Important Importables: The allure of Love Plus

March 3, 2012 - 3:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports: The allure of Love Plus

Love Plus has turned into quite the profitable venture for Konami. The DS and 3DS dating simulation has fans worldwide, even with the language barrier. Which is probably quite confounding to people who have never played a dating simulation or have only heard the most sensational news stories about the games. I’m sure the series success is made even more surprising since it seems like every entry of Love Plus is exactly the same as the three same girls are always the only dating options. Hopefully, this brief overview will help you understand why people get so excited about Konami’s girlfriend simulator.

The Love Plus Saga

Love Plus is easy to heap into the category of dating sim. Mainly because yes, it does fit all the criteria and is technically one. It’s real category is much more accurate – girlfriend simulator. It also explains why so many people are willing to keep buying in to what seems like the same game. I mean, Love Plus, Love Plus + and New Love Plus? Those unfamiliar with the series would assume people double or triple dipping are getting ripped off.

It’s understandable. Each entry has the same three dateable girls – Manaka Takane, Rinko Kobayakawa and Nene Anegasaki. The player and all three of them attend Towano High School, with Manaka being in the same grade as the player, Rinko a year below and Nene a year above. Players get 100 days to get one of the girls as a girlfriend. After getting a girlfriend, the player can then play forever and continue to date her. The game can even be set up so each day in the real world corresponds to each day in the game, allowing players to date in real-time.

The girlfriend mode starts after players manage to get one of the girls to like them enough to confess their love. This is actually kind of challenging, since the game does have life sim elements and requires players to build up their avatars’ stats to the girls liking and trigger certain events. Even after entering girlfriend mode, a player must continue to go through a life sim during the days to keep stats up to impress the girl he’s chosen and go on dates.

So why do people like it? Well, Love Plus really is like having a virtual girfriend and some people like the idea of that. I suppose its comforting to know that every day an activity can be planned. There’s no threat of rejection and even though the player knows it isn’t real, the Love Plus games still provide an identifiable character with which to bond. The fact that the software has some minor voice recognition, allowing the virtual characters to recognize and respond to some phrases, helps.

In addition, a Love Plus player also gets to basically create his dream girl. While Manaka, Rinko and Nene have base personalities and appearances, Konami’s website and marketing also points out that their physical appearance can change based on input from the player, changing their hair color or style and clothing. Konami also gives players the option to shape the girls’ personalities by telling them what kind of girls they like.

Since players have already formed a bond with characters and transfer save data over to newer games, it’s more like Love Plus + and New Love Plus are expansion packs. Hopefully, that makes it easier to understand why players keep coming back. Newer games have more events, clothing options and date locations. Of course, the 3DS version also has DLC, a boyfriend lock feature that makes the girls only recognize one player and AR viewing. Unfortunately, foreign Love Plus players will encounter problems when upgrading from Love Plus or Love Plus+ to New Love Plus, as it is a paid data transfer and requires an additional machine.

Finding your own Love Plus love.

If you’re really curious about Love Plus, the next step would be to play it. The first two entries, Love Plus and Love Plus +, are region-free and can be played on any DS or DS lite unit. Love Plus + does have some minor region-locking though, so it will not work on DSi or DSi XL units from North America or Europe. Both games are very language heavy, requiring not only basic knowledge of Japanese, but also the ability to read kanji and even speak some Japanese lines for certain segments. People familiar with dating simulations, particularly Konami’s Tokimeki Memorial series, might be able to stumble their way through the game. Still, you’ll miss out if you can’t understand what’s going on. It is possible to do if you really want to try it or find a cheap copy of the game, especially if you consult a fan-made Love Plus guide.

Interestingly enough, a fan translation project was completed in 2011 for the original Love Plus. A group of people who enjoyed the game worked together to translate it into English and release a free patch online. It doesn’t translate the part where players have to say a certain phrase aloud to their girlfriend in a dream, but aside from that the entire game is fully playable. Considering the size of the game, it’s quite a substantial feat. Now, we all know piracy is wrong and a very bad thing, but it is pretty cool to know something like this is out there.

New Love Plus, the first 3DS entry, is region-locked. You can only play it if you own a Japanese 3DS. However, a 3DS regardless of region can play the first Love Plus without any problems so you can always fall back on that.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports suggests some online shopping services to use to buy awesome stuff from Japan.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports reviewed Mother 3

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