Nurse Love Syndrome surprised me with how in-depth the nursing-related material and themes went, but as for the romance aspects, it’s more of a mixed bag. While I didn’t find any of them to be bad, the moment you enter a specific heroine’s route is quite clear-cut, which might disappoint those who wanted to enjoy more of the common route. However, even among the heroines’ routes, there’s a striking difference in length and quality that you might not expect.
Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.
The English synopsis of Nurse Love Syndrome on both Steam and Nintendo eShop only lightly mention that the game is based off the Japanese re-release Nurse Love Syndrome Re:Therapy, which released two years after the original game with three new heroine routes for Yamanouchi, Ami, and Mayuki. Re:Therapy also added post-stories to the original three heroines’ routes, ie. Nagisa, Sayuri, and Hatsumi.
This comes with the warts that you might expect a re-release to have. Despite scenes throughout the game fleshing out Yamanouchi and Ami, they never lose the feeling of being sub-characters in other heroines’ routes despite being heroines in their own right. Shocking revelations about their pasts come out of nowhere, and while the themes of their routes are still relevant to the overall theme of Kaori’s growth as a nurse, it feels tacked on. As for Mayuki, you can’t even meet her until you reach any ending once, and make a specific choice early in the game, as she’s literally separated from everyone else.
As for the three ‘main heroines’ that have been in the game since the first release, their stories can feel like a drag if you didn’t know that this game was a release with added content. Right after the logical stopping point for their stories in the main game, I was surprised by how each of their routes went through a short timeskip to depict more trials and tribulations, as well as scenes that show Kaori’s new relationship with them as lovers. With Kaori now a more experienced nurse, these post-stories focus on the heroines themselves and their growth, and I absolutely loved these short vignettes into a life that usually is left to the player’s imagination. But it just makes it feel even more unfair to Yamanouchi, Ami, and Mayuki, all three of whom end their routes with Kaori hitching up with them.
I’d also like to address the “supernatural” element of the game, which is played up in marketing with Kaori’s ‘healing hands’, and such. Kaori herself only thinks it’s placebo, despite what patients tell her, and in the end, her abilities don’t really amount to much beyond a couple of lines in some scenes. At the end of a certain heroine’s route, shocking revelations about Kaori’s past and her relationship with the heroine come to light, and although we’re likely meant to feel emotional about it, instead I was left dumbstruck with disbelief.
Finally, I’d like to address the heroines themselves. They play tropes and character types out to a T, and while this might be a turn-off to some, I found them quite well-executed versions of those archetypes. This is because the harsh circumstances of medicine, nursing, and some darker sides of the industry serve as perfect backdrops that give reasonable explanation to the way they are, so that they don’t feel as trope-y.
In the end, yuri is mainly the thing players will be playing Nurse Love Syndrome for, and in this regard, there’s few complaints to be had. The individual routes themselves are great if you keep in mind the context of the game being a re-release with added routes and content. While personally I feel that the romance didn’t quite mesh with the theme of Kaori’s holistic growth in all aspects of nursing, it does focus on specific aspects that Kaori does learn from, and Kaori’s interactions with the heroines are well-written and a joy to read.
Nurse Love Syndrome is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation Vita, and PC via Steam. Check out first previous playtest on how the game provides a deep dive into nursing here.