Love Plus: Impressions

By bluemist on September 5th, 2009

Love Plus

People may be interested about how the Love Plus gameplay works. Depending on how you look at it, this may either be the most innovative dating sim ever or a freaking marketing gimmick. After playing for almost a whole day, I managed to get one girl and move on to the second part of the game, which is supposed to be the, er… Tamagotchi part. Anyway, enough for intros, this may be a long one. Let’s start.

INTRODUCTION

She’s Nene Anegasaki. She works part-time at a local family restaurant, on which you will too. She also attends your school, where she is 1 year senior to you. Yup, she has the elder sister vibe, the type of character I kinda don’t like the most in bishoujo games and anime. Somehow she passes for me because she’s not as overly mature as the other onee-san types. You will meet the other two girls at school, one would be a tennis player (Manaka Takane) and a tsundere (Rinko Kobayakawa) which may be the favorite for the lot of you. For one, Rinko is voiced by returning seiyuu Sakura Tange of Cardcaptor Sakura fame. For my game notes though, we have to stick with onee-chan here.

THE DATING SIM PHASE

I have played a lot of visual novels but this may be one of the few times I’ve dealt with gameplay other than just dealing with decision-point choices. Recently I have also played a bit of Time Leap Paradise, where you schedule events every week and try to build up points and cash for romance and Idolmaster-esque concert events for your girl. The same goes for Love Plus. This game will have you schedule four tasks per day, one at each time slot from morning to evening. With each event you build up (or reduce) one or more of your four personal statistics, namely Health, Knowledge, Sensibility and Charms. You need these bars to rise in order for character-specific events to open up. In the case of Nene, most of her events open up at the third time sked, when we usually go for the part-time job task. You know a character-specific event is available whenever a little girl icon opens at one of the tasks. It’s usually at the third time sked.


You have 100 days to court your girl. For my first playthrough, I managed to make Nene confess by the 78th day. Impressive, but below 50 days may be possible. This will be an easy game for those who fully understand Japanese. As for me, it’s hard to decipher many aspects. For the stats, I focused more on Sense and Charm, because I thought Health would be mostly for the tennis girl and Knowledge for the bookish tsundere. Maybe I was wrong, because the visual cues would tend to go for Nene sometimes in the other stats. In any case, I won with only those two stats full, and the other two stats at half. That should be enough assuming you follow the girl you want always, and avoid the others using bad decision choices.


There seems to be a very specific task for a specific day required for each girl. This is clued onto the player by the texting system. After a few more events with Nene around, she eventually gave me her cellphone number somehow. You can text the girl, or she can text you randomly, before sleeping and also before morning scheduling of tasks. You reply with predetermined choices of course, but sometimes she doesn’t reply to a text. I wonder if I did some choices wrong. Some of her texts will even remind or warn you of some task that you need to do at a very specific day. You will know this (assuming you replied correctly to her text) when there is a “check” icon. If you go for that task, your stats will rise higher than usual. Thankfully I got enough right. You need a good balance in the tasks. As I said, some will reduce especially if you didn’t do it at the time that the girl probably preferred you to have done it.

How the girl gets closer to you is quite interesting. At first, I see Nene at school and I’m the one calling out for her to chat. As time passes, she will be the one to approach you instead. Early on, I was the one offering to walk together with her after school, but later one she will be the one taking the initiative. Also, there were no morning events until the 40th day I think, when she started meeting me walking towards school. This is where Love Plus seemed impressive. Each of these events has some unique dialogue. Yes, even the repeating mundane events like walking to and from school, as well as idle chats at school and also in the evening. She always had something else to say. I wonder when will start to notice her lines to repeat… of course there will be a limit here. But having thousands of lines of voice in a DS cartridge is a huge feat.


I can’t say there’s much of a story in Nene’s scenario. It actually seemed shallow even. Without spoiling much, basically you get closer to Nene because of the part-time work. As your senior though, she starts to feel pressure when you instead grow to be better at the part time job. Nene seemed to see herself as the dependable senpai, but she started to fall for you and swallow her pride. Sweet but shallow story, but maybe as the game tries to aim for reality this is very much in line.

THE STEADY PHASE (preview)

So, with her confessing, she started to call me by the first nickname. Actually you will decide how you would be called by the end of the first part. The game opens up to… well there is the much-advertised Real Time Clock mode, in which the 4-task day would run in real time. Surprise to me, there’s also a Skip Mode where you schedule and play through many 4-task days as you would in the first part. Anyway, this phase adds more gameplay. Aside from the text messaging system, you can also “call” your girlfriend, either if you want to meet for a little chat and “cuddling” (ehem, later explained), or to schedule/cancel a “date” (a more eventful form of chats and cuddlings). You also have a freaking internet inside, where you can read the news related to various stuff around your city, probably to check out new movies, events, places, horoscopes and stuff. I have not reached the part where this is even useful yet.

