Genre: Visual Novel, Romance, Supernatural
Platform: iOS, Android
Release Date: March 20, 2019
Four guys. Mindlessly addictive item-collection gameplay. And an entertainment company that apparently has a penchant for documenting people with superpowers. These were the ingredients chosen to make the perfect otome. Well… Almost perfect. Game developer Elex accidentally added an extra ingredient into Mr Love: Dream Date — generic fillers. But did I mention ‘addictive’?
Note: This review focuses on the South East Asia version based on Chapters 1 to 14. Also, while it is generally free of major spoilers, it may not be entirely spoiler-free either.
Mr Love: Dream Date Knows the Way into Your Goddamn Heart (Maybe Even Wallet)
Elex is no newcomer. Based in Hong Kong, they boast one of the most active customer support for a mobile game, complete with highly engaging social network handlers. So it’s clear that we’re dealing with someone who knows their target demographic for Mr Love: Dream Date here. Many would also find the art style familiar. That’s probably because you’ve played Love Nikki.
The result is an insanely compelling game that makes you want to reach out for your phone to play it even if you’ve only got small pockets of free time. So what kind of sorcery are we dealing with here? Why is this game so hard to quit?
Fair warning: this otome does not have a complete story just yet – not one that’s officially been released to the public anyway. Those who hate cliffhangers and incomplete stories should probably steer clear of this one.
That aside, Mr Love: Dream Date is not entirely groundbreaking in terms of its story. It’s both driven by character and plot, but it’s simple enough for us to break it all down into:
Our main character is trying to save her late father’s company from ruin. In the middle of all that, four guys — Lucien, Gary, Victor, and Kiro — become evidently interested in her, and wildly enough, she appears to like all of them equally. Homegirl clearly wants to bone all four even if she denies it. But first, she has to deal with a string of strange and mysterious supernatural events that have her in mortal peril. The jury is out on whether she lives to be bonked into horny jail in the first place.
Thus far, we know that there are people with superpowers called Evol. The reason why remains unknown to us, of course, because they have to withhold this information long enough for everyone to throw money at them.
Overall, the plot itself holds little appeal to me. We’ve all seen this story several times before — from what we already know, it offers nothing new or special, and I couldn’t care less about it. If anything, for me, the main story is solely hard carried by one of its characters, their resident tsundere Victor. And that’s where the story shines.
Mr Love: Dream Date is oh-so-good at this. Especially when it comes to Victor. Oh, Victor. The main character wants to fight him half the time. Just like the main character, you’ll find him irritating, too, because he is. He’s a fucking menace. Victor is tsuntsun, so if you’re not into tsundere types, you will probably hate him. And he deserves that. But this game knows how to write a good tsundere and how to create romantic tension with one. They’ve birthed a character who has just enough asshole in him without turning him into a one-dimensional figure.
Moreover, out of the four characters, Victor has the most intriguing backstory with the main character. Apparently most of the guys share a past with her (what a coincidence!!), but neither Victor nor the MC seems to realise that they knew each other. Or at least Victor appears unsure. We see a lot of this explored in Chapter 10 onwards, where we see him allowing himself to be vulnerable around the main character in the most devastating way as he starts to question his feelings and connection to her.
What’s great about Victor is that his asshole qualities are central to his character, but they aren’t irredeemable or in the wrong end of the good vs evil spectrum. Many of his traits actually come from a place of goodness. He’s brutally honest because he sticks to his belief in quality, and that is exactly what he brings out in the MC. After all, Victor is a major influencing factor behind MC’s transformation into a more confident head of a company. And he’s not all asshole either. Early in the game, the MC is surprised when someone speaks so positively of Victor because how is it possible for such an asshole be anything but that? But of course, there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s also filthy rich, which really completes the ultimate boyfriend fantasy.
I can’t say that I’m as fond of the other three main guys as Victor, but it’s clear that the creators know what they’re doing with their characterisation, too. Each character is distinct and designed to appeal. I’ll steer away from giving away too much, but there’s a villain with grey areas in at least one of four. And I know very well how y’all love sad, tragic villains from my days in Thor fandom. Meanwhile, fans of the friends-to-lovers trope would probably eat up Gary’s storyline. It’s a trope that I personally enjoy, too, but it’s eclipsed by my love for banter.
Ironically, the MC probably experiences the least (or the slowest) character development among them. Don’t get me wrong, she certainly does have personality and doesn’t take Victor’s shit lying down (without losing his funding), which makes interacting with Victor more satisfying. She’s her own person and quite faithfully reflects the everyday struggles of a woman trying to do her job. But the only individual growth she goes through so far is in her career, and even that is tied in with her need to prove Victor wrong. It would be nice to see more in this regard, but I can see a case for the fact that this is, after all, heterosexual romance. The story is still ongoing, so we’ll see.
Aside from that, I have my gripes with how they write about the way MC acts around Lucien. Her answers to him often make her sound like a kid, and he even admits how much he likes that aspect of her. It’s arguably more to do with ‘the inner child’, but the parallels between his treatment of her and the kids at the orphanage leave an inexplicable taste in my mouth.
I would also like to see more interactions between MC and other female characters. Why doesn’t she have a female friend outside of work? She’s a bit of a workaholic and seemingly a bit of a homebody, but as a workaholic and homebody myself, I still text my friends, even if I don’t always meet them in person. She seems to meet the guys much more often than anyone else. And while it’s true that some women do have more male friends, I personally would like to see the creators explore female friendship. It’s great that the game does not demonise all other female characters, and MC does have her friend Anna, but we see less and less of her as the story progresses. So I’d like to throw down the gauntlet before the creators: develop the friendships between MC and other female characters.
