Code Realize: ~Guardian of Rebirth~ Review

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RELEASE DATE: 2014
PUBLISHER: Idea Factory & Aksys Games
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: PSVita (English)
PURCHASE LINK: Code: Realize Guardian of Rebirth – PlayStation Vita

I remember playing this game initially when it was released and localised in 2015 by Aksys Games into English. Recently, I decided to replay the game out of nostalgia (I haven’t touched the game since clocking it two years ago) and I might as well write a review on one of my all-time favourite otome games, am I right? I purchased a PSVita initially to play Amnesia: Memories that was released a month prior and to my surprise and delight, this title was released soon after; giving yet another purpose to playing the Vita.

What initially caught my attention was the gorgeous art, impressive sneak peek soundtracks, strong voice cast line up and character design. Not to mention I am a sucker for historical-based Visual Novels, since it gives a more three-dimensional take on the storyline and feels more authentic to read as a reader. It’s always interesting to see how writers use real life events to further fuel their own writing.

Needless to say, I felt this was undoubtedly the best otome game released in english for 2015. At the price of $29.99 USD, it is well worth the purchase and I highly recommend to all otome game lovers to give it a go.

Storyline ★★★★★

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-The Story-

Restricted to an abandoned mansion on the outskirts of London in fulfillment of a promise to her father, lonely Cardia lives day to day isolated from the world. Her body carries a deadly poison that rots or melts anything her skin touches, prompting the locals to call her a “monster.” Her last conversation with her father two years ago, telling her to stay out of sight and never fall in love, is the furthest back she can remember. One day, her quiet solitude is interrupted as the Royal Guards break in to capture her. It is then that Cardia meets Arsène Lupin, a chivalrous thief, who helps her escape the soldiers’ clutches. She soon finds herself on a journey with Lupin to locate her father, who holds the answers to her mysterious condition. The two are soon joined by four more interesting and handsome gentlemen…

(Aksys Games Website)

The story is based in 19th Century London, Britain during the technological age of revolution. It heavily uses the genre of steampunk, and many of the characters are based on famous historical figures or fiction of the era. Isaac Beckford, the protagonist’s father is considered the equivalent of a “modern prometheus”, and the main forerunner behind Britain’s staggering technological advancement for its time and fortified defence famously known as Steel London.

However, he has since disappeared without a trace in the peak of his career and brilliance; to the shock of the world. It is the search for his whereabouts that joins all the characters by fate in meeting one another, and becoming a team in order to further their own personal goals. Cardia (the protagonist) decides to accompany them on a journey of self-discovery, seeking the answers to her own past, origin and cure for her condition to fulfil her desire to touch another human being.

The story premise immediately draws the reader in, with its interesting concept and twist on real world history. It is executed excellently, with good story pacing and every route is wrapped up nicely. The reader isn’t left dissatisfied or with questions unanswered, and the routes go into incredible detail about the character’s struggles, past, origin, and reason for searching for Isaac Beckford. One of the greatest points about Code: Realize is that none of the routes felt lacking in content and depth. Usually many Visual Novels struggle with consistency, and it is obvious in the writing that some routes are written better than others. This was not the case for this game.

Every storyline route played a crucial factor in the overarching plot, each connecting to one another beautifully in the grand scheme of painting the picture for the story. Every route essentially was a different perspective and piece of the overall plot, and when placed altogether forms the complete storyline. When the dots all lined up in the end, I was left with a feeling of awe and satisfaction at how well planned out the whole storyline was.

The writing and translation was rather impressive and accurate, with very little grammatical errors throughout. I probably only found a handful of typos during the course of the game that are easily overlooked, although could have been spotted with more thorough proofreading. The game is of medium length, and would take approximately 30-50hrs to complete. The common route spans from Chapter 1-8 of the game, and takes around 5-6 hrs to finish. From Chapter 9-13 is the character route of the chosen bachelor that you selected, which takes around 5-10 hrs to finish depending on your read speed.

The game covers a lot of content, and is very text heavy. If you’re not a fan of content-heavy games with slow developing storylines, this game can feel like a hefty read and a struggle to finish. It is also an otome game so the romance aspect does play a significant part of the plot. Otherwise, there is very little I can fault about the story writing itself. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and playing the game, and it definitely left a strong impression on me.

