Who Would Like this Game?
Well, Niizuma is a classical dating sim: You get to max your stats to unlock either minimum requirements for a character route and/or extra dialogue. So you might need to check with a walkthrough if you wanna see everything. You’re not a school boy either, you’re a salary man who’s looking for a wife. The game goes all the way to having children and is harder on life drama than comedy. But don’t get me wrong, the drama is not much of a deal, it’s just small spicy stuff. Anyway, it’s a dating sim with little comedy, lots of romance, and a tad drama to keep it interesting.
The vocabulary used should be something you’re used to if you’re studying by JLPT standards. It’s not your usual manga vocabulary, though, it’s stuff real people need in real life. In any case, visual novels won’t get much simpler than this.
Nothing I know of.
By now, “hibiki works” stands for great visuals in my book. Their visual novels have one of the highest standard in visuals from any studios that I know of. You get the highest animation degree that I’ve seen yet. The backgrounds are great and sharp by today’s standards. However, they’re still empty as f*ck. I really hope someone will soon find a way to fill empty workplaces, streets, and cafes. It feels weirder and weirder the more aware you’re of it.
You’re the new guy in town and are starting a new job. While at it, you (you pick the protagonist’s name) figure that you could use a girlfriend, too. There’s really not much of a background. Go and get yourself a wife! That’s it.
Yuki is the daughter of a somewhat rich family and into stargazing. She’d really like to be more normal and put more time into her hobby, but her parents push her to be an honor student and to become a doctor, which she doesn’t neccessarily want to be. She’s got a rather quiet yet solemn nature to her.
Nono is an energetic girl who ran away from home to become more independent and learn enough of, errr, pastry (?) to become a pastry chef and open her own confectionery, which is her dream. And you’re there to help her achieve it.
This one’s a bit difficult. Aiko is a kindergarden teacher and, naturally, loves kids. I do know that she’s living with and is very attached to her own mother, but I don’t really understand what the big idea behind her is. So far, as a character, she seems very bland and flat to me.
There’s a fair amount of side characters, all of which are voiced, none of which have their own sprites. Your boss, your neighbor, your neighbor’s daugther, Yuki’s parents, the principal at school, Nono’s boss, and so on. So far, only Nono’s boss plays a bigger role, “she” (a trap) kind of helps you to get together with Nono, gives advice, and also helps getting her in shape for her own store.
Let’s start with the characters. Yuki is the cool beauty, Nono the energetic, proactive girl, and Aiko the motherly type. Especially Yuki and Nono get a fair amount of depth, they’ve already gotten it up to where I’ve played so far. Yuki is an honor student who’s constantly being pushed by her parents to be the best to succeed them as doctors; her brother already is. While she doesn’t particularly mind studying all the time, her shakles are so tight that she can’t pursue any of her other interests and she’s beginning to suffocate. So you are the one elbowing the way to more freedom for her and subsequently upsetting her parents. Putting the fact that there’s nothing of my beloved comedy aside, it’s an interesting and realistic setting and written fairly well.
Nono, on the other hand, dreams of opening her own pastry store, but struggles with insecurity. Nevertheless, she’s an energetic girl and hence there’s also more funny stuff happening on this route. But small dramas like her having to pass her head chef’s test or her dad collapsing have a far stronger presence than comedy. Anyway, Nono also has her reasons for having come to this town, for doing what she does, for wanting to open her own pastry store; her character’s also gotten a lot of depth. Who falls short is Aiko. She’s just the motherly type who loves kids and her mum who raised her on her own (if I remember correctly). So far, that’s all what she is. She has no greater goals, there’s no deeper reasoning behind what she’s doing. Her personality seems bland and shallow. She really just seems to be a copypasta housewife.
I already hinted at it, but the respective stories are very realistic and for the most part interesting. At least two of them have their own respective dramas but aren’t overdoing it in that regard either. There are hardships, yes, but they will be overcome. While the storylines aren’t exactly boring, they’re kind of too realistic for me, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an arc about doing your taxes. I know there isn’t supposed to be anything fantastic in a fantasy kind of sense, but I’m really missing something magical here – not talking about magical in the magic kind of way, though.
Then again, it’s hard to criticize a dating sim for being too realistic. That’s the whole deal of a dating sim: Simulating what it’d be like if you met those girls in real life. Also, Lovely x Cation is already pushing the boundaries of what kind and what amount of drama is arguably realistic to happen. I don’t see why the things that do happen couldn’t realistically happen to anyone anytime, yet it’s not just boring work, groceries, taxes. It manages the balancing between realism and “excitement” well. Still, if at some point the drama can’t spice things up anymore, I’d drop it that very second. I just personally feel that there are enough everyday situations in real life and don’t need to immerse into a game to experience those.
If you’re playing a dating sim for the sexy (I dunno why you would, tho), then I’ve only had one scene in each route so far, all of them were “first times” and respectively, well, bland? Let’s say, not great. Strangely, I only felt that I had kind of bonded with Nono by the point her first scene came up, so hers was at least satisfying in that sense. Yuki and Aiko felt clinical.
All in all, Lovely x Cation is a dating sim that lets you experience meeting, dating, marrying, and having kids with the respective heroines; that’s a lot, even for a dating sim. I am enjoying most of the characters and the little everyday-drama going on so far, but I feel like this amount of content, the potential length of the respective storylines, could make the story lose steam. Anyway, so far, it’s a 7 for me. However, I honestly don’t know what else it could do to be a better dating sim, the only downside is Aiko, who’s just flat; but only in character: Her boobs are huge ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°). The visuals are – apart from the usual empty background nonsense – stunning. I’ll give it an 8. It’s a great dating sim and if you’re looking for this kind of game, you won’t find anything much better.