Since its release isn’t far away, I would like to share my predictions and thoughts about this game. ONEDARI ShareMate has an interesting system, where players determine which two of the four housemates Ayumi will live with. Though I can’t help but feel it’s a bit gimmicky, if executed well, the mundane premise will be made up for by the system of being able to explore the nuances of Ayumi, Guy 1 and Guy 2’s relationship towards one another. It should be interesting to see how Ayumi’s actions determines the course of the three’s relationships, which will branch in three ways- true love, “sordid affair” (i.e. cheating) or a love triangle. At its worst, it will be a borderline-nukige with a gimmick made to lure optimistic gamers like myself into playing a mediocre game. Given the shortness of the trial, ONEDARI ShareMate has left me with many doubts, which will be elaborated on further into this post.
Scheduled release date: 25-4-2014
Writer: Kaneko Reiji (カネコ レイジ), Yoshino (芳乃)
Artist: Saikawa Natsuki (犀川 夏生)
Platform: PC (Windows)
Rating: CERO Z (18+) *However, the trial does not contain any R18+ content*
Official website: http://asring.1000.tv/top.html (you’ll need a Japanese proxy to access the official site.)
* Cast *
Serizawa Haruto – Kondou Takashi (Ooishi Keizou)
Minemura Yuzuki – Kakihara Tetsuya (Kaiouraku)
Minemura Itsuki – Satou Takuya (Domon Netsu)
Fritz Wittgenstein – Nakazawa Masatomo (Sawa Manaka)
Isozaki Ryousuke – Itou Kentarou (Healthy Tarou)
Kai Shintarou – Ichijou Kazuya
* Plot *
Sakaiya Ayumi (25 years old protagonist), who dislikes men a little bit, is a teacher working for the private Futaba Academy. Having already been thinking about leaving her parents’ place, Ayumi decides to rent a room in a sharehouse called “Perche”, after being offered by her older brother-in-law, Kai Shintarou, its owner.
“I wonder what the two people already living here are like?”
With high hopes within her heart, Ayumi opens Perche’s door… and a certain something jumps into her field of vision-
“My housemates are all men?!”
Like this, Ayumi’s life with her two male housemates begin… What awaits? A sweet love? A sordid love affair? A love triangle?
Who are the two housemates you’ll choose? The story will change depending on who you’ll choose as your roomates in this romance AVG!
The website captures the essence sufficiently- it really is as simple as it says. I don’t know about you, but that sounds boring as hell to me. However, what elevates this concept is ONEDARI ShareMate’s (I’ll shorten this to just “Onedari” from here on out) interesting system in which the player determines who Ayumi’s sharemates are before she even walks through the door:
After selecting the two guys, the story continues on and appears to have notable divergences in character interactions. However, even though I say “divergence”, I don’t mean the plot drastically changes depending on who you choose. There are notable differences, but the story still adheres to one generalised main direction. Simply put, regardless of which two characters you pick, you still seem to be on the same common route but the side events vary.
Here are the combinations you can choose from and my brief impressions:
Haruto/Yuzuki: Haruto and Yuzuki are both slack, and both have a warped sleeping pattern. Granted in Yuzuki’s case, because he is a host and a university student. Boy, that can’t be good for your circadian clock! However, with Haruto, it comes from slackness. Unlike Itsuki, Yuzuki lets Haruto live as he pleases. Haruto practically lives on instant noodles, save for the very rare occasion that Yuzuki cooks. You don’t really see the two conversing much over the three days, so it’s hard to get a real grasp on what they think of each other. I think they have one proper conversation, and so far, it seems that they get along amicably enough.
Haruto/Itsuki: Haruto and Itsuki’s dynamic is like that of a younger and older brother, though perhaps they’re not as close. In this setting, I learned that Haruto was housemates with Shintarou until the latter had to travel due to his work. Soon afterwards, Itsuki moved in. Appalled by Haruto’s lack of routine, the rigid and serious Itsuki had set one up in Haruto’s life before Ayumi moves in with them. Itsuki is on the stricter side when it comes to Haruto, constantly reprimanding him for his slackness or lack of manners. This is probably my favourite combination, not only because I like Itsuki and Haruto the most out of the four main guys- but I find their dynamic to be quite entertaining. (*^▽^*)
Yuzuki/Itsuki: While it’s certain Yuzuki and Itsuki’s relationship appears to be strained, the trial doesn’t reveal exactly to what extent and what caused this. Even so, Itsuki still looks out for Yuzuki, first noticeable by him preparing his breakfast and lunch everyday. However, Yuzuki shows little interest, and just leaves the meals as they are. There are a couple of small hints- Yuzuki mentions his aversion towards teachers if he’s sharemates with Haruto, and according to the website, Itsuki doesn’t think highly of Yuzuki’s job. I don’t think there’s anything “deep” going on; I think it’s a strain born from profound differences in their personalities and lifestyles. I’m not sure how I feel about causing two family members to fight over the protagonist, even if they don’t get along. All I can say is it could get quite ugly, given Yuzuki’s character.
