Romance is an essential ingredient in all otome visual novels, but I have yet to play one that examines the concept of love and relationships as holistically as Cupid Parasite does. Developed by Otomate, Idea Factory, and published by Idea Factory International, Cupid Parasite is a fantasy romantic comedy (rom-com) otome visual novel that is as fun as it is serious about love.
The following review is written to be as spoiler-free as possible. Most information revealed is from the common route and in rare cases, from certain character routes, but details that are not essential to the coherency of this review are left out. Character routes are discussed in terms of broad themes and overall experience. As for screenshots, only those from the common route are used.
Cupid’s Pilgrimage: Story Premise
Our protagonist in Cupid Parasite is Lynette Mirror, a bridal advisor working at Cupid Corporation, Los York’s most popular marriage agency. Passionate and driven, Lynette has matched more couples than any of the others and quickly earned the title of top bridal advisor. With her success in matchmaking couples, she is even considered to be Cupid Corporation’s own Cupid by some. But little did they know that Lynette is indeed Cupid!
It was another usual workday in the Human Realm for the goddess of love when she was given her most challenging matchmaking assignment at Cupid Corporation yet: to get every one of the infamous Parasite 5 married. And so, the fate of the Parasite 5 — a group of five Cupid Corporation’s members whom all the other bridal advisors have given up on matchmaking for — now lies in Cupid’s hands.
“From Your First Encounter To Your Final Vows”: Gameplay Overview
The members of the Parasite 5 are Gill Lovecraft, Shelby Snail, Raul Aconite, Ryuki F. Keisaiin, and Allan Melville. During the first playthrough, one may only play Gill’s, Shelby’s, or Ryuki’s route. Only after one good ending is obtained can players access Raul’s and Allan’s routes. Finally, once all of the five good endings are obtained, the secret character’s route will be automatically unlocked. Although there is much freedom in choosing a route after the first good ending is completed, it is highly recommended to play in the order of Ryuki, Shelby, Gill, Raul, Allan, and then the secret character for the best experience.
The ending of most routes is determined by two factors, namely the choices made and the protagonist’s love type. The majority of the choice menus in Cupid Parasite provide choices that lead to the usual increment of affection points, the tally of which can be checked under “Love” from the pause menu and determines if the player gets to move further along the character route or not. There is also at least one choice menu in every route that acts as a switch to an immediate ending. Determining which choice menu is which kind is straightforward if the Love Surge notification is enabled under Options; the choice menus for raising affection points will have a choice that causes animated hearts to appear (usually after a few dialogue lines), whereas the other kind mostly do not.
Even when a player has made all the correct choices, thereby bypassing all early endings and accumulating the maximum 100 affection points, it is still possible for them to not get the good ending. Here is where the protagonist’s love type comes into play. Lynette’s love type is decided through a love match test, or a short quiz with 14 questions that the player will answer “Yes” or “No” to, during the common route. Depending on the player’s answers, Lynette’s love type would be one of the following six types based on the color wheel theory of love: Agape, Pragma, Ludus, Eros, Mania, Storge. The game will then decide which ending the player gets by comparing Lynette’s love type against that of the route’s love interest. In general, there are best, good, and bad matches, with the best love match resulting from Lynette’s and the love interest’s love type being the same. Naturally, only the best love matches coupled with sufficiently high affection points will allow players to obtain good endings.
Note that the common route is the only point in Cupid Parasite where the love match test can be done; if one wishes to change Lynette’s love type down the road, they will have to go all the way back to the chapter where the test is given. If one is not satisfied with the love type they got, they may retry the love match test as many times as they like. Lynette’s love type will only be locked in after the player confirms they want to go along with that particular love type. Through the quiz, it is possible for Lynette to end up not being assigned with any love type, but the game will regard this case the same as her having a “good love match” type. Thankfully, after one ending is obtained, this section also adds an option for players to choose Lynette’s love type directly from a list instead of going through the 14 questions again.
