Hello my little Ace Cadets! Are we at that point yet? Can I call you that? Too soon? Today its Date Night with your favorite handsome devil, Ace Kicker! Now, I know that dating sims are talked about a lot, especially bad ones. But I think there isn’t enough focus on GOOD dating sims! So today I want to share with you one of my favorite dating sims: Samurai Love Ballad Party.
Yes, that is a terrible name, but I challenge you to find a dating sim that doesn’t have a ridiculous stream of words as its name. It’s an iOS app and I found it through the recommendation of one of my other favorite dating sims (which WILL be reviewed in the future).
I’m always a little skeptical going into these app games because they’re often poorly translated cash grabs. You can often tell in the first few minutes of playing as to the quality of the game. This one genuinely surprised me.
So what makes a GOOD dating sim you ask? I think a well-constructed menu screen, a compelling story, a relatable main character, varied love interests, lots of content, and customizable avatars (this last one is mostly optional).
Let’s talk about the menu screen: A lot of the time the dating sim screens are cluttered and hard to understand. This game has a very accessible menu screen that shows your energy, current place in the story, and your current notifications. One of the biggest pluses of this game is that it frequently runs special event stories that it has its own special event screen for so you can keep up with exactly where you are in the special event.
They have daily log in prizes and cute little intro screens where the avatar for the game’s creator (portrayed as a foreigner and his companion) walk around and talk to all of the main characters with you. Sometimes you have challenges that you need a certain amount of points to get through but you get big boosts from working with allies or during fever time that keep you from getting stuck.
Let’s talk about the story and main character: This takes place in a fictional version of feudal Japan. Whereas most games in this genre ignore the political aspects of this time period, this game is DRENCHED in it. Every decision is a political move. Your love matches are often fighting wars and everything seems to be on the macro level instead of the micro level these games usually dwell on. Despite this; the game never feels to heavy or weighed down with historical or military talk. The samurai actually adhere to the ways of the samuari and the ninja are accurate too.
Your main character is an experienced cook who is successful in her own right and very family-oriented. I was shocked that she actually goes into the Lord you pick’s service to save her brother from potentially dying. It’s very touching and is written so that you actually believe it. At times your character tries to run away, thinks often of home, and uses her cooking skills to her advantage. She’s strong-willed and centered on herself which is VERY refreshing after you play game after game with cookie cutter stereotype heroines. She is often in conflict with her love interest and your relationship can have serious consequences emotionally and politically.
Unlike some dating sims, it’s not afraid to talk about life and death. It balances out these moments well with the romance. There are periods of incredible tension followed by what seems like minutes of happiness before something else happens. Some of the scenes are so genuinely touching and emotional that I felt myself getting very worked up… over a dating sim! It’s lovely to have a game that takes its writing so seriously that is discusses real issues in such a usually whimsical format.
Let’s talk about the love interests: Oh. My. God. There are twelve matches. It plays in the typical way where there are actually six matches with two guys in each match vying for your interest. Every male is varied well and there’s definitely a man for every interest and taste. I’ve been working my way through Sanada Yukimura’s storyline and I would definitely recommend it as the one to start with. The story is incredibly touching as you deal with a dedicated samurai torn between you and his country while also dealing with his closest companion falling for you as well.
The characters have such a rich realm of development to them. They have so many spheres of importance to them: family, honor, warfare, loyalty, friendships, relationships, mentors, students, and the list runs on. They truly feel like fleshed out people with fleshed out conflicts that will keep you completely obsessed with finding out what happens next.
This game also gives you dialogue options than can either increase or decrease your love interest’s affections towards you. I assume these go towards your ending because they seem to have no effect on the main storyline itself. The dialogue options are well-written and you often have to think hard on them for the right choice but it sometimes does still feel a bit random.
Let’s talk about content: There is already an incredible amount of content. It works in the same way that a lot of games do with “love passes” which give you a free amount of content daily. You get five in game which is a lot of story. They also give you the option to skip some of the flourishing parts of the game in silent mode to allow it to run smoother which greatly benefits the gameplay.
One of the best features of this game is when its been a considerable amount of time since your last read it let’s you read the last chapter you played for free! It also updates the game as you go with letters and diary entries that explain what’s happening if you get lost in the exact story. The translation is also top notch and rarely feels awkward but also doesn’t go over your head with the lore or military talk.
On top of its massive amount of regular content, it runs special events with specialized stories for the boys. This is where the game branches into payable content but honestly if you want to play for free, you’ll still never run out of old content to work with. Most of the payment is for special avatar items and character portraits.
I also feel like this must be said. A lot of these game skate around sexual content. This game does NOT. Its nothing incredibly graphic, it is still an iOS app, but the men are not afraid to dip their hands into the folds of your kimono if you get my drift.
Another interesting feature is the tea garden. Throughout the game you collect onigiri that you can trade in for special avatar items! It really rewards you for playing instead of having to grind for every little thing.
Let’s talk about your avatar: Now, I must say. Where I really think the game falls short is in its avatar design. The portraits of the main male characters are gorgeous and there is plenty of variation in their design. The design route they decided to use for your house and avatar… is a little lacking. A similar game The Cinderella Contract: The Royal Wedding has gorgeous avatars that make you incredibly excited to get items for.
But you feel a lot less excitement to get avatar items and outfits when the designs aren’t up to par with the rest of the game’s art. It’s a shame because a lot of the kimonos and items are very cute but the style is so jarring that its hard to properly enjoy them. With an update to its avatar art style, it could be one of the best dating sims I’ve ever played.
So, download your game and pick your lord, samurai, or ninja! I will stick to my demons for now.