GAME REVIEW: DOES DREAM DADDY REALLY LIVE UP TO ITS HYPE?

It feels like the whole internet has become obsessed with this overnight- spawning dozens of pieces of fanart, as well as lets plays, conspiracy theories and an inevitable toxic fandom– and why wouldn’t it? With the developer Game Grumps’ huge female following and its rare inclusion of gay men (including MOC and transmen) as datable romantic leads, it was bound to become a hit. Add to boot a mysterious secret ending hidden in the data files, its got everything needed to gain a huge cult following.

But is this game actually live up to its hype?

Well, after watching the strong opening on youtube (courtesy of Rantasmo) and seeing the positive response from gay and trans people, my curiosity was peaked in spite of my general disinterest in dating sims. So without further ado, lets have a look at the game.

 

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DISCLAIMER: Closest I’ve ever played to a dating game sim 

BUILDING YOUR DREAM DADDY: THE GREAT REPRESENTATION BEGINS HERE!

Probably its biggest claim to fame is the amount of diversity this game has, including well rounded characters who are gay, POC, and trans (plus it even has interesting female characters in the forms of Amanda and Mary).

Though there are great games  like Portal, Borderlands, Child of Light, Undertale and the Persona 3 and 4 with well written queer/ female/ POC etc characters, it’s no secret that the video game industry is lagging behind every other creative medium in terms of treating anyone not the presumed ‘default’  straight white/ Japanese etc as a human, in spite of an increased amount of female players and players  who are gay or of color.

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Love you Sazh, but Japan, what were you thinking with the chocofro?

Anyone not part of that demographic is barely considered appealing to as a periphery demographic, let alone the main demographic. So the fact that Dream Daddy exists is huge.

First off, it lets you have a wider range of body types than normal. You can choose to be a gym bunny, skinny guy, a bear or even freaking Goku.  (It lets you have Goku hair and eyes. I loved the concept). I just went for the eye candy, but judging by the delighted twiiter response, a lot of gay players were delighted to be able to play as someone like themselves.

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I created this handsome fella to be my protagonist

As for POC options, this one allows you to choose a range of skin tones, as well as hairstyles and features more typical of African Americans, including dreads ,cornrows, fuller lips and rounder noses.

And most notably of all, you can make your character cannonically trans. I  wouldn’t have noticed it if it wasn’t pointed out, but it does give you the option of wearing a binder, This is small, but such a wonderful acknowledgement which has really resignated well with trans players, who are typically relegated to being punchlines in games if included at all, although this improving at least in Western games.

NOT YOUR BLANK SLATE DATING SIM LEAD

Although you may be able to fully customise your sim, your dad’s personality is clearly defined. He’s a loveable goofy sitcom dad. Kind, laid back and socially awkward, he loves nothing more than spending time with his daughter, avoiding the gym and making bad dad jokes. No matter what dialogue option you chose, it could never make your character completely left field of his basic personality, and all the ‘bad’ dialogue choices came across as more of a case of MC putting his foot in his mouth than being cruel.

I think this was the right choice, because it made his relationships with the other characters (which I’ll move onto in a second)  more engaging and give or take. The only problem was the occasional disconnect between character and character model. There’s no way a character with 0% body fat and abs to die for would be that horrified by the thought of going to the gym and spend all day eating nachos.

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Damnit Link. I don’t care what your ingame excuse is,HOW CAN YOU NOT EMOTE!?

Plus, if I chose to play as a trans dad and chose to date the trans character, wouldn’t MC have shown more of a reaction after the binder revelation? Just one extra line of dialogue just would have made it that much more immersive.

THE DADDY DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIP

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A great advantage of having a clear personality as your lead is the banter. What sold me on this game is the relationship between Amanda (your daughter) and MC. I LOVED Amanda. A world away from the bratty valley girl, she is a vivid, funny, quirky teenage girl who’s supportive of your relationships, but also brings her own teenaged troubles to the table which was really engaging and heart wrenching.

In effect, you’re working towards two endings for your dad. You’re working towards getting the good Amanda ending, as well as the good ending with whichever dad you’re hoping will be your one true love. When i first played this, I went for hunky married youth pastor Joseph because I knew he’d be a train wreck and I wanted to see what happens. I ended up getting up getting the Bad Ending with him (apparently the youth of today don’t appreciate my dance moves), but even though I ended up alone, it wasn’t a sad ending because I still had Amanda and it felt really real and bittersweet.

Of course, just don’t get both the Joseph and Amanda bad ending because it’s just that depressing.

INTRODUCING… THE DADS

Now, we’re onto what everyone’s really interested in: the smexy mancandy. Basically, the first part of the game sets the scene and deals with Amanda. After you’ve met all the dads, it allows you to go on ‘Dadbook’, where you make a profile, and choose which dad to date. You can date any dad up until you choose to go on the third date, which is when you will commit to a dad and get his ending for better or worse.