There is a map where you can check out locations where you can take your girlfriend out on a date (take note that sometimes “she” will call you out for a date too). Some locations have level bars that rise as you frequent that location. I have not leveled up one so I don’t know what will happen yet, but let me say that each location has a number of unique events on it. Me and Nene have been to the karaoke bar twice. While there are some repeating conversations in each, there have been unique ones which surprised me. I didn’t hear her sing at the first one, but she “sang” a bit at the second outing. Whoa. With more than 20 locations (and who knows if a new location pops up someday), there is a wealth of stuff to do.


I hadn’t seem to have unlocked some parts yet. There is a option related to events and presents where there’s nothing in it yet. I assume that this will be related to the internet function. When I checked the gallery, half the CG I haven’t unlocked for Nene yet (30 in total). There are also Dream events (maybe unlocked when you open the DS at night). I only experienced 1 out of 10 total. This is where I realized Love Plus’ gimmicky marketing scheme. All in all, this is a slow-paced item unlock and discovery system. Even with the Skip Mode, you wont experience the entirety of the game in one go. At RTC, you even need to wait for the real Christmas or Valentines Day to get whatever event is in there. There is a time-travel option in RTC though so you can progress like Hiro Nakamura if you want.


Okay, let’s go to the “cuddling” part. There are some events (like walking to and from school) where you can tap the girl to get a reaction. Sometimes if you tap her at the right places she will open to you for cuddling her face. As seen in Manaka’s example above… this gameplay is so cheesy, embarassing, and weird. You need to swipe at parts of her face to collect hearts. If the colors start turning blue you may want to swipe elsewhere. I somehow managed to collect 5 hearts (not the max I think) which granted me to kiss her 5 times. All of this tapping, cuddling and kissing seems random. She may not like the parts you tapped, cuddled, or kissed. The kissing part though may have visual cues when she wants to be kissed at the cheek, nose or lips. Oh, I forgot to mention. You still have statistics in this part of the game, so if you don’t cuddle her right the date might be a disaster and your stats lessen. If your stats lessen you might need to do the tasks more. She may not ask you for a date, or she will cancel one, if your stats are low. Heh. I wonder if a break-up is possible.


You may wonder about a girl’s magical transformations in this game. Sometimes in conversations or text messages she will ask you what kind of clothes or hairstyles you prefer. Indeed this works. By the second date she wore a ponytail and more casual clothes to please me. If you’re good enough the changes may be permanent over time. I will want to make her less of an onee-chan type. I wonder if it’s even possible…


Finally, the odd Love Plus speaking mode. You speak to her through the microphone. This sucks for me. It’s not my Japanese, I think I have not discovered the “specific” words in which she will react correctly. I try to ask her about her favorite movie genre, and she answers back how she loves casual clothes. She will also ask about your favorite color, clothes, etc here, and it might affect those transformations I mentioned. There seem to be unlocks over here as well. Also, I need to mention that there is a limited point system for the game tasks, so you can’t just text or call for her too often each day in the RTC mode. Those points can be replenished by merely moving to the next day, or talking to her through this speaking mode.

IMPRESSIONS
Whew. As you can see, this is some kind of dating simulation indeed. While I don’t think this breaks new grounds, it’s innovative at least in terms of the after-confession gameplay, something which I rarely see in similar games anyway. Of course, this will be the lame part for some people, because the conversations with the virtual girl will be kinda story-less. The game will mainly depend on the “charm” of the three heroines by this time to keep the interest going. I only had this game for a couple of days. I don’t usually play a game at years lengths unless it’s an online game. Offline games like this would rely on the randomness to keep it interesting. Whether the slow and random unlock system would keep “my” interest going, I wonder. I would say, Nene is charming enough for now. It’s another matter if she’s good enough for me to keep playing a DS game for weeks or months. Time will tell.

11 Comments

Posted By: ETERNAL On: September 05, 2009 At: 11:04 am

Thanks for the coverage, I’ve been wondering about the gameplay for a while. I haven’t played any stat-based dating sims (IIRC the only popular translated one is the old Pia Carrot), but it looks like Love Plus does a good job of playing like a game rather than an interactive novel. I’m guessing that’s what the developers were going for, which is why I’d be surprised to see anything resembling the kind of stories and twists you see in VNs like Kanon.