In a typical visual novel fashion, the narrative in Cupid Parasite is driven by choices only. Getting a route and its good ending is uncomplicated as long as one keeps an eye on the accumulated affection points and the love interest’s love type. Getting the other endings is not too tough as well since it is simply playing around with the affection points and certain choices inside the route. The only endings that I found bothersome to get are the “bad love match” endings as I have to start from the common route in order to select the appropriate love type for Lynette that will unlock those endings.
Cupid Parasite is a relatively light-hearted otome game. None of its endings are truly tragic. A few of them are bittersweet or sad at most but the rest are largely neutral and even funny. Every route’s good ending is available from the outset and it is not necessary to obtain all its other endings. Most of the alternate endings add little to the main story themes and are more for pure entertainment. To me, only a select few alternate endings are really worth playing through, but they all do provide closure in a way.
Agape Love: Gill Lovecraft
Gill Lovecraft (voiced by Ryohei Kimura) is a 24-year-old freelance editor who works for various magazines and publishers around Los York. He became the Lovelorn Parasite when he, try as he might, cannot move past his unrequited love from two years ago. Every time he is matched with someone new through Cupid Corporation’s matchmaking service, he would unconsciously compare each one to his lost love. With his heart and mind wholly hung up on the one he still loves, it is unsurprising that he has not been able to be in a relationship ever since. Things begin to change when Gill, being part of the Parasite 5, is placed under Lynette’s charge for his lost love is in fact her.
Representative of the Agape love type, Gill’s dedicated love towards Lynette is the key highlight in his entire route. Besides finding his route to be moving and sweet, I also adored the route’s beautiful portrayal of a youthful one-sided crush blooming into a sturdy mutual love. It is heartwarming to see Gill learning the importance of communication and compromise, especially the latter because Gill is the type who will give all of himself to his love without a second thought. The idea of give-and-take in relationships is addressed in his route, and I am impressed that the possibility of Lynette receiving much more than what she initiates to give is also explored.
Gill’s route generally touches on potential pitfalls for the selfless Agape love type and shows that a mature relationship is built with the efforts of both parties and not just one person. Lynette’s growth is endearing to watch too, particularly when she wrestles with her self-centered wishes that are in conflict with her desire to be considerate of Gill. This route is certainly more than just a heartfelt love story filled with sentimental flashbacks and a wild climax. At the end of the journey, I found myself wanting to protect Gill’s precious pure heart.
Pragma Love: Shelby Snail
To the public, the 32-year-old founder and president of Cupid Corporation, Shelby Snail (voiced by KENN), is widely known to be a devoted husband — though he is actually single. As someone who spends all of his waking moments focused on raising his status and attaining the highest SS-rank in every aspect of his life, Shelby the Prestige Parasite has no time for romance. Yet he knows that the lie of him being a devoted husband may be exposed at any time. And if that happens, his and Cupid Corporation’s hard-earned reputation will suffer. Hence, Shelby is left with no choice but to secretly use his own company’s matchmaking service to find himself a suitable wife as soon as possible.
True to the spirit of Pragma love, or practical love, Shelby’s route revolves around a romance that grows as the pair help each other work towards a common goal. While this office romance story between a boss and an employee is not as exciting in ways one may have imagined it to be, I enjoyed the candid interactions observed between the two throughout the route. There is satisfaction in watching the two workaholics, who only ever think about work at first, gradually making space in their hearts for each other. I especially love the moments when they provide emotional support to each other as work partners, and as romantic partners.
Not to be misled by Shelby’s unwavering serious gaze, the route actually has its own share of hilarious moments. Moreover, the bizarre twist in the story really flung me out and made me fall head over heels in love with Shelby. My heart skipped a beat when I got to the CG of that scene, though I doubt I found Shelby looking extremely cool in that CG only because of the art alone. After all, his character growth has been mesmerizing from start to finish.
Ludus Love: Raul Aconite
Renowned Sillywood actor Raul Aconite (voiced by Taku Yashiro) is going to star in his first-ever romance film but knows nothing about romantic love. Hoping to understand love, the 21-year-old movie star thus joined Cupid Corporation as a member. However, this Obsessed Parasite simply cannot stop delivering his passionate oration on mythology whenever he has the chance. The situation looks bleak for Raul when he cannot find anyone who shares his obsession. That is until he meets Lynette, who is literally one of the divine beings from the very mythology he is so thoroughly obsessed with.
