Cupid Parasite Review (Updated for English patch 1.01)
Our Score: 7.5/10
Our review of Cupid Parasite will contain NO SPOILERS. I’ll only give a brief synopsis of the game’s plot and I’ll talk about how the game mechanics work without spoiling any of the plot’s details. I will also show computer graphics (CGs) from the game’s Common Route that don’t have any spoilers in the images.
I’d like to first talk about the genre of this title for those unfamiliar with these kinds of games. Cupid Parasite is an “otome” game, or “maiden” game when translated from Japanese into English. It’s a type of genre generally targeted towards women. It’s worth noting that’s just the name of the genre, I’m not a woman but I had a very fun experience with the game.
The otome genre is a subset of visual novel or text adventure games, except with more of a focus on romance than your typical visual novel game. As well, otome games will typically have a female protagonist with several important male characters, and you’ll make decisions through the visual novel to go through one of the male character’s routes where you’ll spend significantly more time with that character.
These kinds of games actually do offer a high amount of replayability and the branching routes can differ significantly depending on the character route you choose to pursue.
I used to read a lot of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, where the book was segmented into different sections. When you started reading the book, you would be asked to jump to a different page depending on your choice. Some horror books of this type would even lead to your death and the book would have many premature bad endings, and you’d have to go back and make another choice. The “Give Yourself Goosebumps” spinoff series by R.L. Stein was one of my favorite horror choose your own adventure style novels.
When I found out there were actually video games that did this in a similar way, with graphics, illustrations, and characters showing different expressions as you played, it was like a dream come true to me. At the same time, I do understand that these kinds of games may not necessarily be fun for everyone. You would need to be able to enjoy a narrative plot to get fulfillment from these genres of games. Visual novels and otome games are not as lengthy as novels, but would perhaps be closer in length to novellas (longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel).
I’m no stranger to visual novels myself, and I’ve enjoyed classic Japanese visual novels such as Higurashi, its sequel Umineko, Saya no Uta, Fate/Stay Night, Corpse Party, and The Science Adventure Series (Chaos;Head, Steins;Gates, and Robotics;Notes). I enjoy more modern visual novels as well (including some made in the West and indie titles) such as The Doki Doki Literature Club, Hatoful Boyfriend, The Zero Escape trilogy, Danganronpa, The Re;Zero visual novel, and The House in Fata Morgana. I do recommend that if you’re looking to get into visual novels to check out some of these classics too.
Although I’m used to playing visual novels and I’m used to their quirks, Cupid Parasite was my first otome visual novel game. Despite not being used to otome games, playing through Cupid Parasite was a very pleasant experience. After playing through this title, I view otome games no differently than any other kind of visual novel game. The characters were very well written with a substantive plot and many branching routes in the endgame. These distinct endgame routes were also all significantly different with each having their own huge plot revelations, and by playing through several of them I was able to get a more complete visualization of the plot.
To give a synopsis, the protagonist in Cupid Parasite is Lynette and she works in a marriage agency. In the beginning, you find out that she’s actually the Roman god Cupid. She is working on Earth after she had a fight with her dad, Mars, but she’s keeping all of this a secret as she disguises herself as a regular marriage counselor named Lynette. The game incorporates a bit of real-life events into the lore of the game, such as Japan’s declining birthrate and declining marriage rate.
The Roman God Mars blames all of these problems on his daughter Cupid for not doing a good job and for not working hard enough.
At the company Lynette works for (named Cupid Corporation by chance, it’s not owned by her), the President offers Lynette a promotion if she can get the five most troublesome men married. These five men are referred to as the “Parasite 5” because they’re pretty much parasitic, so to speak.
To help get the Parasite 5 married, Lynette will have to give them advice how to be a good future partner for someone such as learning how to compromise. The Parasite 5 will also appear on a show called Parasite House, where they’ll all have to interact with each other, and to put it simply many wacky antics ensure. Maybe Lynette will also find herself a partner too! You can see where the plot is heading…
We won’t tell you anything more regarding the plot than that because the plot is the backbone for a visual novel game such as this, but it’s a very fun premise and I really like the game’s modern interpretation of Cupid living on Earth helping people find a partner. It’s really nice how the game intertwines modern issues and modern technology into its plot.
Can you imagine Cupid dealing with everybody using dating apps who are always swiping right? Instead of talking to each other in-person, can you imagine everybody texting? Cupid needs to learn texting etiquette between partners and she needs to teach it to the Parasite 5! Not to mention the age of social media and all the confusion arising as a result of it.
The mixture of mythological lore and futuristic technology is a really great combination and I don’t see it tackled in games too often. I’ll go off on a tangent, but I saw this kind of interaction between mythological lore and new technology addressed in the video game Catherine, which has an Egyptian goddess of love, Ishtar, narrating the game and watching the exploits of the protagonist, Vincent. Catherine deals with the issue of how the marriage rate is going down with advances in technology and modernization.
Though it’s an unrelated game, I’d recommend you to check out its remaster, named Catherine: Full Body Edition because that game and Cupid Parasite would go well together due to having quite similar themes and atmospheres.
Because of the “Parasite House” being a show within this game, and many men living together with one woman, the game’s premise also reminds me of TV shows such as The Bachelor, except in this game you have one woman and a group of men instead, whereas The Bachelor has it the other way around.