Here’s a quick intro to the dads, but if you’re not interested, skip to the paragraph below Joseph.

BRIAN

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Helloooo, Murse!

Brian is the bearish rival dad. You spend your whole time competing with him while he shows you nothing but magnamity and kindness- so essentially his story involves our protagonist creating conflict where none is to be seen.

ROBERT

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He’s essentially the ‘damaged bad boy with a heart of gold.’ He’s an interesting story because his story intersects Joseph’s, making for a more interesting story. The only downside is that half of his ‘rebellions’ and ‘bad boy actions’ feel excessively juvenile rather than a badass. To me he felt like that rebellious cousin you look up to when you’re 15, but doesn’t look so cool when they’re 39 and still exactly the same.

CRAIG

BONUS-DAD-TENT

A very popular dad and your college best friend, he’s the typical sporty ‘jockish’ dad. You can tell he’s very manly because he uses bro every other sentence. He’s pretty cool because he’s a gay asian whose conventionally very macho, which is something very rare in the media.

DAMIAN

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The bizarre goth dad. Although they don’t have a clear handle on what goth is (referring to My Chemical Romance goth, even though its one of the defining bands of the Emo movement and generally despised by Goths), they use his OTT nature for some pretty entertaining scenerios. His is possibly the most entertaining route.

MAT

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He’s the cute nerd who gets flustered and babbles on an awkard tangent. Although not as instantly sexy as Craig or some of the others, his and MC’s shared doofiness do make for some heartwarming moments and he’s a grower.

MR VEGA

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The sophisticated teacher who ironically has the gobby hellraiser of a son. I’d feel sorry for him, but he named his own son Ernest Hmingway. That just screams ‘Man Who Goes To Tate And Mistakes Dropped Crisp packet As Revolutionary Piece Of Art.”

JOSEPH

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If you ever fantasised about gaining a virtual dick and sticking it in crazy, then Joseph is the route for you. He’s married to what seems to be an awful alcoholic and is very invested in being a role model to his church, so already we have more conflict than the other dads. He is the one dad who completely diverges from the traditional dating conventions, as his story possibly touches on the closet and also unhappy marriages and infidelity. Both his good and bad ending are bittersweet, and both are actually worth playing. PRO TIP: Complete the first two dates for Damian and Robert before going down Joseph’s route. It makes for a better story.

As you can see from the descriptions, it plays out like a typical dating game sim, and your success with your chosen dad depends on your  responses to certain questions and situations.

For the most part, I found Most of the dads are really, really likeable and the dialogue is on the sweet and uplifting side. There’s not much conflict (except when pertaining to the Joseph and Robert  routes), but the dialogue is engaging and funny enough to keep you hooked. I suppose the overall feel can be described as sort of Steven Universe without the aliens, where everyone is basically warm and engaging,

Because of the three dates rule, it’s significantly shorter than your average dating sim/ graphic novel (especially when compared to goliaths such as Fate Stay Night). Because aside from which dad you choose to interact with, the storytelling is mostly linear and so if you want to restart it can get a bit repetitive.

The best thing to do is create a character and go on two dates with each dad, and then complete the final date.

ATTITUDE TO GAY PEOPLE

 

This was my biggest worry, considering the way male/male romance and yaoi tends to belittle and fetishize gay men.

As I played this I did not believe for one second that this game had a gay man as a lead writer for a variety of reasons I will go into in a different post. I guessed bisexual female based on the Teagan and Sara reference and the way Amanda was written, and judging by my research I was right. This is very much a gay relationship put into a  heteronormative dating framework.

However, it does not treat its male leads as yaoi bate and made them engaging well rounded characters and contains none of the belittling of gay men that I’ve come to expect from this type of genre.

DID DREAM DADDY LIVE UP TO ITS EXPECTATIONS?

Overall, yes. In terms of inclusion, it lives up for its reputation. As for the writing, although it is pretty short and linear, the writing is suprisingly good, with plenty of references to geek culture, humour, genuine character interactions and even moments tha can be heartbreaking and touching.

HOWEVER, due to its very linear path and short length, it somewhat lacks in replayability. Even though it’s popular at the moment, unless it spawns some sequels, it lacks the replayability to be an enduring classic like Fate Stay Night.

RATING

3 bad dad jokes out of 5

 

THOUGHTS FROM ACTUAL GAY PEOPLE

It has to be noted, as a bisexual woman, I am not the group that is represented in this.

