Bandai Namco’s Duel Love takes players into the underbelly of prep school fighting. That doesn’t mean the game is only about fighting. At its core, Duel Love is a Japanese “renai game” (“romantic game”) where the goal is to get the game’s exceedingly male metrosexuals to fall head over heels in love with you. This is standard dating sim stuff, but Bandai Namco tries to spruce up the formula with touch pen touching.
Duel Love, like most renai games, is more reading and less playing. (Thus, that doesn’t exactly make it import-friendly!) Onward the “Loved” and the “Hated”!
• Voice Acting: The developers were able to cram a fair amount of voice acting onto the DS cartridge. Hunky, Japanese dude voice acting! Sure, a lot of the time, it’s just a few catch phrases for each character, but the mini-game massage moaning was a nice touch.
• Art: Duel Love features some stunning dual screen manga-style art. Typically, the upper screen is used for waist up shots of static faced-characters (hello Torsovision!), so the double screen anime art really do a nice job of mixing up things visually. These images don’t move, but, like I said, pack a great deal of punch.
• Mini Games: The main attraction! Players get to “touch” pretty anime boys. As DS mini games go, these aren’t half bad: There’s a rhythm massage game where players need to touch arrows in the order that appear on the character’s back. Same for an ice/ointment game. Other games include blowing steam away in the shower and mopping up sweat.
• Not *that* risky: The game is produced by Namco Bandai for the Nintendo DS, so actually in that regards, Duel Love does push the envelope. But those players expecting non-stop sweat-mopping and steam-blowing will be disappointed. That’s merely window dressing on a very pedestrian window.
• Lack of interaction: Playing Duel Love felt like a test more than anything else. Like to see if you’re actually paying attention! Characters drone on and on, and then just as you are going to pass out from boredom, someone asks you an inane question about Halloween or about a library book. Players are presentation with two choices. How you answer decides whether or not the male character falls for you. But you don’t really have much opportunity to answer these questions or even ask questions. That’s fairly standard for some renai games with male characters keep talking at you, not to you. Still, that’s dull! No wonder this game is called Duel Love and not Dual Love.
• Crappy Adventure Mode: After you finish listening to other characters drone on and on, then a map will pop up, and it gives you three choices of where you can visit. This is most likely because sandbox style games aren’t as popular in Japan.
• No Emotional Investment: Did. Not. Care. About. These. Characters. Whatsoever. Like a lot of manga and anime, Duel Love takes advantage of certain stereotypes or conventions. For example, there’s Yuuma, the school’s “mood maker” from Osaka. As the stereotypical Osaka person, he often cracks jokes and speaks in the Osaka dialect. Or there’s Shinichiro, the glass-wearing bookworm, or melancholy Jin, the melancholy handsome dude. Streamlines the game, and plays on certain “types”, but none of them were memorable.
• Music: If you’re into synthesizers, you’ll love it.
• Why is this a DS game?: Mini-games aside, there’s not much reason this is a DS game. The touch screen isn’t really used as it’s easiest to set the game on “Auto” during the dialogue scenes, instead of touching the touch screen after each line of dialogue. The mini-games are such a small percentage of the game, Duel Love really needs something else to justify its existence on the DS. Or as a game, for that matter.
• Cannot Revisit Old Dialogue: It’s possible to toggle ahead through the dialogue. But toggle back? Ha! Forget it, buddy. You must hang on every word. Ungh.
Duel Love never lives up to its saucy screenshot and is gaming’s equivalent of the Sears catalogue: Lots of stuff, while only a page or so of underwear models. Those looking for erotic game thrills best look elsewhere. Ditto for those looking for a fun renai game. No love here for Duel Love. At all.