Forbidden love is a popular topic when it comes to romantic stories. Star-crossed lovers, and what-not. Lover Pretend, the latest Otomate Switch otome game picked up by Aksys, banks its entire premise on the concept. What’s the element that makes it all so scandalous? Almost all of your love interests could be your half-brother! Odds of Incidental incest aside, it’s a surprisingly wholesome visual novel!
Lover Pretend follows a young woman named Chiyuki Ueda who dreams of becoming a script writer like her deceased mother. (You can change her first name.) Her mom was the writer for a very well-known and beloved romantic movie. That’s also how she met Chiyuki’s father. Now in college and with the son of the screenwriter of that film as her mentor, she gets an opportunity to work as his assistant on a new film. The best part? Many of the people who worked on her mother’s movie are all working together on it. She’ll get a chance to find out if people like the original writer, director, or producer could be her father. At the same time, she’ll also get a chance to get close to people like the son of that film’s lead actor and the son of that film’s director and find love with them. However, because there is that connection, they could be her siblings.
Many of Otomate and Idea Factory’s recent Switch otome games have a “gimmick” associated with them, and for Lover Pretend it is Pretend Time. This is a brief section in which you need to “convince” someone of something. There will be at least three questions in succession, though sometimes as many as six can come up. Your goal is to get a 100% complete, with a jigsaw-like aesthetic letting you know if your responses are getting close to that. (Getting a “Success” with the majority of the answers right tends to be just as good!) These can involve situations like tricking a waiter into believing you’re a couple for a certain menu deal, evading a member of the paparazzi’s questions, or even throwing a love interest off of your goal in working on the movie.
I enjoyed it more than I would have! While this does add a bit of pressure, since you’re worrying about getting it “right,” it can get you thinking about the right course of action. For example, some of the situations can rely on the idea that the best “like” includes a hint of “truth.” Also, if you decide to reload after the segment is done, it will remember the choices you made. So there isn’t as much danger in taking a chance.
Speaking of being surprised by the game, Lover Pretendshocked me when it came to how tactfully it handled certain topics. One route features a young woman who is a Gravure idol, which can have a negative connotation. However, both the heroine and Yukito treat her with respect. (The player’s avatar even points out her positive traits.) There is also character referred to at the end of one route that is transgender, and I felt the game did a good job of using proper pronouns, referring to them by their name, and similarly showing them respect. Especially since the heroine — and by extension the player — doesn’t get to know this person is transgender until the person connected with them gets their permission to tell her first.
This is also a game in which many of the love interests appealed to me in some way, which was another happy surprise. Since we’re dealing with people who are either almost finished with their college career or established adults, it feels a little more mature. (Though certain characters don’t always act their age.) Also, while it won’t always be an accurate representation of the movie business or similar industries, it feels like it attempts to get certain concepts correct. It is intriguing to see a heroine in an industry she enjoys, with her goal being to do well and not just find out “Who’s my daddy?”
The only downside is if someone really does care about the mystery behind the heroine’s father’s identity, there’s only one route that gets into it. As you might imagine, it is a locked one. So you’ll need to get invested in a number of love interests and go through their stories before you get real answers. It means a lot of hours if you want to know it all. Which isn’t bad! But it can be a lot, and I ultimately didn’t care for the route that revealed it all as much as I did the other four.
Lover Pretend ended up being a real surprise, as I didn’t expect to enjoy this Switch otome game as I did. It seemed like it could perhaps rely too heavily on its taboo theme. But it snuck up on me with its earnest nature. Not to mention the way it handles certain topics lent a level of respect I didn’t expect from it. It’s just a lovely little love story.
Lover Pretend will come to the Nintendo Switch on December 1, 2022.