Lover Pretend Review (Switch)
Whaaaaat, do I look like I would lie to you? *sweats*
Available on: Switch
Genre: Otome Visual Novel
Publisher: Aksys Games
You don’t know how excited I was when Lover Pretend was announced and that it was going to be released this year. And then how excited I was to finally being able to play it as the release date drew nearer. I guess I have a spot for otome main characters being inexperienced in dating (which may be due to myself not having experience). So how is Lover Pretend? Did it live up to my expectations?
As you can change the first name of the main character, I will call her by her canon name, Chiyuki. You get in the shoes of a young woman named Chiyuki Ueda who is bright and kind despite not having any family anymore. We learn that her mother died while Chiyuki was young and she was raised by her Grandmother as her father was not in the picture. Chiyuki believes her dad abandoned her and her mother and she dealt with those feelings throughout her life. To the extent where Chiyuki is steps away from having a phobia of men and romance. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean she can’t talk to men or be friends with any. We also get to learn that Chiyuki has always wanted to be a screenwriter as her mother was one (and wrote one movie called Pretend to Love) and it helped her feel closer to her mom. Though, she didn’t take it as serious as she has been recently until her Grandmother told her that her dad most likely was someone that was involved with Pretend to Love.
Like her late mother, Chiyuki wants to write romance stories. However, she stinks at writing romance scenes and it doesn’t help that she never dated before. Luckily, the guest lecturer at her college, Professor Asagi, is very supportive towards his students and has taken a shine to Chiyuki. Asagi, who is pretty famous himself for the scripts he has written, became Chiyuki’s mentor during the last three years and makes sure to take the time to critique her work and give advice. At the beginning of the game, Chiyuki is getting a script evaluated and while it isn’t up to snuff just yet, Asagi offers her an assistant job so she can get a hands on experience on how it is on set. Well, not necessarily on set, but how it’ll be during casting so she can see the work that happens in pre-production.
While Chiyuki is hesitant at first, she agrees after talking to her childhood friend and apprentice stylist, Kazuma, and thinking it over. As luck would have it, the movie she’s helping on shares some crew that worked on Pretend to Love as well as sons of those that worked on the movie. Maybe this is her chance at finding out who her dad is? Sure, she’s using this opportunity to get her foot in the door in the screenwriting business, but a girl can double task. Throughout the common route, you see Chiyuki helping out the crew, meeting the love interests, take a step closer to learning the truth, and just have some fun interactions with everyone.
Now with the common route talked about, let’s get into the love interests and their routes. First of all, you need to get at least 25 points (or 25%) with one of the love interests to be able to jump into their route, otherwise you’ll get the common route bad ending (which actually was the first ending I got and I was not expecting it). The choices you get throughout the game will either give you points towards the love interest you’re talking to or not and generally it’s easy to determine which choice they’ll like. There are two opportunities to decide who to hang out with, with the last being the last stretch to get you to hit the mark with whoever you have the more points with.
Anyway, I’ll be talking about the love interests in the order I did their routes in:
The first is Riku Nishijima who has been an actor since he was a child and was actually in Pretend to Love as a kid. He is also the son of an actor who used to be famous and was the male lead of Pretend to Love. As you first meet him, he’s charming, his talent is obvious, and you do get hints at how hard he works. Though, that slowly slips as you get into his route. Riku actually doesn’t want to be an actor anymore and he basically blackmails you to pretend to be his fiance. You see, his dad is managing the roles Riku gets and is living through his son. Riku believes that if he shows his dad that he has someone that will support him it will help his dad agree to letting him quit. Plus, it’ll help to have another person there with him that’ll take his side. This also gives you a window to talking to his dad (though this doesn’t happen unless you get the happy ending strangely enough) and experience in dating so you reluctingly agree.
As you spend more time with Riku, you learn that he puts on a prince charming persona front and he is actually pretty devious, though still with that charming undertone, lazy in terms of taking care of himself, and that he wants to be a set designer. He’s the kind of person that you may think you won when you sass back at him and while you actually didn’t as he has another thing up his sleeve, it feels good to see him sputter and look away. Though despite this devious side, he is actually caring and of course, you two end up falling for one another. I guess it’s strange to say that a route where the love interest blackmails you is a great route, but man it is. Riku really did warm up to me as he warms up to Chiyuki and you get to see the side he hides from everyone and help him achieve his goal.
