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On Voltage and Otome

So. Um. Hi. I was told to write an introduction about myself, but thing is I'm really bad at introductions and usually end up just blushing and trying to get out as soon as possible. My name is Dee, a fine person, friend to cats, and member of the I'm in love with a fictional character again foundation. I'm the newest writer here, and for my first post I figured I'd introduce you to the hobby that's been taking over my life.

I play a lot of otome games.

A lot.

Otome games - ren'ai targeted towards females - is like, I don't know, crack cocaine? That's a bad example. It's addictive, is what I'm trying to say. It's usually cheap (or free!), entertains me for at least a couple of hours, and sometimes I get overly attached to characters. I've cried during a route once, and I never cry. I didn't cry when my bunny died, but I sobbed when playing a visual novel route! I don't know what that says about me, but it says something.

There are a lot of companies that make otome games. The more notable ones are Idea Factory's Otomate, Koei, Winter Wolves, and NTT Solmare's Shall We Date?. Instead of talking about those, I'm here to talk about Voltage Inc.

Recently I have been playing a lot of Voltage games. They produce visual novel otomes for iOS and Android in both Japanese and English, although updates and new games tend to come to Android a day or two earlier than iOS. The app and prologue itself is free, but the individual routes cost 3.99 USD. More on that later.

Because they follow the visual novel style of otome rather than the RPG style, Voltage games are very basic. You select a character and just tap through, occasionally choosing a dialogue option. Depending on the choices you make, you can receive one of two (or three) endings. There is a Good Ending, Happy Ending, and Super Happy Ending. Most routes only have two of the three, but in some cases - like in My Forged Wedding's wedding stories - there are three endings.

Each game has sequels, epilogues, and substories. For example, this is the selection screen from one of their games, My Forged Wedding:

I select Season 2, pick a character, and it leads me to this. 

As if that's not enough, there are also substories!

That is actually only the first page - there are another six substories on the next page. 

The main stories - excluding epilogues and sequels - range between 13 to 18 chapters. Each chapter is roughly ten to fifteen minutes long. The sequels range from 8 to 12 chapters, and substories are between 2 to 5 chapters.

Sprinkled through the routes are CGs of the characters. Here are two of my favorites, Kaoru Kirishima from Our Two Bedroom Story and Yamato Kougami from My Forged Wedding.

There are also some... risque CGs. None of them ever cross the line to true nudity, but there are a lot of topless men. I suggest not playing Voltage games in public. People look at you strangely when you start gushing over a pixellated guy.

When you start up a route, they'll ask you to choose your name and enter your email address. The second part seems a little unnecessary until you check your email and find emails like this:

Yes, the characters email you in real-time as you play. Depending on what you're playing, you can receive between one (for substories) email to five or six (for main routes).

As for their user interface, it changes depending on when the story you're playing was released. The older the game is, the more obviously outdated it looks. Love Letter From Thief X was one of their earliest games, and it looks like this:

Those little bars at the side is because the game was intended for older phones with smaller screens, and I'm playing it on an iPhone 5S. If you're running a newer phone, before you even start the game there's a pop-up warning telling you the game is not optimized for your phone and there might be crashes and instability. I haven't had any issues though. Run at your own risk.

Moving on to one of their newer games, this is what the interface for In Your Arms Tonight looks like. Incidentally, In Your Arms Tonight is also one of my favourite games they've made so far. My favourite soundtrack, too. Yeah, there's music. Really nice music! Here's the opening movie and theme song for In Your Arms Tonight.

This is pretty much the standard for most of their newer games.

Their very latest game, Metro P.D, has the nicest interface in my opinion.

When I looked it up on Wikipedia I was surprised to find out Voltage is actually pretty old - they originated in Tokyo in 1999, and only started releasing English translations in 2011. They have an American subsidiary, Voltage Entertainment USA, that heavily alters the existing Japanese games to appeal to a Western audience. For example, in Voltage's Ten Days With My Devil, the Japanese characters became Caucasian and received name makeovers (Kakeru and Meguru Kamui become Xavier and Kieran van der Belt). The art style also changes drastically, from this:

- to this. 