For some thoughts on it from gay/ trans men who are represented in the game, I have a few links here:

http://kotaku.com/what-we-liked-and-didnt-like-about-dream-daddy-1797270467

https://mic.com/articles/182664/dream-daddy-trans-inclusion-damien#.yTcqvGSos

 

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA TELEVISION SHOW: WILL IT EVER HAPPEN, AND IF SO WHAT WOULD WE LIKE TO SEE FROM LINK AND ZELDA?

For a long time there have been rumors about a Legend of Zelda television series appearing on Netflix (and no, it has nothing to do with that series- because it never happened). It was first reported in this article here, with claims that the series will be like ‘a family friendly game of thrones episode’- presumably instead of the elaborate betrayals, the big plot twist in a Zelda series would be: ‘Oh no! The green thief King with evil eyes is actually the villain! Who saw that coming? (Seriously, how was Princess Zelda the only one who saw this coming?)

However, the owners of the rights to Zelda have since claimed the original article was not based on fact, but have not stated definitively that it won’t happen- suggesting that they would not rule out the possibility. It’s very unlikely to happen, but if it did? How could they make it good? Well, the difficulties would start with the two main heroes: Link and Zelda.

The Hero- How Are We Going To Give This Guy A Personality?

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Over 25 years and our tight wearing warrior still hasn’t uttered a word or received much in the way of characterisation

Making Link into a decent hero is my biggest doubt about why this series could work. As pointed out by this article, Link’s personality is the biggest stumbling block in making this series good. Link has always been a bank slate player insert, and no personality  to speak of (except Windwaker Link, but they’re hardly going to go with the Windwaker canon for this show). He is never proactive, only reactive to certain situations, and his actions are solely based on requests and instructions from the people around him. So how do we give this guy a personality?

But if they do it right, this could be an opportunity to give Link a real personality for the first time. One thing that could translate well is his sheer determination; he travels day and night to save Hyrule; he witnesses all the worlds he traveled in ruin. His childhood friend remains a child while he’s become an adult- showing how much he’s lost and far away he is from his chilldhood innocence. I think the personality that would best suit him would see him start off as a carefree, spirited child who is forced to grow up too fast (literally) to save the world, and transforms into a fire forged hero. Either way, I think a lot of his growth would be pushed forwards by the people around him. And no character dynamic will be as important as his dynamic with Princess Zelda.

The Princess-Make Her A Badass Strategist

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If this series is going to do well, our resident damsel in distress really needs to stop damselling and start being an awesome character (or stay an awesome character throughout the game. Not take a level in badass and then turn into a flailing victim the minute she puts on a dress- looking at you, Sheik and Tetra). In some of the earlier articles there was talk about it being ‘a boy rescues girl’ story, but that would be a horrible choice for a tv show.

A high fantasy setting, a pretty-boy lead and a magical Princess (not to mention the amount of prominent females this series have) are things that are really going to appeal more to girls- and I honestly think fifty percent (or more) of the potential audience would be female.  We had fought our issues with damsel-in-distress princesses with Disney; now they’ve upped their game with Tiana, Elsa and Anna, and they’re about to up it again with Moana. We expect better and don’t need another 50s Disney princess; now we expect a Princess who’s capable and an interesting character. Zelda needs to be a strong lead. But strong in what way?

When people talk about wanting to make Zelda stronger, they always talk about her improvement in terms of physical prowess. However, what I would like to see from the Princess isn’t necessarily turning her into Zelda: warrior princess  (or Zelda: Warrior Queen like in Hyrule Warriors). Zelda’s the holder of the Triforce of Wisdom, and I always wanted to see her come into her own as a strategist and leader, someone who planned the next move while Link went and collected the Triforce Shards/ Sages etc. In the games her ‘Wisdom’ is more like ‘special purity pureness spirit power’ and her track record for strategy was appalling. Imagine if she became a good leader in the series.

Imagine if Gandorof’s forces were at Hyrule’s Gate; the Royal Family had fallen and Zelda was the last ruler left to defend it. While Link has to travel around the world on a desperate quest to get the Spiritual Stones, Zelda has to quickly learn to become ruler and hold the kingdom, while trying to form diplomatic relations with the Zora and the Gorons. That would be a hell of a lot more interesting than ‘Help! I’m trapped in crystal!’ (why didn’t Ganondorf use the same spell to capture Link? Why does he underestimate Link every single game and go after Zelda? Leave Zelda for later- take out Link first.) So, if the series ever happened, what I’d love to see most from Zelda is not just someone who’s a good fighter, but a brilliant leader.

Would a Legend Of Zelda series on Netflix be a good idea? What would you like to see? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments.

The Japanese mythology of Okami: who is the wolf Goddess?

Okami really was a unique game; it drew you into an epic Legend of Zelda like quest through a world of Japanese myth, rendered in a stunning visual style to make all the inhabitants look like they jumped straight out of a traditional water painting. But it’s not just the game that’s wonderful; it’s the fascinating use of Japanese myth which makes it a brilliant experience. This week we look who Amaterasu really was, why was she associated with wolves, and what was the inspiration behind our canine protagonist. If you’re not all that familiar with the game, then that’s fine, as we’ll learn a little bit about Shintoism and Japanese fairy tale.