Itsuki/Fritz: Their dynamic most resembled a “normal” housemate relationship, I think. In addition, they get along fairly well, to the point that I’d call them friends. The two’s personalities oppose each other, but instead of this being a point of conflict, they compliment one another. This set-up felt far more down-to-earth and realistic (in spite of Fritz’s propensity to spurt out random phrases in Austrian German). In additon, this pairing was the best showcased out of the entire trial, and is the best written. Their conversations gave more insight into their characters. It will be interesting to see how Ayumi’s arrival will affect this, though I can’t help but feel guilty if Ayumi ends up ruining such a nice friendship.
I took a closer look at the writers, and both have worked on Tiaramode games, which are noted for being “kind of crap”. I wonder if A’sRing is yet another sister brand of Tiaramode, Ribbon Magic or Tiramisu Villa? Anyway, I can vouch for Brothers ~Koi suru Onii-sama~ and its fandisc as being subpar, to put it nicely. I’ve only heard from my friends about Crazy Rabbits and Butlers, and pretty much all of them had hardly anything good to say about it. Though the quality of the writing hasn’t seem to have improved (nor has it downgraded), I really want to give Onedari a chance as I think this will be a really fun ride… if done well!
* Characters *
Sakaiya Ayumi (name changeable)
Ayumi is Onedari’s protagonist. She is a teacher that works at Futaba Academy, who also oversees the school’s basketball club. Ayumi specialises in classic literature. She appears to be quite cheerful and loves her job, making her popular with the students. According to the website, she has a strong sense of justice and is quite serious. Ayumi is single, and is slightly averse to men.
In other words, she’s hardly any different to 90% of otome protagonists out there.
Despite being 25-years-old, she feels much more like your standard high school student otome protagonist. She’s slightly childish, innocent and naive- while not a bad thing- it’s not how one would expect a 25-year-old lady to be. Of course, there’s no standard for what a 25-year-old Japanese woman should be like… but the writers have failed to make Ayumi feel like I’m playing through the eyes of a supposedly mature adult. I think it’s a real shame, because I was really looking forward to experiencing an otome game through a mature adult’s perspective… I’m thinking the writers slapped on her age because they wanted a more believable teacher as a protagonist, but pretty much wrote her character like they would write a younger protagonist. However, seeing as this is merely a trial, I hope that Ayumi will defy her stereotype and be something more.
Haruto is a second-year at Futaba Academy, and is one of Ayumi’s homegroup students. He’s infectiously cheerful and energetic, which makes him popular at school. He loves sports, and is so skilled in a wide variety that he regularly stands-in for many clubs during tournaments. He hates to study, but does try his best in Ayumi’s classes. He’s obviously attracted to Ayumi, but to exactly what extent isn’t clear in the trial. My guess is that it’s just a bit of a crush that will likely develop during his routes.
Haruto is my second favourite! It’s hard not to smile when you’re around somebody so cheerful. He definitely is the type that’d be best off with a maturer lady to keep him on track. When Ayumi questions him about his reason for living in a sharehouse, his usual cheerful demeanour vanishes, and he evades the question. It’s not exactly an original approach, but it does make me wonder!
Yuzuki is a 21-year-old university student who also works late into the night as a host. He’s Itsuki’s younger brother of ten years. On the job, he’s a snappy dresser, but at home, he’s quite laidback and slack. He’s abrasive and seems to be very confident. The website says that he likes to tease the girl he likes, but deep down, he’s earnest.
As first impressions go, as the rudest and most unpleasant housemate, Yuzuki is my least favourite out of the four. He does give me the tsun-tsun, “actually-a-nice-guy-underneath-his callous-guy-facade” vibe. Despite Fritz properly appearing the least, I feel that you get to know Yuzuki the least.
31-years-old Itsuki is also a teacher at Futaba Academy, making him Ayumi’s colleague. Specialising in mathematics, Itsuki is also in charge of overseeing the second year. Rigid and very serious, he doesn’t have much of a sense of humour. Due to this, students are afraid of him. However, interacting with him will relay that he isn’t a cold-hearted man- he’s just rigidly professional and serious.
