Let’s talk about Dandelion.
So, I spent most of yesterday doing something I’d never thought I would do.
I played a dating sim, and I spent the entire day on it. And I’m likely to spend even more time with it.
For me it all started with me deciding I’d check out some of the “anime bullshit” on Dodger’s channel, so I went through her and Crendor’s playthrough of RE:Alistair and then went on to her and Cry’s ongoing playthrough of Dandelion. And after seeing the entire playthrough with Jiwoo, I wanted to check it out myself because I got curious about the other characters.
The game Dandelion – Wishes Brought to You is made by Cheritz, and it’s a Korean dating sim. At first glance it looks a tad silly, I mean, it has catboys and bunnyboys as love interests, and the premise that these cats and bunnies have been transported from their own (fantasy) world(s?) to our own to participate in a “game of love” for a chance of their own wishes to come true is rather… Far fetched. Or so it seems at first glance at least.
And it does have its drawbacks. The gameplay mechanics in themselves are very stale, it’s basically a little bit more limited point-and-click with matching the right statements/gifts for the right person (or in this case, the right cat or bunny) to fill up their “love meter”. In addition everything is basically on rails as you go through day after day and events happen on certain days in the year.
It has sort of a small “mini-RNG-game” in the “look around” option that you can choose while out on a date, which will basically allow you a chance to collect stamps of the particular boy you’re on a date with as well as a chance of finding things to gift them with (or sell, depending on what you find). But as I mentioned, it’s purely random what shows up, though you can up your chances on finding decent stuff by buying the “eyesight medicine”. And it can easily be “gamed” by quick saving just before you click the option and if you don’t get anything useful just reload and try again.
Despite stale mechanics I spent an entire day (and counting) on it, so why is it compelling?
Well, for one, the graphics are quite pretty and in some cases quirky. But mostly for me it’s actually the writing.
Because while all five of the boys are playing off of stereotypes and Heejung, our protagonist, is dumb as bricks, the story and characters are still compelling. And despite the supernatural tone of cat- and bunnyboys, wizards and magic, there’s still something very real about it all. It does bring up the pressure of always trying to be perfect for someone else, the stress of trying your best and not knowing if it’s really what you yourself want etc. It brings up trying to figure out what you wish for, trying to figure out what makes you happy. It has a lot of themes in there and as far as I can tell, it handles them all pretty nicely. Except for possibly the protagonist not understanding the most obvious comments in history. I did say she’s as dumb as a brick and when it comes to anything related to love, the boys or physical closeness she really is.
Some of the boys are written in a way that is quite abrasive, they’re forceful, not exactly nice (Jiwoo, I’m looking at you, you dumb-ass) and sometimes just over the top. And then you have the other side of the spectrum in two of them, one who happens to be silly chivalrous and one who’s actually close to underage. But it all works. It’s all handled in a way that despite Jiwoo acting like a bastard for 80-90% of the game, you still sort of like him. And the other thing that I love about it is that they all have reasons to be how they are as far as I can tell. I haven’t seen the entirety of Jisoo’s and Jiyeon’s paths yet, but judging from what I’ve seen of Jiwoo, Hijae and Jieun the backgrounds are nicely crafted.
Oh, and I mentioned that one was underage or close to it and I must admit I were a bit apprehensive when I started romancing him. But, without spoiling anything in case you want to check out his story yourselves, it’s actually really nicely done, and so far it’s one of my favorite endings!
Another really nice part about the game is that despite the mechanics being kinda meh, the boys stories are woven together enough that there’s actual replay value. There are a bunch of similar scenes between them, but they all play out slightly differently depending on who you’re going for, so once you’ve gotten past the first part of the game and started actively pursuing one or the other of the boys, things will start to be different.
All in all, this game surprised me. I’ve never really watched a Let’s Play and then immediately had to pick up the game myself, but I was itching to check out Jihae’s story arc after seeing Dodger and Cry finish of Jiwoo’s story arc. And right now, I’m actually glad I did, because for whatever reason, this game has got me reflecting on my own life (I recognize myself a fair bit in Heejung’s struggle with doing what she thinks she’s supposed to be doing versus what she would want to do), my relationships (both romantically and otherwise) and, yes, my attitude towards housework.