Honestly, though, I’m hoping that cuddling minigame isn’t realistic. It sounds almost hilariously awkward…

Posted By: omo On: September 05, 2009 At: 11:33 am

I got a couple dream events. I think those are like tutorial type things that teaches you how to work the cuddle modes? I can’t read or speak either so blind-leads-blind lols.

Still fun though…

Posted By: bluemist On: September 05, 2009 At: 1:35 pm

@ETERNAL
Yes there may not be any story arcs to think about. I expect this to be the mundane everydays and dates with the girl. And the cuddling stuff is as awkward as those other DS body-touching games like the infamous Doki Majo series. I won’t let anyone see myself playing it.

@omo
Well I think those aren’t dream events because they weren’t in the galleries, maybe they’re just tutorials. I unlocked a dream about Nene confessing to an older guy, which I think actually happened in the past.

Posted By: Ryuukikun On: September 05, 2009 At: 5:02 pm

I finished my playthrough with Rinko in 73th day…

but i guess i always fails at touching her at dates… like, fails in every chances… -_- i’ll just hope that breakup is not possible..

but i like this game tho… it’s somewhat unique…

i unlock a dream where rinko became my wife though… and she asks me to speak aishiteru 100 times (through the mic).. well you only need to speak for about 3 times or so though.. what a funny dream… XD

Posted By: bluemist On: September 09, 2009 At: 10:40 pm

More details about the touching.

There’s actually a “crowd-eye” indicator at the left DS screen which indicates when many people are looking at you. You are supposed to tap on the girl when not many people are looking or else you can’t do the skinship. Sometimes though when your stats are high enough she will be the one to approach you instead.

@Ryuukikun
I don’t think a breakup is possible, I tried it myself with Rinko at another savegame. I ignored her a lot, made worse texts and choices, bad skinship in dates, etc. The worst thing happening is she would refuse to walk with you, or while on a date she’ll actually leave lolz. But you always do tasks so it’s impossible for your stats to not rise everytime. She’ll always hunger for you hahaha.

Posted By: Ellipsis On: September 25, 2009 At: 11:58 am

Do you think there will ever be a chance for us non-Japanese speaking/reading peoples to get a chance with this game? I just love the idea of 3D daily sim w/like…social. Cuz I’m a girl that dislikes Harvest Moon and is getting tired of real RPGs.

Yaa. I’m kinda waiting for Tomeki Memorial to be fully translated as well. -sigh-

Posted By: Wavehawk On: September 28, 2009 At: 12:06 pm

Not much luck.

Some years back, I floated the concept of translating non-H dating sims to gamefaqs, and was spammed by posts calling me Unamerican (the fact that I’m not American notwithstanding). So I’ve pretty much given up any hope of games like this ever making more than a tiny niche-within-a-niche market anywhere outside of Japan and Asia. Thus meaning zero chances of anyone translating this stuff commercially.

As a side note: Tokimeki Memorial 4 will be out for the PSP.

Posted By: boo On: September 30, 2009 At: 3:10 pm

This game was just fine IMHO,at least Sakura Tange’s back!!LOL!!

Posted By: papapa On: October 25, 2009 At: 8:17 pm

Love Plus Real chick
  │      │
  │     proposal
  │   ┌─┴─┐
  │  fail   success
  │   │  ┌─┴───┐
  │   │ fail     wedding
  │   │  │   ┌──┴──┐
  │   │  │exploitation baby born
  │   │  │   │     ┌─┴─┐
  │   │  │   │ betrayal  divorce
  │   │  │   │     │     │
  │   │  ↓   ↓     │consolation cost
  │   └→hell ←┴───┘
  ↓
heaven

Posted By: tamagotchi mametchi On: August 29, 2010 At: 3:02 pm

I bought tamagotchi v5 game for my kids to maintain them away from computer. It appears adorable to even an adult like me.

Posted By: Debit On: April 25, 2014 At: 6:31 am

I think one of the strengths of Love Plus is not overwhelming the player with too many stats. Simulation games in general can suffer from information overload, if the designers are not careful.

The pre-relation stage of LP is pretty intuitive to navigate through. The three non-class afternoon activities (Job, Library, and Tennis Club) pretty much give away which stats to grind. The in-game help in the beginning does a good job in how to understand the stat bars.

Another strength is limiting the choice of girls to just three; there is more emphasis on the girls’ individual histories and personality traits which helps to maintain focus. Apparently aloof Rinko is surprisingly funny and cute. Typically mature Nene has surprisingly weird and insecure sides. Manaka — I have not delved into her route yet, unfortunately.

Now that is is already 2014, LP is pretty easy to find and play, even if one does not own Nintendo DS; NDS emulators and ROMs can be Googled. There is even a patch for English texts and GUI.

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