The one thing I did find weird in Riku’s route though is that he stays an actor in the good ending. Considering how much he was putting into his plan, I feel it would be more in character for him to become a painter instead or end up building set pieces for movies. You know, like a compromise where he’s not quite a set designer, but still alienated from his dad.
Next is Kazuma Kamikubo, who is Chiuki’s childhood friend. As we already know, he is an apprentice stylist and makeup artist and is working on the movie alongside his mentor. From the get go you see how protective Kazuma is towards Chiyuki, and as Sena calls him her little guard dog. This gives you the vibe that either he is protective of her due to her backstory and being close or that he’s actually in love with her whether he knows or not. I also really loved their dynamic, and it’s shown really well with the first interaction you have with him (and the game’s second scene) which had me laughing alongside Chiyuki. Of course, you two end up being a pretend couple due to Chiyuki snooping around and Kazuma coming up with the lie to save her butt. Which soon spreads so everyone knows, making it awkward if they suddenly “break up” or come clean about lying. This route was really cute as they both learn about dating together, balancing dating with work, and getting some history on their friendship. Well, until the twist comes (spoiler, but if you want to know what the twist is). While I still enjoyed reading through Kazuma’s route, I don’t think the twist was needed.
Though Kazuma’s last Pretend Time really soured me on him due to both his behavior and what he reveals that basically puts their whole friendship into question. Like was our friendship a lie? I know Chiyuki forgives him really quick, but I know I didn’t and wouldn’t have wanted to have him as a friend anymore, let alone date him. Though, I really think this would have been a better conflict than the twist that we got. Having to see them deal with the fallout and eventually reconcile more realistically due to this happening in the middle of having to be a pretend couple. I still enjoyed this route, but the twist really robbed us from a potentially great storyline here.
Yukito Sena is up next and he is the flirty playboy model that has decided that he wants to break into the acting industry. You gives off an air of not really caring or coasting through his looks, but you do get hints of more underneath. You learn that he actually does care, works hard, and is more astute than he seems. He just puts on a front that he believes people want to see. You two become a pretend couple due to another model, Kirari, wanting to date him. Since Yukito genuenly wants to be in the movie, and the movie’s sponsors aren’t too keen on having him on the project due to his image, Yukito needs to avoid scandals and Kirari is one in the making. So you act as Yukito’s pretend girlfriend and assistant to keep close to him and help him sidestep scandals and help convince his modeling agency to let him get into acting.
Harumi Makino is the movie director’s son and also wants to be a director himself. He ends up being an assistant like Chiyuki and helps around during pre-production to get experience. He’s pretty reserved, awkward, aloof, and shy the first time you two meet. As you get to know him more, you see him open up more and that he’s actually pretty sweet and want to be more confident like Chiyuki is. Plus he is a huge anime/manga nerd and he loves it so much he wants to be an anime director. However, everyone around him looks down on anime so he hides it and you become his pretend girlfriend so he can say his girlfriend loves anime instead. As the route progresses, you see him opening up to others, becoming more comfortable with others knowing that he loves anime, and him becoming more confident overall. This was my favorite route in Lover Pretend, though I might be a bit biased as I do see myself in Harumi the most.
Lastly, there is a secret route that unlocks after completing all four routes, though I don’t think it’s that secret. Especially when Lover Pretend’s opening shows one of the CGs that only shows up in the secret route. For me, I was just hoping it wasn’t the case. The secret route is with Professor Asagi who is Chiyuki’s professor (of course) and mentor throughout the game. I personally don’t like it when stories add in a teacher and a student getting into a relationship, so yeah you can imagine that I didn’t like the romance aspect in this secret route. Professor Asagi worked really well as a mentor and I really think this should have stayed platonic and maybe have this be the truth route.
On that, Asagi’s secret route does serve to finally give us the truth on who Chiyuki’s father is. Though, I don’t think I really like how it was written and revealed. I won’t go into much detail considering this is more of a spoiler than Asagi being the secret route, but the story really flips and twists around so it can shock the reader while also dodging an incest romance. I almost wished the reveal was that Hanai was the dad, or it was a random guy that died while her mom was pregnant, or just not have this mystery in the game as it was pretty obvious she wouldn’t be related to any of the love interests anyway.
