Fresh, stylish and filled with handsome men, Bu$tafellows provides a high-tech, action-packed, visual novel full of crime, mystery, and drama. Being a lover of otome games I had to try out Bu$tafellows for the Nintendo Switch. Here’s my thoughts. What’s an otome game? The word itself translates to ‘maiden game’ and are normally story-based games targeted for women. The main goal besides the plot of the story, is to develop a romantic relationship between the main character and one of the several and traditionally male characters.
Bu$tafellows was developed by Nippon Cultural Broadcasting and published by PQube Limited, you may have played games published by PQube before such as White Day, Arcade Spirits, Tormented Souls and Our World is Ended. But to note, Bu$tafellows is not a new game. It was originally released in Japan in 2019 but not translated into English until 2021.
You step into the shoes of a young woman, smart, strong, and determined journalist with an ability to go back in time for a short period of time, but there’s a catch. You can go back in time for a short period of time, just not in your body. The player gets quickly familiar with this ability after seeing a murder of a well-known lawyer that she had met earlier. With quick thinking, the main character uses her ability to hopefully stop said lawyer’s death and eventually gets dragged into his friend’s questionable adventures.
Bu$tafellows is an otome visual novel at heart but with interactive parts within the game that require you to make choices that affect your path through the game. The choices range from recalling things you’ve seen, test choices, timed choices and of course, you have the option of not answering in some instances. Not answering questions can also affect your path as well.
It is important to note that you need to pay attention to details as they may be important later on. You also have the possibility of choosing the wrong answer affects those around you and the outcome of the game. And because of that possibility saving is extremely important. Save your game so that you can choose different options or better options for a different outcome.
The story is more set in a more realistic modern time as it is set in a city similar to a high-tech New York City and you are put in the shoes of a young woman, a budding journalist who is not afraid to get her hands dirty. Her unique ability leads her to meet five interesting fellows that all have their own stories, that connect with one another as well as they help each other out. Bu$tafellows is an episodic game comprising of five chapters, each of the chapters can lead up to a good or bad end for each of the routes for the five men. Each men have an A-side and B-side. The more that you play the stories of the men the more you unlock additional stories of other characters in the game such as Adam, one of the main character’s friends and Carmen, an interesting side character.
Limbo, Shu, Mozu, Helvetica, and Scarecrow are full of their unique charm and contribute to the story even if you’re not on their romance path. Each of the characters are supportive of one another even if their ideas are different; cue the snarky, blunt, teasing comments from each other.
One thing I want to note is that I really appreciate that the main character has a go-getter and more fierce personality than other main characters. In most otome games the main female lead tends to be frail and usually doesn’t fight back, or runs away. However, the main female in Bu$tafellows breathes fresh air into the main female leads. In addition to the main lead, her friends are supportive and add an even more realistic feel to the game despite the crazy things that happen.
The visuals (not only character designs) of Bu$tafellows is gorgeous and paired well with ambient music and sounds of the city environment, with all of this combined the game immerses you in the city, into the story, putting you into the shoes of the main character. What surprised me the most was the fact that Bu$tafellows was fully voiced in Japanese and how well the voice actors brought the characters to life. The stuttering, disappointed sighs, cut-throat, snarky responses work together to show the dynamics of the five men and their characters. Most earlier otome games have voice lines that can be heard after a certain event or at the end of a chapter.
Overall the high-tech designs, beautiful visuals, and handsome men with motives that can blur the line between morally good and lawfully bad. Bu$tafellows held my attention with its visuals, story, voice acting, and female lead. I managed to complete three out of five stories of the men, Scarecrow, Shu, and Mozu, and through their stories there were a some things that stuck out to me.
The first being the formatting, there were instances where the translated text wasn’t properly formatted to the screen of the Switch (there may be a difference on the PC version) thus I wasn’t able to read it. Second, was the fact that there are no clear signs of which romance track you are on until the third chapter. At the point, it’s too late to change it. I think that if there were clearer signs or an option to choose the romance you would like to pursue it would have made the game even more enjoyable. Third, was the fact that not all of the voice lines were translated, I was fortunate enough to be able to understand some of the untranslated lines but it could be a turnoff or an irritation for those who get really interested or invested into the story. Lastly, the fact that there could have been expansions on some of the stories of the characters. How some of the stories end will leave you wanting more or a better explanation of what happened.
Even with these small issues, the mystery, crime, drama-filled story held my attention and made me want to see what happens next and how the main character would use her ability to see who she would save next. I also loved the more realistic and modern feel of Bu$tafellows from the visuals, art, and voice acting.
I highly recommend otome lovers to definitely give Bu$tafellows a try!