Karen Azuma* returns home from a translating job in Greece to find her father, Professor Azuma, precariously missing despite their plans to have a welcome home dinner. As she ponders why her father is absent, she hears a knock on the door; On the other side is Inspector Sakuragi, a detective for the Metropolitan Police Department. Ushering you to your father’s lab, you find three strange men instead of your father. Sakuragi and the rest inform you that your father had been working on a secret project for the government involving superpowers in humans, that these strange men were a part of a team of people with superpowers your father put together to combat evil, and that he was kidnapped by a dangerous criminal syndicate known as Lakia.
Suspecting that Lakia may come after Karen next, she is forced to come under the protection of the A-Team as they investigate Lakia and try to uncover her fathers whereabouts. She must decide which of these three strange men will become her bodyguard 24 hours a day. Can Karen and the A-Team save her father and the world from Lakia’s clutches? Will she find love in the arms of her bodyguard?
*Protagonist’s preset name is Karen Azuma, but is renameable. For the sake of consistency and this review, I will refer to the protagonist by her preset name.
**Screenshots may not be native resolution due to the varying resolutions of mobile devices and the fact I used a computer android emulator for screenshots. CG’s are in the resolution that the app saved them as, while other screenshots are at the resolution viewed from my emulator.
First off, I think I should talk about the route/game setup and that sort of jazz. If you’re reading this to decide whether to put money into this game or not, you might already know, but I will talk about it for those who don’t. The mobile otome game market works differently than your typical PC visual novel in that rather than pay one set price for the entire game and it’s routes, most mobile otomes generally work on one of three models; Free-to-play, character bundle packs, or pay-per-character as I call them. Hero in Love works off of the pay-per-character model, where the app and prologue is free, but you must pay x amount per character. Therefore, if you want to play all three characters, you must purchase each of them separately. Each character comes with three endings; Normal, Happy, and Sweet. (Only Happy and Sweet have ending CGs). Each character is about 2-3 hours on one playthrough as well, depending on your reading speed.
I’ve noticed in the reviews on google play that a lot of people are bitching about the fact that the app is listed as free, but you have to pay for the character content. Obviously people can’t read or acknowledge the description of it being a paid app and “In-app purchases” listed right next to free, so I’ll warn you upfront. Don’t go in expecting it to be free-to-play. This may change in the future, as NTT Solmare has been releasing free-to-play (+ versions) of their paid games, but as of writing this review, Hero in Love does not have a + version. Now, I could argue paragraphs and paragraphs as to why I find paying for character routes is generally better than free-to-play despite spending money upfront, but I’ll spare you a big rant. If you’re curious about my argument against free-to-play models stacked up to character bundles or pay-per-character you can check that out here.
For now, I’ll just quickly go over what I find to be the perks that you get with forking over around 4$ for a character; Ability to read story at your own pace anytime, ability to replay the character as many times as you want, no checkpoints/energy/avatar/mini-game hassle, higher resolution game screen (NTTs paid game resolution is your entire screen while their FTP games are about 25% small resolution causing a large black gap between the game screen and the bottom of your device), ability to save CGs in high resolution (for mobile) to your device right from the app, and the game data is saved to your device so you can play it even when your phone is out of service area or you don’t have a 4G or wifi connection available (FTP stories load directly from NTT’s servers so you need a stable connection). With the pay-per-character route as well, you can just purchase the characters you’re interested in. I’ve paid way more than $11-$12 for a game/visual novel that overall had less content and playtime. Now that that’s taken care of, lets get to the parts I’m sure you’re more interested in and are more of a deciding factor for you; The characters and story/content.
Soh Hanamiya is the leader of the A-Team who has the power of telekinesis; The ability to read minds and communicate telepathically. He fights with a large samurai sword, dresses in traditional Japanese clothing, and is even a renowned calligrapher. Soh is your stereotypical otome tsundere character, or as I like to call them, an asshole with a heart of gold. He really only speaks when he feels a need to, is extremely judgemental, dislikes stupidity, and in general gives a bit of a cold shoulder to everyone, even his team mates. Like seriously, almost everything that comes out of his mouth is tinged with “jerk”. He is extremely picky and set in his ways, and refuses to eat anything that is not slathered in soy sauce and wasabi, and dislikes drinking tea that is not made from the finest Japanese tea leaves. Despite that, Soh has a strong sense of justice and will go out of his way to protect innocents and back-up his teammates. From the get go, he shows an extreme amount of hostility towards Karen, telling her to just stay back and not be a nuisance because she is a helpless moron, which he goes out of his way to remind her of her moronic ways quite frequently.
