There are many different kinds of otome games on the market. The most prevalent sort fall into the visual novel genre. People go through a story, pick certain choices or dialogue responses at major moments, then end up on a path for a specific character. Sometimes, we get ones that are RPGs, like Angelique, or simulations, like Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side. However, there is one route people can take to get into otome games that is rather welcoming, eases them into the genre and offers an alternate sort of gameplay that can be enjoyed even if you find you don’t dig the romantic elements. Rhythm games with otome elements can be a great way to ease into the genre.
How do otome rhythm games work?
Well, there are two sorts of options. One would be the sort of game that integrates rhythm-based gameplay into the title somehow. Princess Debut is very good at this, and the Kin’iro no Corda and Uta no Prince-sama series try to do this. With the former, you actually have rhythm-based dance sections. With the latter two, there are more visual novel elements with some rhythm-style sections. This is more prominent with Uta no Prince-sama, where you are a composer working with an idol and have them go through some songs at specific points. With Kin’iro no Corda, some installment’s music segments can feel more RPG-like, since you are going to a specific spot and "playing" music to grow.
Are there any examples of English otome games with rhythm elements?
Princess Debut (DS, 2008)
This is an older game, but is definitely worth digging up. It is primarily a ballroom dancing simulation, with players going through a rhythm game to compete at competitions. You are an ordinary girl who happens to look identical to a princess who isn’t skilled at dancing. In a The Prince and the Pauper twist, you have 30 days to fill in for her and win a series of performances. As for the romantic elements, there are six possible princes who can be your dance partner. (You have to beat the game once to unlock Kiefer.) Since it is more about finding a really good dance partner, it is a romance-lite sort of otome game, but is still quite sweet and fun.
Uta no Prince-sama: Shining Live (Android and iOS, 2017)
While this otome game has received a worldwide release, it isn’t exactly romantic. Rather, it is a more general approach to Uta no Prince-sama inspired by games like Love Live! School Idol Festival and Bang! Dream. There are visual novel story segments focusing on all the characters and groups from the series as they prepare for performances or go about their daily lives, but it isn’t like you are actually attending school with them and falling in love, as you would in the original games. It is more about getting to know the people, then playing through some of the series’ best known songs during rhythm segments. It’s biggest selling points are that it is in English and it is free.
What about Japanese rhythm games that fall into the otome category?
There are actually two well-known series that fall into this group. We even talked about one of them above! Uta no Prince-sama is a series that has many entries that are full-on rhythm games with some lovey-dovey CGs and some that are more traditional otome games where you need to recognize Japanese characters or have some familiarity with the language to get by. Koei Tecmo’s Kin’iro no Corda (La Corda d’Oro) is another one. However, there is really only one installment that is just a rhythm game.
So, to help people out, these are two otome rhythm games from Japan that you can get into without being fluent in the language. The main focus of both is to play along with songs used throughout the series, which might help you get to know the characters and appreciate the setting.
Kin’iro no Corda: Octave (Switch, Vita and PC, 2019)
This is the spin-off that doesn’t force people who loved the KIn’iro no Corda 1 and 2 protagonist, Kahoko, and her bachelor candidates and those who preferred the Kin’iro no Corda 3 and 4 heroine, Kanade, and her love interests to choose between two different games. It is a massive rhythm game with two visual novel routes and rhythm game segments that pulls in songs from the series. If you liked Kahoko and her cohorts, you go with the Festa Route. Prefer Kanade and the guys she got to know? Go the Camp Route. While the menus are in Japanese, it is easy to find the rhythm section and go through unlocked songs in four different difficulty levels.
Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 (Vita, 2016)
We’ve talked about Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 and how import-friendly it is. It is just a music game with CGs of characters from the series and its major songs in there. The menus are in English. Song titles are translated. It is even easy to learn to play through each track, as the note charts are shown well in advance. There aren’t really any romantic elements here, but it is a good way to get acquainted with the series’ general ambiance. Essentially, it has all of the rhythm segments from the regular otome installments plucked out of context for people to enjoy.