Despite the burgeoning popularity of shoujo manga and anime in the West, very few efforts have been made to bring otome games beyond the land of the rising sun. What few titles are available, such as the iOS Shall We Date series from NTT Solmare, have been quickly translated and tossed into the market with little fanfare. Western fans of the genre are rising to the cause, however. Several independent Western development teams have sprung up in the past few years to create their own takes on the genre. The advent of freeware adventure and visual novel scripting software tools has made the process of planning and creating such a title significantly easier. Examples of such efforts include Lucky Rabbit Reflex, a UK-developed title that combines otome game themes with time management elements, and Love and Order, a Canadian-developed effort by Winter Wolves incorporating mystery and simulation motifs. (Love and Order is particularly noteworthy in that it also offers the option to romance another female character, which is exceptionally rare for the genre.) English-speaking fansites, blogs, and communities devoted to the genre also pepper the web.

Despite the burgeoning popularity of shoujo manga and anime in the West, very few efforts have been made to bring otome games beyond the land of the rising sun.

An interesting new development in the English-language otome game scene has arisen, however. Late last year, localization company Aksys Games put a survey on their site asking if there was interest in localizing otome games for the North American market. While Aksys has never divulged the exact results of the survey, the company announced that they would be bringing over the first game in the hugely popular Hakuoki series for the PSP in early 2012.

Ben Bateman, the lead of localization on Hakuoki, noted that the sheer amount of interest the survey itself drew was a big catalyst for the decision. "It showed us, by virtue of how many people were talking about it when it went out, that there was a significant amount of interest in the genre. We've seen the same (reaction) happen when we announced Hakuoki ... it was getting a lot of discussion in certain corners of the internet."

"We really want to break into the genre, since it hasn't been tapped into (in the West) yet," notes Frank deWindt II, Aksys Games' Director of Production. "We got the opportunity with Hakuoki, and now we're going to see if it pays off." Bateman shares similar sentiments: "On a personal level, I really do like the idea of having more games out there that are not necessarily targeted at the typical male audience. Women are kind of an ignored group, and it would be nice to see more games on the market that suggest to them that they shouldn't be ignored."

Heidi Kemps is a freelance game journalist based in the SF Bay Area with an intense fascination for fandom subcultures. You can find her daily musings on subjects both pressing and peripheral on her twitter feed (@zerochan) or her tumblr (devilrei.tumblr.com)

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