Soh exerts great control over his telekinetic abilities, being able to read minds only when he desires so rather than be subject to the minds of many at once. While his ability is not really helpful offensively in a fight, he can use his ability to figure out what the enemy plans to do, their moves, and relay tactics and information to others to effectively combat the enemy and engage in battle plans. Soh does not like women (He’s not gay though) due to finding them annoying and helpless creatures, and dislikes getting particularly close to people. As such, he does not like conversing much with Karen, and frequently tells her the only reason he puts up with her is because it is his mission and it is only until they find Prof. Azuma and dismantle Lakia.
While I’m not a fan of the wounded tsundere types, at least he wasn’t like that abusive orange cat tsundere. Soh’s romance follows your stereotypical pattern of “Guy is an ass to you, girl falls for asshole despite that, guy ends up telling her he can’t return feelings, girls decides to try and change his mind anyway, some dramatic events happen, guy tells girl why he closed off his heart and confesses to her, happily ever after”. Well, theres some drama and other events peppered in those steps, but I’m sure you get my point. While Soh’s action wasn’t quite as interesting or fun as Billy and Hayate’s, it still made for an interestingly enough read despite the fact that there wasn’t a lot of descriptive fighting. Once the romance is on though, Soh’s inner possessiveness reaches critical levels. His endings were cute enough, in a housewife sort of way.
Billy is a member of the A-Team, and has the power of clairvoyance; The ability to see through objects/buildings/etc, even from a great distance. He fights with two pistols, though he is known to frequently hide many smaller guns on his person. Billy is of American descent, having been raised on a ranch in Texas, and personifies American cowboys from his clothing, weapons, speech, and attitude. He speaks fluent Japanese and is accustomed to Japan though due to having been with the A-Team for quite some time. He has a deep love for women despite having no interest in a relationship, and as such is the playboy out of the group, frequently spending his nights with random, beautiful women. His looks and flirtatious nature causes much annoyance for the other members of the A-Team, as well as for Karen.
|MY MILKSHAKE BRINGS ALL THE GIRLS TO THE YARD|
Billy is a “man of two faces” in that when he is on a mission, he is calm, cool, collected, and serious; When outside of a mission though, his personality is that of the laid-back joker who tends to never really speak seriously and prefers to go off and flirt and bed random women. He teasingly refers to Karen as “Kitten”, and throughout his route he frequently tells Karen that he aims to “shoot her in the heart” and make her fall for him so he can bed her, and he does indeed try. A lot. He frequently runs around the 2nd floor that he shares with Karen in nothing but his rather…interesting underwear despite her protests because he likes to be “natural”.
Billy’s route was overall enjoyable despite the fact that I’m not big into playboy characters. I got angry at Karen more times than I can count during his route because quite frequently early on, Billy would leave Karen alone at night to go sleep with some random chick and come back reeking of their scent, and despite this she still had a crush on him and frequently got jealous. I don’t get women who fall for man-sluts knowing their…well…man sluts, even if they’re “respectable” about it and don’t lead their lady partners on that it’s anything more than a one night tryst. Village bicycle and STDS, all I’m gonna say. The action in his route was pretty fun, as the scenes focused quite a bit on the fighting and action rather than all of it being about helpless Karen’s inner monologue. I found it pretty cute as to how their romance played out as a sort of “I lost my ability to love somewhere” (Billy) and Karen going all gutsy and smooching on him, then making sweet, sweet love. If you like reforming playboys, Billy’s your route. There’s also quite a bit of laughs considering Billy’s antics and the fact that Hayate and Soh sometimes play along with him just to seemingly give Karen a heart attack.
Hayate Shiranui is a member of the A-Team, and has the power of teleportation; However, his teleportation ability is limited to 100 meters. He can just consecutively to make bigger jumps though. Having been trained and raised in the way of the Ninja, Hayate’s weapon of choice is a sickle and chain, which, with his teleportation abilities, makes him a fierce opponent. Hayate has a sweet tooth, and a weakness for cute things like kids, cats, etc. Hayate exudes a calm, confident, and caring attitude. Outside of the A-Team, he works as a detective with the police department. Hayate is sort of the middle personality wise between Billy and Soh, as while he is a bit closed off like Soh, and a bit carefree like Billy, he is not extreme like them in their respective personality traits. Hayate takes his job seriously, and as such does everything in his power to protect his team, Karen, and those who cannot protect themselves.
