There are quite a lot of non-Japanese these days who have an interest in both the language and the media of the country – I myself included. Unfortunately, learning the language and finding the best ways to put your knowledge to use can be rather difficult, which is why I’ve decided to make this guide for those of you who have some knowledge of Japanese and a bit of patience, as well as a desire to play Otome games – a popular sub-genre of Visual Novels. Not only are Otome games often both interesting and engaging, they are also quite a fun (and intensive) way of practicing your Japanese, building vocabulary, and learning new grammar and common phrases.
Be warned, however – playing any game in an unfamiliar language can be extremely difficult depending on your skill level! It’s a great way to practice, but it isn’t for the faint of heart, and requires a certain amount of determination to get through it. I’ve compiled a great list of quality Otomes, separated by difficulty, for anyone interested in trying!
Table of Contents
- The “Easy” List
- The “Medium” List
- The “Hard” List
The “Easy” List
Following is a list of Otome games that are entirely Japanese (and untranslated), but on the easy end of the scale, relatively speaking. You’ll still undoubtedly need a dictionary here and there, and Google Translate does wonders nowadays, but you should be able to get by without too much trouble if you’re at the intermediate level and know all of your hiragana, katakana, and a fair amount of the most commonly used kanji.
Kokuchou no Psychedelica
This is undoubtedly the best Otome game I have ever played. By no other game have I swung so much between warm fuzzies and utter, heart-wrenching despair. If this game doesn’t pull tears from your eyes, you are no doubt as cold and dead inside as you can possibly get with a still-beating heart. The story and the characters are top-of-the-line, and the plot is so engrossing that you will find yourself rushing to get to the next chapter, to solve the next mystery, and to learn more about the character you play as, and the characters that you play with.
One of the great things about this game that makes it relatively friendly is the system. Kokuchou no Psychedelica makes use of an interest “flowchart” mechanism that lets you quickly and easily jump back and forth between chapters and sections. This means that getting all of the endings is an extremely simple matter of following all of the branches in the flowchart to their conclusion. There are no difficult game mechanics, no plotting out schedules or raising affection – following the story from start to finish is just a matter of sitting down and reading. It’s a good thing too, because the story is so good, any fluff would just be an irritating distraction. Secondly, at no point in the game will you be forced to repeat a scene. Every single route is completely unique, which is rather unique for an Otome game, and really well executed.
I won’t spoil the story here, and I highly recommend that you don’t go looking for spoilers elsewhere if you decide to pick this game up. There are a lot of twists and turns that are very impactful, and you’ll undoubtedly want to experience them for yourself. As far as vocabulary goes, the setting is “modern”, so in general you won’t be faced with any archaic kanji or difficult grammar structures, making it a good choice for someone with intermediate Japanese skills.
Zettai Kaikyuu Gakuen
I had read quite a few good reviews of this game, but it took me a long time to finally pick it up – and I love everything about it. The artwork, the music, the characters, the setting, the plot… Zettai Kaikyuu Gakuen is a rare gem in the Otome world, and is a very interesting read. The one negative thing I have to say about it, is that certain sections can get pretty repetitive. This is pretty common for Otome games, however, and with the skip ability, it isn’t that much of an issue.
Zettai Kaikyuu Gakuen is primarily on the “easy” list because it has a very modern setting with a kind of slice-of-life highschool feel that is generally pretty easy to grasp, while still being unique and original enough to be interesting. There are a few vocabulary points that are used very often, so once you learn these, getting through the rest of the game is a breeze (relatively speaking).
On the flip-side, the system is also very straight-forward – there really isn’t anything to it but selecting choices when they come up, and there is even an “easy” mode that will show a little icon by certain choices to tell you which character they lead to. Handy, eh?
I highly recommend this game for anyone with an intermediate understanding of Japanese – but it’s also one of the best Otome games available, regardless of skill level.
You can view my complete guide here – it includes flowcharts, story details, and even a vocab list to help get you started!
