So I finally got around to playing the prologue of Charade Maniacs over the holiday season and I must say, this game is pretty wild. I mean, if you’re in the mood for some mystery over romance then Charade Maniacs is your game.

Actually, I have already played through a route and just landed on another one so this is not a faithful first impressions post since I usually write these up right after I finish the common route. However, don’t worry! I’m still quite spoiler-free from anything major and I will keep this post the same since I actually already know quite a big secret. Anyways, let’s begin!

Note: I will spoil a bit of the prologue so if you don’t want that, please do not read further. Thank you!

The Story

Take on the role of Hiyori Sena, a high school sophomore who has been abducted by a masked figure. Trapped in the mysterious world of Arcadia with nine others, she is forced by her captor to act in dramas alongside the other abductees. To make matters worse, there’s a traitor among the costars! Love blooms on and off stage in this dramatic search for truth and romance. Who can you trust?

Idea Factory Official Website

Honestly, when I played through the common route, I was reminded of Danganronpa. For those who don’t know what a Danganronpa is (which is quite unfortunate if you ask me), it is a horror mystery series developed by Spike Chunsoft and created by the masterful Kazutaka Kodaka. Using the visual novel style, the series spans 3 games where 16 high school students are forced to kill each other in order to escape the “prison” they find themselves in whether that be a locked up school or an beach getaway (not joking). Coincidentally, one of the love interests, Iochi, has the same voice actress as the protagonist of the first Danganronpa game and another pertinent, if not controversial, character in the second game. Is it truly a coincidence???

Promotional art for the first Danganronpa game.

Anyways, check out Danganronpa if you want a more grittier and darker version of Charade Maniacs. Please, it’s great. There are a couple anime series that the fanbase hates for some reason…well, the first one I get but I recommend the second, Danganronpa 3. 

Okay, sorry for going off on a tangent but Charade Maniacs does give off Danganronpa-inspired vibes. Heck, there’s even a traitor you have to sus out called the Producer and he’s one of the love interests apparently. Then you learn there’s another traitor called the Sponsor, and the game of lies and deception only ramps up.

I actually love trying to rack my brain to figure out who to trust and distrust even if it makes me unreasonably paranoid.

Right, enough rambling, I was hoping to keep this short but I had a lot more to say about this game and it’s possible inspiration more than I thought. Let’s get to the gameplay and characters.

Gameplay

You can choose where to go at times in the game. Careful, because you can’t go to all at times. (Credit: Otomate)

Charade Maniacs has a pretty normal style of gameplay reminiscent of most otome games out there so there isn’t much to say in terms of unique game mechanics. What I mean is that there is nothing like Collar x Malice’s shooting mini-game or Lover Pretend’s Pretend Time. However, as I play through the game, there are important things I took note of that I want to warn those who are going in completely blind that I think is good to know (but you can skip if you do truly want to play blind):

Firstly, you will get an option to join one of three teams: the cooking, cleaning, and information team with three of the boys in each team. Once you choose a team, you are locked into whatever team you choose for the rest of the common route and you will end up on one of the three boys’ routes who are on the team. Well, actually, there are locked routes so the one you may be gunning for may be locked. Personally, I don’t know everyone who is locked but what I do know is that I learned this the hard way after doing the common route TWICE and both times got a route I was not going for. Tough times, man.

Second, if you even look up the suggested route order, that in itself can be a spoiler. Due to this, I’m trying to wing it and go completely blind which so far seems to be the funnest way to play this game since there is still an air of mystery and expectation. Although, the very first route I did, I ended up finding out something major. I can’t say what it is but let’s just say if you choose right then some secrets will be revealed sooner rather than later.

Third, it is important to try and hang out with who you’re trying to go for in the common route. As seen in the above image, you will be able to choose where to explore at times but usually you won’t be able to visit all so choose wisely. Thankfully, you see who will meet you there so take that into consideration when you make your decision. Yet, is it a matter of life or death (i.e. bad vs good ending)? At the current moment, no. At least, from where I’m at in the game. For instance, the first route I did, I barely picked any choices with the boy whose route I got and still got his ending. HOWEVER, some routes only have ONE ending apparently so maybe that doesn’t say much.

I think those are the major points I’ve noticed for now. It’s a bit complicated but I promise you, it’s a very intriguing and fun concept when you wrap your head around it.