Belonging to the Ludus love type, Raul prefers having fun short-term relationships over a long-term committed one. He also engages in casual sex as and when he likes with whoever is consenting. Now, it is precisely this portion about sex that makes me see Cupid Parasite in a new light. It is rare to come across an otome game that discusses the different attitudes towards sex and in an open-minded manner to boot. Though Raul’s relaxed view clashes with Lynette’s reserved view, the protagonist is willing to try to understand Raul’s point of view that consensual sex is another pleasurable pastime. The route considers various aspects of both relationship ideals, and is primarily concerned about the difference between lust and love. This is also the only route where sex is talked about more freely, and I appreciate how sex is not treated as a taboo topic. Nevertheless, the number of sexy CGs and sex happening in Raul’s route did catch me off guard since I initially had a more family-friendly impression due to the 13+ age rating (compared to, say, 15+ or 16+).
As for my overall experience, I went into Raul’s route not knowing what to expect of it and came out not knowing what to feel about it. On one hand, I like how the story uses the opportunity to discuss sex in relation to love, but on the other, I feel the writing has a stereotypical generalization about people in Western showbiz. Plus, Lynette sometimes comes off as a little pushy with her relationship ideals even if her motivations can be explained by her identity as Cupid. The story also took a turn that left me quite speechless, though it is interesting that compared to the others, this route delves into Lynette’s dual identity as a goddess and an individual more. In addition, I find it remarkable that the route is designed with Raul’s fun-loving personality in mind. There are some choice menus where one cannot use logical reasoning or common sense to determine the correct choices. They tend to be about luck on the first try, which can be annoying and seem meaningless, but I think their inclusion aptly reflects the Ludus love type’s playful nature. Not to mention, one of the endings here has some of the most comical lines in the whole game.
Eros Love: Ryuki F. Keisaiin
Ryuki F. Keisaiin (voiced by Junya Enoki), the youngest in the group, is a successful fashion designer. Due to his inborn synesthesia and upbringing, Ryuki perceives people differently from the majority. He would associate people with colors and assign them beauty grades according to how much skincare and beautifying effort one has put in. Unfortunately, he has his own threshold that one’s beauty grade must reach before he is willing to speak with them. To make matters worse, his standards are awfully high and so, the 19-year-old fashionista is soon dubbed the Glamour Parasite.
In Ryuki’s eyes, a person’s outer beauty is of utmost importance. This belief corresponds to the physical attraction aspect of the Eros love type. Over the course of the route, Ryuki shows visible changes and even pushes himself outside of his initial comfort zone. Despite that, I find Ryuki’s route to have the least satisfying character growth amongst the Parasite 5. This is mainly because the route seems to bring up a few topics, from Ryuki’s age to his family and perception of beauty, but did not manage to allocate equal attention to everything. Certain themes are therefore addressed a little too superficially, making Ryuki’s character growth feel kind of incomplete in the end.
Putting the marred character growth aside, Lynette’s and Ryuki’s romance story is otherwise adorable on the whole and they make a cute pair. The love they share is young, soft, and bright, and reminds me of two teenagers falling in love for the first time. I think this route has the most captivating and romantic CGs as well.
Mania Love: Allan Melville
Working at a designer bedding store that sells high-end pillows, 28-year-old Allan Melville (voiced by Makoto Furukawa) readily welcomes any woman who is already in a relationship to visit him at the store. In a suggestive tone, he emphasizes that they would “learn what a real man can do” and promises to “make their dreams come true”. Those who paid Allan a visit eventually find themselves experiencing rifts in their current romantic relationships. Of course, such a situation undoes all the work Cupid has put into matching couples together and so, Lynette resolves to put a stop to this Thieving Parasite’s shenanigans.