Back to Cupid Parasite, playing through the game does feel like a romantic comedy (I mean this in a good way), except you can make your own choices on how the plot will play out instead of just watching a straightforward show or movie.
The gameplay involves reading through the dialogue and making choices which will affect the endgame route. Like other visual novels, the gameplay found in this title is not exhaustive nor is it meant to be. It’s meant to be played for the story and the funny character interactions.
The game starts off with the Common Route in the beginning, which then has branching routes leading to different endings. The game offers a very generous new game plus mode after completion of the game, where you can immediately choose which character’s route you want to see without needing to guess through convoluted choices. It’s definitely worth it to play through all of the character routes because each route is very different and has significant story content.
The character interactions are all much nuanced and the routes are definitely very distinct from one another. Each of the five male characters you help have their own quirks and each feel like a different personality. The writing in the game is very nice, it’s not Shakespeare of course but they really did the character interactions well. Even if you don’t like reading through books, listening to the voice actors and watching Lynette try to teach these men how to date properly is downright hilarious.
It’s also great to see a female protagonist who has an office job and Lynette is a real go-getter instead of a bystander. She really wants to do a good job to get a better position at her company. She truly wants to help the five men out, and she also wants to impress her father, Mars, that she looks up to.
There’s no cut-throat office politics in this game thankfully, and although the game addresses issues such as Japan’s declining birth rate and a lowering marriage rate, it thankfully doesn’t address any particularly sensitive issues in real life politics going on today.
There is an affinity system in the game. When Lynette interacts with other characters you are often presented with choices. These choices will affect her Love Level with these characters. If you answer options that another character likes and your Love Level increases, then Love Surge will appear, which are hearts that appear on the screen to indicate that the character you’re talking with likes your answers.
You can even turn off Love Surge for extra challenge in the game, but you’ll be playing it blindly without knowing if the character likes your responses or not! You’ll need your Love Level to exceed a certain threshold to get a route’s true ending, so we kept it on for our review.
Using the game menu, you can access the flowchart, which shows your progress of the game’s story. After completing events, you can replay them using a new save file, though you should save your current story progress as well as to not lose it.
As you progress through the story, you’ll also get dating questionnaires called the Love Match Test. In these events Lynette will be asked a series of “Yes or no” type questions, and your answers will help determine who your most ideal type of man is.
For example, some questions asked include “If you catch him looking at another woman, do you instantly get jealous?” and “Would you happily sacrifice yourself in order to give him whatever he desires”.
They’re personality quizzes and there’s not necessarily right or wrong answers. It plays a part, however, in affecting how the story branches in the endgame. As mentioned previously, after you complete the game you can just choose the story route you want to pursue without the need for ambiguous questionnaires, which is a big plus in my opinion because you can freely explore all the content and routes the game has to offer.
The game has very colorful artwork, expressed through both the characters and the background art. The game has wonderfully illustrated computer graphics (CGs) spread throughout the game in all of the routes.
The character designs are certainly top notch and I really liked how in different occasions the characters will dress differently, and all of the characters have such a wide wardrobe. Lynette in the left image above is doing laundry and has casual clothes at home, whereas she also has her work outfit that we see when she works as a bridal advisor. Having characters wear the same clothes all the time was one of my pet peeves when watching media.
It all is extremely light-hearted, with a little bit of drama sometimes, and playing this game can put you in a good mood. Since it’s on the Nintendo Switch, you can even have fun reading through scenes while you’re out and about. In the past you would have to take physical novels out to read while you were on a train, but now you can enjoy visual novels too from the comfort of your portable Switch.
The voice acting is all in Japanese, but even though it’s a foreign language, I can tell the voice actors/seiyuus did a great job. You can tell what’s going on through their tone and the pacing of their acting. Even from just listening to Japanese voice acting, I’ve learned a lot of phrases as well over the years.
I’ve mentioned earlier that the Parasite 5 all have their own quirks and flaws, and the voice actors do an outstanding job of making it apparent. Some of the characters sound childish, while others sound too serious on purpose. There was one extremely serious character who arrived an hour early for our date for instance.
As well, Lynette’s dad voiced by Satoshi Mikami did a really good job of portraying a stern father. The voice actors all really did a great job and put in the effort.
Even though I’m an older man, I enjoy visual novels and it looks like I enjoy otome games too, maybe even more than other kinds of visual novels!
It’s really great to see IFI bringing niche games such as this to the West. It’s been a while since their last otome localization, and I’m certainly looking forward to their next game.
UPDATE (December 20, 2021): The English patch (version 1.01) has been released for Cupid Parasite. After updating my copy of the game I had an opportunity to play through Raul and Ryuki’s routes (as well as the final secret route). All of the translation reads normally now and it feels like what you’d read in any other literature.
Before the patch the aforementioned routes had many machine-translated English lines with dozens of grammatical errors, awkward phrasing, and even wrong names being used in certain places. After playing the game today with the new patch, the routes have these errors corrected. As well, the text overflow mistakes have been fixed, and my game doesn’t crash anymore when opening the Log.
If you choose to purchase this game, make sure to connect your Nintendo Switch online and download the latest patch for the game, otherwise you may be playing with an outdated version of the game that has many translation errors and bugs present.