Character Development ★★★★

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION! 

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One of the strongest points of the game is the writing for the heroine herself, Cardia Beckford. Playing as Cardia was an incredibly refreshing and rewarding experience, as she develops fantastically as a character over the course of the game. She begins as a doll-like girl with no will to live, unwilling to change and without a single desire or purpose other than to wait for the return of her father. Throughout her journey with the bachelors, she transforms into someone who deeply cares for her friends and others around her and does not hesitate to protect what she holds dear.

She shows the capacity for human thoughts and emotions, and a moral compass that distinguishes her from being a “monster”. Cardia constantly tries her best not to hold her friends back, and excels in the skills that they’ve taught her such as Lupin’s escape tactics, Van Helsing’s combat lessons and techniques, and Viktor’s use and understanding of chemical properties. Unlike many otome game heroines who fulfil the damsel-in-distress role, Cardia has shown time and time again that she can very well hold her own ground in a fair fight – even against the elite soldiers, Twilight.

She has escaped and overcome many situations that would’ve been deemed hopeless, through sheer willpower and wit. It is also understandable as to how she ends up falling for each of the bachelors, and doesn’t fall for them initially at first sight. There is actual build up and development with every character, as she slowly opens her heart to them about her deepest fears and past.

The game requires all 4 bachelor routes to be completed (Van Helsing, Saint-Germain, Viktor Frankenstein and Impey Barbicane), before it unlocks Lupin’s Route (The True Ending). I personally recommend playing them in the above order, due to the later routes revealing more information about the true ending. However, it’s not extremely important to play in that specific order and you can easily choose whomever you would like to play first.

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ABRAHAM VAN HELSING: Van Helsing is the infamous Vampire Hunter, who eradicated the vampires and their king during the Vampire War. He initially opens fire on the group when they are attending a fair, and demands that Cardia accompany him as she may be the key to finding the man he must kill. Van Helsing reluctantly joins the group after seeing their display of skill, and that their goals all essentially aline to one man – Isaac Beckford.

He is cold, callous, and remains distant from the rest of the group; having only a single-minded focus on killing Finis, the source of his life’s despair and misery. Van Helsing is willing to throw away everything, so long as his role as an avenger comes to an end – and agrees to die at the hands of Delacroix II to atone for his sins.

I thoroughly enjoyed Van Helsing’s route, as it was very emotionally vexing and well written. Seeing the transition from a cold-blooded killer into a man conflicted by his sense of duty and the foreign emotions of love truly played on my heartstrings. The pivotal moment when he confesses his longing for the heroine, and his frustrations at her recklessness precisely because he loves her was so wonderfully written. His voice actor (諏訪部 順一 Suwabe Junichi) did a fantastic job at conveying his pain, despair and love – the raw emotion was evident in every word punctuated.

I felt that he had significant character development throughout the story, and great dynamic with Cardia. Every moment between the two was electrifying, as Cardia consistently displays the fruits of his efforts in her admirable combat skills.

I felt their mutual respect and trust with one another’s lives formed the crux of their relationship; and how it inevitably led to them falling in love. The twist of his route was all too heart-wrenching, and completely justified his inner torment and turmoil. I loved the pacing, development and his good ending CG with Cardia was just all too cute.

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SAINT-GERMAIN: The most mysterious out of all the characters, not much is known about the whimsical Count other than his immense generosity with allowing the cast to stay at his mansion and entertaining their grand schemes in searching for Isaac Beckford. Originating in France, Saint-Germain is always calm, well-mannered and eloquent — the picture perfect definition of a gentleman.

In spite of his distaste for violence, all the characters have expressed that he is a force to be reckoned with and encompasses immense skill in combat; demonstrating on multiple occasions that he even exceeds Van Helsing in strength. Saint-Germain in my opinion had by far the best storyline out of all the bachelors in the sheer complexity of the plot and how well the pieces all came together in the end.