Each love interest has four bad endings, one good ending, and one happy ending, with the happy ending being the best ending you can get. Professor Asagi has only one bad ending due to it’s short length. The bad endings come with completely failing the Pretend Times in their route and you need at least 70 points to get into the happy ending. Lover Pretend has a chapter jump, which you can determine a low or high relationship with a love interest, so it’s pretty quick to get the other endings once you complete it the first time.
For the most part, I actually have a hard time deciding an order to play the routes as I did enjoy all of them. Although if I had to, I would definitely suggest doing Kazuma’s first due to the twist in his route, and then either Riku’s or Harumi’s route last.
I wasn’t sure where to put this, but here seems the best place to talk about Pretend Time. At certain points of the story, you’ll be called to, well, lie. Of course it’ll be lying or pretending to be dating the love interest you’re pursuing, but also just generally lying or trying to get someone’s true feelings out. After a couple lines of dialogue, you’ll have a couple of seconds to pick a choice for Chiyuki to say. As there are puzzle pieces that overlay the screen during this time, correct answers take some away, while wrong ones put more on. There are three different answers you can make, the two choices and letting the time run out. If you completely fail the puzzle pieces will cover the whole screen.
I actually liked the Pretend Time sections, but it seems I might be in the minority. I guess I liked this as it makes sense that Chiyuki would panic and you can’t just let a conversation hang. After you complete your first route, you do get an option unlocked to skip Pretend Times you already did and determine your results. I really did like writing for the different results, especially the ones where you let the time run out, but it helps when you’re just hunting for endings.
I am a bit disappointed that the mystery of Chiyuki’s dad was put to the background as well. It’s pretty much put at the back of her mind until one of the love interests you’re in the route in mentions it and then revealed that their dad isn’t your dad. To be honest, I was not expecting any of the love interests’ dads being your dad as I didn’t see a cute otome like this one having an incest plot. Like I said before, I feel like it would have been better to not have this mystery in the game with how much it’s put in the background and that Chiyuki forgets about it for most of the game. That, or have Chiyuki find bits of the truth through all of the routes (and I don’t mean just finding out the love interests’ dads aren’t her dads as it’s pretty obvious anyway) until the secret route puts all the pieces together like a puzzle so it doesn’t feel that Chiyuki doesn’t really care as much as she presented during the common route.
Also, weirdly, both the game’s eShop listing and the product page on Askys’ website allude to Chiyuki being casted as the female lead in the in-game movie. The game’s website doesn’t allude to this. This doesn’t happen as the game mainly takes place before the cast has even been decided on (and even then she isn’t casted). This is pretty strange and can disappoint you if you’re looking forward for that nonexistent plotline to start (which I was looking forward to throughout the first route and the secret route).
If you want more Lover Pretend after finishing all the routes and getting all the endings, there are some extras in the game. There are actually some side events you can read through in the game’s Backstage section of the game’s Album that you don’t get to see in the main game. Like the conversation Chiyuki had with her Grandmother or what Harumi did while Chiyuki was shopping. You can also look at the love interest’s prfile cars and they actually have voice lines attached. Also great news, these extras are translated so we can know what they’re saying! With how many games that skip over doing that, I was so happy when I saw that these voice lines were translated for us.
This unsurprisingly plays really well on the Switch, but I did have some sound issues. I often found the volume for the voice acting was too low and switching between mono and stereo didn’t help. Maybe it’s better with headphones, but I couldn’t test it out as my earbuds broke before I played Lover Pretend.
I loved reading through Lover Pretend throughout the 40-ish hours I spent with the game. The writing style gave me some Cupid Parasite vibes and it’s all the better that it’s snappy and fun so I didn’t feel any boredom while reading. I did feel some parts were rushed, but overall I really liked the writing here, the love interests, and their routes. Even Kazuma’s disappointing twist was nice to read through. And of course I loved the art style. I can see those that don’t like Pretend Time not enjoying Lover Pretend as much, or just don’t connect with the amount of lying that this game is built on, but I definitely recommend picking up Lover Pretend. It’s a great and fun otome game to add to your collection despite it’s flaws.