Characters

(Note: All images can be found on Charade Maniac’s Official page on Otomate’s website.)

There are 9 love interests in this game. NINE. It’s a lot but so far the routes aren’t too long. Let’s start with the heroine:

Credit: Otomate

For the first character, I have to start with our heroine, Sena, of course. As usual, the name is changeable for those who like to self-insert (I personally don’t). So far, I quite like her. She’s not too bad of a protagonist and while I do find her plain at times, there is enough of a little sass and charm there that makes her a likable if not tolerable heroine. I understand she is the peacemaker, even the older sister figure to some (looking at you Haiji), but she could still use a lil more personality to make her stand out from her fellow otome sisters. Still, there is plenty of game left for me to do so Sena could definitely grow more and feel more 3D.

CV: Saito Soma

Akase is…interesting. He appears to have become the leader of this ragtag group of distrustful kiddos (and odd adult or two). To be honest, I suspect him highly as being the Producer. BUT, he seems too obvious of a choice, no? It’s even a bit painful the red herrings I feel like I’m getting watching him throughout the common route. Regardless, I do like him. A leader-type that’s also quite clumsy and not very well respected amongst a good portion of the group, but likable nevertheless. Is it just an act? I’m not sure.

CV: Suzumura Kenichi

God, Tomose. He is the childhood friend of Sena and you all know what that means? He is wholly and completely in love with her, your honor, and honestly it can be quite overbearing at times. Some may like it, but it’s not my cup of tea. Though this dude was able to not only confess his love first but, steal Sena’s first kiss too (KISS?! In the common route, nonetheless!) before any of the love interests so should I give props to him? Nah, the kiss was in a drama and Sena wasn’t too receptive on the confession so unfortunate for him. Anyways, Tomose isn’t my type physically either and when I hear his voice I can’t help but think of Okita Sougo from the anime, Gintama, and that ruins everything for me, haha.

CV: Namikawa Daisuke

Ah, sweet little Chigasaki. He is probably the most caring and kindest one of the lot. I actually ended up on his route first and while he wasn’t my first…second…third…etc. choice, I ended up enjoying his route a lot and I think it’s was a good precursor to what I can expect in the next few routes. I still can’t believe he has the same voice actor as the acerbic, cutting Sasazuka from Collar x Malice, but that’s the range of our dear Japanese voice actors we know and love. Anyways, Chigasaki is a cutie and a marshmallow that needs to be protected. That’s all.

CV: Furukawa Makoto

I find Dazai quite intriguing. I like him quite a lot and would love to do his route next but I learned the hard way that he is still locked for me! Cries. For now, I will have to patiently wait to see what his deal is before playing his route. He has a rather quiet personality bordering on almost contemplative? Maybe I’m projecting a little since his name, Dazai, is the same as the famous Japanese author, Dazai Osamu. He is definitely holding some secrets but he also doesn’t scream, Producer, to me. He seems to be holding some heavy burden but what? I’m not sure. Also, Furukawa…this man has such a lovely voice, dude. He also voices Allan from Cupid Parasite. Allan and Dazai? Very different. Too different for my brain so let’s move on.

CV: Maeno Tomoaki

If this rude and loud-mouthed boy is the Producer then color me shooketh because the way he comes across as resentful over the whole situation feels genuine to me. He is suspicious and distrustful of everyone and puts up his guard because he is not there to make friends, he is there to get out of the Other World as soon as possible without any help, thank you very much. 

In short, he’s a major tsundere. It’s honestly quite funny to witness as he takes himself so seriously it’s amusing, if not, cute. He is perhaps the one who is taking the situation the most realistically but understandably, if you simply shut everyone out when you have to work together, it doesn’t end well. Or, you have to accept the fact it’s easier to get along and open yourself up slowly in order to reach the common goal of find the traitor and escape. This growth in Ebana is already showing in the common route. That, and his role as a cooking mama, but I digress~

CV: Seki Tomokazu

Ah, the older brother-type. That is Futami Ryoichi who is one out of two love interests who is considered an adult in this game. It’s interesting that he is not the leader of the group and it’s Akase (who is a 3rd year in high school however). Futami has come across as quite the straightforward guy which is nice but I worry my poor heart isn’t going to take his direct approach to love when the time comes…which is soon since I’m now starting his route (yippee!). I really am interesting in Futami too especially since he is the one guy in the game I feel comfortable actually seeing in a romantic way. Plus, his voice actor, Seki Tomokazu, is someone I don’t usually see in otome games. This is actually the first one. I know him mainly from Psycho Pass as one of the main protagonists, Kogami, and from Part 6 of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure as the main antagonist, Father Pucci.

