For more information, check out the steam store page.
Recently, Dogenzaka Lab announced two new games to be localised in english on steam: The Charming Empire and Campus Nightlife. This is super exciting, cause as I mentioned before in my anticipated english visual novel releases for 2017; this year will indeed be very stacked in terms of english localisations! It is great and promising news for Visual Novel fans in the western world, as more and more publishers/companies are recognising that there is a viable target market and fans of the genre. With the newfound momentum we’re seeing in 2017, I won’t be surprised at all if 2018 turns out to be even better.
Of course, that is still a while away and as fans we’ll just have to continue keeping our fingers crossed! I will be covering The Charming Empire out of the two games, since from the premise I found it to be more interesting out of the two. If you would like more information about Campus Nightlife, you can read about it on the steam store page.
From first impressions alone, The Charming Empire has some pretty impressive art for a game originally on the mobile platform. Truly, the mobile platform has come so far in improving the past couple of years. I’m sure that it’ll look even better on the PC screen, judging from the screenshot previews that they’ve shown of the game so far. I can already see that Dogenzaka Lab have addressed some of the shortcomings I mentioned from reviewing their two previous (and most popular) releases for mobile and steam: Men of Yoshiwara: Kikuya and Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya.
Other than the clear art improvements, they’ve finally decided to incorporate voice acting in their ports! As I mentioned in my criticisms of their previous games, the recent steam release visual novels have all included full voice acting. In order to compete with the rapidly growing and competitive market, having non-voiced games really isn’t going to cut it anymore. Not only that, but some of these games are fully voiced and significantly lower in terms of price threshold. Voice acting just adds so much to a game, and can turn poor/average writing into an engaging story due to the expressions of the VAs.
Overall, in terms of first impressions it is quite positive and I am personally looking forward to the game’s release.
Our heroine, Amane Kosaka, was living a simple yet happy life in the countryside until one day she was suddenly taken away to live in the empire, summoned by her brother Soji Amazaki — the current ruler. Though she was unaware of the underlying circumstances, she finds herself brought to this lively and palpable central city.
Living in the immaculate royal palace, our heroine comes to learn that the empire might not be as joyful as it seems.
Her brother is no longer the gentle man she once knew…
A corrupt organization secretly runs things behind the scenes…
The heroine’s fate guides her down the path of love.
The story seems interesting enough, and I do like that it is a more traditional and historical setting; rather than one set in Modern Japan. Dogenzaka Lab’s Men of Yoshiwara series is their most popular and successful for a reason, as they definitely do much better with the concept in comparison to their other game genres. However, I’m still slightly apprehensive of the game’s writing due to past experiences with the company’s titles. They’re not exactly known for their stellar writing, interesting protagonists or bachelor personalities.
Their previous games have been riddled with poor writing, and littered with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. It’s as though it was translated by someone unfamiliar with the english language, and judging from the game script it honestly felt like the final copy wasn’t properly proofread at all. However, as it is a newer release by the company I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now and I sincerely hope that the writing is much better this time around.
Toki Tanba | 丹葉桐己 | CV: Tetsuya Kakihara | 柿原徹也
The flirtatious cafe owner
Toki owns a cafe in the city that serves tea and various confections. He is particularly kind to women and loved by all of his customers. But behind that kind smile, however…
“Sorry for the wait. This here is the pride of the cafe, our signature baumkuchen.”
Oh my, it’s the VA for Shin from Amnesia: Memories and Viktor Frankenstein from Code Realize: ~Guardian of Rebirth~. I knew his voice sounded familiar the moment I heard it! He seems to be one of the two the main bachelors judging from the art and trailer released so far. I find it quite amusing that in this game he plays a flirtatious character, whereas his previous roles in the above two very popular otome games were the complete opposite.
Kei Yoshimine | 吉峯螢 | CV: Toshiki Masuda | 増田俊樹
The captive former prince
Kei is the heroine’s private tutor.
