I need to start this review with a disclaimer. You see, I’m not an anime fan by any stretch. I don’t much like visual novels either, so reviewing Roommates was not checking off any boxes. But I was challenged by the Editor-in-Chief of Nintendo Link to review this game, and I’m hardly going to tell him no. Last time somebody refused a request from him, they went missing until they were found in a cave in the Himalayas. Don’t tell him I told you that. Please.
The point is… take everything I say here with the tiniest grain of salt.
Roommates starts with a pop rock song that wouldn’t be out of place in the early to mid 2000s. Something you’d expect to hear in a Scooby Doo movie or something, which I wont say is a bad thing, but it didn’t do much for me personally. The rock music persists through much, if not all of the game. I guess you could compare it to a Sonic Adventure title or something along those lines.
The menus are exactly what you’d expect out of a visual novel. They aren’t at all fancy, but I think that’s supposed to be part of the charm. The menu options give you a lot of control of how much or how little of the story you want to pay attention to. The more you can change in a settings menu, the more accessible a game is likely to be, right?
Anne and Max are the characters you can play as. Anne wants to make friends and succeed in school, while Max wants to make enough money to start a pop rock band. Maybe he wrote the opening music?
For my playthrough, I chose to play as Anne. Her goal of “making at least three new friends while keeping her grades up” seems way more achievable than Max wanting to buy fame. I also played on Easy difficulty for the simulations, because I had no idea what I was doing here.
Anne is very shy, so she immediately has some extremely awkward interactions with both cute guys and girls, including the hero we didn’t choose, Max. In fact, you meet all of the people you’ll be sharing your little dwelling with and find out their main personality quirks, such as Rakesh and his insane art projects or Isabelle with her high energy and lack of inhibitions.
Along the way, you need to set a schedule for yourself in order to keep your study habits up, your money coming in and your brain free of too much stress and exhaustion. This schedule is how you can see the necessary stats you need to improve to achieve a relationship with each of the love interests, as well as how close to a certain character you need to be before they’ll look at you in a romantic way at the end of the semester.
Your schedule in Roommates will be regularly interrupted by events, where you are able to interact with characters to raise up your friendship with them. You can choose whether to take part in an event or not, and usually you get a choice during the event that will have an impact on the involved characters. There are special events both midway through the game and at the end of the game where you get the chance to romance the characters you get close enough to.
The problem that I found with the events that I took part in was that there wasn’t really any character development that seemed to happen past the first few. Through my entire playthrough, Max never changed from his “too cool for school with a hint of empathy” character. It was almost robotic how the characters would interact. I’d argue this is more of a problem in visual novels in general though, and in terms of characters in this format, this game does at least sprinkle some interesting quirks to the characters.
I will also compliment the side characters in the game at least a little bit. They seem interwoven into the story in a way that doesn’t take the spotlight off the main character and their love interests, and also allows you to find out some information about those love interests that could come in handy at later points.
It still is anime-based though, so you can expect the men in the game to be either hot headed or freakishly calm about things, and the women to have big breasts and either an extremely dominant or extremely submissive personality. It’s something I can’t fairly judge, not being a fan of the style in the slightest.
I will admit I’ve tried a few visual novels in the past. I quickly become bored by the walls of pointless text that fly at you that don’t seem to advance the story at all. In defense of Roommates, I can say that the issue is far lessened here. There is a lot of text, and although the characters are somewhat bland as I mentioned previously, there aren’t many moments that overstay their welcome. The game relies more on quick fire events and interactions over long drawn out ones.
One thing I found to be somewhat amusing in Roommates was the Halloween section, where you are playing a game to solve a (staged) murder. I’m not sure if the answer is random every play, or even if you legitimately can get all the hints you need, but the concept seemed fun enough to convince me to actually read a larger chunk of the dialogue for that section, rather than just skipping through it all.
I didn’t stumble upon any glitches, bugs, or exploits throughout my playthrough, which was a nice change considering some of the other games I’ve played recently. The game runs as well as it should, and due to being a visual novel there aren’t many (if any) moments where it would even threaten to slow down the Switch at all. So it is definitely a smooth experience.
Overall, it’s hard for me to fairly judge Roommates as I said in the beginning. There are a lot of things I dislike about visual novels, anime, and even dating sims that are standard for the genres. That said, I would consider this game to be one that isn’t overly offensive, and if I had to start playing these regularly, I’d be glad to have started with this one. It won’t take a lot of effort to complete a playthrough, and if you are into this kind of stuff you very well could end up playing through each character’s story more than once.
For me, though, I’ll stick to Mario Kart and Pokemon.
Well designed characters
Cutscenes are short and sweet
Some interesting concepts mixed in
One dimensional character personalities
The soundtrack can be repetitive after a while