A brief tip about me: I am not a huge fan of Slice of Life. In fact, as far as genres go, I think it’s absolutely boring when left to fend for itself. It’s more fun to imagine yourself in a far-off land, or in a situation that could never happen in real life than in a scenario that’s happened to twenty other people prior. But I still try to give these games a chance, because that’s what I’d want for work of my own.
This game did not change my opinion on the genre. It didn’t make it worse, but it didn’t help.
Belong is a Romance/Slice of Life otome with a very vague description on its page. But it caught my eyes for the nice designs on the characters, so I gave it a shot. The story I got has clear signs of being someone’s first project, with salvageable pieces inside. But anything enjoyable is bogged down by excessive drama and annoying, first-story quirks.
You are a young lady/man/adult living in a church with your adoptive father/Father, Louis. You’ve been his pride and joy ever since he took you in several years ago and you’ve made yourself a decent life as a top student and hockey player (out in a baseball field, for reasons I cannot figure out). To make sure you’re not a burden, you decide to get a part-time job and earn some extra money. You succeed and get yourself a part-time job as a receptionist at a drama studio, and get thrust into three different stories to choose from.
From there, the character that strikes your fancy becomes your story. You remain as you were either way – though it looks like you can tweak your personality a little – but everything else revolves around the woes of your beau to be.
The game plays in traditional Otome fashion: as the story progresses, you get a point where you can make a choice to alter it in some way. Your choices can either make or break the story, in theory, and you have to work your way towards the best ending. The game also advertised having a customizable main character, though you never actually get to see it. You customize through a series of questions, which I suppose allows for the self-insert a little better.
But my praise will dry up there because the ride from this point on is lacking in immersion and subtlety. In one particular scene, I found myself sitting with one of the love interests, trying to tell him that I didn’t care that his career choice wouldn’t net much money. But, instead of the sad violin music, I heard this drum-laden action track that was better suited for a battle than a confrontation, and the boy’s uncle came up to the table. We were told by the writer that this Uncle always criticized the love interest but went easy on his own son, which works well for motivation. But then the Uncle proceed to sneer at said boy, for no discernible reason I could pick up, and threaten violence against him and the protagonist in the middle of a crowded diner. And the only reason offered up for why was that the love interest was “ungrateful.”
This uncle ”mwahaha-ing” may have been more believable if we’d seen more of him, but we didn’t. If the uncle were characterized beyond “abusive and mean,” we may have actually felt some sympathy for the love interest. But we didn’t see it, so I don’t feel it, and I don’t feel much for any of these characters. Their drama plays out so damn fast that the author has to tell us what’s going on for most of it and tell us how well these characters get along over a stretch of time. Their drama feels thin because it’s thrust upon us in a one-note fashion, with “the healing power of love” being the main focus.
This character scribbles over his own skin because he bottles up what he wants to say, and is prone to panic attacks. That would have hit harder if we’d seen MORE of him before his big break down.
If I were to ever speak to this author – and her fans are very welcome here, even if we disagree – I would tell her this: Drama and emotion in a story are like spices, best used in small sprinkles throughout the entire meal, not in large clumps you occasionally bite into. This is not to say that I want to be bombarded all the time by angst, but I want to see these characters getting to know each other and slowly letting each other in.
I noted right away that Stock images and photos were being used as backgrounds and I won’t begrudge the author that. Resources for Otome-ers are limited, especially when the game itself is free. Of course, as always, correct me if I am wrong and I will make amends.
The sprites are original to this piece, as far as I can tell, and they are quite lovely. The main ones were drawn by Tumblr artist aprilsiera and I’m quite pleased with how colorful and detailed they are. They even have expression changes to match the scenes, a very nice touch. The non-main characters were represented by silhouettes gotten from a resource site, but each one is different, so that helps clear any confusion.
I went a little backward to mix things up and started with the mystery gentlemen. We’ll call him Generic Man and you’ll soon see why.
You meet Generic Man on the bus and in the park, where awkward encounters involving hair, ice cream, and sketchbooks cement him as the troubled but nice guy who just needs a friend. Turns out he’s the “props” master, which confused me since his sketches were all architecture and they spoke about his “props” as if they were talking about set pieces. I was only in Drama club so I could be missing something, but that doesn’t change the fact that Generic Man here really had nothing much to offer.
He’s not offensive, rude, overbearing or even all that dull. He’s prone to lame jokes, kinda protective and even determined as fuck. He’s also the one with the aforementioned dumbass Uncle since his parents up and left him. It’s all here to make something interesting, but what I got was super bland. With Generic here, I crave some kind of strong flavor to define who he is, and some fine-tuning to his parental backstory.
Meanwhile, our middle child here has that strong flavor. It’s just not a flavor I’m a fan of.
Dylan is the studio’s hired makeup artist and is cripplingly shy. He has so much trouble verbalizing when he wants to that he bottles it up, gets sick, draws on his own skin, or lets people walk over him. I like all of this; I even like that we get the contrast of this nice, timid guy with the motorcycle he rides. What I didn’t like was a matter of personal taste: he’s too nice.
The boy has a twin sister who’s forward, authoritative, goes after what she wants, but is a nice person deep down. Dylan, meanwhile, is soft-spoken, gentle by nature, and more prone to spouting poetry. This will definitely appeal to someone, especially since he’s not bad looking. But, as someone who prefers guys with a little more push to them, I’ll pass.
Ah yes, we do have a female option if you prefer an extra X chromosome. I did find Capriana to be the most interesting of the three characters, and I’m just sad her story got jetstream so hard that we only saw it in a blink.
Capriana appears to be a bright, cheery, person who constantly wears these strange, rose-tinted, glasses. She’s a bit of a celebrity for a role she played when she was very young, named “Emily,” but you notice real fast that Capriana is dressed just like Emily. Turns out Capriana has no idea who “Capriana” even is and the idea of finding out terrifies her. The whole idea sounds great: building this personality from the ground up and discovering who you are. It’s just a shame that I still don’t know who Capriana is beyond her role in the story.
Her drama and the main problem is so all-encompassing that any idea of what she’s like gets eclipsed – ironic, given her main problem. This is where the story’s breakneck speed really hurts it, not allowing for us to see Capriana and Protagonist bonding and discovering her personality. It would have been a great story, and it’s worth salvaging, but this version of it feels about as deep as a puddle.
Belong is clearly someone’s first try at telling a story, or at least it’s littered with the signs of such. With clunky writing and over-emphasis on the drama, what does work gets overshadowed and left behind in the rush to get to the juicy bits. There are salvageable pieces here, but this story as a whole didn’t make the mark.