Today I bring you something different from my usual gaming posts. If you happen to be already interested in Japanese/Korean comics and cartoons (originally called manga/manhwa and anime), Otome games could represent a good company for your tiring and lonely days. Mystic Messenger is by far one of the most played adventures of this kind, so get comfy, grab a drink and some tissues on the way, because you’re going to undertake quite a long and deep ride!
Alright, at this point you may wonder what Otome games are if you never played anything of that sort. These installments are usually created for a female audience (but I’m sure anyone could enjoy them without gender and sexuality distinction) and the player has the chance to personally take part into the stories also building a romantic relationship with one of the characters they can interact with. These games are more commonly known as “dating simulators”, although I honestly hate calling them that way.
Otomes are usually built as interactive visual novels with various CG illustrations, not particularly dynamic in terms of actions since those are mostly described with sounds and texts without animations.
I was talking to my best friend recently and out of the blew she asked me if I knew about an Otome game called “Mystic Messenger”, since I am the gaming expert and her knowledge in the field is quite limited in general. Considering I’m usually not into Otomes, this time I found myself completely unprepared and I brushed it off with a simple “nah, never heard of it”. An ex collegue introduced the game to her and she tried it out on her phone for a bit, the moment she sent me a screenshot where I could see a fake messenger chat with a few characters, my interest suddenly spiked up and I convinced myself to give it a shot as well. The people who know me are well aware of my weakness for stories that involve you in first person, especially when they are engaging and do not bore you to death with flat narrative and a not so convincing writing. Mystic Messenger is a smartphone app developed by Cheritz and released in July 8, 2016 (for Android), August 18, 2016 (for iOS). It was awarded as Best Indie Game at the 2017 Korea Game Awards.
Okay, stop right there, I know what you’re thinking. If MM is a merely a phone application, how is it related to PC gaming in any way? Well, the answer to your question is rather simple; there actually is a way to play Android/iOS games on your computer (ofc!), so let me get into it in a moment and keep reading to know more! 😉
The plot: Mystic Messenger is actually not a simple dating simulator, not at all. There is a huge background that literally splits in different routes depending on the character you choose and mode you select (Casual Story, Deep Story and Another Story).
The first two modes are pretty much identical apart from the character routes included in it, with the player receiving a message from an unknown user (after downloading a mysterious app) who claims to be looking for the owner of a smartphone they found at the subway station. The device seems to include the address and a few numbers saved in notes, but the person apparently got stuck Abroad and thus they are unable to personally go there to find the owner or anyone related. The player can already pick a few answers as she talks with the stranger on the messenger, until she’s finally asked to go to the specified location herself. Upon arriving at the indicated address, the player finds herself in front of a door locked by a combination of numbers. The needed password is already included in the data retrieved by the unknown guy on the phone and since nobody seems to be home, the stranger prompts you to just get inside and take a look around.
Before accepting the code and moving forward with the story, you have the chance to step back and lie about the presence of a locking password. Who would accept to break into someone else’s apartment, trusting a random dude who finds you out of nowhere, immediatly after installing a new chat application? If you answer with “There’s nothing” the moment he asks you if you see any password on the spot, the game will prevent you from continuing. Instead, a young man with a black mask covering part of his face and a weird eye tattoo on his right arm appears from behind, telling you that at this point you have seen too much and need to be taken care of unless you go with him. This will generate the first bad ending right upon starting, if you want to stay away from him and actually play the rest of the story you definitely have to do as he says and enter the apartment… 😰
Getting inside you can already smell something fishy as the stranger disappears and you suddenly jump into another chatroom with six people in it. They keep talking and joking randomly as you stare at their messages in silence, until they figure out there is a new name on top and realize that someone managed to hack the system and get into the messenger. Despite an initial confusion from the player and suspicion from the group (the so called “RFA” members), they decide to let your character stay as long as you accept to take over Rika’s work, a girl who apparently committed suicide two years prior. The RFA is a fundraising association founded by Rika herself, created to collect donations for charity through elegant parties with selected guests. Your new task will consist in responding to emails received from potential attenders suggested by your new friends, choosing the right words in order to convince them. Each guest will send you at least three emails/questions, if you manage to answer correctly they will gladly accept to participate.
If you happen to successfully invite more than 10 people and always proceed with the game without failing anything, MM will conclude with a good ending. If you invite less than 10 people properly you will receive the normal ending instead (which still counts as good, but it is less deep). Bad endings are obtained through wrong choices and lack of hearts from the person of interest.
In Another Story, the game has a completely different start which is set only six months after Rika’s disappearance. Instead of asking you to find the apartment, the hacker actually presents himself as a game developer in search for a serious tester for the app he created and didn’t yet release. The only condition for you to join his “team” though, is to move to his place and remain there until the end of the test. Upon accepting, a driver finds you and picks you up as he was ordered, but you are forced to wear a blindfold in order to keep the location hidden from your eyes. The mysterious developer guides you to your room as soon as you arrive and introduces himself as Ray. He seems to be gentle and caring towards your needs despite the mysterious attitude, the only thing he asks of you is to carefully test the app and chat with his AIs as much as you can. It won’t take long to realize those phantomatic computer generated people are way more realistic than anticipated.
