Bound by Love Chains: A Look at the ‘Forced Romance’ Trope in Visual Novels



Bound by Love Chains: A Look at the ‘Forced Romance’ Trope in Visual Novels

Who hasn’t been on a first date where the other party is already picking out wedding china while you’re awkwardly trying to remember their name? Welcome to the Forced Romance trope in the world of visual novels, where love just can’t take a hint.

Now, visual novels and choices go together like peanut butter and jelly, a classic combo. They present a delightful array of paths, each leading to distinct adventures. However, it seems the menu at ‘Café Amour’ only serves one special – the Forced Romance. You’re free to choose any character you like…as long as it’s THIS one. So much for the buffet of options, right?

This trope is like being on a romantic roller coaster with a one-way ticket. Sure, who doesn’t love a thrilling ride where you’re strapped in, heading straight for Lover’s Lane, even if you intended to get off three stops ago at ‘Just Friends Junction’?

Let’s embark on a little journey down memory lane of visual novels. Recall in ‘Hakuoki’ when the brooding yet compelling Hijikata Toshizo seemed hellbent on sweeping the protagonist off her feet, despite the player’s interest in other samurais in the Shinsengumi? His passion came off stronger than his katana skills!

Or consider the beloved classic ‘Mystic Messenger’, where the charismatic and wealthy Jumin Han keeps pursuing the player’s affections, regardless of the fact that the player might be more invested in bantering with the fun-loving 707. It’s almost as if Jumin’s cat, Elizabeth III, has less say in her daily menu than players do in selecting their love interest.

These scenarios perfectly illustrate the feeling of boarding the Love Express, only to find out that it’s a non-stop ride to ‘Romance Central,’ bypassing ‘Platonic Plaza’ altogether.”

Why do developers do this, you might ask? Well, it’s kind of like setting up your two single friends because you think they’d look cute together – no matter how much they protest! It could be because it’s easier to write a love story when you’ve already decided who’s falling in love. It could also be because developers have a preferred narrative they want players to explore. Either way, it’s akin to playing cupid with a machine gun, shooting love arrows willy-nilly.

But let’s not jump the gun here. Forced romance can sometimes be like a blind date that surprisingly goes well. There can be genuine appeal to a predetermined love interest. It can provide a well-rounded, coherent narrative that develops characters and relationships in ways that free-choice romance might not. It’s a bit like an arranged marriage, but with pixels. You start out skeptical but then you find yourself saying, “Well, they do have a nice smile…”

However, like a persistent suitor who showers you with roses when you’re allergic to flowers, the forced romance trope has its drawbacks. It takes away the player’s sense of agency, making their choices feel irrelevant. It’s like being at a karaoke bar and being handed the lyrics to a song you didn’t choose. Sure, you can still belt out a tune, but wouldn’t it be more fun if you could pick the song yourself?

In conclusion, developers, consider this: the next time you think of hitching our protagonist to a mandatory love interest, remember – not every player wants to be serenaded under the balcony at midnight. Some of us just want a casual chat over a cup of coffee, no wedding bells necessary.

As for the players, let’s embrace the wild ride that visual novels offer, even if it means occasionally fending off unasked-for affections. So, the next time you embark on a new game, remember: keep your heart’s door locked, or who knows which character might barge in next!

Let’s continue to explore, enjoy, and maybe occasionally roll our eyes at the idiosyncrasies of the visual novel genre, because, at the end of the day, it’s these quirks that make our gaming experience uniquely memorable. Here’s to many more misadventures in the land of pixelated love!