Visual novels and dating sims used to be hard to come by here in the West, especially on consoles. However, the Switch, with its portability and vibrant screen, has enjoyed a wealth of games in these genres over the years. One of the latest to make its way to the console is Love Esquire from publisher Mama Morin.
Originally developed for PC by Yangyang Mobile back in 2019, Love Esquire is the tale of a lowly squire who is desperate to lose his virginity by the time he is shipped off to war. He has four months to go from being a weird loser to a weird loser with a girlfriend. As is often the case in these games, there are exactly five eligible 'bachelorettes' in the whole city for him to choose from, each with their own gift preferences, schedules, and story to explore.
The ladies represent a few different tropes often found in these games. There is the stuck-up princess, the foreign visitor, the creepy nurse, the small but surprisingly strong fighter, and the player’s adopted sister (because of course she’s an option). All of them have their own story to tell, which gets unveiled through simple cutscenes that bring some of their mysterious behaviour to light as well as give the player a bit of fan-service for their trouble.
The production values in Love Esquire are surprisingly high. The art is all solid and enjoyable, even if much of it is recycled over the course of the game. The music does a good job of being nondescript without being completely bland, finding a middle ground somewhere between pleasant and forgettable. We don’t say that as an insult: that is the music’s job here and, like most parts of this game, it does it well.
What is impressive is the fact that every line is voice acted by an excellent cast of names instantly recognisable to folks who watch anime or are fans of JRPGs. Normally games like this settle for providing voice work for a few lines per character, usually with a few barks in between to highlight specific moments, so having each line voice acted by actors from NieR: Automata, My Hero Academia, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure really helps bring the different characters to life and make them stand out against each other.
Love Esquire doesn’t seek to make the player feel like the big hero of the kingdom. It makes it clear right from the outset that that’s not the kind of story it is looking to tell. The other characters view the Squire as a lazy loser for the most part, hence his need to train his stats and forge those relationships so that he can get himself laid. Despite his intentionally generic design, the Squire does manage to have a fair bit of personality, especially as the player progresses through some of the side stories.
Aside from spending time upping stats and relationship scores with the five available ladies, players can spend their days out in the wilderness, assisting their knight in combat encounters against monsters. However, it is the knight who will do the actual fighting. All the Squire does is provide support by healing, looting, cheering, or acting as a human shield. It’s an interesting take on combat and does provide some strategic challenges, though all those challenges can be overcome by simply upping your stats.
Combat itself doesn’t give any actual stat boosts, but it does provide gold, which can be used to train stats, thus allowing you to progress further into the forest. Players shouldn’t need to grind much unless they choose to spend all their money at the shop for gifts for their favourite waifus. The game is fairly generous with loot even if players don’t spend much time actively looting from monsters.
The biggest drawback to Love Esquire is how safe it feels with its subject matter. The visual novel genre is packed full of customisable main characters, so the fact that all players will be able to customise in this game is the Squire’s name is a bit surprising and underwhelming. Likewise, the game is limited to five straight relationship choices, so fans looking for more diverse, LGBT+ friendly options will need to look elsewhere. It is clear that Love Esquire is intended to feel like a very safe and familiar option for fans, which is fine but, considering the effort that goes into other aspects of the game, a bit disappointing.
Love Esquire might star an absolute pervert of a main character, but the artwork never really goes beyond a PG-13 rating. There are some upskirt shots and a bit of implied nudity, but it never gets into full NSFW territory. Sure, players might not want to have to explain some of the screenshots to their parents if they walk in on them playing it, but it isn’t going to get anyone in real trouble. There are plenty of other games out there that can scratch that itch, both on PC and on the Switch, so we don’t mind them going a bit on the safe side here.
This is a game that serves as a solid introduction to dating sims for new players or a simple palette cleanser for those with more experience in the genre. Despite its high production values, it isn’t likely to convince those who have no interest in visual novels to give them a try. It isn’t here to push any boundaries and its lack of a diverse cast of characters is the most disappointing thing about it, but it is still a solid game telling a straightforward story with characters that are voiced by some of the very best in the business.
Love Esquire is a straightforward and fun visual novel/dating sim with simple but effective design and gameplay, surprisingly strong production values, and a fantastic voice cast. This isn't a game trying to push the boundaries when it comes to inclusivity, but it is an enjoyable romp and a relatively 'safe' introduction to the genre for those unfamiliar with its tropes.
I fail to see how having only straight couples makes the game less diverse than say Dream daddy that seems to only have gay routes.
Anyhow, the game having a sister route = instant sale, will buy it after dinner.
Funny cons, I guess every game has to be for everyone or it’s not inclusive?
This one has somehow escaped my attention but I'll have to take a bit of a look into it. It's a good sign when the cons aren't even real cons.
@BloodNinja umm, yeah. That's kind of what inclusivity means.
how does Waifu Pickup Artist get an 8 (after detailing lack of inclusivity as a con), but Boyfriend Dungeon get a 6 (after detailing inclusivity as a positive)? 🤔
@alwaysasn What’s the point in having different games, if they are all going to have the same options?
@Tobiaku the reason, I assume, is that the story in Dream Daddy (a work I admit is unfamiliar) is similar to other minority stories - the gayness is an integral part of the story being told in a way that straightness isn't an integral part of the story being told here.
As I say, though, possibly not the case in either example.
@CharlieGirl Maybe its still the better game anyway?
@alwaysasn @BloodNinja I guess we can expect to see that con in the future when they review otome games and other VNs that fails to include routes for straight guys.
@Tobiaku Wouldn’t it be great if there were romance options for asexuals?
