We’re going to try something new. Lately, I’ve been in the mood for visual novels, and being the sentimental lady that I am, I’m particularly interested in otome dating simulators — that is to say, dating simulators targeting girls. Don’t ask. I’m in a hard period of my life, and I think I just need to get lost in some fantasy.
These articles are going to be a bit different. I’m going to go in blindly, play through the game while accepting my missteps and mistakes, and present to you a running dialogue of my dating experience. With that in mind, there’s going to be spoilers. I’ll likely address the main narrative in broad strokes while zeroing in on the relationships, but that’s still going to spoil some plot details, as well as the entire relationship subplot. If you want my advice, check out the first heading, see if it’s something you might be interested in, and if it is, play along. See how our dating experiences differ.
Also, like many North Americans, dating sims aren’t something I’m intimately familiar with, so if you have any suggestions for games I should cover in these articles, let me know. They don’t necessarily have to be otome, nor do they need to be family friendly, so just let me have your suggestions. So to start off with.
WELCOME TO NOT-HOGWARTS
Magical Diary: Horse Hall is the story of Harry Potter. Okay, so some things have been changed around, but even as someone who is completely unfamiliar with Harry Potter, I can still recognize the concepts and characters as distinctly Harry Potter.
You play as a girl who has suddenly discovered her magical acuity and is offered a place in Iris Academy to learn to nurture her newfound talent. It’s a boarding school, of course, so you’re given a dorm room, roommates, and you interact with other students. Along the way you have to keep up on your studies between five types of magic or phys ed (pfft, yeah right), and find ways to relax so you don’t overstress yourself.
Along the way, you’re given the opportunity to romance the various lads and ladies of the academy. I don’t think Magical Diary is strictly a dating sim, but that’s definitely in here, and that’s going to be my focus, so bring on the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.
WELL, HELLO, BLUE BOY
It didn’t take me long before one of the boys caught my interest: a demon (*swoon*), very unimaginably named Damien. He’s introduced to me during freshman initiation as my senior. It’s his job to essentially haze me for a week, and he comes across as rather gentle about it. Maybe. One of the roommates is really certain he’s evil, but since when has that been a dealbreaker for me?
Anyway, after the initiation, there’s some confusion about how a love letter I penned to Damien ended up addressed to the teacher who is definitely not-Snape. There’s a brief clash, but my demon boy comes through for me. Then the next time I bump into him he treats me like dirt, but I’m naive enough to believe there’s a reason for it. Maybe he’s playing hard to get?
YOUNG, DUMB, DON’T SEE A PROBLEM
Damien later shows up to apologize for pushing me away. I’ve already forgiven him. We end up going out on a not-date dinner and he tells me about how crappy his life was with his adoptive parents. Once my roommates find out about this, they again tell me how awful Damien is, how he sleeps around, and how many hearts he has broken. But surely, this is different, right?
It’s not long before Damien admits his love to me. We go out on a date that ends horribly after we meet up with his ex-girlfriend, who tells the story about how a previous girl he dated was expelled, suggesting it was due to Damien. I follow up on this by talking to another girl from the same hall, but she can’t tell me anything, suggesting I go talk to the headmistress for more information, which I never get the option to do.
I keep seeing Damien, despite how it’s continually alienating me from my friends and roommates, and eventually he takes me on a date to a secluded beach, alone. My avatar betrays me by claiming I’m not ready for sex, but we still manage to share a passionate kiss.
LOVE AT FIRST BITE
School continues as usual, with Damien promising a follow-up date. Eventually he asks me to join him in the gymnasium at night where he confides that he’s dying. The only cure: a willing soul.
Did he just propose to me?
Anyway, that sounds super hot, so I, of course, go along with his blood ritual. Suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, he calls me a fool for believing that he’d ever love me and attempts to devour me. As darkness clouds in around me, with my last ounce of strength, I tell him I’ll always love him, removing any doubt that I am the sucker he was hoping for.
I wake up in my dorm room where my roommates tell me what happened and how I was saved by the headmistress. Thanks for ruining a perfectly romantic evening, teach. Damien was expelled from the school and wards were put up to keep him out. However, the headmistress stresses that what he did was not a crime because I consented to it. Fair enough, but I’m pretty sure attempted murder isn’t excused because it’s between two loving adults.
Disappointed, unsatisfied, and gravely injured, I return to my studies until one day I receive a letter from Damien to meet him off school grounds. It seems perfectly reasonable to meet my abuser in a secluded forest, so I, of course, set out, ready to accept his apology.
He admits that every sob story he told me was something of a lie, and that he was really a demon prince destined for greatness so long as he could claim a willing soul. Be still my beating heart. However, before he could go through with killing me, he realized that his love was real and that he couldn’t bear to be without me, so he was forced to leave me unsacrificed and unsatisfied. I’m sure this is something we can work through.
THE BELL OF THE BALL
For the next few weeks I began to receive letters from Damien in which he invited me to his castle, offered to destroy my enemies, and promised me the moon. Not long after, he sent me a letter telling me he wanted to take me to the May Day Ball that concludes the school year, but that I’d have to convince the headmistress to let him in.
I stepped up to bat for him, but was very publicly reprimanded by the headmistress for falling for his wiles. My roommates caught wind of this and we had a vicious clash over my continued misguided infatuation. This continued into our final exam, where we were placed in a team to overcome a dungeon. They gave me an ultimatum, where I once again refused to make a promise not to see my demon boy again.
Following the failure of the final exam, the headmistress advised that, due to the tension with the roommates, I’d be moved to another hall for the next semester.
Beaten and alienated, I attended the May Day Ball alone. Ostracized, I left the dance to get some air and found myself face to face with my prince. Apparently, due to his special breeding, the wards don’t actually work against him and he could have entered the school at any time.
He then proceeds to sink his teeth into my neck, which, okay, I guess we’re just skipping foreplay, not that I’m complaining. Turns out, he was only joking and he really did just want to dance with me. I hide my disappointment. We share a dance under the starry night sky and he tells me we’ll be seeing more of each other after the summer break.
I sure hope so.
Hopefully, this goes without saying, but don’t do what I did in real life. I don’t just mean dating a demon and offering your soul up for him to devour. I don’t know your circumstances, but that opportunity sounds unlikely. However, many of the decisions I made after Damien tried to kill me would be spectacularly stupid to replicate in reality. A good relationship is built on trust, and he threw that away by lying to me, insulting me, and then trying to eat me.
In the fantasy of a video game, sure, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ve lost at a dating sim before. Or, heck, in the shared fantasy of the bedroom setting, that can be okay too. Different strokes and all that. Yet, there are really people out there that will lie to you, hurt you, and treat you like dirt, and that’s not okay.
Things didn’t necessarily end on a bad note for me, despite my best efforts. Sure, it’s a rickety foundation that Damien and I will be building our relationship on, but I’m willing to give my demon boy a chance anyway, even if he does bite. Because, after all, I’m into different strokes, too.
This article is based on a digital Steam version of the game for PC. It was paid for by the author.