Heejung Kim is a 21-year-old student living in Busan, South Korea and seeking her place in the world. With her final months of university approaching, she knows she has to decide what she's going to do with her life. However, when she awakens to find a basket full of small animals mysteriously place inside her locked home. Their presence seems to do little her outlook - until one day, they've been turned human! From that point, she's made a choice, and there's no turning back. What will Heejung's fate be, now that she's sharing a roof with five men who are nothing like she's ever met before? Will her choice affect the "game" they've been sent to partake in?
Dandelion: Wishes Brought to You
덴더라이언 - 너에게 부는 바람 - (website - EN)
Age Rating: E 10+
Date of Release: August 28, 2012 (Korean version); November 30, 2012 (English version) (PC)
Price: $30USD (game only); $50USD (Premium Package); Free Demo
Voice Cast: Mira Yoo, Kyungmyung Lim, Nakyoon Choi, Seongil Lee, Myungjun Kim, Kyungtae Lee, Nayoung Kim
Dandelion is the debut entry from South Korean indie company Cheritz, and it seems like they're old pros right from start, creating a game from the ground up that is nothing short of intriguing from start to finish. With beautiful art, a catchy soundtrack, and a story designed to draw you in, they very easily prove that the otome game market is the perfect niche for them.
The primary portion of the story takes place of the course of a year, where you play in the shoes of Heejung Kim as she adjusts to her new life as a pet owner. These are the cute and cuddly animals she's left to care for:
Jieun (CV: Kyungtae Lee) Jihae (CV: Nakyoon Choi) Jiwoo (CV: Seongil Lee)
Jisoo (CV: Kyungmung Lim) Jiyeon (CV: Myungjun Kim)
Each of the animals has their own distinct personality type, making them not only incredibly distinct from one another, but certainly a personality type for all different sorts of gamers looking to make a pet adoption.
Progressing through the game requires stat-raising: An affection meter with each of the five guys, which can be raised in a variety of ways, including outings, gifts, and talking to them; There's also a set of stats for Heejung herself. Raising her Femininity, Beauty, and Art Skill stats will aid in her progression with her relationships, while simultaneous keeping her Stress and Pressure levels low will prevent from getting a bad ending/game over. This aspect of the game can seem a bit tedious at times, if only because there is a fair amount of it; the upside to this, however, is that the process is quick on the day-to-day scale, so it rarely takes very long to get through those portions of the game. This does make up the primary gameplay outside of the visual novel portions of the game, and is essential to getting all of the various endings. It's not without advantages, though! Once a scene has been cleared, it'll be added to the "Memories" section of the extras, allowing you to play through the visual novel sections without having to play the game in its entirety if you don't want to.
Gameplay basics are fairly simple, but not without a bit of a challenge. Daily interaction locations are randomized - meaning it's often wise to "quick save" in order to be able to find and interact (or not interact) with your pet of choice. In addition, some of the requirements to get specific endings or level up certain stats can require a bit of trial and error; while some are incredibly straight-forward, some have additional requirements that will lead to a bad ending (and sometimes not the "right" bad ending) if not met.
The story itself proves that it's worthwhile to go through the work involved in stat-raising. Dandelion takes you on an emotional roller-coaster, with a blend of comedy, mystery, suspense and romance that leaves you wanting more - even after you've finished the game. The tales themselves are bittersweet in a sense, with great deals of foreshadowing coming from everything from the early dialogue of the game to the OP song lyrics. In essence, though, that is the beauty of the game. Each character is unique and dynamic, multi-faceted in light of the many situations, and because of that, it's hard not to grow an attachment to each and every one of them.
In addition to the two primary forms of play (visual novel and stat-building), there's are a few other features, which are as follows:
- CG Gallery: As with most otome games, unlocking CGs via progressing through the story will appear in the gallery, so you can check them out at any time
- Memories: Playback of event scenes without having to play through the rest of the game.
- Bonus: Free talk, a read of the Christmas card (in Korean), as well as the ending movies. Completing the rest of the game will also unlock a bonus "backstory" scenario here that serves as something of a "true ending," so to speak.