So, you see why I’m interested in a “what is THIS range” kind of way? 

(Side Note: I just learned this man voices Miguel in Across the Spider-Verse in the Japanese dub and that is bonus points for me.)

CV: Matsuoka Yoshitsugu

Speaking of range, freaking Matsuoka is everywhere in otome games and I love it. He is one of my favorite voice actors who has shown that he can be any type of kareshi you want. Alice in Taisho x Alice? Akaza in Olympia? Gyobu in Charade Maniacs? Yes, please! But so far, Gyobu feels the most: Oh my god, this is ACTUALLY Matsuoka?? I just finished the common route the second time around and I decided to hop onto the cleaning team which Gyobu is on. You play your cards right and you get a rather…interesting scene with him. And I’m not sure how to feel. He may seem uninterested in anything but games and poking fun at the others, but he is way too mysterious for my curiosity. It’s always these type of characters which hold the darkest secrets. Producer possibly? No, I think…but something else for sure. 

CV: Okamoto Nobuhiko

Speaking of range…again…Haiji (Haizi in the official Otomate site), is voiced by Okamoto Nobuhiko who I also like a lot as a seiyuu and also someone who has no business being able to be as many various characters as I can be. Like: 

-Yang from Piofiore (favorite)

-Peter from Cupid Parasite (FAVORITE)

-That wild weird dude from Collar x Malice (we don’t talk about him)

-Radie from Radiant Tale (opinions TBD)

-ETC.

And you’re telling me in this game he voices an always eepy-sounding boy who is apparently 12 years old. Yes, he appears to be high school age but says he’s 12 and everyone seems to buy that??? I can’t believe it, but he can’t even read a lot of Kanji either. I’m so interested in his story and he would’ve been my next route but he is LOCKED. I really want to throw hands at this game, I swear.

CV: Ogata Megumi

And last but not least, Iochi. The first otome game I have ever bought that has a character being voiced by a female seiyuu and it’s Ogata Megumi to be exact! I also really like her work and I previously mentioned she voices a couple of important characters from the Danganronpa franchise. I also love the anime, Toilet-Bound Hanako-san, where she voices the titular character (also a boy). Hence, I can easily see why she was an excellent choice to cast as the androgynous Iochi who remains secretive about their sexuality. And if it stays that way, I am completely fine with that. It’s honestly great to see a bit more representation in otome and right now, this is the closest we can get to a female love interest in a mainstream otome (if I’m wrong, please correct me). 

Music

I just added this section for the opening alone because my GOD, I love this opening. It’s my favorite otome opening I’ve heard so far besides Cupid Parasite’s “Koi wa Aserazu.” It just really sucks I can’t have this on repeat in my Spotify because it’s not available in my region. My sadness is immeasurable and my day is ruined. Please, who can I talk to to convince them to make it accessible?

Final Thoughts

So far, I’ve really enjoyed Charade Maniacs and believe that I will love it even more after I finish. At least, I really hope so. I haven’t seen a lot of people talk much about it or the love interests in my Twitter timeline so I’m not sure if it’s because of the people I follow or the game was a flop here or what? Personally, I think it’s just right. With 9 love interests, it can be easy to feel like the game is overbloated with content and story but after finishing one route, I can say it didn’t overstay its welcome. 

The only downside and negatives I see of Charade Maniacs is that the majority of the cast is high school-aged which is fine if you’re not an old foggy like me. It kinda sucks but it’s the truth. I believe the only love interests past the age of 20 are Futami and Iochi who are still fine choices. Still, I can’t help but think of my physical age when I play this stuff and wonder how to deal with it as I get older. Anyone have any advice or suggestions, let me know!

Regardless, I will continue to enjoy Charade Maniacs and I hope to be back with the review in less than a year unlike some of my first impressions (looking at you Slow Damage!).

Thanks for reading!

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