Well, I write about what’s on my mind, and since I’ve been playing a dating sim a lot, guess what’s on my mind?
What is a dating sim? The best way to describe it would be an RPG without all the violence. Instead of leveling up stats like attack and defense, you level up stuff like intelligence and charisma (although being buff is helpful, it’s not nearly as important) and the goal is (usually) not to save the world, but instead win the affection (well, some NC-17 versions exist, but I don’t really play those) of some (or all, for the pimp machines out there) person in the game. While this is not as action oriented as a lot of games out there, it plays quite similarly to the talking portions of games from Bioware (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate, e.t.c.) or like the non combat portions of Persona 3 or 4. It should be noted that a well crafted game in the genre should top sitting around and chatting in those games, because you usually can’t take out a longsword and bash some skulls in because you’re bored. If you feel that desire in most dating sims, that’s a strong sign that game isn’t very good.
Anyways, there are a lot of things that make the genre unique. Most importantly, it’s the blend of anime and video game elements into a unique experience. While the story telling is similar in style to an anime, the video game elements allow a bit of interactivity, preventing the mind from stagnating and just letting the screen do all the talking (not that I object to that, that is what makes anime fun) while not being too demanding on the reflexes.
This makes the genre great for non gamers as well as beginning games, as the play style does not actively demand knowledge of how to play video games or tons of technical ability, as many video games do (Alright, I’ll admit, I remember learning to play video games as well as I remember learning to walk, but some n00b gamers I’ve met have trouble with some of the most basic things…) meaning that a new person can pick one up and know what their doing quite quickly. Most of them require the reading ability and comprehension of an online chat room anyway.
This is not to say that advanced games cannot have fun with the genre. I know that although I’ve survived some of the most hardcore games and told tales about them, the lack of difficulty doesn’t bother me. This is due to the anime esque aspects, which take focus away from the gameplay which might not be very challenging. From this perspective, the genre becomes more like an anime you have some control over.
Well, if you’re interested, this site has a link to download a lot of freeware to try the genre out. If you want to commit to something, professional companies work on games with higher production values. I wanted to write at one point (Well, it was going to be less of a dating sim, and more of a Captain Kirk sim) but am actually being a beta tester for one at the moment… Pretty fun, I posted a review HERE.
Note: Ren’nai is just the Japanese word for visual novel, dating sim, or whatever. I feel that the English terms suffice and are easier for my tongue to pronounce.
School Days: The big review (HEY, this anime was based on a dating sim, even though it was a sadistic dating sim that seemed to enjoy giving the player horrible endings where people kill each other horribly)