I seriously thought Allan’s route was going to touch on polyamorous relationships, what with his idea of sharing partners. Alas, that is not the case. Mania is Allan’s love type, and it refers to an intense kind of love that can make one prone to becoming possessive and jealous. Similar to Raul, Allan’s love type is not apparent from how his character is depicted in the common route. Things only get clearer during the route itself, though Allan’s love type is portrayed much more indirectly than the others. But beneath the thick layers of story flows the torrent of his scorching hot love all right.
Allan’s route is hands down my number one favorite route in Cupid Parasite. Well, not because it has a super profound discussion about love, but because it ticked all the boxes for the kind of romance story I personally love. The story has angst, and the writing knows how to tug on my heartstrings, tear my heart into pieces and then glue it all perfectly back. The route also contains one ending CG which, in my opinion, is even hotter than those in Raul’s route.
Storge Love: Secret Character
When the final route unlocked for me, I was not surprised to see who the secret character is. The previous five routes have consistently thrown hints here and there, so it was rather easy for me to guess the identity of the secret character. All in all, the writing in Cupid Parasite was wonderfully planned to prepare players for the final route in a way that not only lessens the shock of the secret character’s reveal but also whets their curiosity about the route.
Sadly, although the secret character’s route provides a nice wrap-up for the entire plot, the secret character’s romance suffers from insufficient focus. I love the secret character — he is my favorite love interest — but I simply was unable to feel much from his lackluster romance story. The point about his love type, Storge or love that blossoms from a friendship, is not elaborated further too. Overall, the route acts as a satisfying conclusion to Cupid Parasite but was not as exciting as I expected. The significant drop in excitement especially after Allan’s route is quite a bummer. I also think the joke made near the climactic scene went overboard within the context it is in.
Cupid: Lynette Mirror
Hardworking and sincere, Lynette Mirror (not voiced) is someone who does her work at Cupid Corporation with pride and professionalism. It is admirable that while she has her set of personal values she adheres closely to, Lynette is also willing to acknowledge and understand other people’s values that may be vastly different from hers. As the goddess of love, she shows much concern for just about everyone’s love lives and has much love to give to the one she loves. This chic top bridal advisor exudes positive energy and has a loveable personality, all of which make her a delightful and memorable protagonist for Cupid Parasite.
Despite being Cupid, Lynette has never fallen in love before, and every route highlights her journey in discovering what love is about. I love how the writing sticks to Lynette’s background faithfully, but I noticed it can also get repetitive watching her go through the same realizations route after route in similar fashions. In any case, Lynette does not shy away from sex, and that helps balance out her repeatedly roundabout hide-and-seek with love.
Unlike the love interests who have their own unique love types, the protagonist’s love type is not fixed. Generally, Lynette’s love type is used more as part of the game mechanics rather than for the storylines. As far as I can tell, the “bad love match” endings are where Lynette’s love type is accounted for in the most unambiguous way. For everywhere else, it is often not obvious how she is exhibiting characteristics of the love type she supposedly belongs to, which is quite a pity.
Love and Mythology in Los York!
Like the six love types from the color wheel theory of love, the world in Cupid Parasite is, figuratively and literally, as colorful. From the 1st to the 10th avenue, an upbeat and dazzling cityscape covers every corner of Los York. There are tranquil cafés serving a variety of food and drinks, high-end boutiques selling the trendiest items, modern cinemas screening the latest movies, and a public park where people can exercise and hold barbecue parties at. A similar sense of modernity spans through Cupid Corporation’s multistoried office building, which houses various offices, meeting and seminar rooms, and a grand wedding hall. The background art depicting various venues in Los York share a consistent vibrant color scheme that makes everything feel energetic and sleek. In contrast, locations outside of Los York, such as Cupid’s homeland, look and feel starkly different.
The portrayal of Los York as an urban populous city is realistic as well. Los York is shown to be home to many well-to-do individuals, but the writing has not neglected the existence of the rest of the society. Renting an apartment and splitting the costs with roommates is acknowledged to be commonplace among college students and working adults, while some others can afford an extra vacation house. Several means of transport are also noted, from walking to cycling on shared bikes to taking the subway to driving a car to boarding a private jet. Although socioeconomic status is not a focal topic in Cupid Parasite (even the Prestige Parasite’s route merely skimmed it), the writing has nonetheless outlined a non-homogenous population, which adds another layer to the fictional city’s sophistication.