After tossing Itsuki up between him and Haruto, I’ve decided that Itsuki is my favourite. While it helps that I find him the most physically attractive, I have to admit that I’m curious about his inevitable “deredere” side. His general demanour is somewhere between tsun-tsun and Mr. Cool, minus the immaturity. It’s obvious he isn’t a bad guy, and given his caring side, I’m pretty sure his loving side would be quite adorable. I’m also a bit intrigued as to why a man like Itsuki is in a sharehouse. He says that his “current situation demands it”. I wonder if it has anything to do with his tension towards Yuzuki?
According to the official website, Fritz is a skilled violinist. Sadly, you don’t get to hear him showcase this! Anyway, he’s 29-years-old and is half-Japanese, half-Austrian. Fritz speaks fluent Austrian German, seeming to have spent most of his life in Austria. He learned Japanese in university for three years, but is noted to not have an accent and pretty much speaks and writes on a fluent level. Even if he’s “naturally talented” in the language, I can assure you that three years is far too unrealistic- even for a forgiving reader like me- with his level of Japanese. Three years of university is a poor excuse for what amounts to the writers’ laziness. Unless it turns out he’s lying about his Japanese abilities! He manages the cafe adjoined to the Perche sharehouse.
While I find his Japanese abilities totally unbelievable, I still quite like Fritz. He’s pleasant and calming to be around because of his gentle, kind and down-to-earth nature. He’s polite without being overly formal. Fritz is the game’s token iyashi-kei, and his hinted-at wealthy background doubles him as the ouji-sama as well! Sadly, while he is so soothing to be around, he’s not very interesting. The trial really doesn’t give anything away…
Shintarou is Ayumi’s older brother-in-law, and has been a widower for seven years following the accidental and sudden death of Ayumi’s elder sister, Natsumi. To this day, Shintarou still has feelings for Natsumi. He’s also Ayumi’s first love, though it’s unknown if he has ever realised this. Shintarou is a professional cameraman, specialising in landscape photography. His job often takes him around the world, which is also how he met his old friend, Fritz. Ayumi greatly admires his work, believing he’s skilled in all disciplines of his profession. Even after Natsumi’s passing, Shintarou and Ayumi still share their familial bond, with him still looking out for her. He also serves as the owner of Perche. The website lists him as a sub-character, and because he’s still in love with Natsumi, I’m thinking he won’t be a love interest. I do hope that such a nice guy like him will be able to find love again.
* Gameplay and System *
Like most otome games, Onedari is a non-linear, multi-branched story. It employs the standard choice system of the ADV genre. Thus far, none of the choices are complicated, and it should be obvious which ones make which character pleased. There will be three main types of routes: a sweet love one, a “sordid affair” one (read: cheating, possibly netorare) and a love triangle one. I do enjoy complexity and bittersweetness in romance stories, but seeing as being fought over (sordid) or indecision (love triangle) don’t hit my “moe” buttons at all, I’m the most interested in the “sweet love” route. That being said, the sordid affair route has a chance to be interesting, seeing as cheating and especially, netorare, aren’t as common in the otome world as you think. As for the love triangle route, I detest romantic indecision, so it’s likely to be just a source of frustration if it’ll play out the way I’m imagining it to. However, given the “sharehouse” theme of Onedari, it might actually be more like a day-to-day life of those in a working threesome relationship. That would be interesting.
The actual system itself isn’t anything special. Actually, I’d say it’s slightly below average in terms of presentation.
The system looks like it’s a game from the early 2000s! The menu bottom menu is TINY. Without my glasses, I can’t read that. It also feels really lazy, as it’s just some text arranged in a row. If the font were bigger, I guess its readability is a plus, but I still think that the graphic artists could have made much more effort. I guess the menu functions without fault and does what it needs to, so it’s not a deal-breaker. On the plus side, the game’s cursor is adorable- it’s a little blue bird (you can see it in the sharemate selection screenshot above). Also, Onedari is the first game I’ve encountered where you can change the colour of each character’s font. It’s a nifty feature, though it’s of no use to me. Even so, it’s nice seeing different colours instead of the common, monotonous text for hours on end.
In the top-right corner, you’ll see a chibi version of the main characters with “UP” and an arrow next to them. This pops up with a “ding” whenever you raise their affection towards you. The UP graphics sometimes pop up even during “normal” conversations- that is- even when you haven’t even picked choices at all. It’s a little odd… it’s definitely not a bug. I guess you gain some points by default, just by normally talking to them? (´･_･`)?
