When it comes to the gaming industry, the fascination for robotic beings has been on the rise, with popular titles such as Cyberpunk 2077, Detroit Become Human, and NieR: Automata. And joining in on this mecha train is Love Shore, a sci-fi LGBT visual novel with the qualities of both a dating sim and an RPG. With all this packed together, my interest was certainly piqued, and I anticipated seeing how the story and gameplay would unfold when diving in.
Although the visual novel was previously delayed, Perfect Garbage Studios has revamped the demo and has set an official release date. Upon the game’s introduction, you are first tasked with choosing either Sam or Farah, two very different characters trying to make it in the world as artificial bodies known as “S. Humans.” In comparison, I appreciated their different personalities and mannerisms since some games have cut-and-pasted storylines for their main characters.
I picked Farah first, an empathetic and trusty S. Human with a rugged exterior. Her route often mentions Sam, showcasing that their journeys are intertwined instead of separated. While Farah’s room is neat, Sam’s place is an utter mess reflecting his fragile state of mind as he tries to escape his past that involves the crime underworld.
Despite the characters’ similar experiences of recently getting out of prison (as to why Farah is there is still to be determined), the two journeys are completely diverse due to their unique backgrounds. In return, it feels as if you have two games in one because of their individual paths that include their own set of characters and narratives; therefore, you’ll spend countless hours trying to achieve all the endings once it fully releases.
As for the origin story, it all stems from the aftermath of a fertility crisis when Life S. Incorporated inherits a god complex and creates life through biotech, forming cyborgs who can express emotions, feel hunger, and even get drunk. It seems to me that many of these fictional stories are beginning to blend the concept of horror by incorporating realistic origins, like the fungus disease in The Last of Us, almost making the players question if something similar could happen in real life.
The introduction also gives you some insight into its RPG mechanics and romance options. The three main stats you need to keep track of are Strength, Intelligence, and Courage, which can be improved based on the decisions you make in the game. If a player has a low stat on a particular category, they won’t be able to make a decision later down the line. Being that this is a demo version, there weren’t many times that I was prevented from doing an action, so I look forward to seeing how this ability affects the gameplay further.
Then, we get to one of the most exciting aspects of Love Shore: the queer romance. Like the stats, there are three categories you can choose from regarding dialogue: Romantic, Romantic (Sexual), and Platonic. It should be noted that these options will not impact the overall storyline and are simply just for the sake of pleasure, wink wink.
Sometimes the flirtatious factor can be subtle, and other times it can be outright sexual, as if you’re interrupting something. In addition, there’s a disparate plethora of romantic partners, from the eccentric best friend to the sultry bad boy, resulting in more options for any type of player. Of course, a few dialogue options are corny, but every dating sim needs at least a couple of cliche tropes.
Besides the romance, Love Shore’s main objective is to decipher the mystery surrounding the cyberpunk city, primarily focusing on the criminal underground run by gods. Yes, you heard that right; not only are there humans and cyborgs, but there are also supernatural beings who are the mysterious puppet masters of this futuristic universe.
Farah’s mission is to find out what happened to her old S. Human Specialist, Imani Santero, by looking into the underworld, while Sam’s quest is to live an everyday life until he eventually gets pulled back to the demons of his past. Since their paths are connected, there are vague hints about one another, driving me to want to play both characters.
For instance, when playing as Farah, you’ll encounter a moment with Sam that involves murder, and the only way to understand this scenario is by initiating his journey. Adding to the mystery aspect is the spine-chilling musical arrangement that almost sounds like an electronic soundtrack from the Lost TV series.
Anytime a new plot point is revealed, there’s a haunting composition that could be straight out of a horror movie. However, even if several scenes are dark and gloomy, Love Shore’s artwork still showcases vibrantly ultramodern designs of the cyberpunk city, featuring watercolors that come off as a painting.
One of the core aspects that I personally look at with choice-based visual novels is the impact of decisions; do they matter at all? In my experience,
I’ve played a few installments with a set path in spite of it being a choose-your-own-adventure storyline. Fortunately, Love Shore doesn’t seem like this because I tried different playthroughs and got an entirely new story each time. The decision gameplay and the cinematics are well-balanced enough to make you feel like you are contributing to the story rather than sitting and watching how it all plays out.
Furthermore, players can use the handy fast-forward button when they embark on another playthrough, which also pauses during the dialogue selection phase. In the past, I’ve had instances where I accidentally clicked the wrong button and had to start again, but this game’s mechanics can prevent that from happening.
So, if you want to get lost in a futuristic world filled with attractive humans, cyborgs, and gods, I highly recommend downloading Love Shore, especially since it’s free and has one of the most extended playtimes I’ve seen for a demo (I spent about 5 hours alone trying to complete each path.)
Nonetheless, whether you are an ally or a part of the LGBT community, you will certainly enjoy how much queer representation is in this fascinating storyline, and I look forward to seeing even more of that when it launches in Spring 2023.