Mythology or more specifically, Greek and Roman mythology, forms the other big portion of Cupid Parasite, and is responsible for the fantasy aspect in this rom-com visual novel. My knowledge in this area is very limited; I know some prominent names and bits of basic information but nothing in detail. Yet as I play through Cupid Parasite, not once have I felt the writing dumped too much information in one go, or assumed too much about my prior knowledge of the myths. Additionally, while the game has put its own unique spin on various established myths, the story actually explains some of the discrepancies logically. Hence, not only has the writing introduced Greek and Roman mythology in manageable morsels, but it also made it easier for players to comfortably accept its version of events.
Art: Character Sprites and Animations
Cupid Parasite has absolutely snazzy art. The vibrant color scheme and basic patterns, such as polka dots and checkerboard, are two signature components of the game’s bold visual design. The overall aesthetics feel very cheery and free-spirited, which is a good reflection of this rom-com title’s vibes.
Similar to the background art in the game, the character sprites are not at all dull-looking. In addition to numerous variations for their facial expressions and poses, all major characters also have different outfits for different occasions. The outfits are visibly designed with each character in mind. The everyday outfits generally reveal the wearer’s age and occupation whilst the alternate outfits often show more about the character’s personality and taste. Everyone is given simple eyelids and mouth animations too. The only thing I dislike is the set of facial expressions with the character’s tongue stuck out. Those are meant to indicate the character is licking their lips, but there is no animation applied to the tongue and the same expression tends to last for several dialogue lines. So, at the beginning, I was genuinely confused when one of the side characters suddenly had what looked like a tiny piece of paper plastered to her upper lip in the middle of a conversation. For a time, I thought it was a visual bug until I saw Lynette pointing it out when Allan was wearing a similar expression.
User Interface (UI): Design and Functions
The UI design in Cupid Parasite is certainly one of the best I have seen from Otomate yet. Everything looks immensely lively and dynamic with the generous amount of animations used to move the 2D images around on the screens. My favorite has to be the Gallery screen, where it shows a movie theatre concession stand and the love interests would randomly pop up at different spots around the counter. What’s more, the sub-menus (Event CGs, Music, and Videos) that form the panels of the concession stand’s menu board are decorated with animated lights. When it comes to aesthetics, the design of the Flowchart screen, which provides a visual overview of the story structure and supports quick loading of any previously unlocked chapter, is delightfully nostalgic as the folder icons and cursor remind me of a classic Windows 98’s interface. Another eye-catching screen is the Title screen, whose appearance is timed to the background music. The coordination is wonderful and like a flower opening its petals, the Title screen would spring into view the moment the music picks up after a buoyant glissando. On the flip side, there is always a brief three-second delay before the Title screen shows after the skippable splash screens and opening video.
Game settings and options offered in Cupid Parasite are a little more comprehensive than what is typically found in Otomate titles. Players are likely to be familiar with the regular adjustments for text speeds, individual characters’ voice volume, and the text box’s opacity. This time, much to my pleasant surprise, there is an extra option for the text font with four different fonts to choose from. Three of them are sans-serif typefaces with varying font weights and slightly different font sizes, and only one choice has the serif typeface. Despite the limited selections, it is undeniably a neat accessibility addition to the visual novel. The game also supports button remapping for some functions like quick save and show Backlog. It also provides a list of the default game controls under Manual in Options.
In-game, the text box is color-coded according to the character, which helps with distinguishing the different speakers easily even when the voices are muted. The Backlog is easy to read as well with the character’s portrait displayed next to their corresponding color-coded text boxes, though this applies only for non-CG scenes. And surprisingly, Cupid Parasite makes use of controller vibrations at various points in the story, either to emulate a vibrating mobile phone or a pat on the shoulder or to lay emphasis on some of the unvoiced protagonist’s reactions for a dramatic effect.