Now for what you may call “the meat” of Onedari, other than the sharemate selection, of course. At certain points in the story, players are made to “onedari” the main characters. “Onedari” translates to “begging; pleading”. This sounds a little scary, but so far, the trial has proven it’s nothing too crazy.
In this little segment, Ayumi asks the main character a favour. The favours can be mundane, from “I want some tea”, to more the bold, “I want you to kiss me”. This segment would be fine… if it weren’t for the fact that it appears just a day after Ayumi meets the guys. Seriously… wut. It also contradicts Ayumi’s character. Ayumi is certainly not the type of lady who would get physically involved with a stranger, not to mention getting others to do things for her (she even suggests helping out wherever she can in practically all sharemate combinations, and notes feeling guilty when all the cooking, cleaning, etc. is done without her involvement). At first I thought the trial is engineered so that you can sample how the “favours” play out. Nope… regardless of my choices in the trial, all four guys say “no” to any favour, even sounding offended (as they should be!). I’m guessing they say ‘yes’ when they have feelings for you, or when you start dating.
As a result, what little interest I have in asking for favours is demolished. I think the game would be better off without this weird segment. Maybe I shouldn’t really judge this until playing the full game. Incidentally, the heart border makes me giggle immaturely.
* Other things worth mentioning *
I like the art style of Onedari. It’s not breath-taking, but it’s nice to see mature men actually look like mature men. The lack of ridiculous fashion choices and sparkles everywhere adds to the realistic setting. This is just my opinion, but I find that in most otome games, older characters don’t look much older than the younger ones unless they’re supposed to be the “oji-san/oyaji” archetype. I think it’s the way the artist draws their bodies; having a more masculine build makes them look older. Also, Saikawa-sensei draws their eyes thinner, so this also adds to their “maturer” look. There wasn’t a single CG in the trial, so I have nothing to say there… except how disappointing that is! The backgrounds are nothing special, nothing to add here.
The music and sound effects are very average. Usually, there are at least one or two stand-out tracks in the most basic of scores, but in Onedari, none of the pieces stood out to me. Elevator music at its finest…
I think the voices were cast well. Kondou Takashi can do any role without trouble. He’s a truly talented seiyuu, I think! Anyway, he manages to make Haruto sound adorable and young without making Haru-chan sound like a shota. Nakazawa Masatomo as Fritz is a fantastic, even perfect choice. For those who have played Koezaru wa Akai Hana, he was Ruji, also an iyashi-kei character. He has a very pleasant voice… perfect for the calming and gentle Fritz. I dont’ recall hearing anything Satou Takuya has been in until Onedari, so it’s nice to hear a voice I haven’t heard 100 times already. He has a low tone without being too deep, which suits Itsuki’s character. Finally, Ichijou Kazuya definitely makes Shintarou sound older than the rest of the cast, and his gentle acting brings out Shintarou’s kind character… not a lot else to add. Maybe you’ve realised that I’ve made zero mention of this “Isozaki Ryousuke” guy. Apparently, he’s Ayumi’s ex-boyfriend and another side character. Well… you never encounter him in the trial! What’s up with that?!
* Final Thoughts *
I’m quite conflicted about this. Onedari does have a gimmicky feel to it, with its sharemate system and the truly bizarre “Onedari system”. The premise itself, once stripped of the game’s bells and whistles, is painfully mundane and vague. Playing the trial hasn’t made me any more interested or disinterested in the story. I guess I could conclude that this is a very character-centric game, given the branch shifts sound like they’ll be caused by interpersonal relationships rather than the plot itself. That being said, none of the characters seem unique from their archetypes, however endearing I’ve actually found them. Ayumi is a very ordinary protagonist so far, heightening the sense that I’m meant to immerse myself rather than experience the story through her eyes. This is common in otome games, and it doesn’t work on me.
There simply wasn’t enough time provided in the trial. I understand that the makers don’t want to give too much away, but three in-game days, which is just about an hour (maybe even less!) is way too little. I don’t think I’m a particularly fast reader.
On the other hand, if the three-sharemate dynamic is explored well, Onedari could turn out to be really interesting. I do want to see how the characters change depending upon the particular combination of housemates or how you raise their affection. Maybe even how they develop depending on the routes you end up on. I also concede that I’m curious about Haruto and Itsuki’s reason for living in Perche.
My senses are screaming “MEDIOCRE!” to me, but I think I’ll give Onedari a chance. “Mediocre” doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a bad experience. I just hope that it’ll be good enough so I’ll at least enjoy Haruto and Itsuki’s routes.