If You Love Me, Then Say So Review – So Many Paths to the Heart

    Title: If You Love Me, Then Say So
    Developer: Chaublesoft
    Release Date: December 13, 2018
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: MangaGamer
    Genre: Eroge

Relationships are a tricky thing to manage in media. If they don’t exist from the onset, any new relationships can change the dynamic of a story. This is generally why lots of stories don’t really get characters together until the end, it minimizes the effort required.

So when MangaGamer comes in with one of their latest titles, Chaublesoft’s If You Love Me, Then Say So, touting an innovative system with “countless branching paths”, “enormous freedom to choose how you spend your time” and a confessions system that lets you choose “when to take the plunge” I become just a bit curious as to how this game is going to be structured. After all, how do you tell a story when you can change what you’re doing on the fly? As it turns out it’s easier than it sounds as well as quite a bit of fun.

If You Love Me, Then Say So stars Souta Hatsuaki, our high school protagonist with a penchant for cooking and gardening. His story starts when he gets roped into trying to fulfill the “Legend of Harekita Academy”, a very recently concocted myth about a fairy allegedly living in the dormant apple tree in the back garden. If one was to take a bite of one of these apples, then any wish you want can be granted.

He decides to humor his classmates, much to his chagrin, as he tends to the apple tree only to be greeted by an actual fairy calling itself QP. QP comes with a grave warning, Souta will meet and fall in love with a girl over summer vacation. However, if this happens, he will also lose the two things he values most in the world. QP offers Souta a hand in stopping this from occurring, by trying to help him get a girlfriend before summer vacation starts, which he exasperatingly, eventually accepts.

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It’s here the game opens up to you. You’re able to pick and choose from a selection of events each day for Souta to take part in. At first glance, it sounds like standard dating sim fair, but it’s actually quite a bit more in-depth than just the typical “invite this girl out to this place”. All of the events in If You Love Me, Then Say So are actually written out scenarios, so you get to see the characters hang out and interact while doing stupid stuff with each other, you know, just like actual high schoolers.

Well for the most part. This being an eroge leads to several scenarios being an excuse for lewd CGs, but you can easily forgive these if they happen to annoy you due to the sheer number of scenarios and events. They’re mostly well written and range from character expansion to comedy gold. From what I’ve seen, there are well over a hundred of these things, and those are just the ones split between the three main heroines. It’s also flat-out impossible to see all of the events for just one heroine, in one playthrough, which makes replays extremely varied and fun.

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At the end of each week, the game puts in you “My Room” mode. From there you can access the help menu or use QP’s love fortune to see how far you’re at and use things called “Cupid Flowers”. Interestingly, in the game’s help section, QP states that pursuing a girl was made difficult to encourage replayability, which I was initially disdainful of. I did however quickly change my mind on that when I found out how the mechanics work.

As you improve your relationship with the heroines, QP gives you the aforementioned Cupid Flowers when you sleep. These flowers carry across to other playthroughs and allow you to toggle the current state of Souta’s relationship with the heroine. So while the first playthroughs of going after a certain heroine may take a while, it’s a lot of fun going through other variations of the same scenarios.

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With that said, this wouldn’t work if the main heroines weren’t well written. While the three seem to stem from basic tropes, the game adds some other traits to them individualize them a bit more. You have, Yuki, the childhood friend, who is also a comedian who makes jokes so dirty, they’d leave a sailor blushing, there’s also Ayame, the rich fish out of the water who isn’t as much a fish out of the water that her first appearance would imply, and lastly there’s Mahiru, the classical tsundere, who happens to be Souta’s ex-girlfriend which brings its own bag of connotations. The supporting cast is mostly solid too with Yuki’s friend Eri being notable for getting a great chain of development despite lacking a romance route. Aoi, on the other hand, is notable for being a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen and that’s…not good.

The writing of the routes themselves is no slouch either, its quality jumping when you enter a character’s route and extra additions are made to the routes if you start them earlier.  If you pick the game up, be on the lookout for events marked with a (!), as these generally have continuations that sometimes even tie into certain romance routes. There is a lot of wordplay in the script too, so you’ve gotta give a big hand to the translators for their phenomenal work. Localizing a title of this size is a massive task and they did an impeccable job.

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For those more interested in the visual part of the visual novel, the art is fantastic. Each character has a range of poses and expressions that, coupled with the voice acting, really helps the cast feel alive. The background graphics are absolutely top notch and I love the way some locations are colored and shaded for different times of the day. The art quality does carry across to the h-scenes, and some bright spark decided to have at least one CG animated per route. They’re quite minor but the animations are so fluid you can’t even tell where the keyframes are!

Unfortunately, Souta does get a bit shafted, as he lacks a voice and is generally non-existence in CG art. I am very much aware that this is the standard for these games, but just because it’s the standard doesn’t mean I have to like it. Souta really would have benefitted from some extra character treatment because he’s actually a really interesting protagonist. He has goals and hobbies that are his and his alone, he actively works at a cafe on-screen during the story which is rather rare in fiction and lacks many pervy traits a protagonist of this style of game would generally have. The devs have the audacity to lampshade the game’s flaws regarding him which makes things a bit more bearable. And believe me, do they go about lampshading this in the best possible way.

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If You Love Me, Then Say So’s UI is something of a masterpiece. Everything is bright and laid out in an understandable fashion and the lighter colored hues the game uses for the text box help keep the adorably cute tone. Tall menus don’t just have an ordinary scroll bar, they have a scroll bar over a tinier version of the menu! I just think that’s really neat. You can even scroll through the save slots if you want as opposed to picking a folder and for some reason, it’s really satisfying to use. The ability to leave a note on your save file is also an impeccable design choice and more games should do this. You also unlock the ability to change your title screen when you enter into any of the heroine’s routes. Each unlocks changes the system voice, the visuals, and the music. The music of this game is actually really good and if they ever release it on disc (which is very unlikely but) I’d be highly likely to import a copy.

At first glance, I expected If You Love Me, Then Say So to be a standard eroge with a gimmick that seemed cool but could also turn out to be fairly standard. I did not expect, however, for the game to blow me away with its visual substance and a script that entices you to replay the game over and over for hours on end until you’ve grabbed nearly every last CG. If you like playing eroge, and/or want something with low-stress fun, ‘If You Love Me, Then Say So’ is absolutely worth your time.

Score:
9/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jacob Kavanagh

Staff Writer - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so he can buy more murder mysteries. @JacobPFZE on twitter