With otome games flourishing in popularity outside Japan, it means sometimes we see a surprise release worldwide. Dormitory Love was an indie otome project. One single person by the name of Mirin did it all, then released it as a browser-based affair. Shockingly enough, it ended up localized and released worldwide on the Switch. While it’s a very barebones sort of story with only basic elements, it’s still an example of what early steps and someone’s early, solo attempts can look like.
The premise for Dormitory Love is one not uncommon in anime and manga. A person ends up living with multiple people of the gender they are romantically interested in. Here, the player’s avatar is a young woman whose grandmother got her a job as a dormitory manager. All of the residents are young men from various countries studying in Japan. After a brief introduction, it asks you to pick one of them to “pursue.” You then only see story segments focused on them, with an assumed degree of intimacy due to the fact that you live together with them.
Since this is a single-person project, it means things are quite limited. There’s a chapter structure, which can involve events with just that love interest or multiple cast members. However, the simplistic nature doesn’t mean there’s some overarching story that goes from one to another. You will find it jumps from one scenario to another, often with little connection or pay-off. It puts you on a route for a character and expects you to immediately care about them and one-on-one interactions, without knowing much beyond things like “Felix is a serious guy who is also a good cook.”
This means that the characters themselves don’t always get the attention they deserve. Instead of gradually falling in love with people like Felix or Ling, we’re taken from scene to scene and expected to automatically care enough about them to be taken with certain scenarios. It’s a bare bones sort of affair. However, this can actively hurt some cast members. Guillaume is a fashionable young man from France who wears some of the most adorable dresses. However, because of the original content, localization, and limitations of the original creation, he comes across as a trope and we don’t get a full exploration of his character. As a result, it can come across as disrespectful, rather than a case like say Naraka in Bad Apple Wars.
Dormitory Love feels like we’re going through someone’s first attempt at pulling together an otome game. This means there are certain elements that don’t come through in the way you’d expect from other visual novels. There’s no real trouble in pursuing everyone, especially since you pick your route right away. There’s minimal character development. The story is both basic and barely there. I also felt like certain characters, such as Guillaume, were tossed in to fill a quota of “tropes” and not clearly fleshed out or thought through to ensure they are tactful depictions. It is an indie, after all, and an older project from Japan. Which means someone going into it should consider it more of a time capsule and example of a first step than an otome classic.
Dormitory Love is available on the Nintendo Switch, and the original game also appeared on PCs in browsers in Japan.