Amaterasu

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Amaterasu is the most central figure of the Shinto religion. The Sun is always a really important part of any religious mythology and Amaterasu is one of the only examples of a female being given the exulted role of sun deity.

It is from her divine lineage that the Emporors of ancient Japan used to support their claim of divinity and divine right to the throne. However, although there are a number of myths surrounding her, none of them have anything to do with a wolf. Which brings us onto the next question…

Why is Amaterasu a wolf?

The real question should be ‘what excuse did the game makers use to portray the Shinto sun Goddess as a wolf?’ Well, traditionally Amaterasu does not have anything to do with wolves, and though a sacred animal, wolves are not the most prominent creature in Japanese mythology. The reasoning (or rather excuse) that they used to make Amaterasu a wolf is explained in this Quora article:

Amaterasu is called Amaterasu-ōmikami(天照大神) which means the Great God(dess) Who Shines A Light From the Heavens. The 大神 part can be read a ōkami (oh-kami), which is the same reading as the word for wolf, . It’s believed that the reading for the kanji does come from the word 大神 which means ‘great god(dess)’

This gave the creators the perfect wordplay to justify making the sun Goddess a wolf. The real reason they made her a wolf is because they wanted to use a wolf as part of game play and because there are a few interesting myths surrounding dogs in Japan, and a wolf is a more powerful form of a dog. Most of Ammy’s wolfish traits are inspired by the Japanese fairytale ‘The Old Man who made Withered Trees to Flower’, a story the creators would have grown up with the same way we grew up with Sleeping Beauty.

Mr Orange and The Man who made the Withered Trees to Flower

okami.jpgI spoke about this story briefly in a previous article about being too nice in fairytales. Mr Orange’s dance and the importance of Ammy’s ability to make cherry blossoms bloom all come from this Japanese fairytale. It centers around an old man who owns a dog called Shiro (maybe this influenced the name Shiranui?) because: ‘Shiro means “white”, and he was called so because of his color. He was a real Japanese dog, and very like a small wolf in appearance.’ I think we can see that Shiro is more the influence behind our four legged friend than the sun goddess Amaterasu.

In this myth, the old couple who own Shiro have a very jealous neighbor. One day, Shiro digs under a yenoki tree and finds  a heap of valuable coins (like how Ammy can tig up treasure in the game). The old couple are overjoyed, but the scheming neighbor is jealous. The old neighbour asks the old man to borrow his dog, and because the old man has all the spine of a jelly fish and would rather lend his dog to an abuser than cause a fuss and grow a backbone, he acquiescences. Of course, when Shiro digs up a pile of refuse instead of gold

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This old man was your neglectful owner in the original myth, Okami.

(symbolising the state of the neighbor’s soul), the neighbour loses it and kills the dog and buries him beneath his yenoki tree. When the old man finds out, he asks for the neighbour’s yenoki tree and proceeds to cut it down to make a mortar. The mortar produces eternal rice cakes and again the neighbour borrows it and it doesn’t work, thought his time the elderly neighbour chops up the mortar and makes firewood.

This time, the old man asks for the ashes of the firewood, and he scatters them on his own yenoki tree. Surprisingly, it causes it to burst into full bloom and the old man gains a talent for it.

He is eventually called in by a Daimo (an earl) and is tasked with making his withered tree bloom. He acquiences and is rewarded. The neighbour tries the same but is humiliated and justly punished.

Clearly, this is the inspiration behind Amaterasu and her two most basic spells from the paint brush; the sun comes from Amaterasu’s connection with the Shinto Goddess; meanwhile, her ability to make the ccherry blossoms bloom comes from the fairytale of Shiro the dog and the old man. But Amaterasu isn’t the only character loosely based on Shinto mythology.

Next time, we’ll look at the other central figure of this game: Susanoo. We’ll explore the mythology behind the eight headed dragon, as well as Kushi and her magic sake. If you haven’t read it already, in part one we looked at the secret sparrow kingdom and the moon people, you can check it out by following this link.

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The Japanese mythology of Okami (part 1)

Okami was an absolutely brilliant game. It had a very traditional Japanese feel, and took you on an adventure through a land of asian fairy tales full of blooming cherry blossoms, Dragon kings and bunny princesses. However, to us Westerners who grew up with the fairy tales told by Brothers Grimm,Hans Christian Anderson and (more to the point) Disney, some of the references were baffling in this game. Well be baffled no more, as I’m going to explain the mythology behind the game. Continue reading The Japanese mythology of Okami (part 1)