Sentimental Trickster is drama heavy slice-of-life boys love visual novel developed by Lovenuts and published by Y Press Games. This game was a long time coming, five years in development hell and it’s finally here and I was so surprised when the release date was announced, because I honestly forgot this was still in the works. In the game you play a Haru, a college student who has left his small town life for the big city in hopes of getting a new start.
“I decided it was time. I packed my old, tattered bag and left home. I still have nightmares… But I’m hanging in there.
I conquer the world one snarky comment at a time and I have no sense of direction. When I deal with people, things can get awkward. Ballet-dancing-with-a-peg-leg kind of awkward. So far, four-eyes hates my guts, pretty boy laughs at me and the landlord thinks I’m weird. At least I can always try to get myself killed with this pierced hero-wannabe…
I try not to think about the future. When you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed, right? I just want to attend classes, graduate and become independent. Making friends would be great, but… how can you expect someone to like you if you don’t even like yourself?”
Official Game Synopsis
Deadbeat dad. Mom is happily remarried. Gay in a small town. Haru has always felt like a side character in his own life and on a whim, he confesses to his high school crush only to be brutally rejected and to add insult to injury the guy outs him to the entire school. Suddenly he’s the center of attention and not everyone is as supportive—fed up with always being the odd man out Haru packs up a bag and sets out for the big city in hopes of getting a fresh start away from it all. But some things are harder to shake and when you’ve been hurt that badly it leaves some scars. When he meets Soichiro, Kanae, and Shinya, he thinks this is his chance to finally make real friends, but the closer he gets to them the more his insecurities seem to rear their ugly head and he is forced to choose between working on himself and helping the men around him deal with their baggage.
I played this route first, because he seemed to be the least threatening of the bunch—he’s good looking and polite, a real prince charming (even if I think his weird mullet is ugly af). He’s always surrounded by his
adoring fans friends, he always has the best grades, and he’s just positively perfect in every way. But, in truth, Kanae doesn’t really let anyone else in (at least not fully) for fear that if they really got to know him they’d abandon him. But then he meets Haru and for the first time he lets the façade slip and he reveals a side of himself that he rarely shows to other people and for good reason, Kanae has some skeletons in his closet and I will admit that I was not prepared for the drama. It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When Kanae flips that switch all bets are off and while some of the things he does are just inexcusable, there is something kind of fun about how little regard he has for other people, it’s borderline sociopathic.
But, then we learn about his childhood and suddenly everything starts to make sense; I’ve seen tragic boys in games before, but Kanae takes the cake! Haru recognizes Kanae’s manipulative tendencies and calls him out on it and while this helps, it’s ultimately Kanae who makes the decision to change. I have to give it to the writers for really taking their time to work through his trauma instead of just slapping a love heals all bandaid on everything—one of the major plot points involves implied child abuse and it is made very clear just how horrific the whole situation is for everyone involved. This route was definitely interesting, there was never a dull moment, but man is it an emotional ride… and I’m not sure if the relationship between Haru and Kanae is the healthiest, it’s functioning, but boy do they have a long road ahead of them.
Shinya is a piece of work! Dude is just plain mean, from the moment he meets Haru he makes it very clear that he absolutely hates his guts—everything that comes out of his mouth is pure vitriol. Haru even takes to calling him a vampire, which isn’t too far off what with his pale complexion and piercing red eyes. He definitely doesn’t leave the best first impression and even being a huge megane fan, I had the uncontrollable urge to punch him in the face every time he opened his mouth, but surprise surprise this wound up being my favorite route in the game! Shinya has been groomed from birth to take over his father’s company and even now he spends most of his time juggling his family responsibilities and his schooling—granted he’s pretty close to flunking out of school. Haru being the nosy Nancy that he is finds out and offers to help lessen Shinya’s load by working as his assistant and it’s through this that the two of them start warming up to each other. The more they work together, the more Haru starts to realize that Shinya isn’t really a bad guy, but when you’re dad is a megalomaniac, you keep your head down and fall in line.
