During my short hiatus, Love Plus has gained both popularity and notoriety around the internets, mostly because of this guy who supposedly married Nene Anegasaki… or at least… one game ‘copy’ of her. And so thousands other copies are still single I guess, including mine, which is quite neglected actually for a while. I was quite busy last month due to real-life stuff, and with it less DS or Love Plus gaming. I’m here though to provide a little bit more detail and realizations on the game which became apparent to me after quite some time playing.
It is quite impressive for a single-player game to keep my interest for almost two months. Unlike many other games which have an actual ending that you’d want to pursue, the real-time feature of Love Plus ensures that you have at least something fresh everytime you turn on the DS. For most of those times, I actually abused the Sleep mode of the console for quick gaming snippets throughout one day. The DS is like your “virtual cellphone” for your virtual girlfriend. You open it, sometimes you see a mail message. Sometimes she even calls for you to meet somewhere around town, or school, if it is still within school hours. That school is quite odd to let students roam free doing whatever they want around campus. Take note that when you call the girl out (or when the girl calls you), this is essentially a “mini-date”. This is quite annoying, especially when your stats are high, because she would want to do the “skinship” cuddling part that I oh-so-despise in this game.
Oftentimes I refuse whenever I can, but when the stats are “really high” you kinda get railroaded into that gameplay without any escape. I don’t think I see any penalty in refusing the skinship. Heck, I even tried to avoid her, make wrong text replies and decisions in an attempt to anger Nene. The worst that could possibly happen? Your status icon would indicate that you are going sour towards the girl (skull icon), and she’ll rarely text, call, or even go walk with you after school. How cute. Breakup is not possible at all. Besides, with the four tasks you do everyday, you are guaranteed positive stats almost everytime.
On the flipside as I said, if you raise your stats to the absolute maximum (up to four hearts will show up for each stat), she will glomp you whole. On a scheduled date with the girl, you will see “MAX HEART” indicated on screen. She will initiate the skinship, and you have no escape. She will do it 1: before the date, 2: before going to a food spot (you eat before the date proper), 3: before arriving at the actual date spot, 4: during the date event, 5: after the date event, 6: while walking her home, and lastly, 7: before saying goodbyes. Heck, did I even mention that after the date event, there is an option to go to a SECOND DATE SPOT? If I’m recalling correctly, there can be around 10 times you do the skinship thing in a date, and really, it takes up almost 80% of the entire time! Horrible.
HAIR AND CLOTHES
In dates Nene would often change her hairstyle, but in the normal everydays she would only have a couple of styles depending on the hair length you preferred for her (long, semi-long, short). I personally prefer the short version because it would make her look less mature, but then there are even less hairstyles for that one. Furthermore, the times she would pop that question to you are few and far between. Heck, up until now I still can’t change her hair color – it’s been stuck to “green” for a while now. About the clothing, maybe it’s my randomness of decision-making since I don’t understand too much Japanese, but Nene has odd taste, from the normal casual to the radical lolita fashion style with dark colors. I always answer back “it looks good on you”, but no clothes style gets fixed at all. You can see all the hairstyles and clothing below (doesn’t include hair colors though):
EVENTS AND PLACES
As a slow-unlock type of game, Love Plus really is quite bent on making you play it for an entire year, if you’re really into it that is. There are certain random days that have an Event task showing up, which means a unique event is going to happen if you open the game at that specific time. For example, I had an event when the school seems to have some basketball game going on. I think I was part of it, and Nene was cheering me on (no cheerleader uniform though). These events are quite hard to catch especially if you don’t open the game everyday. The in-game calendar though has indicated some key days (like Christmas week, obviously) which may have something special. I hope I can remember to open up the game in those days. Maybe I could give a present to Nene, finally, because I still haven’t found a way to do that.
A unique event that had me giggling lately would be exam preparation gameplay. It would involve the girl offering you to study with her at “her home” before a test. She would actually give you some random trivia questions, in which you have to answer correctly to get a prize… cosplay event! This event happened a couple of times and is quite frustrating to me because I can’t get many correct answers. Well, the cosplay weren’t anything special either, you can always make her do that in the rock-paper-scissors minigame in the Love Plus microphone-speaking mode.
Back in my first impressions I was wondering if the number of places we could actually go on dates would increase. Indeed it did, and it’s quite awesome. Basically when you go often to a date location, its level bar would increase, and eventually, some new spots just appear around it. From 20, there are already about 30 spots on the map. Impressive. And to think that each one has some unique date events that don’t repeat as much. This led me to admiring the sheer amount of voice and data work for this mere DS game. Of course, this game has a size limit and a person might be able to unlock everything someday, but sometimes I feel that this game rewards you too sparingly at times. The gallery section in my game still has many stuff unlocked. On the other hand, maybe it’s my casual gaming habits being unable to play everyday.
Love Plus is appealing to me, not in a “I want to marry Nene” sort of way, but because I like the character the same way I like characters from anime and other fictional mediums. Of course, there are times when I get tired of it, and I rarely played the game as well last month. But because of the feeling of freshness of the next text message or voice dialogue that she utters, it feels like the stuff I like about her gets reinforced whenever I play. This is technically a single-player game, but it has those mentioned elements that keep it new, which is similar to playing a multiplayer game. The game makes you believe that the girl has some AI running it, although it’s all pre-programmed and only a bit of randomness is going on behind the scenes. I guess having this “illusion” is key in this game, and so far it works for me.
Love Plus, therefore, is a very early example of a virtual relationship simulation game. As such a game, it is indeed impressive work considering the limits of the DS game console, but I just had to wonder where do we go from here. Let me first describe the one major disappointment I have with the game. This game is entirely focused on you, the player, and the virtual girl. No one else seems to be important. I mean, wouldn’t it be similarly lonely if you only had a girlfriend and NO ONE ELSE in your life? This game made me feel quite isolated in terms of Nene or me not knowing or being involved with any other non-player character in the game world. Sure, sometimes Nene would talk about her classmates or her co-workers at the part time job, but technically you don’t really meet those people. You won’t meet her parents, nor your parents. There are no friends and/or acquaintances. The feeling seems to be so distant since there are no external factors that exist in their world. Sure, you and the girl would go out on dates in different places, but the same patterns would happen in each one. You and she would enjoy each other’s company and she would tell you how much she loves you. Dialogue and events may vary, but they are essentially saying the same thing. Part of the fun in other dating sims is having other characters and settings in the world which affect you and the girl. This is one thing I would really want the moment another virtual relationship simulation game surfaces. Those NPCs (non-player characters) don’t necessarily need to have an AI construct the same way as the virtual girl would have, they just have to interact with the player so that it builds the game’s world beyond just the romantic relationship itself. At least it wouldn’t have as many mundane and uninteresting stories that way.
As I said, this had me wanting something more in a relationship simulator, which turns me to look online. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you had some of the Love Plus gameplay, add those NPCs and external stuff I mentioned, AND make it expandable through downloadable content packs!? What I’m describing is essentially a role-playing game featuring AI-driven girls in a world that can be expanded through online updates. I think that this is a revolution that all those bishoujo game makers haven’t discovered yet. We’re still stuck on the same visual novel structure for decades. I think Love Plus is something midway to a gaming revolution in this genre, in which it features AI smart enough to make seemingly random but educated decisions, however limited.
Hold that thought for a moment though, because it would start to become scarier. As technology progresses, so would game engines. If a person today is (trollingly) crazy enough to wed a video game character, it may well be a foreboding vision of the future. AI which are really smart enough to be thinking people… or worse… AI girlfriends? (OMG shudder~) Anyway, let’s stop there and just enjoy Love Plus for now.