According to my friends, I have a “guilty pleasure.” I’m not sure why they classify it as such, but I suppose they think I shouldn’t advertise the fact that I enjoy playing otome games. I think they’re generally baffled because they usually focus on things that I just have no interest in. You know, things like attempting to please slightly terrifying boys who I’d ordinarily have no desire to be around and engaging in narratives I generally find a bit disgusting. I think it also baffles them because I don’t really follow anime, and I haven’t really been very interested in it since Cowboy Bebop.

Regardless, I spent a couple days playing dUpLicity ~Beyond the Lies~, which I’d only ended up ‘buying’ because it was in a bundle I’d purchased. You play as Yukina Kudou, a girl who is in her final year of high school and is also working as a secret assistant to her principal, Kouichi Serizawa. He tasks her with observing his clone, Youji Kataoka, by becoming his girlfriend. Yukina lives with her best friend and roommate, Nao, who you learn is also observing Yukina; she does this at the request of her principal-uncle because Yukina is also a clone. Throughout the varying story paths, you are introduced to Rei Anderson, whose initial name is ??? because he’s a Mysterious Boy.

Help Kouichi's job, huh?

Help Kouichi’s job, huh?

First, let’s just say that the status screen provides little information. The hints, should you use them, state you need to have about 50 skill points by a certain game date, yet there are no numerical indicators to actually tell you how many skill points you have. This really doesn’t serve much purpose, honestly. It seems like a superfluous mechanic that was haphazardly thrown in and only serves its purpose to create a scene with either Youji or Kouichi. The only use in getting zero skill points was to get the Normal Bad Ending; after you did that, there wasn’t a use for it at all, since you automatically improved your skill points by studying, gossiping, or spending time with Youji or Kouichi.

The story’s a bit lacklustre with a few major and obvious flaws, namely that clones could start their lives as teenagers rather than as infants and would be born of a medical tube. Though not falling into the regular trope of automatic double, they still fail to recognise that both Yukina and Youji should be much younger than they really are. I suppose this was to avoid the fact that it would make the story path of falling for your creepy principal, who also “took you in” according to the false memories he implanted, a little more viable.

To be honest, I loathe every path that places Yukina and Kouichi together. The True Love route has her referring to him as ‘Daddy’ and him calling her ‘Mommy,’ and I find that tragic in pretty much everything. He also refers to her as his ‘most prized possession’, which I actually feel is a major insult because she’s her own person. Plus, he shows a lot of awkward jealousy for anyone being interested in Yukina, even though he constantly refers to this mysterious “her.”

Seriously, Kouichi's kind of scary.

Seriously, Kouichi’s kind of scary.

Which leads to the reasons that he even created Yukina and Youji. At first, he wanted to bring back his dead girlfriend, Yukiko Kudou, so that he could get over the sadness he felt from losing her; he believed that he was responsible for her death and that he never tried hard enough to save her. What he hadn’t counted on was that clones could be different from their originals, despite being a scientist genius; I’m assuming he casually neglected reading about how personality isn’t a transferable thing. Regardless, while creating Yukina, he finds that he has a heart condition and has approximately four years to live. Not knowing how Yukina can survive without him should he die (creepy), he hastily creates Youji, forgetting to give him false memories. He then sets up a deal with each of them to get them to date, hoping that they’ll at least like each other enough to stay together. Forever. Because that’s how every otome game works; it’s always forever.

I have a lot of problems with Yukina’s subservient nature to Kouichi, which is largely because of how much he manipulates her (and others) in order to get what he wants. Even if she feels indebted to him for taking care of her, I find it quite difficult to understand how a person could continue to go along with something that they repeatedly mention feels wrong. Perhaps she wants to please him, but I just find it infuriating that she would gladly let her benefactor-principal manipulate her into doing anything and openly go along with it. This isn’t a problem just for this game; it’s a common issue in the genre.

I also really wish that Nao was utilised a lot more. For a little while, she appears to have no actual purpose. Then, during both Kouichi and Rei’s routes, you find out who she is and that she’s been observing you, initially acting as your best friend. However, she does genuinely like you and doesn’t want to hurt you by letting you know what her purpose is. It’s just strange because, even in the routes where you learn who she is and how she’s related to everyone, she still has no point. They literally could’ve just left her out of the story, and it would’ve been relatively the same thing because she had absolutely no impact on anything at all. It’s so nice to know that friends are useless!

Nao and Youji show off odd hand positions.

Nao and Youji show off odd hand positions.

The art and music selection are fairly decent. The music is quite common to the genre, but it’s a bit more enjoyable because this game actually finds a way to make the music sort of match the mood of the event and the location. The art’s a bit wonky, sometimes being cute but occasionally having some really terrifying hand positions. The two characters that fall victim to the Creep Hand are Nao and Youji, sometimes even appearing together to freak you out a little bit. There’s a great use of colour, though, and I kind of actually liked the snowflake transitions between scenes or at the start. I think it’s because I just like snow, honestly.

If you can overlook a lot of the major problematic elements, though, it’s kind of cute in its own ways. Honestly, I only really like three of the endings: one where she goes off on her own with neither man, one where she stays with Youji, and another where you end up with Rei some years later. Otherwise, it’s kind of a bust.

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