I don’t think any reader would have anticipated that Saint-Germain is in fact hundreds of years old, and an Apostle of Idea – The Guides of History throughout all of mankind. It just all suddenly clicked as to how they were able to evade detection for so long in the Count’s mansion, his combat skill through centuries of honing, immense world knowledge and how all the characters capable of altering history came to meet at his intervention behind the scenes.

I really liked the concept of the Apostles due to the strong religious allusions and historical references used to strengthen the storyline itself. It addresses yet another dimension of Cardia’s character and existence; the morality of mankind obtaining infinite power and trespassing on the realm of God in the creation of a human being.

Power given to human hands throughout history has inevitably led to death and destruction, a path that bars mankind from returning to Eternal Paradise (The Garden of Eden) – a goal that Omnibus (Eve), the Leader of the Apostles has dedicated her whole life to. Through consuming the forbidden fruit, Omnibus has the power to predict human disaster, and steer mankind onto the path of salvation. Cardia’s very own existence as a result, is undoubtedly considered sin in God’s eyes – a poor imitation at creating a human being, a doll unable to touch or love another person without planting the seeds of despair.

And yet, this very imitation has shown the capacity to love and care for another, not hesitating to place her life on the line to save someone else. She laughs, cries and smiles just like any other human being – so where is the line that distinguishes man from beast?It is no wonder that Saint-Germain becomes immensely conflicted in his judgement, as he is unable to come to a decision regarding her existence. For the first time in a millennia, his cold heart has been thawed and moved by a girl; fighting against fate in her search for meaning.

As a warning, his route is significantly darker than the other bachelors and can be considered disturbing to many. He displays ‘yandere-like’ tendencies such as kidnapping the heroine, attempting to strangle her, and she does die at his hands brutally in several of the bad ends. It is understandable however as his role in history does not allow him to disobey orders. The only order he disobeyed led to an incredibly traumatic past that wiped out a large portion of humanity, leaving his hands permanently bloodstained. Cardia continuing to live would bring about a calamity far greater than any in the past that humankind has committed.

The raw undiluted passion that the Count showed when single-handedly going against the 12 Apostles, and begging Omnibus to spare Cardia’s life touched me. It was completely unlike his character, and truly demonstrated how much he loved her and how important her existence was to him. Saint-Germain’s route is crucial to Cardia, since it further develops her as a character and addresses her existentialist existence. I was a little disappointed at his ending, since I felt that the happiness gifted to them could only be temporary and didn’t truly resolve Cardia’s underlying problems.

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VIKTOR FRANKENSTEIN: A famous alchemist in London and part of the prestigious Royal Alchemist Society, well-respected and renowned for his scientific discoveries. Cardia encounters Viktor when he assists her escape from some thugs on her first day in London, and offers the group his cooperation for their quests regarding Isaac Beckford in return for safety from the government.

He has been branded a wanted criminal and terrorist for treason, although it is unknown to the group the true nature of these accusations. Always kind-hearted, soft-spoken and gentle, he primarily serves as the group’s medic and makes up for his physical shortcomings through his use and knowledge of chemically-filled test tubes for both offence and defence.

It was quite amusing for a time of Cardia’s dilemma as Viktor potentially being her father; obviously alluding to the original tale of Frankenstein creating a monster whom he then abandoned. Initially I didn’t expect too much coming into Viktor’s route as his character isn’t usually my type, but his route was undoubtedly very sweet.

His route is refreshing in comparison to the first two, who are completely and utterly at the mercy of their past. Although he does have a traumatic past of his own, the overall mood and tone of the story is significantly more light-hearted. I particularly enjoyed his moments of shyness and consideration for Cardia that were vacant from the other two, and the fumbling of two people in love for the first time.

I enjoyed his route particularly due to his hand in creating the element ‘Zicterium’, the pre-cursor to the Philosopher’s Stone and his contribution to the heroine’s past more significant than any of us would expect. I felt he developed wonderfully as a character because it is through his meeting and interactions with the heroine that he is finally able to confront the demons of his past, and look forward to creating a better future. It is Cardia’s courage and headstrong personality that enables Viktor the strength and determination to atone for his actions.