I’m pretty split on my opinion of Hayate’s route to be honest, because there was a LOT of stuff I liked about it, but a lot of crap that irked me to no end about it as well. One of my favorite character archetypes are the confident (but not arrogant) sweethearts, and Hayate definitely fit the bill for the most part. He is also the only character out of the three that tells Karen his feelings for her first, as opposed to Karen being the first to confess. Because of that, unlike the other guys, they don’t spend a few chapters on the whole “I love you but I can’t be with you or show my true feelings because of *insert dramatic reason*. However, I wouldn’t say that they begin a relationship after their confessions, as the most they do is share an intimate kiss (with no CG mind you) and then go about their business until the very end, no banging.
Despite the occasional joke, you can tell Hayate genuinely cares about Karen from early on. There really are no fight scenes until the last one, and the ones before are very short compared to Billy’s, and even Soh’s, and most of it is spent on Karen’s droning inner monologue. However, the final battle scene was by far the best out of all the characters. One of my biggest beefs is Hayate is said to have been Ninja trained, yet we don’t see any cool Ninja moves in action, and his sickle and chain weapon was used way more often in the other routes. Oh, and the biggest thing that pissed me off was, even after they share a kiss and confess, Karen keeps calling him “Mr. Hayate” YOU TWO MACKED OUT, NO NEED FOR MR OR SIR FORMALITIES, GAWD.
Hero in Love was overall your typical otome game with nothing really new brought to the table, making it an OK experience, but more than likely will fade into the giant catalog of stereotypical otome games on the android/mobile market. I liked it enough that I bought all three characters (Ignore the fact that Soh was on sale…), but it still retained enough of your usual fanfare that makes me so frustrated with the VN genre. Otome is a genre that is SUPPOSED to be VNs for women from a women’s mindset (much like how most regular VNs are more catered to the male mindset), but I can’t help but wonder if there’s a guy writing, directing, and scripting most of them. Hero in Love’s protagonist was not the worst I’ve come across, but being a couple steps above a paper doll isn’t much of a compliment. I’d say about at least 50% of her interaction in the game was drab inner monologue, 20% being a helpless twat contemplating her helplessness, 20% crying because of *insert reason*, and 10% actually not being a loser.
Maybe Japanese women have a fetish/fantasy for being (or are) utterly helpless damsels who ALWAYS NEED A GUY TO SAVE THEM FROM EVEN *GASP* BREAKING A NAIL. If that’s the case, Japanese ladies need a dose of feminism. And yes, I’m a feminist. In the true sense that men and women should be treated TRULY equally, and it’s ok for women to be strong and men to be sensitive, and all that crap. Not this whole thing of where if a woman doesn’t act like a delicate flower with no brain her vagina will grow cobwebs and she’ll die a spinster, and if a man is sensitive he’s a wuss who will never get laid. I had a casual thing for a while with a Marine Vet who had done 3 tours in Iraq and knew 100 different ways to kill a man, yet he loved gardening and wasn’t afraid to cry in front of me when he needed to; It was hot as hell. More otome games need a protagonist who can take care of herself and isn’t completely helpless, but who knows when she needs to accept help/saving.
If you’re looking for an otome to pass the time with, get giggly about a hot guy, and want a story more about a semi-fast paced romance with paranormal themes and enough action and drama to keep you clicking (or tapping), you might like Hero In Love. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it meets those needs nicely. Story, pacing, graphic, and romance wise, I found it to be better than my delvings into NTT Solmares Destiny Ninja, Ninja Love, and My Sweet Prince games. Plus I do think that you get pretty good content time per character for the amount you dish out. While there was enough to frustrate me with my precarious peeves, it was still somewhat interesting enough to have me continue rather than drop the game after one character. For now, I’ll keep searching and hoping to find another Sweet Fuse *sigh*
Final Score: 70%
Pretty graphics, varied character archetypes, superpowers, some detailed action scenes, protagonist gets less helpless near end of routes, picture save, uncommon story setting and details for otome games (As in not based around ninjas, school, forced marriage, or princes), interesting enough romance, some laugh out loud comedy, story with potential, fairly lengthy routes for a mobile otome.
Bland protagonist, lackluster story progression, no music, stereotypical, no real emotional connection to any of the characters, too much inner monologue, damsel in distress crap, semi frequent typos, overall character/game/story quality varied greatly from character to character, “Babilom” (U SO WITTY CHANGING TWO LETTERS IN BABYLON SOLMARE), delicate flower syndrome, antagonist appears late in stories, “WE SAVED THE WORLD WITH PRAYER AND LOVE”
Available in English for Android and Apple mobile and tablet devices
VN by NTT Solmare
12+ Visual Novel
*Android users can unlock a special image by going to menu > invite your friends > and inputting invite code Mv3vKcMmz6. I’m not sure if this code will work with the Apple version.