As someone who has never played an Otome game, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Bustafellows: a new visual novel that blends crime, dating and time travel all in one dense package.
For those like me, that are unfamiliar with the ‘Otome’ genre, generally speaking they are story based games primarily targeted towards women. Alongside the main story, another goal for the player is to romance a number of different (traditionally) male characters.
I’m typically more of a JRPG / ARPG person, but I went into Bustafellows with an open mind, and a curiosity towards the unknown.
And, after a lot of shameless romancing, underworld exhibitions, and anime goodness, I am excited to talk about a game that has a surprising amount of substance.
The initial allure of Bustafellows for me was the anime esque presentation of the game. From the delightful animated character sprites that bring life to each and every interaction; to the jazzy background music that helps capture the game’s cosy – occasionally tense – ambience, Bustafellows nails its presentation.
Having not delved too far into the visual novel genre, I had no real set expectations when it came to immersion and presentation, but Bustafellows really blew me away on this front.
The UI interface is incredibly clean, and modelled after the in-game AI system: Anima.
Each character has a distinct, vibrant and memorable design that also reflects their personalities. For the dating simulation element, I also found this helpful in deciding which characters I preferred.
Furthermore, whilst there is no English dub, the Japanese voice acting is excellent; full of personality and emotion.
The occasional animated cutscene, and stylish chapter intros and outros (in the next episode!), all contribute to a very impressive visual experience.
There are a couple issues that I did have with the presentation, however. Typos and grammatical errors are minor, but just frequent enough to be noticeable. One character in particular, had the misfortune of their name being misspelled on the regular.
Some of my favourite presentation came in the ‘scene’ setters that segwayed nicely between new areas and plot points.
Unfortunately, the background dialogue between the characters is not translated to text on screen! Now, I did manage to read up on the dialogue in the games menu, but this is something I happened upon, rather than having been directed to by the game.
Nothing major enough to take away from the games overall excellent presentation and undeniable style.
Time travel, dating and finding the perfect scoop:
Bustafellows story was also a pleasant surprise for me.
Set in the fictional American town of New Sieg, you play the role of freelance journalist, Teuta Bridges. Teuta isn’t any old ordinary journalist; she has the ability to leap into the past – for a brief period of time – and assume control of someone else.
Now, on the surface, this sounds rather insidious. Thankfully, Teuta uses this quirk for good, and it comes in especially handy when she witnesses the murder of the charismatic, crooked lawyer: Limbo Fitzgerald.
This sets the story in motion, as Teuta explores how to save Limbo, and on the way, engages with a rich cast of friends, foes and, of course, dashing love interests.
A crooked lawyer, a hitman, a coroner, a plastic surgeon and a computer hacker make up our cast of potential love interests for Teuta. Exploring each of these potential love interests is what leads to diverging narrative paths, with the true ending being locked behind completing each of these routes.
Crucially, depending on the choices you make, it will alter both the order of routes, as well as potential endings you may get. This relatively free form approach immerses you into the role of Teuta, as you put together the pieces of a much, much larger puzzle.
All of the suitors’ backstories are worth pursuing, and completing each route further develops the overarching narrative. There is an impressive amount to the story, and you can easily spend 40+ hours exploring all of the routes.
Pacing is generally good as well, although perhaps the writers were a bit too concerned about the game dragging, and near the end I feel like I was being thrown twist after twist. Most of them felt earned to be fair, even still, I think it slightly lessened the impact due to sheer volume.
There are also extra bits of optional story that can be unlocked as you play. Whilst not essential, these additional ‘episodes’ add more backstory for other side characters and minor plot points.
Overall, Bustafellows narrative is well worth putting the time into. Excellent writing (aforementioned typos aside), themes and loveable characters help contribute to a really fun experience.
Combined with the brilliant art style and tone, I found myself immersed within the life of Teuta, and the various denizens of New Sieg.
If you’re someone like me that is new to the Otome genre, Bustafellows provides a fantastic entry-point. And if you’re already a fan of this genre – what are you doing? Go get this game.