There are plenty of great titles that were simply made to be ported to the Switch. Any kind of roguelike is a perfect fit to the portable console that looks great and plays hard. Sports games are a given, since you can instantly pop off two JoyCons and challenge a friend or stranger. Action, RPG, Puzzle, they all feel right at home, since the Switch doesn’t ask you to sacrifice anything to have the best of both worlds. Sure, maybe it’s a bit underpowered compared to the behemoth strength of XB1X or PS4Pro, but it’s still a dream to those of use who lived through the monochromatic days of the original Gameboy (or, deeper cut, Tiger Handheld Electronics). So, even though it may not be my cup of tea, I celebrate the release of the boy harem dating VN, Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya.
Somewhere in a classic, alter world Japan, women are the primary force and inhabitants of most of the island, holders of power, riches and decisions. Men are definitely a lower class tier, almost nonexistent except for in very, very select locations. Some men exist to be servants and butlers, but these are the rare exception. Men, as far as most of the land cares, are relegated to the small city of Yoshiwara, a pleasure district where women flock to find a singular moment of artificial romance and the thrill of the flesh. You, a rich heiress who is ignorant to the ideas of men and what they can bring, are brought to Yoshiwara per your mother’s request so that you may become a woman in the physical sense. Your manservant, Musashi, has brought you to the prestigious and illustrious geisha house of Ohgiya, only the most respected in the land. Here, you will decide upon the man whom you will give the gift of your virginity to, so that you may finally be ready for a bold future. But matters of the heart sometimes interfere, and you may find something truly unexpected in Ohgiya’s halls: love.
Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya is meant to take sex roles and the perception of gender norms and flip it on their heads for a variety of reasons. Firstly, that there’s a market for women and men alike to court beautiful boys and discover which one they want to bed. Secondly, to paint a beautiful picture that can be more in-depth and detailed than the average dating sim, which, I would argue, this game is not. Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya, is a bit strange in the setup, because you choose, specifically, which boy/man you’ll be pursuing for the duration of the multiple chapters that you’re invested in the storyline. It’s kind of cool, as a result. In the regular dating sims that I’ve seen on the PC (chasing after any number of women in a usually outlandish situation), you have to follow a general path and then, through choices and decisions, organically attune yourself to someone’s affection. As a result, it’s entirely possible to finish such games without ever getting any romance. With Ohgiya, you’re guaranteed to lock onto at least one person, for however long, though your decisions will shape the end result of the game.
Now, if you’re into reading about men flirting with you and treating you like you’re the most important woman in the world, then you are definitely in the right place. From the moment you step foot into Ohgiya, I had no idea if there were any other customers or even had been other customers before. The prologue introduces you to the five men who could be your virginal destiny, and there’s plenty to choose from. There’s the Adonis-like Takigawa, the rough but gentle Gakuto, the overly confident and flirtatious Asagiri, the warm yet distant Utsuemi, and the doting, shy Ageha, and every one of them is crazy pretty. The art style of Men of Yoshiwara focuses primarily on the faces and appendages, giving you plenty of opportunities to see piercing stares, pouting lips and either strong or supple arms, but nothing too overtly sexual at first. Even though the kimonos of the men fall limp constantly and they love to expose their hairless chests, there’s this lack of definition in the anatomy that keeps it from getting to be like a meat market. Also, take this into note, people looking for some hot man action via Switch: there’s nothing you’ll find here that ventures beyond erotic in description and image. Sure, there are a few saucy pictures (our heroine being kissed while blindfolded took me by surprise), but there aren’t going to be abject dong shots or anything. Nintendo might be maturing, but they’re not quite ready to go whole hog into whole hoggin’.
Due to the nature of Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya, you quickly move beyond the surface “gotta get some” storyline and delve into much more depending on the men’s storylines. There’s some who are forced to be here due to slave-like conditions. Some are desperate to forget a past that’s either painful with lost love or with haunting memories. You find out that, to exercise a loophole in tradition, everyone who decides to bang in Yoshiwara has to be married for a single night so that way everything is nice and moral. There are goddamn murders that happen, while you’re here trying to get your groove back (get your groove for the first time?) and all the while all the men care about is your well-being. The story is surprisingly detailed and cares a great deal about making the faceless protagonist someone to align with, especially once her domineering mother shows up. Since the storylines are actually separated to keep romances from interfering with each other, the men will always help you towards your goal of falling in love with [NAME HERE] instead of trying to vy your affection for themselves. It’s kind of nice, but also reminds you that you’re at a very classy brothel and the men basically understand that your business is good for the whole establishment regardless of with whom you lay.
The choices themselves always seem very obvious and natural towards making the game bring you closer to romance. With six save slots, you can easily save between chapters, play through, check the result of how your “likeability” is going with each dude, and then reset to the chapter start to see if a different choice would be better. The choices are subtle: you won’t get “KISS HIM OR PUNCH HIM” as a setup, but you can always pick a vocal or action choice that aligns best with the man of your dreams. For example, Ageha would always prefer something that’s more demure and romantic, whereas Gakuto prefers you show yourself to be a bit more gritty at first, but warming up as he exposes himself (emotionally). There’ll be a max of five choices per chapter, with some chapters offering as few as one (and zero in the prologue). The dialogue will change only slightly depending on your decisions, so it’s not something where you’ll want to reset all the way to the beginning to correct your mistakes.
Once it’s all over and done with, you either get a pretty good ending, an exceptionally good ending, or a bland ending that feels like it’s harder to get than anything else. Not getting the guy in Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya is like striking out in t-ball. Yes, it’s certainly possible, but you really gotta put in the effort to fail in order to get there. These are dudes who are basically prostitutes of the refined notion and want you, very, very, badly. It almost feels weird to refer to them as geisha, since, classically, having sex with a geisha was almost unheard of, and it feels more like the folk of Dogenzaka just wanted to put a familiar term on their bordello. The game tells you flat-out that you have three dates, and the sex will commence on the third date. So, yea, you can still get a bad ending, but you need to try for it.
Still, as far as a storyline does with some good artwork and pretty decent music, Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya is a good entry onto the Switch. It’s frank about the goals and still decent in terms of visual stimulation, but it has legit character development and the reading isn’t too lengthy. Each character arc could take a couple of hours depending on reading speed and thinking about decisions, so there’s plenty of replay value in here. And, if you ever just wanted to feel like the only girl in the world for a bunch of smoldering pretty boys, then your ship has finally come in.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.