Way before I discovered any of sakevisual’s titles or Amnesia: Memories, my first exposure to the visual novel genre was on sites like DeviantArt and Newgrounds. These were the grounds I would try and scour for anime dating sims. I even tried finding Naruto dating sims, something I’m still very embarrassed about. I mean, who wasn’t super into the anime show when they were 8 or 9 years old? Who didn’t have a crush on Naruto, Gaara, or Sasuke?
Anyway, my shameful past aside, I want to talk a little bit about some of the Flash dating sims that I played when I was younger, as they were the games that would introduce me to dating sims and eventually visual novels.
Before it was remade and released on Steam, Cafe Rouge was a Flash game with seven chapters. You play as Isis Black, a normal teenager living in Massachusetts. She gets a new job at the small cafe that shares a name with the game’s title. All is well and good until Isis discovers that all her co-workers are vampires. As the story unfolds, danger begins to arise as people start turning up dead. Who is the murderer, and will Isis figure out who it is before she’s the next victim?
There are a couple of issues I had with the game, and they lay with the characters and the writing. Personally, I feel like no one outside the main love interests is developed enough. They’re essentially characters that fill space on the screen. So, when some of these people get killed, you don’t really care, which is a major issue.
Isis is also a big gripe I had with this game. A complaint I have about early otome titles is that the heroine is nothing without her man. She’s a damsel in distress that needs saving because she isn’t capable of doing anything herself. This comes into play during the game’s final chapter, where you confront the murderer. It was something I ignored when I was younger, but now that I’m an adult, I can’t turn a blind eye to it.
What did I like about the game? Well, I liked the art. I was actually kind of sad to see the newer game go for a different art style and even abandon Isis’ iconic green hair. The remake’s art style is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but the old art was charming.
While I may have my issues with Cafe Rouge now, I can’t deny how much fun I had with it when I was a kid. I remember eagerly awaiting the newest chapter with bated breath. Who was the killer? What’s going on with Isis? Will Valen finally confess his feelings? When the final chapter was released, I felt, at the time, satisfied with what I got.
Wonderland Days Sim Date
NOTE: Pacthesis has taken down all her games. She regrets the games she’s made due to the harm she’s believed it has had on players. We here at VN Game Den respect her decision but have decided to keep this section in the article due to the significant impact they’ve had on flash games.
It’d be hard to talk about Flash dating sims without mentioning Pacthesis, whose games were extremely popular in the early to late 2000s. Admittedly, her games made me want to create a Flash dating sim myself. However, I quickly realized that I didn’t have the technical or art skills to make one. Now I can just hire people to do all that stuff for me!
In Wonderland Days Sim Date, which was clearly inspired by Alice in Wonderland, you play as a girl named Alice who finds her way into Wonderland. You have thirty days until you can go back to your realm. Maybe you’ll find love during that time and decide to stay in this new crazy world? Or maybe you’ll settle for your childhood friend back home who has two seconds of screentime and virtually no character? It’s really up to you!
During your time in Wonderland, you can raise your stats, work, talk to the romance interests, and go on dates with them. It’s pretty much your standard dating sim game.
Looking back at Pacthesis’ earlier works, the writing is flat and the romance CGs look awkward sometimes, like in the above image. Honestly, it looks like Alice is from an alien planet and isn’t sure how dancing works.
In terms of the characters, you have your tsundere, your shy boy, your flirt, the mysterious man, and the guy who can never stop having fun! During the thirty-day period, you get to talk to these characters and learn a bit more about them. What the player learns about these characters isn’t much, and personally, I would have preferred to see special scenes to show their development. Speaking of development, Alice doesn’t get anything. I guess since she’s supposed to be the player, whoever is playing would just fit themselves into Alice’s shoes and pretend that they’re actually in this world. It worked back then for me, but now it doesn’t,
Another Pacthesis game! Because her games took up a lot of my childhood, I thought it’d only be right to include another game of hers on this list. Star Days is Pacthesis’ latest game, and might be potentially her last game, as she’s moved onto creating a webtoon.
Star Days begins with a grieving Tara, whose childhood friend Lee has passed away from a terminal illness. Moments after he passes, Tara bumps into a couple of strange individuals, one of whom is wearing a box on his head. The two take her to a ship that’s going to the Constellations. The Constellations are where all souls who have passed away go. They hope that, in going to the Constellations, they will be able to see the ones they hold dearest to them once again and potentially bring them back to life. Of course, that doesn’t come without a cost, and it’s a huge one. Despite this, Tara hops aboard the ship in hopes of bringing Lee back to the land of the living.
I loved Star Days. You go around exploring various planets and meeting the game’s love interests, all of whom have someone they want to see again. The writing, art, and character development all have improved since Wonderland Days Sim Date. It’s really nice to see how much Pacthesis has grown since a game like Wonderland Days Sim Date to Star Days.
If you have the time, I recommend checking out Star Days. It’s not perfect, but you’ll have a fun time with it regardless.
An early work of Zeiva, who has gone on to do games like X-Note. I remember being incredibly frustrated while playing this game when I was younger, but I guess I just didn’t know what I was doing back then.
In Other Age, you play as a young princess celebrating her sixteenth birthday. Your amazing father decides that this would be the perfect day to get you a man! He presents you with a machine that will give you the man of your dreams. All you have to do is answer a few questions and the machine will select the most suitable partner from anywhere in the universe and teleport them to the castle. Yes, the machine essentially kidnaps whoever you choose, and with no other choice, they go on a date with you. It’s an odd premise, but hey, it works.
Due to how short the game is, none of the characters get developed beyond their assigned stereotypes. For example, the Demon Prince Orem is an air-headed young boy who is a waiter. I would have loved to get to know more about that, but we don’t.
Let’s move on to the positives. As the premise would suggest, this game doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and I love that. There’s this weird notion that every game needs to have a deeper meaning behind it or a story. Not every game needs to be super deep or have an intricate story as long as it’s fun. Other Age is a simple and fun game where you go on a date with someone and that’s it.
One thing that keeps this game interesting is the minigames. Most of the dates have a different minigame attached to them. In Orem’s date, you have to select the correct food or else he’ll leave. There’s a casino minigame where it’s a game of luck and you have to select the correct color. The one I had the most fun with is the murder mystery, where your date is accused of murdering someone despite him just being teleported to the castle and you being with him the entire time. It didn’t make much sense, but I had fun regardless.
Another thing I like about the game is the art. For a game that came out in 2006, the art is absolutely stunning. It was rare to see this level of quality in Flash games, let alone dating sims.
It was strange going back and playing these games. I want to say I liked them because they had cute anime boys and that was about it. Not my proudest admission, I have to say. But, no matter how well or badly these games hold up today, they hold a special place in my heart. If I didn’t play these games, I doubt I would have played any of the visual novels I’ve played up to this point. Without these games, I’m not sure if I would be a visual novel developer.