What I also liked was it explored Queen Victoria’s character and her past, giving greater insight into a very interesting character in her own right. Viktor’s route paints her in her darkest hour as a ruthless, tyrant-like ruler who would sacrifice a whole city of civilians for the benefit of Great Britain; essentially the ending justifying the means.

By the end of his route however, we realise that she is in fact a genuinely kind and benevolent Queen, giving up her own morality and sense of self for the sake of her people. Everything she has done has been for the benefit of her own country, no matter how many pieces of herself she would lose in the process. I felt the scene where Leonhardt for the first time in his life disobeyed the Queen’s orders in response to Viktor’s brave actions of standing up to him and refusing to employ Victoria’s tactics was a true demonstration of both the character’s development over the story.

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IMPEY BARBICANE: A self-proclaimed genius engineer who partners up with Arsène Lupin from the beginning of the game to rescue Cardia from her home in Wales. The ‘comic-relief’ character out of all the bachelors, Impey is an incredibly cheerful and energetic personality; much to the ire of the others and consistently used as the butt of their jokes.

Despite their constant insults at his lack of trustworthiness and questionable morals when it comes to women, they deeply respect his abilities as both a cook and an engineer; fully relying on and trusting in his skill to get them out of tricky situations, which Impey always delivers. He is the only character who falls in love with Cardia at first sight, and expresses disappointment in all the routes when she ends up falling in love with another bachelor; although he always wishes for her happiness in the end.

I felt Impey although an enjoyable route to read, was a lot weaker than the others due to the fact that he had very little character development over the progress of the story. He is more or less the same from beginning to end, and doesn’t differ much from what we see in the other storylines; essentially what you see is what you get.

An interesting revelation about him though was his origins as a vampire, which explains his incredible strength and durability in combat. However, this was only mentioned in his route and not delved upon fully to my disappointment. I feel his origins should’ve been expanded on in more detail, and his past felt lacking in comparison to the others. His route is the most light-hearted out of the bunch, and not as heavy of a read which is a nice contrast.

His route delves into the character of Nemo, another genius mad-scientist who claims that both Viktor and Impey are his greatest rivals. This is important as Nemo is actually a significant character in the grand overarching plot, and his contributions to Twilight – the organisation seeking for the capture of Cardia. Impey by far had the best CGs in the game with the heroine, almost unfairly so in comparison to the other bachelors that I’ve noticed. Overall, I still really liked Impey as a character due to the dynamic he added to the group and the balance he brought to everyone else’s more jarring personalities.

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ARSÈNE LUPIN: The true ending only unlockable upon the completion of every other route, and as a result the most controversial in terms of audience reception. A world renowned ‘gentlemen-thief’ who has stolen from the most elite-organisations whether it be money, information or top-secret documents that has never been revealed to the public eye. A modern-day Robin Hood, he steals only from the rich and gives back to the poor; a rather warped sense of self-justice that he has instilled upon himself.

Lupin is responsible for planning the heist to rescue Cardia at the beginning of the game, and pledges to her that he can steal anything in the world – including women’s hearts. He makes a promise to grant her wish of being able to touch another human being, and ridding her body of the poison that permeates it. Lupin has a strong distaste for violence as he finds the behaviour ungentlemanly, and as a result all his skills lie in the art of deception and escape.

I felt that his route although good, it didn’t truly live up to the hype and build up it had from playing all the other routes. A consistent theme is that all the bachelors mention that they aren’t right for the heroine; and choosing someone like Lupin would truly ensure her salvation and happiness. They all emphasise that Lupin is the only one who can cure her, and grant Cardia the wish that she is seeking.

As a result, the bulk of Lupin’s story is dedicated to revealing and answering all the questions hinted at in the previous routes. Although his past is touched upon as to how he became a gentleman thief and acquired his skills, it is nowhere near as impactful or in-depth as the others. I felt his reasoning for saving the heroine and life purpose was quite weak overall, and didn’t leave a lasting impression.

All of his route was essentially revolved around Cardia, her past and how to rid her of the poison without much focus on Lupin at all; despite it being his route. He doesn’t develop much as a character either, despite having such significant roles in every single other bachelor route. He is the same from beginning to end, and when a character is too perfect in every way that is also a flaw in the writing.

