Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Feb 142024

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For our final review of Celebrating All Things Romantic 2024, I’d like to talk about an otome game I was intrigued by ever since its localization was confirmed in 2022, Jack Jeanne.

Jack Jeanne came out last June, and with how big my backlog is, you might guess it simply got pushed aside for other games. However, you’d be wrong.

I actually started Jack Jeanne shortly after it came out. My first route took as long as some whole games I’ve played, and I realized that playing routes back-to-back would probably lead to burning out. So instead, I took a break after each Jack Jeanne route to play another game before returning for the next.

Jack Jeanne is long. Now, it’s about 80% common route and you can skip already-read text, but the structure of the game means each playthrough will still take a considerable amount of time.

You play as Kisa, a girl who gets a chance to fulfill her dream of attending a prestigious male-only theater academy on the condition that she keep her gender a secret. Since this is an academy where boys play both male and female roles, and many students use feminine appearances and mannerisms, Kisa can mostly act like herself – which is an interesting direction to take an otherwise familiar trope and allows for the matter of her secret to come into play more with specific performances and developing relationships.

It follows a calendar, with each weekday devoted to raising one of your six stats. I was worried about this aspect, but it isn’t really a traditional stat-raiser. Each stat is associated with one of the six love interests, and you basically just need to focus on the stat for the love interest whose route you’re pursuing. Of course, the story also progresses during the week as well, as Kisa and her classmates prepare for performances.

Then on the weekends, you have free time you can use to hang out with an available character for a short scene. In addition to the love interests, side characters are occasionally available as well.

You continue in this fashion until you reach one of the performances. For these, Jack Jeanne is a rhythm game. There are two styles of rhythm game, one for songs and one for dance numbers, and the music is all so catchy! Not only that, but the quality poured into these performances is incredible. I was already impressed when I first realized the character sprites would appear in-costume for the performances, but even more so when I saw the dance numbers had 3D character models for the main cast.

(In the game, the rhythm game buttons would overlay the scene, but you can watch the scenes themselves in the gallery after unlocking them.)

You can see why even with the ability to skip through story scenes in the common route, subsequent playthroughs still take a while. Nearly every weekend will have new scenes with whichever love interest you’re pursuing, and there are also random short scenes that pop up between days. After playing each major route, I had seen most of these, but occasional new ones still appeared even on my ninth time through. And that’s not to mention that each character route keeps the calendar structure, so while I spent each weekend with the love interest whose route I was on, there were always several other scenes I could have seen instead. The amount of content in Jack Jeanne is massive.

At first, I was disappointed that each route doesn’t have its own unique final performance, just variations on the same basic story, but considering the amount of content in the game I can hardly complain too much. It did feel a little odd in routes where the circumstances were noticeably different, but aside from that it makes sense.

Some players feel Jack Jeanne isn’t romantic enough, but I disagree. The story covers almost an entire year’s worth of time, week by week, during which time the characters slowly become friends and then move toward romance in the individual routes. This means it takes a long time for romance to blossom… but as a sucker for slow-burn romances, I loved it.

This is one of those rare otome games where I loved every love interest. I liked some more than others – no one will ever beat Neji, who is chaos incarnate and stole my heart from the beginning despite not being my usual sort of character – but none were bad. Some of the side characters also have mini storylines that progress if you spend each weekend with them, as well as one who has a unique bad ending.

I’ve played Jack Jeanne for over 70 hours. There’s still optional content I have yet to see, but my time with it is drawing to an end. And it’s one of those games where the thought of setting it down for good makes me feel like I’m saying farewell to treasured friends. No fandisc or sequel exists for Jack Jeanne yet, but I really hope one gets made so I can spend more time with these characters and hopefully get routes with the side characters who deserve full routes of their own.

My dream Jack Jeanne fandisc would feature stories for each of the 6 love interests, plus new routes for Kasai, Mare, Minorikawa, Otori, and above all else, Chui.

