shota’s inability to be cute despite his best efforts to the dialogue between the Protagonists and her friends, you cannot question that there was effort made to make this one entertaining. Oh and the funniest moment, hands down, is the Protagonist slapping the delinquent for stealing her first kiss and when given the option to stop, you can just keep hitting him while he screams in pain. Bliss I tell you: bliss.

This is all brought out thanks to an excellent voice cast who are all clearly having way too much fun voicing these characters. I mentioned that Pyrite Heart got better the minute they included voices in it and this is yet another example as to why VA work should be taken more seriously in the EVN community. Chances are that if I played the demo and only had the character voices in my head to go off of; it would’ve been a sit for the ages. But their enjoyment rubbed off on me and what could’ve been annoying instead made someone consider the natural predator of games like these a good laugh.

Everything else is pointless as nothing is finished: the sprites, background art, soundtrack, etc. But for what we get there is potential. By itself the demo is familiar territory and going down this road in the finish version will just mean a pile of unseasoned mush on top of a mountain of the stuff we already have to deal with.  But enough potential was shown where I believe this can be good. There are just a few things the team should consider moving forward:

  • Do not be afraid to show an undramatic, but complex relationship between the Protagonist and her Father. This gives her back story more interest and weight than just making him a jerk.
  • Do not be afraid of the characters you’ve created. You wanted to make the boys incubi so, for the love of God, go all out. Push the line with them but leave enough room for a potential relationship. Their true nature is what makes them interesting choices for an otome game; not their tropes.
  • You have the humor at about a 10 right now. Crank that up to 15…no it’s not just so I can slap Sam around some more.

So, for those of you hoping that I would rip this one anew; sorry. I want Seduce Me to be a decent game and I hope Seraphim find plenty of success with it. There’s simply no reason why this has to be just another otome game and I hope the team takes that to heart. Check it out if you haven’t and given the creators some constructive feedback as they continue development.

But my friends, we’re not done yet! While preparing this I was approached by another creative team asking for a review of their demo. So keep those belts bulked and remain in an upright position, because the YAFI train is about to speed up. JP3: OUT.