My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom: Pirates of the Disturbance Review – Adrift at Sea with Handsome Boys

    Title: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom: Pirates of the Disturbance
    Developer: studio51
    Release Date: November 28, 2023
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Idea Factory International
    Genre: Otome, Adventure

Otome games based on anime or light novel IPs are rather uncommon in Japan. Doubly so with how many titles have never gotten a Western release due to all the licensing difficulties involved. But when Idea Factory International announced the release of the otome game based on the My Next Life as a Villainess light novel series, I was surprised, being the first licensed otome game to hit the Western market. But is it a worthy title or just a love letter? Before we get into the review, though, this contains some rather minor spoilers in the Prologue and Chapter 1.

Introduction: All Aboard the Vinculum

In My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom: Pirates of the Disturbance, which I’m going to just abbreviate to merely Pirates of the Disturbance, you play as the protagonist of the series, Catarina Claes. After a flu affected her mother and father, she was tasked to attend the social party that would be held on the maiden voyage of the Vinculum, a luxurious cruise ship built as a collaboration between two kingdoms: Quid and Sorcier. However, Catarina is not alone on this trip. In fact, the entire cast of the anime is here in full form, all with their own reasons to board the ship. And so begins their one-week voyage aboard.

If you’ve perhaps never read or watched the original My Next Life as a Villainess series, the game sort of tries to explain the events to you in the form of flashbacks that take place across the common route. However, some of these feel like very rushed explanations as the narrative frantically tries to disconnect itself from the series’ main timeline. In fact, the first thing you’ll ever see upon hitting New Game is a disclaimer saying that the story and narrative of this game is an alternative timeline and has no connection to the anime or the light novels.

A Rather Predictable Romance

There are six routes in total in Pirates of the Disturbance, with the initial four being reserved for the cast of the anime: Nicol, Geordo, Alan, and Keith. The two original characters of this game, Silva and Rozy, also have routes of their own, but you must clear any of the initial four in order to play their routes. Personally, the romance in the routes felt rather predictable to a certain degree, and part of that I felt was mostly due to how some of the side characters tend to behave.

It almost felt like their only purpose, if any, was to just be there to push Catarina into falling in love with someone, with the events that occur being rather predictable at times. In fact, my favorite routes ended up being Rozy and Silva, the two new original characters, simply because their routes brought something completely new and fresh to the table, especially considering that they have an interesting backstory that can only be explored through the game. Still, the image cutscenes have a really nice art style, and they look especially stunning on an OLED screen. The character sprites are also rather expressive, and the voice acting, including Catarina’s own voice, are really well-done and express well the scenario.

Memory Scenarios: A Cute Extra

Don’t get me wrong, the routes of the main cast of the series, such as Alan and Nicol, had well-executed plot lines. Still, when you consider how Catarina already has a pre-established relationship with all four of them, the story and its romance will sometimes fail to “wow” you, simply because of the established relationships that you will be introduced to in the first chapters.

Throughout each route, some of the character dialogue will trigger a Memory Scenario, signaled by a book icon in the top left. These can be viewed later from the title screen’s Special menu or by tapping the book icon in Handheld Mode and offer some additional insight into certain events from the game. Unfortunately, these are just text-based scenarios with some voice acting, which disappointed me when I went to check them out, as I would’ve at least wanted a scene with the character sprites.

Lacking Translation Quality and Features

Being a licensed IP game, I had high expectations for the translation, especially with how the Next Life as a Villainess series is known for its comedic banter. Unfortunately, there are many times when the text contains awkward grammar tenses and odd spacing. Furthermore, some chapter names have such a direct-sounding translation that they don’t make much sense. It’s definitely not egregious enough to make you stop playing, but I do wish they’d have done a bit more editing or done some language quality assurance to the script.

Pirates of the Disturbance’s features also don’t really stand out from the crowd, with the lack of elements such as a Flowchart or maybe a Dictionary to help you get accustomed to some of the terminology utilized in the My Next Life as a Villainess series. The prologue is also unskippable from your second playthrough and onwards. It just felt like a lot of missed opportunities on what they could’ve done with these characters, given that they wanted to, once again, disconnect the events of the game with the light novel or the anime.

A Nice Love Letter to Fans of the Series

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom: Pirates of the Disturbance serves as a delightful homage to series fans. However, it falls short as an otome game. Despite its attempt to distance itself from the main series, its narrative occasionally feels predictable. The only saving grace lies in the brand-new characters with their distinctive backstories and traits. Though the translation quality falters, if you’re eager to witness more of Catarina’s humorous escapades, you can still enjoy the game and its comedic romance.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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