With the announcement of a certain horrible visual novel on Kickstarter, it’s brought up a question that is asked time and time again when some parody visual novel is announced: can Western developers make sincere visual novels? The answer to that is absolutely! It’s just that the gaming community and media doesn’t seem to go on itch.io, where there’s a lot of sincere visual novels to engage with. A lot of these visual novels are typically LGBTQ themed – which I’m guessing helps explain why they go ignored.
But anyway, as we continue on with Gay Wrath Month, we’re looking at Romance Detective 1 and 2, with art and story by Nami, co-written by Protag and music by Konatizer. The first game is complete and the second one is… mostly complete. While it’s still playable and the main story is intact, development ended up being dropped due to a lack of personal investment in the project; so there’s a lot of art assets that’s in a rough draft state, some scenes don’t have music and you can tell where there are missing scenes toward the end. But you know what, in an industry that suffers from burnout and crunch, good on Nami.
In the first Romance Detective, a small-time crime has happened – which is the only crime that seems to happen in Lovebloom City. A vase has been stolen from the local museum and nobody understands how and why. Chrys, a rookie cop from elsewhere, is deputized as the Romance Cop under the Romance Detective, an investigator that solves crimes of passion.
Romance Detective is a very silly, yet sweet game. The Romance Detective is an endearing figure in that she’s got the calm and collected attitude of a hard boiled detective – while she’s spouting nonsense about love and constantly doing anime poses. Chrys/Romance Cop is a very not straight woman that plays as the straight man toward her antics, though she grows accustomed to the detective’s methods and presence. I love them. ACAB except them and Inspector Zenigata.
Investigating the crime, the two realize that people are being incited to do criminal acts for the sake of love that’s artificially boosted. Romance Detective, a defender of true romance, recognizes that love can turn toxic. And that in some cases, you shouldn’t let a person pursue love when they’re a complete weirdo about it, like idol fanboy Lupin (not the one related to Zenigata), who is one of those characters that’s goofy but would be completely horrible in real life. Also Cupid’s here and real, but they have no idea what’s going on either.
It’s a short time, so it’s one of those things that saying more could ruin the experience, but I recommend checking it out.
And so, we move into Romance Detective 2, which I was eager to hop into. In true sequel fashion, the plot is much grander, building off stuff that happens at the end of the first game. An apologetic man breaks out of jail to see his boyfriend after insisting he jail himself for a petty accident. A middle school girl vandalizes another girl’s stand in an attempt to express her love. Lupin is still Lupin. The problem of the first game is still around – but how? How does it still linger and why was it started?
Romance Detective 2 tries to break up the visual novel formula with some investigation segments where you click around to examine objects. It’s not super in-depth and the art suffers from being stuck in the rough draft phase of development, but they’re nice to have.
The Romance Duo have also been dating since the end of the first game. Here we learn more about the Romance Detective, seeing the cracks in her demeanor when she gets flustered around Romance Cop and see that she’s a big art appreciator. As for Romance Cop, she learns to be, well, less of a cop, as Lovebloom City is a pretty easygoing place with little to no crime. There’s a lot of sweetness in the setting and the game shows off a lot more sincere romantic love floating around that’s cute to see.
Speaking of which, the second game goes more in-depth on the concept of love as presented in the first. It goes beyond the “love can drive you crazy” stuff shown in the original to show a grander vision of a world of love and what the heroes and villains think about it. While still silly (especially when you learn how this is being caused), it creates a conflict and showcases Romance Detective’s philosophy on what romance is all about.
The Romance Detective games is a nice short saga. There’s a clear cliffhanger at the end of the second game but it’s probably not going to be resolved and we just have to respect that.
However, Nami’s still got a bunch of stuff to check out if you end up liking Romance Detective! She’s worked on a whole bunch of other visual novels and has a series of RPG Maker adventure games called the Lonely Wolf Treat Series, which is about a bunch of animal girls that love each other. As somebody charmed by Romance Detective and heard a bunch about Lonely Wolf Treat from a friend, I hope to get around to checking those games out sometime!