There were moments when this route felt like a K-drama, what with the office politics and rich people problems, but when compared with Kanae’s and Soichiro’s baggage, Shinya is the most well adjusted of the bunch. I also really liked the relationship between Haru and Shinya, because you can really see the two of them gradually coming together through mutual respect and trust—and it’s just so satisfying to see Shinya finally pull that stick out of his ass and finally start acting like a human being and not a robot. Also, Haru trolling the hell out of Shinya is just hilarious!
This route was the most frustrating of the bunch. Not only is Soichiro like 20 years older than Haru and his mother’s friend and he’s still grieving the loss his wife, BUT, he also has a girlfriend at the start of the game. Soichiro is the most unavailable love interest in Sentimental Trickster and while he is a sweetheart I just couldn’t get into his route. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some buff bara daddies, and I love how wholesome and warm his relationship with Haru is, but, damn if he doesn’t have a lot of baggage, which is a shame because without all of that Soichiro is the best guy in the game! He is a big ol’ teddy bear who loves roleplaying games and he goes out of his way to make Haru feel comfortable and accepted. They even learn to cook together and when Haru is in trouble he always swoops in like an avenging angel… and when he blushes… there is just something adorable about a grown man blushing.
Honestly, their whole relationship was just perfect, but then you have his girlfriend, who is manipulative as hell and vindictive towards Haru. She is just the absolute worst and it’s clear that Soichiro isn’t really invested in their relationship because he’s not over the death of his wife, so he’s just kind of going through the motions. In fact, he only ever seems happy when he’s with Haru. And it’s just so much work. Then, the route addresses Soichiro’s grief and that’s when the route starts to take a depressing turn, his bad ending is no joke, seriously if you’re not comfortable with suicide and self harm this is just not the route for you, it’s heartwrenching. Though, I will give it to the writers for going to great pains to give these topics the care they deserve, but damn, what Soichiro needs is a therapist, not a relationship… and I am happy to say does get one in the end.
Was definitely disappointed to see that Jin’s route wasn’t going to be available until next year since (Shinya aside) he was the guy I was most looking forward to in the game. Jin is the janitor at Haru’s school and just an all around chill guy, though he does have a tendency to go out at night to beat up on street thugs… Batman style. While I can’t romance him yet, he does pop up quite a bit throughout the story and every time I can’t help but feel like the writers are teasing us with him…
Story wise, Sentimental Trickster gets dark, when the devs said darker and edgier, they mean it. Kanae’s and Soichiro’s routes both delve into some pretty heavy storylines that may be very triggering for some players. Soichiro’s route especially deals extensively with suicide and as someone who knows what it’s like to have a family member take their own life, his bad ending hit particularly close to home. For the most part the routes tackle the heavier stuff fairly well and I like that in Soichiro’s route THERAPY happens (because trust me it is needed). But, in Kanae’s route there is no mention of him getting any help for his trauma and while that’s his choice, I kind of feel like at some point down the line he’s gonna get triggered and wind up burying Haru in the back garden or something—he has a lot that he needs to work through and love is not enough to patch up those scars.
Haru should be protected and loved completely and aside from maybe Shinya, the other guys have way too much baggage for a healthy relationship with anyone, let alone a person who is dealing with some deep seeded insecurities. He keeps everyone even his own family. His relationship with his dad is a lost cause, but he does care about his mother and he’s worried that there is no place for him in her life now that she’s remarried and has a kid with her new husband. After being hurt so many times, he just stopped trying to make friends with other people and most of his growth comes from learning that there are people out there who will accept him, he just has to be open to letting them in. Rather than trying talking through his problems, Haru would rather keep everything bottled up, and when someone tries to get close he hides behind snarky comments or jokes.
I genuinely wanted Haru to be happy and I loved that the story actually takes the time to show Haru working through his own issues in a way that is healthy for him. His resolutions are some of the most satisfying, because we get to see just how hard Haru is working to heal. He’s just a 20 year old kid trying to live his life the best way he knows how and I think that’s something we can all relate to. He’s not perfect, but that’s okay, he’s just taking things one step at a time, sometimes with a sassy quip or two to lighten the mood. Also I can totally relate to his love of buff men… Haru is a man of taste after all. I love Haru! He is hands down my favorite character in the game and I’m going to be honest, he way too good for his love interests (and this game).
