When you pick up an otome visual novel for your Switch, you figure you are getting a game that will feature intricate romance stories with detailed characters, but Paradigm Paradox doesn’t exactly fit into the typical mold. Which is fine! The problem is, the game as a whole feels rushed, with the world’s lore and characters’ relationships speedrunning their way to good (and bad) ends. The result is a story with so much potential that leaves you wondering, “Is that it?” at the end of every route.
Paradigm Paradox begins with an ordinary young woman living in a colony in which it isn’t possible to safely live outside the confines of the restricted environment. She’s an orphan with only an uncle to email, living in her school’s dorm and abiding by rules like “returning home before curfew.” Naturally, since Paradigm Paradox is a Switch otome game, there are also lots of attractive men about, but the heroine doesn’t seem interested in them. (Her best friend Rize even says it is something she likes about her.)
But the Vectors Come at Night!
Not long after we meet the heroine, we learn that those curfews are in place for a reason! It turns out monsters known as Vectors roam the colony at night. The heroine returns to the commercial district to a mall where she lost her necklace, and encounters a hostile Vector. After it attacks her, she learns the urban legend about super heroes who fight monsters after curfew is true. A group of magical girls rescues her as she passes out, and when she awakes a scientist tells her she’s now has powers too and is the newest member of the Blooms.
Unlike some Idea Factory and Otomate otome games that attempt to blend in some other kinds of gameplay elements, this is a straightforward visual novel for your Switch. You’ll guide the heroine throughout her day and help her make important decisions. However, since this is a title in which the romance element isn’t the main focus, your choices don’t just determine which love interest she could end up with in the end. It also determines whether she will be on the side of the “heroes” or “villains.” Certain visual cues will let you know which path you’re working toward during the brief common route, as well as if your potential partner agrees with your responses when you’re on their route. A flowchart, which is uncomplicated and brief for each segment due to the relatively short length of the title, lets you see every possible outcome and plot your advance.
At Least Paradigm Paradox Doesn’t Waste Time Getting to the Point
While things being so visible and easy to discern is a blessing, it’s a curse in that Paradigm Paradox is an incredibly brief game. So much so that during my first run through with Hyuga, I beat the game in a single evening and had no trouble getting the “happy” ending on the first try. Yes, there are eight routes present and a true ending. But it feels like there isn’t the same care as there was with a game like Norn9: Var Commons, which also told an astonishing number of potential stories.
Speaking of Norn9, Paradigm Paradox tries to build a unique world with the same sort of lore and twists. Again, the brevity of the title works against it. Plot beats happen with no build up to them. Characters suddenly love the heroine with little reason to do so. The only way you’ll get real answers about what’s happening and the story’s secrets are if you pursue certain characters or see the true end’s details. The character designs are so pretty and premise so promising, but it’s mishandled.
A Slightly Wilted Superhero Story
It also feels like Paradigm Paradox is a missed opportunity at times. I feel like there could be a fun exploration of gender here, considering some plot elements. Unfortunately, only two routes seemed to start to consider things, but didn’t go beyond some surface-level asides or follow up with explorations of how a romantic relationship could go between the heroine and potential love interests of the same gender. (Or, if there’s a situation in which there could be a same-sex relationship, it defaults to “just friends” even if it was building up in a romantic way prior.)
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a game with dating sim elements focusing on other elements and letting the lovey-dovey stuff gradually build in the background. The thing is that Paradigm Paradox can be an interesting visual novel, but isn’t the best if you’re looking for a really romantic Switch otome game. The majority of the routes feel clipped and rush, “telling” you there’s suddenly a meaningful relationship between the heroine and other characters without “showing” you how it happened. The game is stylish and the localization is fun, but it left me wanting more substance.
Paradigm Paradox will come to the Nintendo Switch on October 27, 2022.