Adventure Corner ~ Sympathy Kiss

Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.

In this edition of the column we take a look at Idea Factory International’s latest otome release, Sympathy Kiss on the Nintendo Switch.

Sympathy Kiss

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 02.27.2024
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Otomate


Everyone is constantly told by employers to find a “work-life balance” to reduce stress and anxiety. Working in itself is a form of anxiety and stress, and while every job is different, striking the balance between work and having a personal life is a real challenge. Many workplaces stress that office romances are forbidden, usually because they are a distraction or create conflict among coworkers. Idea Factory International and Otomate’s Sympathy Kiss suggests that the best way to find a good work-life balance is to date one’s coworkers and cultivate the perfect office romance.

Players take on the role of Akari Amasawa, a new designer for an app company known as Estario. Akari has been given the task of breathing life into the company’s flagship app, Estarci, and failure to do so will result in the company’s closure. With Akari and her colleagues’ jobs on the line, it is up to her to ensure the Estarci app succeeds. The base story of Sympathy Kiss is straightforward, offering a slice-of-life version of the Estario staff’s day-to-day lives. With six romance options and two secret routes to uncover, there is a ton of replayability in Sympathy Kiss, with each character route offering three different endings: a work, love, and the best ending, referred to as achieving “work-life balance.”

Like in most otome games, not every bachelor will appeal to every player. Sympathy Kiss‘s weakness comes from how much of a mixed bag the cast is, many of them being fairly unlikeable or just plain boring to interact with. One bachelor is a full-on mansplainer, another is a stalker-puppy, and then there is a love interest who straight up ignores consent. One of the secret routes is quite uncomfortable, and the heroine’s reaction to a lot of the route is incredibly problematic. The best route was Minato’s, as he is a bit on the gruff side, but is surprisingly sweet, well-spoken, and cares a lot for Akari. While his central conflict was weak overall, his romance is a slow burn, with a lot of great build-ups, which is exactly what typically exemplifies the best of an otome romance.

Welcome to the team!

It’s wonderful to have a more mature otome title on the market, and the spice factor in many of the scenes is quite high compared to the more chaste or angsty titles out there. Characters in Sympathy Kiss, especially our heroine, are pretty horny, and honestly, it’s a nice change of pace. A few of the routes do a great job of exploring adult dating and having a relationship, while other ones struggle to find a spark of romance. The game does not do a good job of making many of the male characters compelling, and a lot of their struggles do not earn them enough empathy for the players to feel truly connected to them. Many of the romance options are straight-up unlikeable, and Akari’s lack of agency at times doesn’t help that. Even a lot of the game’s over-the-top conflicts do not pay-off, boiling down a lot of the time to a misunderstanding or lack of communication.

Sympathy Kiss also features spin-off episodes that occur at the end of every character’s chapter. These spin-offs put the player in the male love interest’s shoes, offering a bit of insight into how they may be thinking or feeling. These instances are fairly short, and many of them feel superfluous, as many of the interactions are more slice-of-life based, rather than pushing the story along. While they add some personality to the male love interests, and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, these spin-off episodes don’t feel like they add much overall to the story.

One of the stylistic choices unique to Sympathy Kiss is the ability to respond to text messages or to coworkers with reactions, allowing Akari to occasionally participate in some office banter. There are also choices throughout the game that are represented by emojis, the five being angry, happy, indifferent, sad, or troubled. These emoji choices allow the player to reflect on how Akari might be feeling at the moment. Both the text messaging and emojis are interesting stylistic choices, adding great visual appeal to the user interface.

Nori just invites himself over.

Sympathy Kiss is a visually beautiful otome game, chock-full of gorgeous CG stills throughout each character route. As mentioned previously, some of the imagery is fairly steamy, showcasing that these are adult relationships. The spice level varies based on the bachelor, offering the right amount of sexiness without moving into full-on smut. One oddity in the game is that Akari has no face in any of the CG images. Although she is a cipher for the player character, it’s disappointing that players don’t get to see a beautiful face on her.  The game is fully voiced in Japanese, with some excellent performances from Yuuichirou Umehara who plays Minato, and Kazuyuki Okitsu who plays Akari’s sexy boss, Kobase. The localization is quite good with minimal typos, and there is a good flow throughout the text and decision-making.

With so many new otome games on the market, Sympathy Kiss stands out for being a slice-of-life office romance simulator that does an excellent job of presenting adult themes. However, where it falters is in its mixed bag of bachelors to romance and Akari’s questionable decision-making skills. While there’s nothing wrong with a game emulating the Stockholm Syndrome of the K-drama world, it has to land in its insanity and fun, which by straddling the line with grounded realistic office banter Sympathy Kiss fails to do. Sympathy Kiss is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, it just doesn’t do enough to stand apart from other otome titles on the market.

Disclosure: This article is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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