…why did I buy this game?

Love Esquire

Yangyang Mobile
Oct 8, 2019

I realize that’s kind of an ambivalent way to start off a review, but it’s a question I genuinely keep asking myself! I don’t generally go in for visual novel-type games, and that’s really what it seemed like it’d be from the Kickstarter campaign. I guess I was intrigued by the stretch goals, though? It promised the addition of RPG elements and other things if successful enough, and I was curious to see how those would play out. Additionally, there was a tier that gave you a second, previously-released game as a bonus, and I’m a sucker for a deal.

A screengrab of writer Nola Pfau's name in the Love Esquire credits.

*record scratch* You may be wondering how I ended up in this position…

Here’s the rub, though: For a game that is embarrassingly straight, Love Esquire is honestly… pretty good. The additional elements added thanks to the stretch goals make it less of a VN and more of standard point-and-click adventure, with fully voiced character scenes, stat training, turn-based combat, and multiple endings. 

You play as the Squire, whom you can name, but who is always male. The Squire is, you see, a virgin, and new to the service of his knight. There are a great many jokes about him and said knight, but as I said, the game is embarrassingly straight, so those jokes are nothing but a ‘ha ha, no homo’ type of situation. Before going off to war, the Squire’s number one goal (aside from his training) is to find love. There are, as you’d expect, a lot of jokes about sex, masturbation, and boobs, but the game is very chaste despite that, owing partly to the laws of its country of origin. Even the romance endings are fully clothed affairs, full of blushing and compromising poses, but little else. Given the sheer glut of dating type games that feature at least toplessness on the part of whatever female characters appear, I confess a little surprise, but honestly whatever the circumstances, I appreciated the fact. It’s not that I’m averse to a good sexy game, but… well, when you have a straight male POV, things can get dicey.

A large character flexes on screen next to a much smaller female character. Text from a character named Pops reads, "Of course! What kind of responsible father would I be if I let my son stay sober on his birthday?"

Family is weird.

The dialogue system gives you options to chat up five different girls: two princesses (one visiting), a nurse, a… well, we won’t get into what Vel is, and lastly—your… sister? Step-sister. It’s weird, but like I said, the game is pretty chaste, so at least it’s not too weird. In a refreshing departure, the dialogue with all of these girls is friendly, interesting, and overwhelmingly positive—there’s no negging or other PUA tactics here. As you progress through different story arcs with each one, you’ll have four topics to discuss, getting their opinions on the town, their jobs, how they relate to other characters in their lives—they’re all very well fleshed out, and I found myself really enjoying the scenes as they played through. The voice acting is really solid, and includes talent both from Yang Yang Mobile’s previous game, The Letter, and other, larger titles, such as Fire Emblem, NieR: Automata, and even actors from Dragonball Z and Transformers: Prime!

Training focuses on three stats: charm, intelligence, and strength. Each of these stats improves not just your Squire, but the knight you serve, Hugh. It costs gold to train, which you can, in turn, earn from the adventuring system—a linear-progression map consisting of fifteen battles, all turn-based like a classic RPG. I really enjoyed this part too—the combat is not what you might expect at all. Your knight does all of the attacking, and he does it automatically; as squire, it’s your job to either heal, loot the battlefield, cheer him on, or taunt the enemies to give him a little breathing room. It’s a clever approach that acknowledges the fact that your character lacks combat skill, but can be useful in other ways. The animations are a little crass, but amusing—cheering Hugh on results in your Squire popping up behind the enemies with a swimsuit poster, which energizes him enough to attack the whole group of enemies at once. Taunting enemies results in your Squire mooning them. There are only a few enemy types, in various strengths—slimes, “wolves” (they’re corgis), bandits, etc. The nodes have a story arc of their own that I don’t want to spoil but also found very rewarding—there is a very explicit lesson in it about not manipulating people that I really appreciated.

In short, it’s all very, very silly and very, very straight, but it’s good-natured, and it’s got heart. I do still wish there’d been other gender options—it’s not just boys that can be desperately horny and aspire to knighthood! I also wish the stretch goals had been fully funded—I enjoyed what Yangyang was able to do with the simple three stats and the turn-based combat, and I would’ve really liked to see what they could do if they’d managed to expand it further. That said, though, what they accomplished here is a fun, well-made game that completely defied my expectations. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next, and my only advice is MAKE IT GAY, YOU COWARDS!