Although visual novels have been around for decades, what many most know the genre for it its penchant for extremely weird, non-human on human romance. Many of the first games that non-visual novel fans will name off the top of the head include the likes of Hatoful Boyfriend, which brought a human girl into an esteemed academy of pigeons. More are coming out all the time because there’s just something strangely fun about this niche. Creature Romances: Kokonoe Kokoro is another one of those games, though it’s hardly new. It actually launched in Japan in 2013 as a fabulously weird bit of PC freeware. A few years ago, Sekai Project revealed they would be localizing the project as well as the otome version. Along with key other projects, however, what should have been an incredibly quick release ended up taking years.
Creature Romances: Kokonoe Kokoro is now available which means it’s finally possible for English-speaking gamers to romance an anthropomorphic grasshopper. The thing is, it appears that the only thing going for the game is its “oddball” factor. In every other way it comes across as yet another slice of life high school romance tale. Our protagonist Ichitarou is a typical high school senior, meaning he has little to no prospects of attending a good college and doesn’t think about his future. On the other hand, his childhood friend Kokoro (who just so happens to be a humanoid grasshopper) is seriously intelligent. Her sights are, of course, set on attending the prestigious Tokyo U. One day Ichitarou spontaneously decides that he too will attend Tokyo U to keep spending time with her. It’s a common trope, but one that can be used to great effect when done well.
There is a very meager cast beyond our two main characters. Also occasionally present is Masato, another friend. He’s some sort of horrifying demonic being but also a pretty stand up guy. There’s a teacher who we barely ever see but is basically a pile of fetid flesh which would be terrifying if he did anything. Ichitarou’s sister is a tiny little bat, even though Ichitarou himself is clearly a human. Despite the visually distinctive cast, nothing about them comes across as very endearing or entertaining.
Despite outward appearances, they mostly speak and act as stereotypical high schoolers in a visual novel or anime. The only difference is their visual features. That’s part of the problem with Creature Romances: Kokonoe Kokoro. Why go to the trouble of creating ridiculous characters if they rarely ever do something equally ridiculous? Sure, the few CG scenes are noteworthy due to being visually funny or freaky, but it’s not enough to sustain the game.
Though to be fair there’s not much of Creature Romances: Kokonoe Kokoro to go around anyway. Most playthroughs will clock in at exactly thirty minutes long. One choice is available near the end of the playthrough and only one (fairly obvious) choice leads to the good end. The other two lead to an abrupt game over screen. Fully completing these three ends will only add about another minute to the overall playtime. To be fair, if the game had been any longer it would have clearly dragged on due to how uninspiring the characterizations are.
Without good writing it’s extremely difficult to have a good visual novel. The translation is clean in the sense that it is all grammatically correct and free of typos, but it lacks any sense of soul. Those used to fan translations of anime or games will find it serviceable, but a strong localization could have added the pizzazz needed to make the game enjoyable. Without it, many will find the story utterly dull. The only part which really stood out was an icky CG near the end. Fortunately the artwork itself is good and folks can even decorate their Steam profile with its visuals thanks to Trading Card support.
Creature Romances: Kokonoe Kokoro is short, uninspired and $2.99. While some publishers release freeware titles in English for free on Steam, the price does make some sense. For one, Sekai Project needed to put additional money into the project to get the entire thing ported over to Unity alongside expected translation costs. It’s also entirely possible that the developer Nostalgia decided they’d like to make a bit of cash with the Steam release.
It is extremely difficult to recommend Creature Romances: Kokonoe Kokoro to anyone other than the niche of visual novel fans who devour all games with non-human romances. They’ll of course need to read this one too, but no one else needs to worry. There’s little to be missed by not experiencing a story told thousands of times before with better characterization and drama. Here’s hoping that the otome version actually provides a better storyline instead of relying purely on absurd character design as its selling point.