I do want to mention, that sexual orientation does come up in the game—Haru’s arc in particular focuses on him coming to terms with his sexual orientation and dealing with being outed by his classmates in school. It’s something thing that is isolating for him as he feels that it makes him different from others around him so he internalizes a lot of his fears and insecurities. Most BL media kind of handwaves LGBTQ+ issues for the sake of simplifying the plot and I like that the game actually makes the effort to address some of the less than positive experiences Haru faces because he is gay. This comes up again in Soichiro’s and to a lesser extent in Shinya’s route and each time I felt that the subject of sexual orientation was handled in a much more realistic way than you see in some boys love stories.
Now this next bit is more of a gripe about the treatment of women in BL media than a criticism of Sentimental Trickster, BUT we need to have a serious talk about women in BL media. Almost all the women in this game are either BL fangirls or catty witches—except Haru’s mom, she’s great—and it is maddening! I get it, BL isn’t about the female characters, but it would be nice to see female characters in these games that are I dunno, relatable… please? All of the female characters can be boiled down to a single trope and it sucks since all the male characters have all this great nuance. Two girls Haru befriends, Midori and Anna, write their own BL doujinshi, Soichiro’s girlfriend is narcissistic and manipulative, and don’t get me started on the women in Kanae’s life, they’re… absolutely awful. The only female character that gets by unscathed, it’s Haru’s mom.
It’s been five years since I first played the demo for Sentimental Trickster and in that time the game has gone through quite a few changes, but I have to say I like the way the final game turned out. The overall game is so much more polished than it was when I first played it back in 2016, notably the art underwent a huge overhaul. The character designs are so much cleaner and it seems like the characters were aged up a bit, especially Haru who looked like a 12 year old in the demo. The character designs are cool and I like that there’s a bit of variety in the body types; Soichiro and Jin are bit beefier than your usual bishounen love interest and even Haru, Kanae, and Shinya have some noticeable muscle tone when you get them naked. Muscular male characters seems to be a part of the Y Press Games aesthetic, and I am here for it!
There are a handful of CGs for each route, some are good and some seem a bit flat—the kiss CGs were a bit underwhelming especially Kanae’s (their lips don’t even touch, it’s maddening). Sentimental Trickster has an 18+ patch that adds two extra sex scene CGs per route and they’re good, but I was a bit disappointed. I guess I’ve been spoiled by boys love games like No Thank You and Camp Buddy where you have these intense sexual encounters with tons of CGs detailing each and every position and movement, but in Sentimental Trickster the sex is reserved to one scene. The expressions change a bit throughout the scene, but that’s about it—I get it, this is a lower budget project so they might not have had the resources for more, but after five years of production I was expecting a bit more bang for my buck. However, I did like that the relationships are reversible, regardless of which character you choose to pursue, you can have Haru top or bottom during the sex scenes and trust I chose to top bara daddy, Soichiro… for science. But, if you’re looking to keep things PG, don’t download the patch, you don’t really lose anything story wise without it and once you add it to the game there isn’t an option to toggle off the NSFW content.
Alright, so after five years in production, does Sentimental Trickster live up to expectations? Absolutely! It’s clear that a lot of hard work and dedication went into this game and the improvements that were made only elevate the story and the characters. I will admit that the heavier storylines of the routes caught me off guard, because I was under the impression this was going to be a slice of life romance, BUT, I did enjoy the many twists and turns. One thing I can say for this game is that there is never a dull moment and given some of the topic covered, I have to give it to the writer for keeping things as realistic as possible (though seriously, Kanae needs a therapist). The sexual content was a bit lacking, but I did enjoy the reversible relationship option. Haru is one of my new fave BL protagonists and I’d love to see more characters like him in other games like this.
So, all in all I definitely recommend giving Sentimental Trickster a play if you’re a BL fan looking for something a bit more mature. It’s an emotional ride, but one I thoroughly enjoyed!