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Sympathy Kiss review - balancing work-life and romance

Our Sympathy Kiss review gives you the lowdown on our time with Akari Amasawa as she navigates workplace drama and romance in Japan.

Sympathy Kiss review - a pink-haired man ruffles a girls hair

I would definitely call myself a frequent dabbler in otome and visual novel games. I love the idea of handsome husbandos and being romanced by adorable anime men, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert in the genre by any means. My most recent foray into this world comes in the form of Sympathy Kiss, a game that has you take on the role of Akari Amasawa as she gets romanced by a slew of gorgeous gents.

Sympathy Kiss comes from Idea Factory, who you may recognize as the publisher behind many other great otome games, the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, and Date A Live. So it’s got a lot to live up to. But how does it hold up? Let’s dive into my Sympathy Kiss review and give you the lowdown.

This is a self-insert otome game, meaning you become the main character. Akari, or whatever you choose to name her, doesn’t speak, but you get to hear some of her thoughts and choose dialogue options for her. This can be a little off-putting for some, but I quite enjoy it, though I have seen a few people find her eyeless character model a little eerie.

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But here’s what you really want to know. There are plenty of eligible bachelors in Sympathy Kiss, each with their own unique personality and style, so you’re bound to fall for at least one of them in your playthrough. However, I found the first story I was thrown into a little off-putting, as you have a nomad stranger/womanizer named Nori Tainaka move into your home, invade your personal space without consent, and get somewhat aggressive, all within a very short period of time.

Now, some people may be into this direct approach, and the character certainly is handsome, but as the first relationship I fell into at the start of the game, it was a little out of my comfort zone and left me longing to romance one of the other much nicer options I’d met already. From this point, I feel the game gets a lot more enjoyable, but that first chapter was a tough hurdle for me to leap over.

Outside of romance, the game has a pretty enjoyable story. After a successful year as a designer at a mobile app company named Estario, you’re tasked with saving one of their failing apps, Estarci. You join a small ragtag team that includes the handsome gentleman you’d expect, but also a lovely girl named Nanami Oe, whom you create a genuine friendship with.

Throughout your in-game work days, you watch your days play out as Akari plans events, organizes meetings, and rallies the team together. You receive text messages and calls from your acquaintances, can pick from different emotions that change how scenes play out, and must balance your love and work points, which directs the outcome of your current route.

Sympathy Kiss review - a green-haired man shaking a drink at a bar

I often expect a lot from otome games, which feels like an unpopular opinion for true fans of the genre. I want to be able to truly cater the experience to fit me with loads of choices, slick menus with character bios, obvious gauges that show how my relationships are progressing, and maybe even the occasional cut scene – though that last point may detract from the visual novel style.

Perhaps these points mean the genre isn’t for me, and I echo a lot of my thoughts from my Charade Maniacs review in this review. I don’t inherently dislike Sympathy Kiss; the narrative is unique, and I enjoy the more mature story as I’m now 30 years old and playing these games. But I just want more, and honestly, I don’t think my demands are too much to ask for.

If you’re interested in trying out the latest titles, keep your eye on our lists of the new mobile games and new Nintendo Switch games coming soon.