When it comes to Otome, there is no in-between: it’s true love or bitter tragedy.
Each game presents you with (hopefully) interesting stories, but we all know romantic wish fulfillment is the cream in this oreo cookie. Each game is meant to present you yet another way you found that one person who was perfect for you in every fashion; you complete each other in a way no one else can. And, if you make the right calls, you can be together forever in sunshine bliss. One would almost say that it provides readers a chance to fantasize about meeting “the one”, I.E their Soulmate.
But is your fated person someone who already exists, or someone you create to make your own destiny? You ask yourself this a lot in our subject today, the new title known as Red String of Fate. The game is a play on the old Chinese and Japanese legends about the magical and metaphorical red string around all our fingers that leads us to our fated partner, all while offering two very sweet love stories to chew on.
This game already won me over by setting itself in college rather than High School. You play Valerie Wong, daughter of a Chinese immigrant and Journalism student. Valerie was born with a special gift: she can see the Red Strings of Fate. The problem is that she cannot see her own, meaning it’s nonexistent or stretched too thin to see. Valerie decides to bank on the latter and travel the world to find him, whoever he may be. Thus she works herself to pieces at four part-time jobs and full-time school work.
Things change when her philosophy class institutes a group project. She partners up with Aaron, her old buddy from high school, and Luke, an introverted literature student with a secret of his own.
Gaze into the faces of change
Working with the boys stirs some doubt in Valerie. After all, it seems like relationships of real substance are forming right in front of her. Does this put a monkey wrench in her plans? Or does Valerie stick to her guns?
Red String is not a short little romp through sweet romance, nor is it a very long look at a relationship. It’s a medium-range Visual Novel with only two romantic paths. The actual plot in question is basically the same: Valerie needs to pass this project to keep her grades up and starts to fall in love in the process. What changes are the details of who and how based on one split in the plot: Irene’s birthday party. You can go with Aaron or stay home with Luke, effectively choosing from the get-go who you wanna pursue. It’s a fun read all around and the game has a pretty great sense of humor about it.
Beyond just unwinding a tightly knit narrative, the game itself is really quite simple. Every so often in the story, Valerie will be prompted to make a decision that changes the outcome of the story. I believe the important choices are the double choices, where you can choose the “yea or nay” option, so to speak. There are also moments where you have four different choices you can make at a single moment, a la The Lady’s Choice, but I am unsure if they make any significant changes.
If I had to give a complaint – and I do – I feel as if the game is a bit static. I know most VN’s that have any sense of dynamics to them tend to cost money, but this game felt a little stiffer than usual. The character sprites themselves cycle through expressions of course, but you never see other characters on the screen except for Luke or Aaron. It also takes quite a long time for a CG to appear, like the last two-fourths of the game. But I was super happy when I finally got to my first one; ‘cause these images are super cute and shift as the story progresses.
The artist this time around is an indie drawer named Greenace, who comes from the Philippines. Green has a great style, from what I can tell, with a soft pencil look that is clean and very anime-esque. They admit on their page that they are inspired by JRPG’s and anime, which explains the occasional shift from pretty anime boys to cute chibi drawings:
That being said, they do a good job at making all three characters look distinct from each other. The backgrounds have several credited artists and all of them did well too, though I did recognize one image from Halloween Otome. I don’t know if the same artist was on board or if the image was stock, so, I didn’t push it. Besides, since both games are free titles, no one is really losing any money here.
Quiet, thoughtful, and somewhat cynical, Luke was a huge shot in the dark for Valerie’s project. Thankfully he turned out to be a very thoughtful and intelligent person, albeit quiet and introverted. But that’s where his literature student stereotypes end because while he may be a writer himself he downright refuses to write about or entertain the idea of romantic love. It’s clear something is deeply troubling Luke and it’s gonna take awhile to peel back his defenses and figure out what it may be.
The cheesy set-up aside, Luke’s story is actually touching. It’s a very emotional ride, albeit a short one, and I did enjoy this spin on the poet archetype.
Do you like games? Because Aaron freaking loves them.
This gaming nerd graduated high school a year before you. He’s a computer science major with big hopes of being an indie game developer, despite the starving artist stereotype in conjures up. Aaron is compared to a puppy in-game: bright, energetic, and always eager to please. He more reminded me of a child trapped in an adult body, with his constant pouting and pleading to get his way. That kinda killed any romantic attachments I may have had, but I will always support the “Hot Gamer Guy” in games like this. So while Aaron may not have worked for me, it may very well spark some strong feelings with someone else.
Red String of Fate is very bare-bones for Otome, but the core is still very strong. The story itself is sweet and fulfilling, with a very unique concept I haven’t seen played with. Because it lacks a lot of movement and immersion, the game will feel like it’s dragging its heels. But if you can get past that and kinda accept the bare necessities, you’ll get a really sweet story. In short, I’m excited to see more from this developer/company and will definitely keep an eye out for them.
Any thoughts on these blooming indie-developers? Feel free to comment below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content just like this.
Next Time: Blood Code