While roaming around Kickstarter a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a campaign for an otome game called Seduce Me by Seraphim Entertainment, a PG-16 project that is set to have full voice-acting. Being the Japanophile that I am, I have played a number of dating simulation type games (otome and bishoujo alike) in the past. At first, out of curiosity as to why people enjoyed them so much, but soon, I became interested in how the writers would try to vary the experience in order to separate themselves from other competing games. Not having played an otome in over a year, I decided to give Seduce Me a shot.
The premise of the story is simple: you are a senior high school student and the granddaughter of Harold Andersen, the CEO and founder of the amazing and very charitable Anderson Toys. On a seemingly normal day at school, you get called to the office and learn that your grandfather has passed away. At the funeral, you find out that he, for some strange reason, has left you his entire estate in his will. Because of your father, you are forced to move into this estate but when you arrive, you find five unconscious, injured young men who later reveal themselves to be incubi on the run from “a group of misfits”. Being the caring person that you are, you decide to let them stay in exchange for their help around the huge estate.
Serving only as a preview for the game, this version of Seduce Me is currently missing a number of assets, including some art, music and sound effects, so I won’t be focusing too much on that. What essentially is presented to players is everything described above, but as simple as the premise seems, the actual writing/scripting has managed to spread this out over an hour and a half of gameplay and I don’t mean this in a good way. Over an hour is spent on building up to the protagonist’s move to the estate, and a comparatively smaller proportion of time is spent actually meeting and mingling with the guys, which doesn’t make sense since the guys are supposed to be the selling point of the game.
What becomes even more frustrating about this is the fact that the pacing and emotional impact of the story could’ve gone much better if the presentation had been different. Too much time was spent on introducing the protagonist’s school life (e.g. grades, her friends, enemies, etc.), and later, her relationship with her grandfather and her parents because the overall text of the game was plagued with too many bits of information irrelevant to the progression and development of both the story and the characters. Besides that, the relationship between the protagonist and the grandfather should have been introduced before his actual death so the event could have meant a lot more.
In addition to that, there were other things that bothered me about the writing. There were too many instances where readers are told what is happening, rather than allowing them to figure things out on their own (this is extremely important in allowing players to come up with their own theories and receiving a feeling of accomplishment for predicting correctly). There were also numerous times when the lines felt more like an essay rather than a dialogue or a thought, and did not present much variety in both words and conversation structure. To top it all off, character derailment happened so often to move the story forward that it became hard for me to like any of the characters that appeared before the introduction of the incubi.
Although the writing leaves much to be desired, I did thoroughly enjoy the parts with the guys in it. Their voice-acting, while a little rough in some parts, was quite pleasing and managed to convey emotion pretty well, which in turn contributed to a successful execution of humor that actually made me laugh. I also found it interesting that they added two best friends for the protagonist interact with, since many other games in this genre tend to make the protagonist a loner with only mere acquaintances and a heavy reliance on love interests for any form of closeness.
For a game that sounds like its title was taken from an erotica, Seduce Me fails to do what it seems like it’s aiming to do: arouse. I feel like I would have appreciated this demo a lot more if it were more straightforward and didn’t spend so much time dilly-dallying about in its presentation. If this sort of pacing makes it to the final game, I have to wonder how long it will take to finish one route and whether it will lead players to become tired before the end. Assuming that the story does get lengthy, how much more time and effort would the team need to invest before Seduce Me can be released? Granted, the game would be shorter if players decided not to listen to the bulk of the voice acting, but that would be a shame since that’s a feature that makes Seduce Me stand out. The game shouldn’t be so heavily dependent on words to convey the story, especially when visuals and sounds are included, because a visual novel is not a book or an essay.
Despite my qualms about this demo, I am still looking forward to Seduce Me‘s final free-to-play release and am waiting to see what Seraphim Entertainment can really achieve. With its campaign now fully funded on Kickstarter, I wish the team all the best with its work on Seduce Me and hope that the end-product will prove to be much better.