During my time in Japan, my gaming phase from college continued. I found it to be an entertaining method of learning Japanese, and an absolutely interesting way to dig deeper into the unexplored side of Japanese gaming culture. Before one judges consider the scope of the literary, film, and gaming industries, and take a moment to mentally review your own personal library: Love stories, forbidden love, Harlequin romances, comic books, blockbuster films, television series, romantic comedies, pornography, imagination… at some point or another a large majority of the population has in one form or another fantasized about interpersonal relationships. Games like the Meine Liebe series are explicitly marketed toward girls, but also carry a strong following among young women. This is primarily due to its deconstruction of the romance novel.
The roleplaying genre of games is not unknown in the United States with such series at Final Fantasy as the most notable. However, instead of conquering monsters, collecting treasures, and trying to save the world, it’s boiled down to a simple premise: one girl + several guys = the potential for multiple love stories with happy endings. This is where I find gaming software companies in Japan to be truly intelligent: exploring a new genre for gaming, allowing the player to be the center of their own love story. The player is given multiple options, and weaves their own “choose your own adventure” story. Adding further appeal to the game often includes simple, graphic design, special unlockable images, and voices that are often well-known within the animation industry.
Challenges including balancing friends and dating while improving one’s skills, as well as important things as saying the right thing to the right person, selecting appropriate clothes, and inviting people to do activities together. The primary goal is to cycle through the school year at Rosenstoltz Academy, building relationships, finding love, and most importantly, making sure one is not alone at the graduation ball!
During a rather long winter in 2006, after I moved to my new apartment in west Tottori, Meine Liebe became a great way to pass the weekends when the roads were too snowy to venture into the neighboring local city (Florida girls don’t like driving in the snow). I found the art is the first game was more elegant than the second, but the historical flair of the second gave the impression of a solid plot. Konami Japan is responsible for both PlayStation 2 releases. It received a 13+ age rating for the romantic situations presented.
- マイネリーベ 優美なる記憶 (2005; Meine Liebe: Becoming a Memory of Elegance) – As the new girl at school, you’re responsible for making a name for yourself amongst the extremely competitive girls at an elite
- マイネリーベII ～誇りと正義と愛～ (February 2006; Meine Liebe 2: Pride, Justice & Love) – War is erupting in the small, fictitious European country, and our heroine must continue to fight for love while the world around her is falling apart.
- Voiced by several of the top voice actors in Japan: Orpherus (Takahiro SAKURAI), Eduard (Tomokazu SEKI), Ludwig (Toshihiko SEKI), Camus (Soichiro HOSHI), Naoji (Akira ISHIDA), & Isaac (Takehito KOYASU)
- Walk-thru manual sold separately, but extremely helpful
- Gorgeous artwork, beautiful gothic musical score, and entertaining interaction system
- Subtitled dialogue without timed menu choices (provided time to look up unknown words in the dictionary)
- Favorite Characters: Orphe & Naoji – It is seldom that I appreciate the main “love interest” in a game or comic series, primarily because they are the stereotypical ambivalent guy (until the very last minute). Orphe is dashing despite his frustrating indifference. Naoji is a bit of a challenge, only because they make him an extremely conservative Japanese student in a decidedly European environment.
- Least Favorite Character: Camus – Although he is sweet, I always dislike the “girly boy” characters. I cannot seem to fathom the frail and sensitive boys. I always feel like Camus should be at a sleep over, reading Teen Beat and styling people’s hair.
Comics were written and illustrated by Rei ISAWA (based on the original characters by Kaori YUKI) and an animated series was released as Meine Liebe Weider. It’s been a while since I watched the series, but I don’t remember being too fond of it. I think this was largely in part to the development of social dynamics between the characters which I didn’t particularly like nor did I like the idea of having good versus evil among the main characters. The comics were entertaining, but I wished they had been drawn by the original artist (see below).
Note: For those curious about the game ratings within the genre, yes there are titles which venture into the 18+/Mature category, but before you ask, no, I haven’t played any of them. I parted with all my Japanese PS2 games when I returned to the US, however, lately, I feel compelled to seek them out once again.