What I do commend is the route does wrap up the overarching story nicely, and the questions culminated throughout the plot all were answered in one grand sweep. It is the only route where Isaac Beckford finally makes his appearance, and delves into his purpose for creating the cursed children as well as his reasoning for it all.

Lupin’s route is the most romantic, and has the most ‘canon ending’ out of all the bachelors. As he is the true ending, he naturally has all the best moments in the game as a character and truly plays the ‘golden-hearted hero with an unparalleled sense of justice that rescues the princess time and time again’ role perfectly.

What I liked about his route was that out of all the characters, he had the most noble intentions towards Cardia and was truly working only for her best interests. Every other character had their own demons to take care of, and as a result could never truly solve and take upon Cardia’s burdens as well. Lupin is also the one to truly ‘save’ Cardia and grant her wish; as without his initial rescue, she would have never known the world outside her cage and experienced happiness.

Design ★★★★★

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One of the highlights of the game is the absolutely gorgeous art. There is very little to fault the art upon at all. It looks super vibrant and crisp on the PSVita, with a wide assortment of CGs for every character and backgrounds; as well as a bonus extra scene CG unlocked when you complete their route (a fan-service scenario/picture). If anything, I wish there would be more CGs to look at (laugh) simply because they’re so beautiful. They look like something that could come out of a painting, and there’s just so much attention and attentiveness to detail.

The proportions and body positions are also done particularly well; a struggle that many Visual Novel artists I’ve noticed have. You could choose to toggle on/off the portrait of the heroine, but I personally liked having it on due to the sprite of the heroine encompassing varying expressions depending on the scenario. I liked how the CGs were distributed evenly with every bachelor, so it didn’t feel like some had more or less than others. The quality of the images are maintained throughout the game, and consistency I find is the most crucial factor when it comes to Visual Novels.

If you want to check out other games that the artist illustrated for, Miko also did the popular Idea Factory games Beast Master and Prince (Moujuutsukai to Ouji-sama) and Bond of Ten Demons (Toki no Kizuna Sekigahara Kitan). The first is only playable in japanese, and the second has been localised in the form of a mobile game.

Music and Voice Acting ★★★★

The music in Code: Realize was very well done. It had a large assortment of tracks, and the looping was subtle but not incredibly noticeable. They all suited the mood and theme of the game perfectly, and had some of my favourite tracks out of any Visual Novel I’ve played. I particularly enjoyed the piano instrumental for the ‘romantic/emotional’ moments, since they definitely contributed to the overall gameplay experience. The voice acting cast was superb as well, with a solid and famous line up.

  • Van Helsing | VA: Suwabe Junichi | 諏訪部 順一 |
    Fate/Stay Night as Archer, YURII!!! On Ice as Victor, Black Butler as Undertaker
  • Viktor Frankenstein | VA: Kakihara Tetsuya | 柿原 徹也 |
    Amnesia: Series as Shin
  • Impey Barbicane | VA: Morikubo Shotaro | 森久保 祥太郎 |
    Hakuoki: Series as Okita Souji, Persona 4 as Yosuke Hanamura, Naruto as Shikamaru Nara

Every voice actor suited their character perfectly, bringing them to life with solid and lively personalities. One thing I did note upon though was for some reason out of all the voices, Lupin’s was the quietest in terms of audio despite them all being on the same volume. It took me quite a while to adjust and figure out exactly how to balance all the audios of the voices in order for them to speak at the same volume. This task proved to be more difficult than I would’ve thought, as I also had to adjust the background music and sound effects to match the voice volume.

System ★★★★★

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The system user interface (UI) and graphics layout were nicely designed and suited the theme of the game. The recurring motif of ‘clock-work cogs’ are prevalent throughout the game, as a symbol of time being of the essence in curing the heroine as well as the era of technological advancement in London.

I liked the in-built encyclopaedia very much as it gave extra insight into the historical aspect of the game, backing it up with real-life factual information and explaining terms that the average player may not be familiar with. It was a nice touch how the background of the title screen alternates between day and night depending on the time you play the game.