Mr Love: Dream Date doesn’t follow the more common otome gameplay with multiple routes. The player chooses how the main character responds in the main story from a few options, but our choices don’t change any aspects of the overarching story. Instead, they merely determine how the characters immediately respond to you. But no matter what choices you take, each player goes through the exact same chapters within one route. Of course, having said all that, the story isn’t finished, so it could very well branch off into different routes in the future. I would be fine with either, but god knows that I would love a Victor route.
So then you might ask: since our choices do very little, what exactly do you do with this game? What does it have to offer?
Answer: Unlockable content from side-events as well as daily and weekly quests. You can only gain access to unlockable content by collecting enough items. The game has several types of items:
- Currency (for exchanging with other items)
- Karma cards
- Expert cards
- Power-up items
- Unlock items
So yes, essentially this runs on a ticket system. Most people find the ticket system that is commonplace in mobile otome frustrating, but this is where the game cleverly hooks you in. Basically, you can film an episode to collect items with 100 hearts that refill automatically, one heart at a time, every five minutes. You can then use these items that you’ve collected to power up karma cards. These cards can then be used in several aspects of the game, including:
- Earning the full three stars for a particular chapter to unlock achievement rewards
- Beating other players’ karma cards in the Box Office Contest and 24hr Challenge
- Earning expert cards from City News to strengthen your company
100 hearts is quite a generous number in itself, but there are also two timings in which you can get free Stamina:
On top of that, oftentimes you can redeem codes that are given out on official social media accounts to earn more of these items for free. Speaking of their social media accounts, besides giving out freebies, their handlers are pretty good at engaging their audience. Kudos to their social media team.
But seriously, these freebies reel you in. It’s way too easy to get hooked on the euphoria of unlocking new content. What’s more, the creators keep adding new features, which means that you almost never run out of things to do unless you have way too much free time on your hands. If you do, you’re a lucky bastard. Feel free to splurge on in-game purchases to play to your heart’s content. The game even has ASMR for the love of god. Is it even possible to run out of content?
Taking a stab in the dark here, but music probably does not comprise a large part of the game’s budget. Your mileage may vary but while the soundtrack may initially please newcomers, its limited selection can get tiring over time. That’s not to say that its soundtrack falls completely flat. Its aurally inoffensive offerings do complement each part of the game. One of the most striking tunes is the delicate piano piece that plays in the background of its homepage.
But the main problem with the music, though, is not a complete absence of appeal. Instead, it’s a combination of flavourless genericness and repetitiveness that sounds grating once you’ve been playing it for a while, depending on your tolerance level. You’re better off playing this otome with the music switched off before you reach that point. Luckily, we’re able to toggle the music off from the settings.
Mr Love: Dream Date lives up to its theme with its soft dream-like background art style. The airy light colour palettes definitely add points to the visual aspect of its selling point as escapist reprieve from real life. What it does best is its character art.
It’s obvious that above all, the ultimate otome boyfriend experience needs appealing character art to succeed, and Mr Love has that in spades. Love the tall, dark, handsome vibe? Victor is the one for you, with a razor-sharp gaze and equally sharp suits. If you’re the type to be drawn into uncovering the secrets behind a mysterious smile, there’s Lucien.
And then on the complete opposite end of the spectrum is pop idol Kiro whose sunny disposition is translated into larger eyes and blonde locks. Finally, we have Gary, who initially appears fierce and intimidating in one moment but gentle and kind in the next. His character design has a tinge of that boy-next-door aesthetic, softened by light brown hair.
Hell, they’ve even got distinctive character designs for all side characters, even the random policeman nobody cares about.
I will say, though, that there are times when Lucien and Victor look way too similar to each other. I’ve confused both for each other at least a couple of times now, especially in scenes where Victor’s not in his usual suit or Lucien’s out of his lab coat. This slight lack of distinction is probably the game’s biggest weakness in terms of character art. But again, the story isn’t done yet. For all we know, Lucien and Victor were from the same test tube or something.
Not all mobile otome offer more than one choice of voice language. But Mr Love lets you choose from three different languages:
Depending on where you are, English may be its default language — and unfortunately so. I find the English-speaking actors awkward and generally uncomfortable to listen to. You would have to change the game settings if you want to listen to the other voice actors. Click on your avatar and select Voice Language under System Settings to take your pick.
With the exception of Kiro’s voice actor, I would have to say that the Japanese voice pack is the best among all of them. They managed to wrangle Sugita Tomokazu into voicing Victor — of course it’s bound to slay. He alone carries the voice pack. His voice acting adds so much to Victor as a character, and it’s not only because of his deep timbre. There’s so much depth in his portrayal of Victor as he switches from cold tsuntsun bossman to a more tender tone to just a regular boy who loves the simple pudding. I fell in love, mum. He hard carries my rating for voice acting. Everyone else gets a range of 2 to 7 on a scale of 1 to 10; he gets a 100.
Sadly, they don’t seem to feature the Japanese voice actors in all of the newer features, including the latest chapters at the time of this posting. That’s tragic because I’m so taken by Sugita’s voice acting here that I don’t think I’ll ever care for any other version of Victor.
This game is created and headed by a team of evil geniuses. That’s the only legitimate explanation for why it is so goddamn addictive. Item-collection games are designed to hook players in psychologically by encouraging them to collect all the items necessary to unlock more content. But it’s such a winning combination of sufficiently mindless yet highly addictive gameplay, engaging use of social media, as well as appealing character art. Overall, Mr Love: Dream Date is fun mindless entertainment. Flaws aside, Victor makes this game for me, and if you enjoy visual novels, chances are, you’ll love at least one character (if you like men), provided you don’t lose your shit over cliffhangers.
The game now also comes with an anime adaptation, by the way. All the Japanese voice actors reprise their roles in this one, which means we get the superior Victor. Stay tuned for a review.