Dating sims are a huge thing in Japan, but in the West they’re kind of seen as a bit of a joke. Perhaps it’s not “cool” to role-play as a character when the aim of the game is to win someone’s heart instead of fighting a war or defeating a dastardly nemesis?

But if you’ve ever played dating sims before, you’ll know that they can be a huge amount of fun. Two of Japan’s most popular dating sim series, Love Plus and Tokimeki Memorial are also set to get new games soon, so now might be the time to start dipping your toes into the dating sim world.

The Tokimeki (Heartbeat) Memorial series of dating sims (which launched on PC in 1994) comprises six main games and a number of spin-offs across multiple platforms. There’s also a version for girls, Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side, where you have the opportunity to romance the cute virtual boy of your choice.

The general format for the games usually involves taking on the role of a high school student who advances through several years of school while attempting to forge relationships with a variety of NPCs. Clever dialogue choices aren’t enough to win you the heart of your pixellated beloved, though – you’ll need to build up your parameters and stats, too.

For example, if your chosen guy or girl likes someone who’s good at sports, you’d better get those physical parameters up as high as they can go. Similarly, if the object of your affections places a lot of value on appearance, you’ll need to work on your fashion sense. (Don’t do what I did in Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side 1st Love for the Nintendo DS and accidentally go on a date with the same dude twice in a row without changing my character’s clothes – he totally noticed.)

▼ This commercial for Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side Premium 3rd Story demonstrates what the series is like pretty well.

LovePlus, first released for the Nintendo DS in 2009, is the more modern of the two series, and enables you to do pretty much the same thing – date a number of high school cuties while fiddling with your stats. Unfortunately, they haven’t released a LovePlus for girls yet, and even more unfortunately, none of the Tokimeki Memorial or Love Plus games have ever been officially localised for release in the West.

New LovePlus+ lets you take your virtual girlfriend on dates to some of Japan’s top tourist spots.

The new entries in both series were announced on March 16 this year by Konami Digital Entertainment, but details have yet to be released, and with a shuffling of staff many die-hard fans of the series are nervous about what’s in store for both franchises. Personally, I’m interested to see what format the new games are going to be released in, since Japan’s leaning so heavily on mobile games these days.

With the surprise cult success of jokey pigeon-dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend on foreign shores (thanks to an authorised translation), we’re hoping that the Japanese game devs are going to consider introducing some of their more popular dating sim games to the folks overseas, too. If you’re a fan of visual novels or games like Harvest Moon that allow you to marry your characters to each other, you mind find that dating sims are just up your alley. Just make sure you don’t wind up taking things too far, like that one guy who took his virtual LovePlus girlfriend to his own wedding…

What do you think of dating sims? Will  they ever truly catch on in the West?

Source: Otapol
Main Image: Screenshot via YouTube