- Special: Collecting stickers of each of the guys found through the game's "look around" option on outings can unlock some extras, as well. With enough, there are concept artworks as well as another pleasant extra art for each of them.
- Language options: Though the audio is only in Korean, you can change the on-screen dialogue and menu options between English and Korean, though doing so will reset your game.
The art within the game is nothing short of stunning, either. Each character has a very varied and unique expression sheet that encompasses a full range of emotions, there's never really a question of exactly what they're trying to convey, if the dialogue doesn't do a sufficient enough job of it. Colors are vibrant and lines are crisp, and as if the expression portraits weren't detailed enough, the CGs and promotional art are absolutely phenomenal.
The background art, while not terribly detailed, fits the tone of the game well. It's colorful and simple, but a perfectly fitting setting for the normalcy of Heejung's life. Outside locations are simple, but nicely drawn -- and those who have any knowledge of Busan may even recognize a location that was drawn into the scenery.
Of course, that's not all Dandelion has to offer. While it's not voiced in its entirety - scenes involving various forms of stat-building remain unvoiced - the events are, and they don't disappoint. The voiced cast consists of a bunch of relative unknowns to most otome gamers, as it's a native Korean cast. This cast brings range, emotion and life to the characters though. For the personality types and designs, it's very easy to see how fitting the voices indeed are. It showcases exceptionally well in the case of Jiyeon's CV, Myungjun Kim, who displays an incredible range of tones and emotions and left me completely floored with the performance. The soundtrack itself is nothing to be ignored either, with its catchy tunes and memorable riffs, there are times when you'll find yourself humming along (or perhaps sobbing along in some circumstances). The OP track, "Yet I Can't Stay" is definitely a hum along track as well, really leaving no opportunity not to engaged with the music Cheritz provides for the game.
Dandelion isn't without fault, though. There's a lot of credit that deserves to be given to the team that translated the game, as it's handled excellently, especially with things like slang and wordplay. It was impressive to see some of the word puns handled so well. That said, there are a handful of errors that range from coding to grammar and punctuation that crop up every so often. Cheritz has already issued one patch to fix some of these, and their reception to feedback makes it entirely likely that other mistakes that appear may be fixed in the future. Some of those errors can be a bit confusing as times, but given the monumental effort that was put into its localization, it's nothing short of forgivable, if not even a bit endearing at times.
The game's interface can also be a bit confusing at times, as well. Heejung's level status is often on the screen, but her detailed information can be found in the main menu, which sometimes requires clicking back and forth to see what those stats fare in comparison to the respective character. That's not terrible, though Heejung's inventory, located in the image of a change purse, is incredibly easy to miss until you start clicking around and see it - and I can admit I went quite a bit wondering where my inventory items had disappeared to after purchasing them.
The only other double-edged sword that comes with Dandelion actually lies within its anti-piracy methods. In purchasing and downloading the game, players are required to register with a Cheritz account that is linked to their download. Playing through event scenes in the game requires connection to their server, meaning the game cannot be played without an internet connection. This is often not a problem, and is actually a very smart solution to a very difficult problem that plagues games both on console and PC alike, though it clearly presents a problem if you want to play when you have no access to the internet.9.0 When it comes to Dandelion, I'd say the game gets nothing short of my highest praises and already an earned "top spot" on my all-time otome game list. The well-paced, intriguing style of storytelling, the intricacies of the plot, along with captivating art and an enjoyable soundtrack sets the bar high for what Cheritz is capable of as a company. Though not a perfect product and one that suffers from a somewhat tedious structure and some errors in the inner-workings that can make your head tilt, the game is no less phenomenal. Never once did those small things actually deter me from wanting to play the game, nor prevent me from recommending the title to everyone I know. Dandelion is certainly of high quality, and with an English version priced at only $30USD, it's definitely a worthwhile purchase for those looking for a game in English, as well as new and veteran otome game players alike. With a free demo available for download, there's nothing to lose, but potentially everything to gain by giving it a shot!