Haitaka no Psychedelica
The spiritual successor to Kokuchou no Psychedelica, Haitaka no Psychedelica is an amazing game with high-quality artwork, beautiful music, and an intriguing and mysterious plot. Haitaka no Psychedelica doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor as a tear-jerker, but in every other way it is either just as good or better.
This game’s setting isn’t as modern as the other two, but the vocabulary isn’t antique, and there are a lot of slice-of-life stories that are very adorable and easy to read. In fact, I think this might be the easiest to read on the entire list, simply because so much of the story focuses on really detailed character-building, which allows you to follow the day-to-day lives of the hero(ine)s.
Haitaka no Psychedlica uses the same flowchart system as Kokuchou, making it extremely easy to achieve all of the endings. There are some extra systems that they’ve added to the game to make it slightly more complicated than Kokuchou was, but even those additions are easy to use once you know what they are.
As far as story goes, I think I like Haitaka no Psychedelica a small, small, small margin less than Kokuchou no Psychedelica, but it is definitely still a highly recommended read, and should be easy for intermediates to grasp.
The “Medium” List
The following is a list of great Otome games that, for whatever reason, aren’t quite as easy to grasp if you aren’t very familiar with the Japanese language. These will require some extra effort – most likely a detailed walkthrough – to get you to the end.
Black Wolves Saga
Black Wolves Saga is… interesting. Perhaps one of the darkest Otome games I’ve had the pleasure of playing. There isn’t anything happy-go-lucky or light-hearted about this particular game (or rather, set of games). Every character has a tragic story, and many of the endings or so twisted, they’ll leave you feeling ill. This isn’t a game for the faint of heart – but it is a unique (if depressing) story with a vast cast of characters and an interesting world.
Like some of the other games on the “Easy” list, Black Wolves Saga has a really straight-forward way of playing. It’s purely text, with the occasional choice taking you down the different branches. It is full of made-up and fantasy vocabulary, however, which is why I’m putting it on the “Medium” list. It has a lot of plot and not a lot of slice-of-life scenes, which can make it pretty intensive and difficult to read if you aren’t prepared to take your time.
Still, if your Japanese is at a good enough level (or you’re patient enough to do a lot of translation work), Black Wolves Saga is a really interesting game with gorgeous music and a haunting story.
Brothers Conflict: Precious Baby
It’s unfortunate that Brothers Conflict features such a difficult game system, because otherwise it would land right at the top of the “easy” list. Brothers Conflict has a very modern setting, with a lot of daily-life type of scenarios that are really, really easy to read and grasp. The reason I set it on the medium list, however, is because progressing the game can be really difficult due to the way you have to carefully schedule out your time.
If you don’t mind grabbing a detailed walkthrough, and following it step-by-step, then I highly recommend Brothers Conflict for beginner-intermediate Japanese learners. You will be faced with a lot of common, slice-of-life phrases and vocabulary, coupled with an enjoyable read and a massive amount of choices are far as romance goes.
I wouldn’t say that the story is the best there is to find in the Otome genre. In fact, every game on the “easy” list quickly out-performs Brothers Conflict as far as plot goes. That being said, if you’re looking for something light-hearted and simple, Brothers Conflict is definitely a good choice.
Wand of Fortune R
Wand of Fortune has the benefit of having absolutely gorgeous artwork – and if I’m being totally honest, that’s probably the best thing it has going for it. The gameplay mechanics are even more difficult than Brother’s Conflict, and while the story and setting are fairly interesting, a lot of the scenes get frustratingly repetitive.
Even so, Wand of Fortune is generally pretty easy to understand, despite having some fantasy-flavored vocabulary dusted throughout, and all of the characters are pretty interesting and loveable – especially the main heroine, Lulu. Wand of Fortune definitely has a light-hearted feel to it, very slice-of-life, but the way the scheduling and affection systems work can sometimes make it feel a bit disjointed. In some ways, this might make it easier for beginner Japanese learners, because the scenes are generally split into bite-sized chunks that are easy to swallow.
