Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dandelion Review

Let me start off by saying I'm not a professional review, heck, I'm not even a professional gamer; I play games because I like to. Normally my gaming is exclusive to consoles- RPGs, shooters, the rare puzzle game, but every so often I stumble into the realm of PC games and more specifically otome games. Though I would vehemently deny it, I'm a bit obsessed with these sorts of games; the pretty boys, the cheesy lines, the predictable scenarios... I'm a sucker for them all. So I find myself in a constant state of searching, constantly scouring the internet for bigger and better games to please my inner romantic. After completing a certain bird-centric dating game, my searches led me to a demo for a similar premise: instead of dating pigeons I would be dating cats and rabbits. Dandelion Wishes Brought to You, a Korean dating game by a company called Cheritz, centered around you dating your pets.

Consider me hooked!

I downloaded the English demo, played through every possible route and was instantly hooked; how could I be expected to wait until December!? I somehow survived and eagerly coughed up the $30, rushing to download the game; after the demo I simply knew that I had to have it. After an almost insufferable download period (I was *very* excited, and the game is pretty large), I sat down and prepared to be wrapped in otome bliss. The demo begins after the animals have been with you for two months, so the first part of the game was entirely new to me. The pretty graphics and spoken dialogue really help to set the scene, even if I can't understand a word that they're saying (the subtitles are in English thankfully, and you can turn off the spoken dialogue at any time).

Along the way you'll stumble across some grammatical errors, something to be expected in a game that was translated by a non-native English speaker, but none of the errors are so bad as to distract you from the world of Dandelion. The first couple months are spent in typical stat-building fashion and you are allowed to do one task a day: you can work on your beauty, art skill and feminism, all the while making sure your pressure and stress don't max out. The animals appear in random places in your apartment and doing certain activities will cause you to encounter them. Based on how much the animal likes you, different interactions will be available. WARNING: Some actions won't warrant positive reactions, and some require selecting specific body parts in order to go over well. You'll soon learn which animals hang out where, (Jiyeon is really fond of the bathtub), and you can rely on quick saves/loads in order to ensure that you're raising the affection of the animal of your choice.

Because I'm a glutton for punishment and did absolutely no research, I opted for Jisoo first.

The black cat wasn't so hard to track down in the beginning and pretty easy to please; he appeared to like the kitchen, drawing and doing the laundry... go figure. Strangely enough he also seemed to like being forced to take a bath... After the first two weeks you can even take the animals out with you on dates, though in the beginning you're limited to the park, school and the beach. Again, different interactions will warrant differing level of affection, so experiment to see which yields the best results.

After a few months (and raising the affection of your chosen boy high enough), you'll have a cut-scene with the boy where he turns from your beloved pet, into an absolutely beautiful boy. Jisoo's transformation scene is especially wonderful, and Heejung's reaction to a strange boy suddenly appearing on top of her is quite funny. You go out into the living room to find out that everyone has turned into humans, not just your boy of choice, and all of them have animal ears on their head. The cut-scene continues and finally Heejung decides that they can all stay in her home as long as they promise to wear hats when they leave the house. They also briefly mention a "game"/"contest" and "rules", but it's against said rules to tell Heejung too much, and so she's left to wonder.

The rest of the game basically consists of stat-raising, going on dates and interacting with the boy of your choice. Their locations as humans are pretty much the same as when they were animals, but watch out for the weekends because some of the boys will go out and will be unable to be interacted with, so plan those dates wisely!

Jisoo has the highest stat requirements in the game, so if you're interested in pursing him you'll need to top that art skill to at least 20 by the game's end, otherwise you'll find yourself with a "bad end". In my case I had to actually reload to a prior save about 2 hours behind where I was so I could ensure that my art skill would be high enough! Don't be like me! Along the while you'll get plenty of cutscenes, complete with pretty CGs in case you had forgotten just how pretty the boys really are. You learn more about the boy and even Heejung herself as the game progresses and after a few curious interludes from a strange figure, you'll wonder exactly what is going on here.

