It’s the War and Peace of romance visual novels, in that it took me two months to finish it.
Usually I can reach a reviewable state for an otome in a week to ten days, so Cupid Parasite holds a dubious distinction as the longest review for a short game I’ve ever done. Between waiting for a patch that apparently took three weeks to get through Nintendo lotcheck and not really having time to clear it before my holiday travels, it took roughly two months for me to get to the point of putting fingers to keyboard. Was it worth it? Hard to say, as a decent romance story is held back by questionable controls and editing issues even post-patch.
Cupid Parasite is largely set in the city of Los York, which is meant to be an amalgamation of major American cities (one prominent landmark is a “Silver Gate Bridge”). Our heroine - default name Lynette Mirror - is ostensibly a “bridal advisor” at the matchmaking agency Cupid Corporation, but is actually the company’s namesake in an attempt to stick it to her father. She is challenged with marrying off five of Cupid Corp’s least attractive male members (the “Parasite 5”) whose obsessions make them completely unsuitable for a typical relationship. Each suitor is designed to represent one of the types of the color-wheel theory of love, which is honestly something I never knew about before starting. There’s a large group of side characters both named and otherwise, who end up all coming into play during at least one of the romances, but the suitors show some neat depth when it comes time for their personal stories. Although the game is set in what is supposed to be the US, some of the terminology used (“share house”, most notably) felt a little out of place in the story. I did appreciate the writing around trademarks the game employs, as it’s definitely set in the modern day with “Instergrimm”, “Wackypedia”, and other forms of social media all being included.
There aren’t numbered chapters in Cupid Parasite as seen in other visual novels, but I suspect the opening act (pre-route split) path is the longest I’ve played in years. Despite that, there’s not really many chances to start down the love paths; by my count there’s maybe two chances per suitor before the split. A lot was made in the pre-launch about the “Love Match Test,” which shows what romantic path you’re supposed to be targeting, but good luck determining that based on 14 yes-or-no questions without a guide. Second playthroughs allow a love type to be directly chosen; it’s worth taking advantage of if you’re looking to see everything. Three options are available by default for the ending, with the remaining suitors unlocking upon clearing the first three and the sixth love type only unlocking upon getting the best ending on all five suitors (and notably, having no choices whatsoever). The first three routes tend to be more grounded in reality, while the last three let the mythological freak flag fly at full mast and get a little exhausting at points.
If this review had come out even a couple of days ago, it would have been based on the launch version 1.0.0 and I would be ripping it a new one on the technical aspects. There were two routes that I played in the launch version that seemingly had a typo every other line, it was frequently unclear if the text was speech or inner monologue, and the game would occasionally freeze for a few seconds longer than normal in a scene or text transition. The 1.0.1 patch re-edited the two questionable routes, though more typos than I would have expected came up on the other routes anyway. The default controls also were unclear: it took quite a while to locate quick save and load, the text log is found by hitting up on the left analog, and I frequently unintentionally swapped between “all skip” and “read skip” while reading in handheld (which is how about ¾ of the game played out).
I do have to give credit to Cupid Parasite as Los York is one of the most colorful settings I’ve seen in a novel game. Even my sister-in-law was impressed when she happened to catch a glimpse of it. The city’s bursting with life, and though there are common backgrounds, they cycle through enough of them that it didn’t really get boring. The characters are incredibly attractive in both genres, though perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the Roman gods are more attractive than the suitors. This includes our protagonist. The music didn’t really stand out much, though I did admit to being surprised when the original English tracks from the Japanese version were kept intact for a newscaster character. I shouldn’t have been; every single Otomate game on Switch is in Japanese voice only, and this is no exception.
Now that a third of the game isn’t enough to make my inner English teacher want to have someone at the publisher see me after class, I think there’s a decent effort in Cupid Parasite. There’s still typos which I’m becoming more sensitive to, and the controls are a bit irritating if you’re trying to do anything beyond advancing text, but it’s a unique take on the legends of Cupid.