Let me start off by saying that I misjudged this title completely on first impressions. I tried holding What’s Your Name to traditional Otome standards; that was my biggest mistake.
The goal of your average Otome game is getting to the “best” ending, where everyone walks away happy and love is victorious. This was the mindset I had when I first tried What’s Your Name, a strange-looking Otome filed under the horror genre for NaNoRen. I got the best ending on one of the eligible bachelors and found myself underwhelmed; the plot was short and the character in question rubbed me the wrong way. But I looked through the reviews on the game’s thread and found nothing but praise for it being “unique and thrilling.” Confused, I finally broke down to the friend who recommended it.
“What am I doing wrong?” I asked her.
“Go against your instincts,” she told me. “Aim for the bad endings.”
Now I understand why this otome is such a cult favorite. What’s Your Name is in the same vein as Hatoful Boyfriend, where something foul is afoot under a premise of sunshine and flowers. The only way to see the real ugly colors is to survive all three stories… or die a lot trying.
This is one of those tricky plots, the kind where a simple summary could do a great injustice and spoil everything.
In the most bare-bones sense, What’s Your Name is the story of three supernatural dates happening at the same time. Three different women signed up to the Mythical Creature Integration Program (MCIP) and got matched to their potential supernatural life partners. Each pair has six months to prepare a wedding in which they get to know each other and see if the match is acceptable. Each girl has their reasons for signing up, but they know that there is little chance to walk away.
Does that sound far from romantic to you? Then your instincts are sharp, as multiple playthroughs reveal that something shady is going on. Each bachelor has quite a few “kills” on their files and the MCIP seems unbothered by the danger these human girls are in. Are these creatures really the enemy in this scenario? Or is it the program involving them in these suicidal dates?
As I mentioned in my opening statements, I went about this game the wrong way on my first try. It functions in the traditional sense like a normal VN, as in the choices made will change the story towards a specific ending. But, just like Hatoful Boyfriend, one playthrough will only give you one tiny piece of a much larger narrative. This is the kind of game where you don’t really know what’s happening until you’ve finished the whole game. The more you play, the more you found out that things are a lot more twisted than they seem.
Be ready to be scared
The game starts you at a black screen, where you’re asked survey questions by the MCIP. Each question has three answers correlating to three different characters and the game selects one of three stories to play through. Each story refers to the character in the third person, which makes me miss the immersion from previous titles, but it’s probably for the best things not be so immersive now. Each story features critical moments where the player has to make a decision… or, sometimes, do nothing at all. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you get some utterly adorable CG’s with tiny cute sprites.
However, I hope you’re prepared to walk on eggshells. If you make one wrong move, just one bad decision, it won’t matter how much that creature likes you. One bad call means death, and the horror elements rear their scary heads. This is the first game I’ve seen with a series of bad endings; death can come to you in all sorts of fashions, complete with scary sound effects. Or, if you really mess up, you’ll find yourself with the Worst Ending: enslaved or kidnapped by a mythical creature for the rest of your days. It’s oddly fun to discover how graphic and nightmarish each Bad Ending can get, adding a whole new element to gameplay.
Collect them all!
This may leave the Good Endings a tad bland, however. Still, get all three, and you’ll get a nasty little sneak-peek into the depths of the rabbit hole.
The one thing in this game that did not warm up to me, sadly, was the art. I give it points for having a distinctive look to it – an off-kilter appearance that fits the gameplay. And looking at other art pieces shows me that the Sprite artist, Amiralo, is more than capable of making real Burton-esque pieces. But what I saw on the game seemed very rough draft and sketchy to me.
That being said, I feel the art can be made to work. I don’t want to see it removed completely; I wanna see it polished. If refined to be more detailed, like the plot, I believe amazing things are possible.
Our default date, should your answers be too mixed, is a bipolar Lampir with a flare for the dramatic and a deep fear of germs. The Lampir are a subspecies of Vampire, capable of shapeshifting and hypnotism as a means of getting their blood. This one seems genuinely interested in finding his “moon goddess,” but can you trust someone who can so easily take over your mind and crush your body in a moment’s notice? And those mood swings of his are nothing to sneeze at as they could cost you more than just your hearing.
The Lampir was, naturally, my first playthrough. He reminded me of Ayame Sohma turned up to twenty-one, with all the dangers that would come with it. Over-reactive and cheesy, I didn’t quite enjoy the romantic part of his path, but I adore the horror elements in the bad path.
Pukis# 1 & Pukis# 2
A double-date with three people just sounds like a headache, especially when dealing with a subspecies of dragon. Pukis are shape shifting reptiles that usually serve larger dragons, and very rarely do two come from the same egg. As these two – nicknamed Cat and Dragon – did just that, they share one heart and have to be taken as a pair. This also means you are out-numbered some something go wrong and these two are quick to anger and/or frighten.
The twins are considered the scariest option in game for good reason; being seen in public will not save you should you make a mistake. But if you play your cards right, you get a rather cute ending with two boys just looking for an open-minded girl. If you don’t… well, hopefully, they’ll kill you before they cut you up.
The Halfway Man (Merman)
The Merman is the most difficult bachelor to get to with that quiz and also the most dangerous. That danger isn’t completely his fault, mind you, but it is inescapable. But I believe the danger is worth it for those puppy-dog eyes.
The Halfway Man is a recent addition to the MCIP and a total sweetie. When he’s not being adorably shy and jumpy, he’s excitable and playful in a way that doesn’t feel nearly as forced as the first guy. His path is actually rather easy up until the final decision, but it’s well worth the frustration it will take to reach him.
For what it is, What’s Your Name is an excellent dark romance/horror story. It has great graphic elements, interesting characters, and a hidden narrative that utterly steals the show. But it is also a very unpolished specimen, in dire need of fleshing out in several places. I would love to see the narrative of this story given more detail, the art given more polish, and for more bachelors to be added on. This story can go places and I’ll be happy to follow it for the ride.
My Magical Divorce Bureau
Have you tried this magical dating agency? How’d you do? Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to follow for more content like this.