I found myself constantly shocked by Jisoo's interactions, and as sexy as he is, I am pretty certain that he's not my favorite me. Despite his initial confidence, Jisoo is quite insecure, and some of his "sweet" actions can come across as stalkerish or simply possessive; I was initially bothered by a scene that occurs in Heejung's bedroom after a nightmare where he puts his hands on her in an aggressive fashion... (Jiyeon surprisingly does a similar thing during his playthrough!) Perhaps Jisoo's dominance and aggression were meant to come across as endearing, but to someone like me it simply came across as unhealthy and unacceptable. Certainly not a relationship that our young heroine should be in.

His moments aren't all bad though, I particularly enjoyed the scene where he gave Heejung his necklace, especially after we find out the emotional implications, and him spending the night with her? Also very sweet and strangely romantic. I also definitely respect that out of all the boys, he is the most steadfast in his support of Heejung's dreams, helping her reach her goals.

It's only after all the secrets and misdirection are over that we finally get some idea as to what was actually going on behind the scenes, and though I don't intend to spoil anything, I was certainly shocked! This game definitely isn’t your typical dating game, and the climax of the “game” will certainly prove it to you; this game has a plot, and it’s not afraid to use it! My first ending was bittersweet, as all the endings inevitably are, but in Dandelion such as in real life, happy endings aren’t always guaranteed, and you knew what you were getting into.

All of the endings appear to be open-ended, leaving room for both fanfiction and (hopefully!) a sequel, and although they aren’t your typical sugarcoated Hollywood endings, I wasn’t disappointed by a single one of them.

This game has serious replay value! 5 different boys to romance, each with different CGs, memories and endings to acquire, not to mention rewards for finding stamps (found in game while out on dates, easier to find with a vision enhancing pill), you’ll find yourself investing hours so you can unlock every secret the game has to offer. The Bonus you achieve after getting at least one ending with each boy is particularly lovely, and holds perhaps my favorite scenes in the entire game; for anyone out there wondering if it’s necessary to romance all of the boys, it’s definitely worth it.

All in all, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Dandelion. For all it’s flaws, either in grammar or simply in the characters themselves, it’s a really fun game. Gorgeously done, I found myself eagerly awaiting each new memory in the hopes that it would have a new beautiful CG to ogle. For anyone out there wondering if they should shell out $30 on dating game, I’ll definitely go out on a limb and say that it’s worth it. Every play through you’ll find yourself falling in love with the boys all over again and wishing that the game could go on forever.

Well played Cheritz, well played.

-Beautiful graphics.
-High replay value.
-Pretty music.
-Voiced dialogue.
-Interesting and unique plot.

-A bit pricey for a dating game.
-Grammar/spelling/punctuation errors.
-Need an active internet connection to play.
-Can be repetitive at times.
-Some love interests that border on being abusive.

And for anyone who’s interested, the boys listed in order from greatest to least, on how much I enjoyed their character/play through.

1. Jihae- Romantic, chivalrous, polite and drop-dead gorgeous, I absolutely love Jihae. I found his back story to be the most tragic and his ending one of the most lovely. As far as difficulty goes I’ll say that he’s the easiest after Jieun, as he’s pretty easy to please.  (2/5 on difficulty)

2. Jieun- Admittedly I felt a little wrong pursing him. He’s quite obviously the youngest choice and I was worried about how they’d approach romancing him, but it was very tasteful and sweet. I ended up adoring the little Prince and loved watching him grow and mature. His ending was my favorite. (1/5 on difficulty)

3. Jiwoo- The spotted rabbit is a bit of a jerk, and if you think he’s gonna take it easy on you because you’re romancing him, think again. He can be a bit harsh, but slowly becomes more and more affectionate as the game progresses. Still, watching this “smooth macdaddy” try and put the moves on you using romance novels as a guide is pretty funny. (3/5 for difficulty.)

4. Jisoo- I really thought that Jisoo would wind up being my favorite and was very disappointed when he wasn’t! Controlling, jealous, possessive types are just not my thing, and as hot as Jisoo is, I simply couldn’t get past that. He does have his moments, but they’re too few and far between. (5/5 for difficulty)

5. Jiyeon- As much as I don’t want to say this, I HATED Jiyeon. Hated with a firey purple passion. His is by far the most bothersome route, filled with aggression, fear and behavior that is all but abusive in nature. I felt ill his entire play through, was bothered by the ending, and glad when it was over. (4/5 for difficulty)

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