With 2022 quickly approaching, we’re looking forward to the releases that the upcoming year has to offer. Otome games are gaining more popularity with each calendar year, with companies like Idea Factory and Aksys Games localizing more and more titles. That’s not even mentioning the ton of great titles coming from indie developers. With that being said, I thought it would be nice to spotlight some of the fantastic otome games that are releasing next year from both English indies and localized higher-budget titles.
5) Peachleaf Valley: Seeds of Love
With how outstanding I thought Great Gretuski Studio’s first game, Love Spell: Written in the Stars, was, it was hard for me not to get excited for their next title, Peachleaf Valley: Seeds of Love. It raised a little over $80,000 USD on Kickstarter, reaching its base goal and all of its stretch goals, showing that others are also intrigued for what’s to come. Inspired by farming simulators such as Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons, and Stardew Valley, you play as Seraphina, who begins to live a life as a farmer in Peachleaf Valley after losing her job in the big city. Although the concept of moving to a small town or village isn’t anything new, especially given what Peachleaf Valley is influenced by, the game has eye-catching art, funny dialogue, and charming characters that players will no doubt fall for if they haven’t already after playing the demo. I’m incredibly excited to see what the full game will entail.
4) Pipe Dream
What’s intriguing about Pipe Dream is its premise. Robin, the game’s protagonist, wants to escape her mother’s shadow. Originally, upon hearing this, I thought, “Oh, maybe her mother has created something for herself, and thus Robin lives in her shadow and struggles with the idea of being better than her mother.” Boy, was I wrong! Robin’s mother is abusive. Robin is scared of her mother to the point she doesn’t want to leave the house to avoid upsetting her. It’s a scary situation and something that caught me off guard when playing the demo. Afterward, when Robin arrives at college and moves into her dorm, she’s finally able to live the life she’s always wanted by trying new things, interacting with people, and trying to balance her schoolwork on top of it all. It’s very nice to see Robin be happy, because you can tell just how much her mother holds her back in the short intro of the game.
From what I’ve played from the demo, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and I’m looking forward to more, especially when the devs promise to go beyond just the love confessions and decide to dive into the good and bad of relationships, which is something we rarely get to see in visual novels.
3) Variable Barricade
The story of Variable Barricade has our heroine, Hibari, sent by her grandfather to a villa where four incredibly handsome men also reside. Hibari’s grandfather desperately wants her to get married and fast, with the suitors doing everything in their power to win her hand in marriage. Hibari, on the other hand? She doesn’t want anything to do with this, so she refuses to fall in love with any of the men. However, considering this is an otome game, we know she’s going to fail horribly at that.
From the premise, the game’s a romcom, meaning hijinks and reality-show-level drama will most likely occur, all of which I am here for. According to a couple of Japanese reviews, Hibari is a snarky heroine, and the overall quality of the game is great, all of which is good to hear. So, I’m looking forward to the shenanigans and the cute moments that will happen in Variable Barricade when it releases in English on the Switch in February!
2) The Spanish Privateer
The Spanish Privateer follows 18-year-old Carlota, who has decided to live the free life of a pirate instead of being trapped in an arranged marriage. From the get-go, I loved Carlota. She is everything I wanted to be when I was 18: courageous and not afraid to try new things. After all, she’s abandoned all she’s known to become a pirate! Despite being surrounded by men, she’s able to handle herself, which is something I always love to see in otome games—the heroine being just as competent as her love interests.
All the love interests are likable, my favorite being Rico, who is an absolute gentleman and not the kind of man you would expect see in a crew full of pirates. But it’s very clear with him and the other love interests that there’s more to them than we get in the demo, and I’m interested in seeing how it all plays out. I’m also keen on seeing how Carlota develops, since her personality changes based on the player’s choices on whether to solve conflicts with words or fists. The Spanish Privateer is full of potential to be something great and I can’t wait to get my hands on it next year.
1) Infinite Stars
I can’t get enough of sci-fi games. As a huge fan of Mass Effect, when my eyes landed on Infinite Stars, an LGBTQIA+ romance game, I was immediately sold. While the game doesn’t fall under what we typically see an otome game, where you can only play as a female dating just men, it’s important to remember that otome titles are games targeted towards women, which from after playing, I can see being the dominant demographic for the game. The game was also tagged otome by the developer on the game’s itch.io page.
At the very start of the game, you take control of a crew, and eventually, you play your own character whose personality is shaped by your choices. You can take your relationships with most of the characters wherever you want, choosing to pursue something romantic, something platonic, or nothing at all. You can be kind to them or more authoritative. Will your character come from a lower station or high-class society? That’s all up to you. In a way, this reminded me of the character builder in Mass Effect, where you can build your backstory slightly and it will reflect in gameplay, but to a much greater extent.
My only complaint is that I wish there was more personal time to spend with some characters. Characters like Khali get a lot of screen time compared to Lochem, who is not only the commander of the ship but also the character who I kept reloading for to try and spend time with. Now, I don’t mind Khali or the other characters who got more screen time, they’re interesting and well-written, but I think it would have been nice to let other people shine for a bit.
Outside of that, a suggestion I have is for free time, where you’re shown a map of the ship. I think it would be great if character icons were shown displaying their locations, so the player can visit their favorite characters without having to rollback or reload.
Infinite Stars is episodic, meaning you’ll have to wait some time until new content is out, which can be a deterrent for some people. But with the amount of content there is in the game at the moment, I can picture that it would be enough to hold off players until the next update. The current early access build is available on itch.io.