Review: Tengoku Struggle: Strayside Is a Heavenly Otome With Devilish Suitors
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Review: Tengoku Struggle: Strayside Is a Heavenly Otome With Devilish Suitors

I love it when Idea Factory and Otomate create an otome game with a strong heroine, a strong cast of characters who all interact well with each other, and that can also mix in some humor or great lore building. Tengoku Struggle: Strayside is much like Variable Barricadein that respect, and as a result it is one of the better and stronger games Aksys has localized.

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In the world of Tengoku Struggle: Strayside, there’s a complex system of reincarnation and redemption that ties the human realm, heaven, and various levels of hell to ensure people move on and become the best versions of themselves. Rin Enma is a transient soul, one with no memories that would have disappeared, but she was adopted by the King of Hell as his daughter. She’s dedicated herself to making a place for herself and making him proud, even becoming a Hell Guardian, to ensure she wouldn’t disappear. 

However, immediately after graduation, some notorious figures managed to actually escape hell after a special thread of redemption was dropped from heaven. As such, King Enma sends Rin to the human realm, as part of the normal exchange program, to have her work alongside criminals Goemon Ishikawa, Kikunosuke Uga, Sharaku Toushuusai, and Yona Murakami. However, while these men are willing to work for her father, they have no such loyalty to her. It’s up to them to somehow all work together, figure out what Shinobikuni and her escapee minions’ plans are, and send the prisoners back.

That said, Tengoku Struggle: Strayside is one of those fantastic otome games where the whole cast is incredible. Not only does Rin have fantastic chemistry with all of the bachelor options, but they all get along well with each other. As such, we’re getting to see all of them play off of each other and their relationships develop from a group of people who just wanted to get out of hell for a while to actually being friends who care about each other and maybe even love Rin. The fact that they come from different time period and have different “sins” that landed them in various hells also make them fascinating, since we can eventually identify with why they did what they did and see how they interact based on their backgrounds.

Because Rin is both living and working alongside of these new allies, we’re seeing relationships develop naturally between them in this otome visual novel. They come to see how strong and dedicated she is, as well as appreciate how seriously she takes her role as a Hell Guardian to rehabilitate and prove herself. Likewise, she sees the good sides of them and understands that just because they wound up in hell doesn’t mean they’re evil. This means there are a lot of moments that are dramatic, insightful, touching, and even just plain funny. 

I also absolutely adored how the villains here are handled. Once Rin and her crew passes through the Hell Gate to the human world, they relatively quickly encounter Shinobikuni and the other prisoners she “saved.” While Shinobikuni unquestionably comes across as villainous, some of the others fall into a more grey area. Azami, Okuni, and Sansaburo all seem like relatively decent people who happened to go through some unfortunate things that left them in hell, just like the prisoners Rin is working alongside. I loved the roles they ended up playing and how Tengoku Struggle: Strayside also took the time to tell their stories too.

Some minor things do come up that may keep Tengoku Struggle: Strayside from becoming someone’s next favorite otome game. The more minor ones are some issues that came up likely during the editing and localization process, and I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe a patch fixes up a few of those errors. Another issue is that this is absolutely a visual novel that feels like one route is the “right” and canon one. You won’t see some of these loose threads tie up until that storyline, which is unfortunate. Especially since it is the last one you get to. However, because you do have to go through the others first, at least that offers some resolution for the other enemy and ally backstories. 

On the plus side, even though there is so much going on in Tengoku Struggle: Strayside, it never feels like the romance is an afterthought. It’s very well integrated into the story. We’re really seeing Rin grow closer to the men she’s working with, and we get these pay-off scenes in the end as a reward for it. Even some of the “bad” endings are interesting when we get to see what happens to Rin and the individuals as a result of things not going as planned.

Tengoku Struggle: Strayside is a delightful otome game. This is the one you pick up and play if you like a well-rounded world, a heroine who stands up for herself and has a personality, and a cast of heroes and villains who all feel interesting. It’s easy to get invested in its story. 

Tengoku Struggle: Strayside comes to the Nintendo Switch on April 4, 2024

Tengoku Struggle: Strayside

From the team that created Olympia Soirée comes a comedic battle fantasy set in a place where the living and the dead mingle, and sinners are pitted against each other in eternal battle. Rin Enma, adopted daughter of the king of the underworld, has been tasked with tracking down and recapturing a group of escaped sinners. Accompanying her on her journey are four sinners hand-picked by her father. Will Rin succeed in her mission… and will she discover love? Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Tengoku Struggle: Strayside offers only winning otome elements, like great character dynamics, an interesting setting, and a strong heroine.

Food for Thought:
  • As usual, there’s unlocking, so you need to finish Kikunosuke, Sharaku, and Yona to unlock JacK, then JacK to see Goemon.
  • The worldbuilding around hell, heaven, and the provisional program that allows the dead into the human realm is handled pretty well. There’s a lot of thought put into it.
  • This is an otome game where I genuinely enjoyed every route, though if pressed Goemon and Yona's were my favorites and I liked Kikunosuke's least.

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Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.