On top of the “Skip All” and “Skip Read” functions, there is a “Skip to next choice” function too. Players are told this function will skip “to the next choice or unread section”. However, the latter portion is not entirely true. If there is an unread section before the next choice menu, the function will skip to that unread section as intended. But if there are only unread sections and no more choice menus left, trying to use the function will show the message “There are no choices to make”. One can only rely on the slower “Skip Read” function from that point forth to get to the unread sections. Another flaw of the “Skip to next choice” function is that the skip can be quite slow when the next choice menu is three or more chapters away. For example, skipping from the start of the prologue to the first choice menu in the fourth chapter takes close to half a minute. To its credit, that is significantly faster than “Skip Read/ All”, which takes around 2.5 minutes to skip through the same segment.
Audio: Voice Acting, Background Music, and Sound Effects
The Japanese voice acting in this Otomate title is once again top-notch. Minus the protagonist, everyone else — including minor characters who do not have character sprites — is fully voiced. Something that stood out to me is the news anchors who delivered their news in English. Those are the few dialogue lines from the Japanese voice artists where English is heard instead of Japanese. Another nice thing included in Cupid Parasite is the love interests’ short voice clips that play when the game returns the player to the main menu at the end of the “best love match” or “bad love match” ending. Unfortunately, as these voice clips play at the main menu screen, they do not have accompanying translation texts. Essentially, translation texts are not available for any voice clips that are played on special screens, be it the main menu, pause menu, or love match test screen.
Including the opening and ending songs, there are a total of 36 music tracks in Cupid Parasite, nine of which are character themes. Many of them are catchy, and plenty have a positive and vigorous aura to them. I personally love the Title screen (or main menu) music “Cupid Parasite”, which has a kind of magical girl energy and gives off affirmative and encouraging vibes. The remixes of closely related tracks are among my favorites too for the amazing creativity heard in them. Not to mention, the powerful opening song, “You Can’t Hurry Love”, and dreamy ending song, “magic hour”, are tracks I can easily listen to on repeat for hours.
Sound effects are aplenty in Cupid Parasite. The audio work in this aspect is both thorough and careful, covering every little detail from mist sprays to keyboard typing sounds.
The translation quality of Cupid Parasite is, on the whole, decent. Sentences generally flow well and are easy to understand. Some of them have awkward phrasings and incorrect grammar, though they are rare. While not entirely absent after the patch in December 2021, typos are few and range from misspellings to missing words and misplaced punctuation marks. They can be spotted in every route but are mainly noted in Raul’s and the secret character’s routes, with the typos in the secret character’s route spoiling the mood at crucial moments the most for me. There is also a small, presumably mistranslation in Ryuki’s route that gave rise to a contradiction in the story: Ryuki told Lynette to meet at midnight but they were actually meeting at noon. Other notable bugs include name labels not showing for some dialogue lines, and inconsistencies in the way spoken words and inner thoughts are differentiated via styling. Both issues make certain parts of the story more confusing to follow.
My 55 to 60 hours with Cupid Parasite were filled with much laughter and many tears. The character routes in this otome visual novel play like one fantastic rom-com show after another. Besides plenty of entertainment to be had, every story also leaves some food for thought. Furthermore, the incorporation of the six love types to expand each romance storyline’s depth is refreshing to see and helps give most love interests a deeply memorable identity and relevant love story. And with the striking art, spirited music, as well as a fairly good translation, my stay in Los York has been unforgettable. All things considered, Cupid Parasite is an all-around excellent production not to be missed, especially if one loves their rom-com stories topped with fantasy.
CUPID PARASITE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
If you would like to see more Visual Novels, you may be interested in our review of Olympia Soiree. Or how about checking out some of the other top visual novels for this year on our Top Visual Novels of 2021 list.
Many thanks go to Reef Entertainment/Idea Factory for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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A person with many hobbies (and even more WIPs), KuroKairin plays, playtests, and reviews PC games. She loves games with good stories that bring her on an emotional and thought-provoking journey. Her favourite genres include otome visual novel, point and click, puzzle, and RPG. Follow her @KuroKairin.