Some people say that true love is boring. To watch a happy, lovey-dovey couple go through a perfect romance does very little to entertain the masses looking for romantic development or personal growth. When romantic stories come to mind, one is likely to expect the build-up to the inevitable, climactic establishment of loving union, though rarely does it ever go past that fact. This is the type of story I fully expected with Loca-Love, and to my surprise, it both adhered to the standard practice of romantic stories and deviated from the norm.
What I also expected was something fluffy and light, something I felt in need of after some grim and/or serious gaming scenarios took a lot out of me. Here, Loca-Love fulfilled with the most admirable of fluff, color-coated in sweet, soft colors that brings in the viewer with grace and kindness. However, some also say that you can't have too much of a great thing—and with this I would have to disagree. Loca-Love takes every step to ensure an atmosphere of sexual tension and romantic intoxication. When that becomes the entire experience, it becomes self-serving to a nauseous degree, thwarting whatever direction it could've taken for the safety of emotional bliss.
Loca-Love My Cute Roommate is available on Steam for your regional pricing.
The player is Ichitaro, an unassuming young man who lives on his own and is desperate for love. After returning from visiting a local shrine, he soon discovers his apartment has burned down, leaving him homeless for an uncertain amount of time. Desperate now for love and a roof, Ichitaro decides to head to work to take his mind off of it, and because he's working with the beautiful Kojika. After their shift, Kojika unexpectedly offers him to take up residence in her home, leading to the enviable situation of teenagers of the opposite sex living under one roof. This becomes the focal point of all that comes afterward, whether good or bad (though normally very good).
With reviewing visual novels, critiquing the story becomes difficult, as it is the main purpose of the game, such that the major narrative is comprised of surprises and situations that many would rather learn for themselves that basic controls in standard games don't carry. For that sake, this review will feature general observations of the story, but I'll do my best to not specify any "important" details.
To begin, let me state that this game may just not be for me. Despite finding the desire to partake in a cute, fluffy game, Loca-Love is not only too fluffy, but also too lax in its writing capabilities. While the main scenario is basic enough fodder for romantics, what's to follow is divided into the most cookie-cutter and vapid sequence of events I've seen in a long while. The game is split up into three parts (from my point): the building tension, the budding relationship, and the ending. If one were to split these parts into a pie chart, it would likely be 40-45-15, respectively. What these three parts consist of is what makes this game so insufferable to me.
The "building tension" is when Ichitaro and Kojika are in the beginning stages of living together. Most of it consists of the self-defeating thoughts and anxieties of both characters, who question the intent of each other's kindness. Despite heavy evidence that the two are romantically interested in one another, there is a long (relative to the game's total length) delay in simply getting across their feelings for one another. Even with the delay, it remains the most interesting part of the game's story, where the suspense of the characters' feelings (albeit obvious to 99% of players) becomes a constant challenge to conceal or inhibit, depending on the circumstances. This build-up to an eventual emotional reveal made for simple, but dedicated immersion.
Then, an… unexpected situation occurred that led to the most painful of parts to the game's story.
The "budding relationship" is when Ichitaro and Kojika eventually reveal their feelings for one another and form a romantic relationship. As implied earlier, Loca-Love is one of the rare examples of the couple's union being done prior to the story's end, leading to a number of different directions the game could've taken to produce something interesting or insightful. In short, it didn't, but there's more to it than simply doing nothing outside of what was expected. The formula for this part of the game, which is the longest span of chapters in the game (or it felt like it), consists of a one-two punch of Ichitaro and Kojika doing something romantic and/or trivial (or both) that eventually leads to the two having sex. There is no tension, no disagreements, no fights, no conflict, no dilemmas; nothing. Ichitaro and Kojika have a blast being the perfect couple and capping the night off exploring each other's perfect bodies, salivating into each other's perfect souls as they ravish in their perfect situation.
It's too much. Too much nothing to care for, and too much gaudy glorification to think that any of it could be real. Ichitaro and Kojika aren't strong enough as characters on their own to keep the game steady with its rocky writing, and their chemistry together makes them even more bland. It was around this part of the game (outside the mindless sex scenes) where I began to voluntarily skim dialogue rather than trying to take the words in. There was little reason to; I figured they were simply falling all over each other's amazingness and they wouldn't do or say anything outside of a lovestruck fool's persona, only to be proven right multiple times. With this being the longest (probably) portion of the game, it leaves the biggest impression, unfortunately coating the sugary atmosphere with a sour blanket of disdain.