Wand of Fortune won’t win any awards for its mechanics nor its plot, but if you pull out a detailed guide and follow it religiously, you can reduce the frustration by a pretty sizeable chunk. It’s an easy, enjoyable read, filled with a lot of bubbly characters and fun stories that will have you smiling despite (or because of) the silliness.
And the artwork is just… *drool*
Shinobu, Koi Utsutsu
This is a really darling game, and one I would reccomend to anyone looking for a bit of light-hearted fun with adorable characters and fluffy romance. Shinobu, Koi Utsutsu is a ninja-school themed game with a decidedly cheerful tone. It’s filled with fun characters and bright, pastel designs that’ll have you thinking of cupcakes, sprinkles, rainbows and unicorns. Seriously, a lot of the CGs are even decorated with sparkles.
I put this in the “Medium” category because it is Ninja-themed, which means you’ll be faced with some phrases and kanji that aren’t exactly “everyday”. That being said, a lot of the scenes are pretty slice-of-life, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to get by as long as you’re patient enough to look up and memorize certain words.
Shinobu, Koi Utsutsu is a lot of fun. It features gorgeous (if highly stylized) artwork and a bubbly story that will undoubtedly earn a few laughs along the way. I wouldn’t come into this game expecting much in the way of thrilling plot, but that isn’t necessarily a detriment in this case.
Intermediates looking for some easy-going fun and some laughter should definitely pick up this pretty-in-pink otome game.
Shinobu, Koi Utsutsu -Setsugekka Koi Emaki- is available for the PS Vita
The “Difficult” List
This list speaks for itself – the following games are great, but they are pretty far beyond the range of beginners, and may even be a challenge to tackle for intermediates. If you’re confident in your Japanese skills, or have the patience and the determination required to really study each piece of text, these are games worth giving a shot!
Ken ga Kimi for V
剣が君 for V
I really can’t recommend this game to anyone wanting to “learn” Japanese. Ken ga Kimi is a great otome game, but it’s one that requires a good knowledge of the Japanese language and features a lot of kanji and a whole lot of archaic language. For good reason, of course – as it plays itself out in the time of samurai, lords and ladies.
Still, if you’re feeling confident and brave and are looking for a challenge, Ken ga Kimi might very well provide it. The artwork is truly gorgeous – some of the best I’ve seen in an Otome, and the sprites are all very lively. The voice acting is great, and the story is intriguing (though not entirely original), making for a good all-around package. This isn’t the best otome game available, but it might be the best samurai-themed otome game – so if samurai get your blood pumping, this is a definite recommendation.
Nil Admirari no Tenbin: Teito Genwaku Kitan
I have fairly mixed feelings about this game. On the one hand, it is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The artwork and the character designs are absolutely top-notch and the voice-acting is of comparable quality. This game is really quite pretty to look at, but what it has in the visual department, it misses in the plot department. That’s not to say that this game isn’t interesting in its own fashion, and I wouldn’t put it at the very bottom of the Otome list, but it also isn’t a shining star of gripping story and character development.
Nil Admirari no Tenbin has a very simple system where you’re posed with the occasional choices, so with a simple guide, you won’t have any trouble getting to all the endings. That being said, this game is filled to the brim with difficult kanji and sentence structure. It doesn’t take place in modern time – and that shows in the text. I really would not recommend this game for a beginner, and even intermediates will most likely have a lot of difficulty with it.
Honestly, I think most people are better off picking a different game to play, but Nil Admirari does fit into a certain slot that the other games on these lists don’t: it’s pretty adult. It doesn’t cross the line to full-on porn, but there are quite a few physical scenes that’ll get your blood pumping regardless. If that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for, and you’re willing to slodge through lots of kanji, this might just be the game for you.
Nil Admirari is available for the PS Vita
There are quite a lot of other Otome games (both translated and untranslated) that are great reads – and there are quite a few that are sitting patiently on my backlog, that I also haven’t yet had the chance to play. I do hope that this list was helpful, or at the very least interesting!
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