The characters: You currently have the chance to pick each character as romantic route, but they are usually tied to the mode you choose in the menu.
Zen (Casual Story): Musical actor who aspires to a bigger career. Narcissist, but extremely loyal and romantic. He seems to have prophetic dreams and an unnatural fast healing. Allergic to cats and general fur.
Yoosung Kim (Casual Story): RPG game addict, young college student, Rika’s cousin. Very sensitive and in need of affection, emotional but brave enough when it comes to protect the ones he loves.
Jaehee Kang (Casual Story): C&R heir’s assistant, efficient hard worker. The only woman in the RFA group apart from the main character, selective and wary yet very caring and friendly. Zen’s number one fan, loves coffee (I feel ya there, girl ☕).
Jumin Han (Deep Story): Super rich C&R heir, cat lover, serious and cautious man who prefers to act mature. Unaware of commoner’s food and habits, but very interested in pop culture nonetheless. Loves teasing Zen with random talks about his cat, Elizabeth the 3rd, due to the latter’s allergy. Reading and whinetasting are his main hobbies.
707/Seven (Deep Story): RFA hacker, secret agent, troller. Has a happy-go-lucky outgoing and very bizarre personality. Likes playing pranks on Yoosung, makes fun of everything. In love with Elizabeth the 3rd, likes spreading cat videos and talking about space. Dedicated worker who never rests, doesn’t know what healthy food truly is.
Another Story has been introduced in September (2017), with two brand new routes and events.
V: Head of the RFA, side character in Casual and Deep Story. Talented photographer, Rika’s former lover. Jumin’s childhood friend, reserved and full of secrets, kind and ready to sacrifice everything he has just for love and to protect the innocents.
Ray/Unknown: Mysterious hacker who leads the player in Rika’s apartment in Casual and Deep Story, Mint Eye main affiliate, psychologically unstable. He immediatly develops a romantic interest towards the player, bringing them flowers and hoping they will remain with him even after the end of the app test. Always describes his association’s leader as “The Savior”.
It is extremely recommended to play all the routes if you want to put the story pieces together. If you gain enough hearts from the charater of interest with the correct answers from day 1 to day 4, at the beginning of day 5 you will see their photo connected to each day until the party. The latter won’t take place before day 11, this means you then have 5 days of chats and visual novels to play your cards correctly and win their heart completely. Each character has a good ending, a normal ending, at least three bad endings and two bad relationship endings.
Also, playing certain routes may completely change a character’s face, or even more than one.
The player is often showed in CG images in the novel part as a woman with long brown hair and eyes hidden behind a fringe. This design seems to be taken from one of the available main character avatars, but MC can actually be seen however you like since they are technically based over yourself.
Note: Whenever you finish a route you automatically unlock the after ending and Valentine’s special, both related to your relationship with the character after the party (usually set a few years later). However, the after stories for V and Ray are not yet available in the game… most likely they will be released this summer to celebrate the second anniversary of the game, although Cheritz only announced minor updates for it recently. Either way they will be added regardless sooner or later.
DLCs: MM has two DLCs included as well, one for April’s Fool (also being about Zen’s birthday) and a Christmas special that allows you to once again build up a quick romance with the characters from Casual and Deep Story.
Hearts and hourglasses: The game requires a certain number of hourglasses in order to unlock the other two game modes, missed chatrooms and other additional content. Hourglasses can be earned from time to time while chatting in the messenger, but they are extremely rare and hard to unlock. The hearts container can be filled quite quickly though, since you receive a heart whenever you pick a chat answer that any of the character appreciates. In order to fill up your hourglasses inventory, you have to convert 100 hearts for one hourglass, or buy a package of those from the official store. Prices may change depending on your Country of residence (the game itself is free though).
If you miss the chats (because let’s face it, it can be quite impossible to play 24/7) you can still open them to see what the characters said in your absence, but you are unable to participate unless you unlock them with 5 hourglasses or so. If you do not take part in chats enough, you won’t gain the required amount of hearts from the character you chose and this will inevitably lead you to a bad ending.
Now, here we come to the part where we can see in detail how to play MM on PC to enjoy it on a bigger screen and protect our phone’s battery from a meltdown (not literally, but if you ever played games on your smartphone you know what I’m talking about!). The first thing you need is an Android platform simulator called Bluestacks, which will allow you to download any available app and install it like a program in your system. Once you’re done with that, you can open the app directly from the program in the My Apps tab and wait until you are asked to create an account (if you don’t have one already). What makes the whole immersion even better is the chance to use your own name (should you want that instead of a nickname) and see the characters call you with it whenever they chat with you or mention you in conversations.
If you want to make a purchase in this or any other app you can normally connect your PayPal account like you’d do on phone.
Merchandise: Cheritz has an official online shop where you can buy a lot of products related to MM and other fandoms. For MM you can find stickers, pillows and two (quite expensive) VIP packages with a lot of exclusive material.
There are two more Otome games available on Steam also created by Cheritz; Nameless and Dandelion. From what I heard, the latter may have some connection with Mystic Messenger and there are a lot of theories floating around in general.