The lack of gay options doesn't bother me (it's obviously aimed at straight dudes as the primary demographic). The generic hentai protagonist design and fauxcest romance option do, though.
@CharlieGirl Because a game being "inclusive" doesn't necessarily make it "good?"
Also, two different reviewers.
One way to think of it is that if every game contains, say, everybody possible gendered/nongendered romance option you can think of, then there is no diversity among the games themselves. Players will have more choices in games but less among games.
@BloodNinja I don't think every game needs to have the same opinions, and I'm not sure I'd have personally thought to include it as a con. But an open dating Sim type game if you took just one datable NPC and gender swapped them then at least you're giving people a different kind of route to play through.
The cons are stupid, so ignoring those the game is supposedly a 10/10. Nice! Well I was sold when I saw that there's a little sister route anyway lol
I think the cons were just posted as "Something to note" and didn't affect the score.
Isn’t the entire point of having a faceless protagonist so that you identify with them? So them only having the one appearance would absolutely be a valid criticism.
Started playing the game, the writing is very funny.
"Lack of inclusive romance options"!?
Oh, for the love of...!
No one's complaining about otome or yuri games so please just...just stop.
A shame that this review dropped after the introductory sale has already ended. I specifically didn't give this game a try because I couldn't find a single review for it anywhere on the net. Guess I just have to wait for the next sale.
I get it only if it will arrive on Physical....
@PosterBoy Well yeah, it looks dreadful. But the idea is that they aren’t a ‘character’, they’re ‘you’. Except they assume that everyone playing it can identify with whatever that monstrosity is.
sister? Ewww. That's an insta-no
Ya I think the inclusive con is just something to note as well, but if it did actually effect the score, All I can say is I disagree and be on about my day.
(As much As I would have liked to make some Girl-girl options.)
@Conangiga Thank you!
@BloodNinja Exactly. Not every romance games needs to be “inclusive”. There should be games for everyone not games for one person as is the notion that many companies or corporate entities are goimg at.
Looks like Eyehole Man stole that guys eyeholes.
This game is easily one of the better new games I have played this year. Tons of fun, really hope it gets a physical release, would gladly buy it again!
@TheMadRabbid Hopefully more come out!
@Themagusx1 I mean, most of these games are so poorly written that they are pretty embarrassing, if they writing quality was less shallow it would improve the overall experience.
@BloodNinja Yep. Well I play a lot of visual novels and his seems like one of those cheap throwaways but this site is saying it’s better than those so who know
@Themagusx1 What I want to say is a good joke that will get me banned, so I’ll just leave it at that lmfao.
Are ya winning son?
At 45, I needn't worry about explaining much to my parents except how a remote works.
Just looked on their steam walk-through and you can't date Sir Grand. Not gonna get it now.
Not for me but it sounds like it has some quality. Fair play to the devs even though it seems silly (in a funny way) to me.
As a gay man, I find this stuff about "inclusive" kind of weird--there's nothing wrong with having a dating game for str8 people, and tacking on an MM route would be awkward and tokenizing.
And I would have preferred if Boyfriend Dungeon was all boyfriends rather than half the romance options being characters I have no interest in.
Glad i passed. I like turn based rpgs because they're so hard to find (good ones), & thought about getting this from the screenshots & eShop description. I didn't realize it was a visual novel type gameplay. I have never played a dating sim until boyfriend dungeon & that was horrible to me, so i know to stay away from the genre now.
Why are more and more articles getting political, all of us just want see cool video game stuff.
To be fair, unless the protagonist is designed to be bisexual or pansexual, including more "diverse" dating options wouldn't make sense for the story, anyway.
Besides, dating sims are ultimately designed to be played by gamers who are attracted to the same gender as the protagonist, anyway. If there was a token gay love interest included, then most completionists wouldn't like having to romance that option to 100% the game (especially if there's a hidden option after beating all the others), while those who are only attracted to that alternative option wouldn't have enough attractive content in the game to be worth buying it. This goes double for a trans love interest, as most people in general feel uncomfortable dating transgender people, especially if it's just a fictional character and not someone with whom you could build an actual emotional relationship. The one reasonable exception would be a bisexual love interest who is still the same gender as the other love interests.
Anyway, sexual diversity may be important in some genres, but this isn't actually one of them. if you're not attracted to women, just buy a dating sim that lets you date men instead. Although, I suppose it would help if you could customize the protagonist's gender so that you could play this as either an all heterosexual game or an all lesbian game depending on your own identity (and even some straight men might prefer the yuri option).
@CharlieGirl maybe it's a better game exprience overall?
@Screen all of us just want see cool video game stuff.
That's what others on here already forgot-they are going a-political while forgetting just what you mentioned. They need to keep their politics at home not bring it here.
Why can't I find this game on the French eshop???
@MARl0 There's a physical special edition on PlayAsia. That's where I'm getting it 😁
Gotta love how everyone got bent out of shape that the reviewer lamented the lack of LGBTQ inclusivity after said reviewer still gave it a grrat score.
And the same people that were triggered by mentioning the lack of inclusion also celebrated that you are allowed to bang your own sister in the game. Oh excuse me, "not-your sister" as they say on pornhub.
No wonder these animu games and its fans have the reputation of Jeffrey Epstein LOL
"so fans looking for more diverse, LGBT+ friendly options will need to look elsewhere. It is clear that Love Esquire is intended to feel like a very safe and familiar option for fans, which is fine but, considering the effort that goes into other aspects of the game, a bit disappointing." Bro....
No one looks for "Diversity" in japanase stylized VN for that you have a lot, and i mean a lot, of western VN.
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