As visual novels continue to spread on Steam, more of its sub-genres receive coverage. Developer Winged Cloud recently brought Sakura Spirit to the digital storefront, inundating players with bountiful fanservice of its lady-centric cast. Their next release, Pyrite Heart, takes a very different path. Instead of being a flighty fantasy tale, it focuses on school life and a young woman (possibly) finding romance along the way. Yep, it’s an otome (“for girls”) visual novel, although of course anyone can give it a playthrough.
Pyrite Heart stars a teenager named Ahri who just so happens to be a princess. Don’t start imagining some sort of Disney setup, though. Princess Ahri is intensely competitive and excels at showing everyone her complete and total dominance in everything she pursues. At the beginning of the game her brother issues a new challenge: Survive one week in a regular old high school. Never backing down to any challenge, Ahri immediately accepts and awaits showering the outside world in her utter brilliance. Of course, most of us who have experienced the public high school system are aware that any aberration from the norm is viewed quite poorly by peers.
Once Ahri enters the school she’s immediately met with problems. Classmates find her weird and would rather harass than hang out. Things only get worse once she targets the student body president Ryuu as her peasant-born rival. Or, if Ryuu doesn’t strike your fancy there’s also Kenta, who is actually one of the palace’s servants. Pyrite Heart’s story progresses from there, letting you get a look at her many trials throughout the week. Of course, players also have direct control over how Ahri responds in a handful of these situations. Does she continue to gloat — even when it is dangerous? Or does she recognize times when help might be useful and concede to being imperfect?
The manner in which players guide Ahri’s choices lead to one of six endings (three for Ryuu and three for Kenta). Four of these endings could be considered positive; only two are the “best” options between each guy. If you play an incredibly bumbling character then you’ll end with a bad, and frankly quite disheartening, ending. Even so, you can easily start up a new game considering one playthrough lasts around 30-60 minutes depending on your reading speed. After one playthrough is cleared you’ll just need to make liberal use of the skip function to check out differences between runs. To complete everything should take around 2 hours.
Playing Pyrite Heart was refreshing because it offered a truly unique protagonist. Many heroines in the otome genre are rarely presented as sure of themselves or confident in the least. As for the men, well, they may be somewhat stereotyped but they’re both attractive enough — it’s a shame they aren’t given copious fanservice shots. The writing itself is a bit above average. Mainly, you just don’t get to spend nearly enough time with the experience to really dig into its storyline much. Granted, the game costs $5 which is fairly cheap in the visual novel realm.
Otome visual novels deserve more attention in the West, so it’s hard to not just give Pyrite Heart a pass for falling into that genre. In all, it basically is an inoffensive effort. The storyline and protagonist are just interesting enough to keep players clicking for an hour or two. Ryuu and Kenta might even inspire a handful of steamy fanart as a result. Beyond that, though, there’s not too much worth writing home about. Pyrite Heart is better than average, but not quite enough to inspire players to fall in love.