The vast majority of video games involve some amount of conflict, murder and violence, but what about love? For visual novel fans thankfully there’s no lack of love in their video games, especially those who branch out into the Otome part of the genre. Otome games (for those who aren’t well versed in obscure Japanese genre terms) are games generally developed with a female audience in mind, and involving a hefty dose of romance. Usually you’ll play as a female protagonist and have a variety of love interests to choose from, with settings ranging from feudal Japan to modern day. Lover Pretend is an Otome game set in the film industry, with just the right amount of drama and smooching for my tastes.
Chiyuki Ueda is training to be a screenwriter, but she’s always really struggled at writing romantic scenes. With very little experience in the love department, everything she writes ends up packed with cliches. Despite this issue her professor is really impressed with her writing, and decides to take her on as an assistant for an upcoming project. This is a huge deal for our plucky young heroine, but to say she’s nervous would be an understatement.
One of the reasons she’s worried is because of who else will be on the set. You see Chiyuki has never met her father, and when her mother passed away at a young age the only thing she knew about him was that they worked together on the only movie she ever wrote. The director of the project Chiyuki will be helping out on was also the director on her mum’s film, and could know more about her father or even be the man himself. Finding out the truth will take some tact and a whole lot of investigation, but she’s up to the task.
If being a hard working assistant and trying to find out about her past wasn’t enough, our protagonist also just might end up finding some romance on the set. It wouldn’t be an Otome game without four handsome young men to swoon over, and swoon you will. Balancing work and love is going to be a tough task (and could result in a bad ending or two if you’re not careful) but there’s plenty of happily ever afters to find if you’re careful.
Not every dating sim is created equally when it comes to love interests, but Lover Pretend has a great selection. Your childhood friend Kazuma is an aspiring makeup artist with a heart of gold, who’s caring nature could easily convince you to go for him. There’s also Riku, an up and coming actor who’s very much the quiet type but might just open up for the right girl. The trademark ladies’ man in this story is Yukito, a male model who wants to enter the film industry and is well known for melting hearts. Finally Harumi is another assistant on the project who is wary of Chiyuki at first, but once you get to know him you’ll realise he’s full of passion for movies and is a real team player. Each of these characters is charming in their own way, and I enjoyed spending time with them all.
How will you choose the right man for you though? Well personally I found it really easy. It becomes apparent pretty early on that there’s a chance that three of the suitors have fathers that could in fact be your father. They’re all unrelated so there’s a decent chance that isn’t the case, but I decided to stick with the option that didn’t lead to incest all the same. There are some situations where it’s simply better to be safe than sorry.
In most ways Lover Pretend is a very traditional dating sim, with the only “gameplay” you need to worry about is choosing between options that move the story along. There are also sections called Pretend Time that require you to do a bit of fibbing to progress. Admittedly this also involves choosing between two options as well, but in a more exciting high stress situation like trying to convince a waitress that you and Kazuma are a couple to get a special dessert plate.
Every one of the decisions you make is important, because you’ll really need to connect with these young men if you want to get a good ending. My first couple of runs went pretty poorly, because apparently I’m just not good enough at getting men to fall in love with me. Fortunately you can skip any text you’ve already read, and restart at any chapter you’ve already completed with customised levels of romance with each character. Admittedly this does mean that you can cheat the system to get to your happy ending, which renders any prior effort you’ve put in kind of redundant.
Lover Pretend is a charming visual novel full and romance and drama. The glamourous setting is just a delight, and the love interests are all worth getting to know. There’s nothing that will convince dating sim naysayers to change their tune, but if reading through an engaging rom com sounds like a nice way to spend an evening then get ready to start pretending.
An interesting story with a fantastic setting
Four great love interests
The Pretend Time sections make lying fun
The skip function makes playing through multiple times a breeze
The ability to pick romance levels on replays means choices are trivial
The potential incest is concerning