Click for Jack Jeanne spoilers
Despite initially being presented as an antagonist and almost an inhuman force of nature, Chui shows in so many routes that he’s not really a bad guy and is capable of growth and change, and that his extreme talent is isolating him and leaving him lonely, and you’re telling me the closest he gets to a route is a short bad ending?? On one of my replays of the final route to wrap up the sub-routes, I had a conversation with Neji where he says he wants Chui to hold onto hope of finding a partner who can match him so he doesn’t drown in loneliness. You can’t just say that about a character and then never give him a route!

Since Jack Jeanne is such a large game, a fandisc or sequel on the same scale would probably take quite a while to develop. So I’ll hold onto hope that one day it will be made!

In the meantime, I’m so happy I played Jack Jeanne, which is both one of my favorite otome games and the perfect game to wrap up this year’s Celebrating All Things Romantic event!

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Feb 122024

A few years ago, I picked up a bunch of visual novels in a Steam sale, including the short otome game Date Warp.

Date Warp follows a young woman named Janet who is on her first date when they end up stranded. They take refuge for the night in a strange mansion after being offered shelter by its inhabitants, but in the morning they find that a mysterious force field has trapped everyone inside.

The force field is related to something being done in the basement, and all they can do is wait.

There are five love interests, and the choices you make determine whose route you end up on. Your choices during the route then lead to different endings for that character. All fairly standard… except for the choice-making mini-game.

Yes, that’s right, choice-making mini-game.. Every choice brings up a mini-game where you must rotate wires to create a circuit between a power source and the choice you want to select. It’s simple enough, if somewhat of an odd inclusion. On subsequent playthroughs, you can skip the mini-game and simply pick any choice you previously selected (although if you want to pick a new option, you still need to play the mini-game).

Subsequent playthroughs also allow you to skip already-read text, including scenes that overlap across different routes – a welcome feature. There are still a couple of scenes that are basically the same text but in a different situation, but for the most part this feature avoids that.

While Date Warp is a short game with a brisk pace, there were enough character interactions leading up to a route to keep the romance from feeling too rush. Some parts did feel like they might have benefited from being longer, but in general the narrative was tight enough to avoid problems. The one exception is that the right combination of choices can make you stumble onto a route without seeing many of that character’s scenes first, probably because there’s no “no romance” route.

Once you’ve seen all of the characters’ regular endings, one final ending is unlocked to resolve the overall plot in a satisfactory conclusion.

I quite enjoyed this one. It’s short, and I wish I’d gotten to spend more time with the characters, but it was an enjoyable few hours and it was fun replaying for all the different endings before the final one. If you’re looking for a short romance game with some crazy science going on in the background, Date Warp is worth a look.

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Feb 092024

Steins;Gate is not only one of the first true visual novels I’ve ever played, but also one of my all-time favorites. I absolutely loved it.

Despite that, I never got around to playing Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace, a lighthearted spin-off/fandisc with more of a romantic comedy approach.

So what better time than now, during Celebrating All Things Romantic?

If you’re at all familiar with Steins;Gate, you know that the basic premise kicks off when the main character Okabe and his friends learn they can send emails into the past (which they then refer to as D-Mails) and change the timeline through these messages. My Darling’s Embrace begins with Okabe finding himself at the other end of a D-Mail change where they’ve begun to develop new gadgets to sell… although he sent so many D-Mails that he doesn’t quite know what one caused this.

Things quickly spiral out of control when he and Kurisu end up stuck wearing a new gadget that shocks them whenever they argue. They prepare to send a D-Mail into the past to change it… and your choice there determines which route you end up on.

There are six routes, and each takes the story in a different direction focused on one of the characters. A couple of the routes (mainly Suzuha’s) hint at romance more than showing it, but most have the growing relationship as a core part of the route. They’re all sweet and funny, an entertaining look at how Okabe’s relationships could develop under other circumstances.

I especially enjoyed Moeka’s route, which was so wholesome and nice to see.

Click for Steins;Gate spoilers
And unlike in the main game, Luka is still a guy for his route this time.

Above everything else, My Darling’s Embrace reminded me of how much I love the Steins;Gate story and its characters. While the main story might become an intense thriller, and that’s still one of its biggest draws, it was nice to relax and read some lighthearted rom-com antics with this cast.

So if you’re a fan of Steins;Gate and want to some more romance-focused routes with its characters, check out Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace!

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