One thing I think Konami was masterful at was showing how conventional design language can be used in dating sims to boost emotional investment. I wrote about it in my Tokimemo essay, but my favorite example remains the Konami games you can play with your girlfriend in Love Plus.
Aside from Puzzle-dama, it mostly consists of emulation wrappers for arcade games with player AI programmed for the girls so they can play co-op, which is a great touch by itself. But what's really magical for me is how they'll still talk to you as you're both playing.
I think a lot of big western games with relationship mechanics struggle with how to articulate the dynamics of a relationship through mechanics, which is why so many boil down to dialogue trees. Which, obviously there's nothing wrong with that. Whole genres are built on that!
But Konami's work in games like Love Plus is a pointed reminder that relationship systems don't need to be divorced from "regular" game mechanics just because the subject matter appears to skew so differently from what they typically convey. It's the framing that matters.

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More from @iiotenki

5 Apr
The HD Retrovision Mega Drive cables I pre-ordered forever ago finally came in and I'm putting them through their paces with only the most relevant arcade PCBs in my collection.
Anyway, Daisukiss is a genuinely charming little arcade game. The dating sim element is basically only skin deep at "do good at minigames to impress who you like," but you can be gay as all hell in who you pursue whether you play as a lady or a dude, which is rad. I dig it.
Also got some PS2 component cables to finally replace the generics I've had for years and, of course, I had to test those the only way I know how. The first person kissing has never looked sharper. c:
Read 4 tweets
3 Apr
Some final thoughts on *that* post: There are a LOT of issues at play when it comes to western devs treating dating sims and VNs as fodder for mean-spirited parodies. But one of the things it speaks to most is how little parts of Japanese game history remain understood.
People obviously know some of the broad strokes, but they're strokes that are informed by the politics of the global industry and the economics of the times. As I've said before, you can't have a full picture of Japanese game history if you're only relying on localizations.
And the thing that I keep coming back to is how many devs put out these parodies actually understand the lineage of what they're trying to riff on. How many of them realize dating sims and VNs, in some capacity, emerged directly from some of the very hardcore devs they revere?
Read 7 tweets
30 Mar
Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 2/Raw Danger turns 15 in Japan today. In many ways, it's peak PS2 Irem: visually ambitious enough to make the PS2 buckle, systemically expansive, and lots of wild dialogue choices that still have a lot of heart. My favorite Disaster Report by far.
If you've only ever played the whitewashed loc and otherwise have the means to do so, definitely give it another go in Japanese. Beneath all the dialogue hijinks is a game that's emotionally harrowing and does neat things with the interplay between the playable protagonists.
That being said, believe it or not, if you want the full picture about its design history, you'll want to pick up Pachipara 12, the first open world Pachipara. I normally recommend folks skip it in favor of 13/14, but the detective portion of ZZT2 is lifted straight from this.
Read 4 tweets
30 Mar
I've dug the Fuuraiki guide out of storage, which can only mean one thing: it's time to finally pay one last visit to early 2000s Hokkaido before finally moving on to the later games and settle some unfinished business with a certain someone I met back in Tohoku. Wish me luck. c: ImageImage
It's gonna be a little while before I get to the actually new content in this route because it all takes place during the last in-game week, so in the meantime, have some photos of Hokkaido scenery. The region's preponderance for lakeside/seaside baths is, uh, extremely envious. ImageImageImageImage
also haha, don't mind me, definitely not tearing up revisiting a lot of these locations that are plot critical in other routes because it turns out sad anime ladies set against the backdrop of beautiful nature shots is a super potent formula, nosiree, i'm totally fine here
Read 9 tweets
30 Mar
I touched upon it at the end of my most recent dating sim essay, but something I want to discuss more in-depth here is how their mechanics are depicted in today's games and how that representation is really relative to what fuller dating sims truly offer.…
Increasingly, we see popular Japanese game franchises adopting relationship mechanics that are highly reminiscent of older dating sims. Sometimes they evoke really old games like Tokimeki Memorial, while other times, their inspiration is slightly more recent.
The thing is, in any case, these mechanics pretty much have to explicitly exist in service of the greater structure and main gameplay threads present in these games. Any elements that genuinely derive from dating sims are essentially mechanical garnishes within the overall loop.
Read 21 tweets
26 Mar
Don't mind me, just sitting here thinking about one of my two favorite shots in all of Tokimemo for the umpteenth time.
It's gonna be at least a little while because, hoo boy, I can only find the energy to put out my kind of essays so often, but lately been thinking maybe the time to write about these Tokimemo adventure games and what they uniquely represent as Kojipro games is coming up.
In the meantime, I will reiterate: if you have the fluency, the Tokimemo Drama games sit at a fascinating junction between dating sims, traditional adventure games, and later VNs when Japanese devs were still trying to strike a balance between gameplay and story in dating sims.
Read 4 tweets

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