So, Voltage Inc aka Otome Romance (or whatever they’re calling themselves this week) released a brand new title on their Love 365 portal app, a supernatural fantasy slice of life game titled, A World With(out) You. In the game you play a young woman whose boyfriend dies unexpectedly leaving you to face the world without him, but, your love is so strong that he comes back as a ghost to help you find happiness without him… *cue the Korean pop ballads* Cus this sounds like something straight out of a Korean drama.
But, I was intrigued, a romance game where the love interest is already dead at the start of the game can either go one of two ways: Either he stays dead and the MC finds love with someone else OR the power of love brings dude back to life, at least that’s how it works in Korean dramas.
Love Choice: A Cliffnotes Crash Course
Unlike their usual paid format, A World With(out) You is one of their Love Choice stories, so you can read the entire story for free. But, you need hearts, which can be purchased through microtransactions, to unlock premium choices and endings, also there is a 5 hour delay between chapters, which is annoying as fuck. I’m not a big fan of the move to Love Choice stories, because I’m not a fan of freemium games. But, during the initial release of Love Choice routes, Voltage gets rid of the 5 hour wait time and you can unlock new chapters immediately. Which is the main reason I even picked up the game in the first place, until 5/27 Saku Fukazawa’s Main Story is available without the 5 hour delay!! Yay!
So I’ve played through a few chapters of his route and I have some thoughts that’d like to get out… Usually I edit my reviews, but, this time I kind of like how my notes sound so other than some minor edits for structure, here are my unfiltered thoughts on A World With(out) You and Saku Fukuzawa’s route so far… I’m going to take my time with this one because, hearts cost money and I did the math, it would cost me like $20 bucks to finish it in one go and I’m not about that life.
The game starts off with the funeral where you pick who your dearly departed is (right now you can choose between Kotaro or Saku, which then takes you to a character specific prologue. In Kotaro’s you and Kotaro are already dating, but in Saku’s route he’s just an unrequited crush, which completely changes the tone of the whole story… but, I digress.
So, Saku’s route picks up with the MC mourning the loss of Saku who has died in a tragic accident, I imagine it’s a car crash or something generic like that. She cries for her lost love and then the game fast forwards to a few weeks/days later and it’s revealed that the MC isn’t dating Saku at all, she’s just crushin’ pretty hard on the dude and it’s so obvious that he’s got a thing for her too, but neither say anything about their feelings. It’s kind of cute, but, also really frustrating because everyone is shipping them so hard they’re already considered an office couple. After a bit of light teasing from everyone in the office, the team goes out for drinks where they meet the most bizarre bartender/bar owner in the world, this middle aged cougar named, Yumiko. Voltage has some pretty out there bartenders but, Yumiko takes the cake.
This fucking lady tells them that her about her recently deceased hamster, but that’s not even the best part, she then goes on to say that her dead hamster’s spirit visits her all the time… ooookay… Then the MC says the same thing happened to her when she was a kid, her pet dog’s spirit used to visit her from time to time… and Saku who is also at this bars says he believes this shit.
THEN THE WORST BARTENDER IN THE WORLD asks them all what they’d do if they were to die right then and there… uuuuummmmm WHAT?! Who asks that kind of question?! There’s not enough alcohol in the world to make that an okay question. But, they humor her and Saku remarks that if he were to die he would have many regrets so he’d probably come back as a ghost. Voltage might as well have had the sprite wink at the damn camera on that one because come on how on the nose can you get?!
The rest of the night is uneventful… On Monday he asks to speak with her privately and reveals that he is considering quitting the company…which is completely out of left field because the MC (and myself) thought that he was going to confess. Then, literally the next day Saku has an accident and dies. Now that we’re all caught up the MC wonders how she will live on in a world without Saku. In her grief, she decides to visit Yumiko’s bar where she see’s Saku’s ghost, rightly confused she asks WTF is going on and Death, yes frickin’ DEATH, tells her that when people die with regrets they come back as ghosts to settle their affairs. But, like every drama under the sun, there is a 30 day time limit on returned ghosts… but if he manages to handle his business by the deadline, Saku will be given one day to live again in a real human body…. But, if he fails to meet his goal by the deadline he will become an Angel of Death, forced to wander the Earth for all eternity.
This whole game is like a cross between Death Takes a Holiday, Meet Joe Black, and this Korean drama 49 Days. It’s every single cliche under the sun, but, surprisingly it works, not as a drama like Voltage intended, but at least for me, Saku’s route feels more like a rom-com. I played through the first couple of chapters and I could not stop laughing, it’s a lot of unintentional humor, like Death’s deadpan responses to the MC’s questions or Saku straight up ghosting the hell out of the MC (all the pun intended). There is no emotional draw for me, because the MC and Saku aren’t a couple before his untimely death, rather he’s just that guy that she has a crush on. At least in Kotaro’s route we feel for both the MC and Kotaro, because it’s established that they are a couple before he dies. We see them sharing sweet moments in bed together, have them interacting as a couple, so that when he does die it has weight.
Saku’s route tries to rectify this by throwing in flashbacks to moments from Saku and the MC’s non-existent relationship, like how he would leave her chocolate bars when she worked late or their cute inter-office note passing. Don’t get me wrong there are some really sweet moments between the two, but they would have a lot more impact if Saku and the MC had been together prior to his untimely death. Right now, it feels like the MC and Saku’s “relationship” is solely based off of their interactions in the present, which given the fact that Saku is already dead kind of makes you feel detached from any emotional payoff them getting together would normally elicit.
On top of that, Saku is distant towards the MC (most likely because he knows there is no hope for their relationship) and it’s a little sad to see the MC pining over someone that is unable to give her what she wants. It’s a great idea in theory, which has potential for some truly emotional moments, but, I don’t know, the fact that he is dead kind of kills all the romance for me. Then on top of that, Saku doesn’t even want to solve his regrets, he is pretty adamant about giving up and just becoming an angel of death… I say let him…
Where I am in the story they establish what Saku’s regret is and while it is pretty sad, I also kind of feel like the MC’s meddling crosses the line. It’s Saku’s choice whether or not he solves his issues. But, I also realize that without her this would be a pretty short story. Slowly he opens up to the MC about his past and the two grow closer, but the the closer Saku gets to resolving his last regret the sooner they’ll have to part again. Most of the conflict comes from the fact that their time is limited so there’s this sense of inevitability to everything they do, because in the end, it doesn’t change the fact that Saku died. But, A World With(out) You isn’t really about the romance, rather learning to let go and appreciate life… and I think that’s the point Voltage was trying to get across with this game.
I want to clarify that I have not finished playing A World With(out) You yet, I’m only a few chapters in and there are 27 total, so my opinion may very well change, but, as of right now I’m on the fence about the game. There are some genuine moments between the MC and Saku and the premise is definitely unique, and Voltage already proved in Kotaro’s route that they have the balls to deliver in the tragedy department. While, I don’t hate Saku as a character, (remember, cool, aloof types are my bias) I really would have loved to see him and the MC in an actual relationship prior to his death rather than seeing them fall in love after, especially since I know it’s only going to end in tragedy. But, it is what it is.
I’m going to stick with this one, if not for the sake of my morbid curiosity, but also because, I think Voltage can really pull it together in the end. The groundwork is all there, they just need to stick the landing… and for the love of God why is this a Love Choice game? I’d have been so much happier if this was a regular paid app like the others…
Also… I have a little suggestion for Voltage…