The prince of a fallen country, he is now a captive of the empire.
Perhaps because of those circumstances, he treats the heroine harshly.
“My name is Kei Yoshimine. Starting today I’ll be teaching you foreign language and dance. Any questions?”
Kei seems like your typical major-closet tsundere; where he’s cold to you initially but becomes increasingly embarrassed and shy as he develops feelings for the heroine. I do really like his character design, as I have a soft spot for dark-haired male leads.
Koichiro Sera | 世良皇一朗 | CV: Takuya Eguchi | 江口拓也
The reticent bodyguard
Sera is the heroine’s unsociable bodyguard.
Not a minute goes buy where Sera isn’t devoted to his duties, and he also has a stubborn side.
He bares distrust towards Lord Soji’s dictatorship.
“Stay close to me.”
The same VA as Sonosuke Izayoi from the Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School. Ironically they both play a similar character role in both that anime and this game.
Kagemitsu Togawa | 渡川景光 | CV: Toshiyuki Toyonaga | 豊永利行
The mild-mannered aide
Kagemitsu is Lord Soji’s right hand man.
He is a childhood friend of both our heroine and Soji.
Kagemitsu worries about the future under Lord Soji’s dictatorship.
“You’re so kind…just how I remember you.”
The role of the kind childhood friend who usually is very supportive of the heroine and her endeavours in every route (despite also being in love with her). I’ve learnt to distrust this type of character trope as in light of recent popularity of these personality types; companies have enjoyed placing dark twists on their character to make their inherently bland stories more interesting. Although I don’t think that is the case in this game, you never know until you actually play through his story route.
Soji Amazaki | 天崎奏嗣 | CV: Kenjiro Tsuda | 津田健次郎
The aloof lord
Soji holds the most powerful seat in all the empire.
Only trusting himself, he rejects the opinions of others as he continues his dictatorship agenda — breeding animosity amongst the people.
He’s a cold man who sees even his own sister as a political tool.
“I see you’ve arrived safely. From now forth, you’ll be living here.”
The moment I heard that voice, I knew exactly who it was before even checking the name. It’s the same VA for Seto Kaiba from the Yu-Gi-Oh series, and of course Chikage Kazama from the Hakuoki series. The VA for Chikage Kazama is my all-time favourite performance for a male character out of any otome game that I’ve played. Now that I know he’ll be voice acting in this game, I am a lot more hyped and excited than I was initially. With Chikage Kazama’s voice, I can imagine exactly what character and role Soji will play in this game.
The Charming Empire is actually looking very promising now that I’ve looked over all the information that they’ve released so far. They definitely stepped up their budget and voice acting, with their two main characters being voiced by very popular and prominent VAs. I’m looking forward to playing Toki and Soji’s routes the most as not only are they voiced by some of my favourite VAs, they’re also the main characters of the game. Generally speaking, the main bachelors/poster men do have the better routes, greater screen time and more prominent roles in the overarching storyline.
I am especially interested in Soji as I am admittedly biased and love that he’s essentially emulating Chikage Kazama’s voice V2 in this game. But, I am also intrigued by his character as I do like his design best out of all the bachelors. He is the reason as to why the MC was brought to the palace capital in the first place, leading into the events of the game. You can just tell that he has a significant role within the storyline, due to his actions in the premise and his clearly questionable hidden agendas concerning the protagonist.
The art in the game is gorgeous, and I do love the designs for all the characters. Normally I usually do have several characters I lean towards more than others, and the rest I play to complete the game. For ‘The Charming Empire’ I am looking forward to playing all of them. The game looks to be very solid if the writing has improved from Dogenzaka Lab’s previous games, and I sincerely hope that they incorporated better music. Mobile platform games are always prone to thirty second generic tracks that loop horrendously, and it would be a shame considering the prominent VA cast and beautiful art.
I am looking forward to playing this game, and I definitely think it should be a game to look out for as an otome fan!