Code: Realize has an option called ‘Path of Genesis’ unlocked when you complete your first playthrough. This allows you to select which chapter you would like to play from afterwards, and locks you into the character route you desire no matter what choices you make.

It’s a very nifty option especially for first time Visual Novel players playing without a walkthrough, as it allows you to easily get onto your desired bachelor path and experiment with the varying endings of the game. The gallery allows you to replay event CGs without replaying the game again, and the chibi sprites when selecting the extra scene were adorable.

Conclusion

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Overall, Code Realize: ~Guardian of Rebirth~ is a very good game. With its interesting storyline, solid characters, beautiful artwork, strong voice acting line up and great execution; there is very little to fault it about. However, it employs the niche steampunk genre, slow developing storyline and is content-heavy both in text and historical referencing. As it is also an otome game, the romance plays a strong role in advancing the plot and as a result Code: Realize isn’t for everyone.

I’ve read many reviews where some readers absolutely loved the game, whereas others found themselves struggling to finish it due to how much reading was involved in comparison to actual action and gameplay.  For me personally, then I loved the game and highly recommend it.

If you love in-depth storylines, beautiful artwork and otome then this is definitely the game for you. In my opinion, it is without a doubt one of the best localised otome games out there and worth purchasing a Vita for; especially as majority of Visual Novel releases are on the platform.

My main qualm about the game was Lupin’s Route. Despite him being my favourite character and thoroughly enjoying the route itself; there were definitely glaring faults about it. As his path is the ‘true ending’ of the game, it essentially resolves all the problems that arose in the previous storylines and answers any remaining questions the player has.

This is great in the sense that we have a ‘wholesome ending’ that doesn’t feel lacking in those respects. However, it leaves a bad taste for readers where Lupin isn’t their favourite character. Because his route is so ‘perfect’ and resolves every problem; it really does render every other character’s path obsolete.

Despite their significant contribution to the overall plot line, the writers intentionally made it so none of them could fully save Cardia – because only Lupin could have that role as the true character you’re meant to end up with. They purposefully made holes in the other character’s routes, only so Lupin could solve it all in the end. If everyone’s problems could be solved in Lupin’s ending anyways, what was the real point of their routes?

Everyone more or less ends up in the same place as their ending with Cardia in Lupin’s Route, so regardless of whether or not Cardia chooses to end up with them; nothing essentially changes. In every story route ending, Cardia’s poison is still a work-in-progress and their life together although happy; isn’t fully resolved. In Lupin’s Route, everyone gets a happy complete ending.

The whole plot revolves around the concept that you need to choose Lupin, you need him in order to find the answers and wish you seek, driving the audience into a corner where you’re essentially forced to like Lupin the most; because he gives you the best ending. As a result, Lupin essentially emulates your perfect prince; noble, courageous and with a heart of justice — only working towards your sake and happiness. He doesn’t change or deviate much from this role or personality, with very little character development overall. Honestly, all the other bachelors were more multi-faceted and had greater dimensions to their character.

I was expecting Lupin to have a dark side to him, or something that changed him so dramatically to become the person he is now. I was convinced at one point that he had been an ex-Twilight member, which would explain his stealth skills and escape tactics reminiscent of the elite organisation. It would’ve been such a great angle and made an even better storyline if executed correctly, so you can imagine my disappointment when that wasn’t the case at all.

I mean, how dramatic would it have been upon realising that the organisation after Cardia’s life and her saviour were both one in the same? That this whole entire time rather than saving her out of good will, it was all part of Finis’ master plan to gain her trust? That is just one example of how many possibilities Lupin’s route could’ve had to go from good to great or amazing.

Overall, Idea Factory did an amazing job with the game and Aksys Games really did choose a solid title to localise. Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ has undoubtedly been a commercial success, as it’s fan disk sequel Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ has been announced for localisation and TBA release date in 2017.

I believe the fan disk Idea Factory usually releases isn’t as content heavy as the original games, as they’re ‘after-story’ events to appease readers with more romantic stories with their favourite bachelor. I will definitely be reviewing it and playing it myself when the game releases! Look forward to when that review comes out and fingers crossed it won’t be pushed to 2018!

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Written By Cherry

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