The Charming Empire Review - Simply Charming

Compared to Dogenzaka Lab’s other titles, The Charming Empire soars with strong translations, stunning art, and brilliant voice acting.

The Charming Empire is a simple but sweet Otome game developed by Operahouse, Dramatic Create, and Dogenzaka Lab.

Story

The Charming Empire focuses on heroine Amane Kosaka, who has been living a simple but satisfactory life in the countryside until she’s suddenly swept away by her stepbrother, Soshi Amazaki. Amane is forced to live in the royal palace alongside the current ruler, her stepbrother. She’s mostly confined to her room in between studying various subjects such as etiquette, history, and dance to prepare for her debut into high society. Amane’s life in the empire is lonely, as her brother is cold and withdrawn. Even the staff refuse to partake in conversation with her despite her many attempts. Depending on the route players choose, Amane finds comfort in one of the five bachelors all while the truth of the kingdom’s state unfolds.

Amane soon realizes that the city has grown dissatisfied with Soshi’s rule. Citizens view Soshi as a dictator who bursts out violently too frequently. As rumors of rebellion spread amongst the people, Amane struggles to find her place in the empire, and it’s up to her to bring peace back to its people.

While the story is interesting enough to be engaging, it suffers from poor pacing; this may stem from The Charming Empire being a port of a phone game. The prologue feels rushed, with little to no explanation of who characters are. This makes it difficult to find your footing and invest in the heroine. However, once a route begins, this issue is resolved.

The fast-paced nature of the game is captivating, as it keeps the player on their toes, wanting to know more. However, readers might have trouble forming any real attachment to the bachelor’s before the main story shifts to political instability. The foundation of the relationships could use more work, and if the routes intersected, it would make for a less repetitive narrative. Ultimately, each route is building towards Soshi’s, which reveals truths that the other routes hint at.

The story isn’t entirely complex, and its pacing doesn’t allow for too much character development, but it’s a fun read with cute character interactions.

Character Options

The player is given the option to choose their route at the beginning of the game instead of blindly playing through a prologue that leads to certain character paths. They can choose between five different bachelors: the flirty Toki Tanba; the former prince, Kei Yoshimine; the quiet bodyguard, Koichiro Sera; the polite Kagemitsu Togawa; and the aloof stepbrother, Soshi Amazaki.

Each of the bachelor’s have unique personalities, and to obtain a happy ending, the player must understand what makes each character tick. While the pacing makes it difficult to get know characters, each one adheres to certain tropes found in otome games, making it easy to understand their motivations. That said, the characters do have more to offer than just archetypes.

For example, Kei Yoshimine is Amane’s private tutor and starts off rather harsh towards her, but there’s more to his coldness than just a portrayal of the stereotypical “distant” type. Kei is a prisoner of war, a captive and former prince of the empire. Over the course of his route, his distrust of Amane dissipates and he begins to open up to her. While Kei has one of the stronger routes with some of the best pacing, other paths offer unique parts of the story and different personalities. Some of the characters are more complex than others, but even the straightforward ones have something charming to offer players. Whether it’s the flirty Toki Tanba or the forbidden love between step-siblings—yes, even that—there’s something for everyone.

Art and Sound

One of the strongest parts of The Charming Empire is the artwork. The CG's and character designs are vibrant and stunning, making the multiple playthroughs worthwhile. There are moments of faint animation with changes in expressions or characters moving closer to the lens for an emphasis on depth, giving the art a lifelike quality. This, paired with expressive Japanese voice acting gives the characters energy. The music is also fairly enjoyable for the first playthrough, but can get a little repetitive beyond that, as it loops quite a bit throughout. Thankfully, the design allows players to turn down the background music without losing the exceptional voice acting.

Verdict

While certain aspects make it easy to recognize that The Charming Empire is ported from a phone game, the story is interesting enough to make it work both in handheld and on the big screen. The art style makes for a stunning transition from small phones to TVs. The game isn’t without faults, but if you’re looking for a lighthearted and fast paced story, then this game is for you.

Score

Good Bad
Stunning Artwork Unnatural Pacing
Exceptional Voice Acting Lack of Intersecting Routes
Engaging Characters

- 7/10 -