The "ending" is as I've put it. Loca-Love's final chapter is the only attempt to break the carefree tone since the beginning of the "budding relationship" part, though doesn't get any points for originality. Credit should be given for having the story bring the two lovers back to reality, though the means in which it does so is not only incredibly cheesy, but actually had me questioning the logic of a certain character involved. I suppose the ending isn't necessarily "bad," just that I think there should've been more time to develop the same kind of build-up (it was pretty abrupt) that was dedicated to the pairing of the two leads.
Now that the glazy exterior of the game's whole has been brushed from the chest, there's one other thing about the story that had me somewhat taken aback. There's… not really much to the game. I managed to complete it within three hours (granted I skipped some dialogue during sex scenes), and of those three hours, nearly half the game features Ichitaro and Kojika playing around within their relationship. So, really, what exactly is this game trying to be? What is its appeal, its goal? The best solution I could come up with was to have the player fit within the shoes of Ichitaro and enjoy the luxury of having a super-cute girlfriend who is perfect in their domesticity, physical appeal, sexual appetite, and loyalty to their partner. Again, not really my thing.
As with most visual novels, the input from the player is not expected to be very extensive. In the case of Loca-Love, it classifies as a kinetic novel, therefore choices are not implemented into the game's narrative, thus the player can only click, click, click. Because of this, what's to follow within this heading will not be long, though there are certain things about the game that apply to some measure of gameplay—that is, something that the game doesn't really specify.
About 95% of the screentime of this game will be from Ichitaro or Kojika's perspective. There is, however, two other characters that have enough importance to include detailed character models and voices, but play very little role in the main story. This led me to believe that Loca-Love would give me the choice to pursue or interact with other characters throughout the story, only to find out that they're severly underutilized. Why not bring these characters more into the fray? Not simply as a means for gameplay capabilities such as routes or choices, but as characters that can provide an extra perspective or a deviation from the monotonous sugary tone. It's something I wish was better implemented, even if I think their inclusion would do little to alleviate the mood.
Graphics & Audio
By far the most spectacular and positive thing about this game is in its production values. If the writing doesn't do much for you in instilling that sweet and attractive quality, the artwork definitely will. Character designs (for female characters, obviously) are absolutely splendid, with such attention to detail that makes every stroke a quality part of the entire beauty. Even sillier moments within the story, accompanied by chibi versions of the characters involved, brought a small smile to my face at how energetic and goofy the situations were. Frankly, if Loca-Love wanted to be a comedy, I think it could definitely pull it off better than… whatever it's supposed to be now. Vibrant, bouncy, soft and cuddly; all are terms that can be used to describe the aesthetic value of the game.
Also featured is a varied set-up of background tracks and an animated intro theme with lots of anime-esque appeal. While not nearly as powerful as the general visual design, the sound design does enough to keep itself level with the quality of the images attached to it. Again, production values are this game's calling cards, and together they make a very nice-looking and nice-sounding lullaby, one that puts me right to sleep. My favorite moments with the sound design were, again, during the goofier moments of the game's story, which featured stock sound effects and over-the-top vocal performances that produced a great zany vibe. When dramatic, it's standard fare. Nothing to complain about at all.
No matter how cute the roommate may be, Loca-Love My Cute Roommate serves as whipped cream on top of a mountain of whipped cream in terms of substance. Repetitive, vapid, and completely safe, it does nothing to differentiate itself from other romance stories, nor does it try to implement any challenge to the wonderful fantasy it swells the player in throughout. Even if recommendable to those willing to accept a chocolate factory of sweetness, those looking for any sort of ambition, creativity, or irony will be forced to continue searching.
|+ The first major part of the story is fine||– The second major part of the story is boring and repetitive|
|+ Production values are fantastic||– Main characters have little individual personality and bland chemistry|
|– Too much fluff, not enough substance|
|– Underutilized minor characters|