For various reasons (I don't like the Westernization of the names; I prefer the anime-style art) I'm not a big fan of Voltage USA, but that's irrelevant.

So far, Voltage Japan has released English translations of these games:

  • Pirates In Love
  • My Forged Wedding
  • Ten Days With My Devil
  • Seduced In The Sleepless City
  • In Your Arms Tonight
  • Be My Princess
  • Be My Princess 2
  • Love Letter From Thief X
  • My Sweet Bodyguard
  • A Knight's Devotion
  • Office Secrets
  • Kiss of Revenge
  • Dreamy Days In West Tokyo 
  • Class Trip Crush
  • Our Two Bedroom Story
  • Kissed By The Baddest Bidder
  • Serendipity Next Door
  • Metro P.D: Close to You
And an upcoming game, Enchanted In The Moonlight. 

For the most part, the title tells you what the premise is. Ten Days With My Devil is about, well, devils (although for some reason, in-game they're called demons. In that case, shouldn't they just change the title to Ten Days With My Demon?), Kiss of Revenge centers around a surgeon getting revenge for her mother, and My Forged Wedding is about a fake wedding for reasons that change depending on whose route you play. 

Translation-wise, the English translations are pretty good and are only getting better. Some of their newer games have puns! Puns, one of the hardest jokes to translate! According to an ex-Voltage translator, an individual game - excluding add-ons and special stories - costs upward of $10,000 USD to translate. I'd say they're getting bang for their buck there. 

Maybe I'm just so jaded from years of crappy translations that I'm overjoyed by a joke that makes grammatical sense.

Moving on to price: each game lets you play the prologue and first chapter of each route for free, so you get to meet the various men (or boys) and get a taste of their personalities before paying. Each main route is $3.99 USD (roughly $5 SGD), while the epilogues are $2.99 and the substories range from $1.99 to $3.99. 

(Sidenote: I just did the math, and I've apparently spent roughly $210 on Voltage games, excluding substories and sequels. Remember that cocaine metaphor? Maybe it's more accurate than I thought.)

Alternatively, you can play the GREE versions. So far, I think only Celebrity Darling, My Sweet Bodyguard, and Be My Princess is available on GREE. 

GREE is free to play, and with a lot of patience and effort you can play the entire game without resorting to microtransactions. On the other hand, it's a time-based game. You get five free story tickets everyday at 4AM Tokyo time, and each ticket pays for a scene. 

There are tests - for example, a love test, or an elegance test, that depends on your statistics. The statistics are based on things like what your avatar is wearing - a dress can give you 100 charm points or 50 elegance. And guess how you get your avatar's clothes? Yep, through paying.

Generally, those five tickets are worth five minutes of playing, and if you're not paying your way through you'll have to do a lot of social networking and grinding to get points. I've only tried a GREE game once, and I ended up spending $15 on one route because I was too impatient to wait 24 hours. On the other hand, the same route in the paid version would cost me $5. I spent more on the free game than on the paid game!

I've seen many people play the GREE versions, though, and they seem quite satisfied with it. If you have the patience and determination not to pay a single cent, then play the GREE version. If you're like me, stick to the paid versions. It'll cost you less money and frustration. 

Wow, this post turned out longer than I meant to. Anyway, if I've convinced you to try out Voltage games, my recommendation would be In Your Arms Tonight's Shohei Aiba - the route that made me cry, if you're curious. There are lots of other games and routes you might want to start with. The first Voltage route I ever played was Kiss of Revenge's Issei Sezaki, which is another emotional route. 

Really, do download them from the Apple store or Google Play and try the prologues and first chapters. It's free, and the only thing you'll lose is thirty minutes of time. 

Written by Dee

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