Sympathy Kiss Review

Game: Sympathy Kiss
Genre: Visual Novel, Otome
System: Nintendo Switch
Developers | Publishers: Otomate | Design Factory | Idea Factory
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: UK £44.99 | EU €49,99 | US $49.99
Release Date: February 27th, 2024

Review code used, with many thanks to Keymailer.

This review for Sympathy Kiss might contain minor spoilers.

Estario Corp

I guess we’ve all been there. Akari Amawase, our main character (MC) likes her job well enough, but she doesn’t love it. She works in the design department at Estario Corp, an IT company that makes news apps. Akari performs her tasks just fine and doesn’t actively look for work opportunities, working life just moves along.

Almost a year after she started working there, an opportunity came up; she was offered a spot on the production team that would try reviving a failed app called Estraci. Taking this unique opportunity, she is surrounded by the most excellent coworkers in their field, all handpicked by her new director. While this seems daunting initially, she quickly finds her place in the team, working in pairs with another coworker. As she finds her place in her new job, she also grows closer to her coworkers and even falls in love. And maybe she will end up with more than just a fun job…

A vibrant scene from the video game Sympathy Kiss featuring six animated characters in a warmly lit bar setting. From left to right: a man with red hair and a white jacket holding a glass of whiskey; a man with light brown hair dressed in a gray sweater; a man with green hair and a plaid shirt under a green vest, casually holding a glass of yellow liquor; a man with black hair, glasses, and a pinstripe suit, holding a glass of scotch; a blonde man in a light pink turtleneck with a gold necklace, smiling gently; and a woman with long brown hair and a white blouse, cheerfully holding a blue cocktail. Each character exhibits a distinct personality through their attire and expressions. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The Estario crowd gathered at Evergreen.

Your Coworkers

There are six main routes in Sympathy Kiss and two secret shorter routes to find. None of the routes are locked from the start, so you are free to play in whichever order you would like. And speaking of route order: Regarding the bigger plot, there isn’t a route order that has to be followed, you are free to play whatever you like. I went with the order Yoshioka -> Minato -> Kobase -> Saotome -> Secret route #1 -> Tainaka -> Secret route #2 -> Usui. I did enjoy it this way, but since Yoshioka worked at a different company I missed out on the office banter at Estario at first.

By the way, notice how each coworker holds a purple tulip in their feature images. I couldn’t resist looking into that: a purple tulip stands for royalty and elegance. And a tulip in general for rebirth and new beginnings. Sounds promising, so let’s take a look at the coworkers.

Mitsuki Saotome

Age: 24 years old
Occupation: In charge of planning and development
Voiced by: Kajiwara Gakuto. Same voice actor as Mikado Akira (Café Enchanté) and Shirota Mitsuki (Jack Jeanne).

Promotional artwork for 'Sympathy Kiss', featuring the character Mitsuki Saotome. The image is a blend of graphic design and illustration with Mitsuki's name prominently displayed in the background. Mitsuki is portrayed with striking red hair, a playful smirk, and green eyes, giving off a charming and confident vibe. He wears a modern, stylish outfit with a white jacket over a blue shirt, accessorized with a red scarf. His hand playfully pulls at a strand of hair, adding to his flirtatious demeanor. The text 'Episode 01' overlays part of the image, suggesting the start of a series or a new chapter in the game. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The development genius Soatome

Soatome is the first character we meet in Sympathy Kiss and is the so-called genius of the planning and development department. Everyone in the company knows him and knows his ability to provide unique ideas. But aside from his unique work talents, he is useless at normal interactions with people. He is the type of person who says everything he is thinking and, no matter your status, will put you in your place. But overall he is very sweet and wants to help people get further in life and their job. 

In the beginning, I didn’t like Saotome at all. He seemed arrogant and didn’t mince any of his words. It takes a while to warm up to his character, but after he and Akari start working together and we find out about his past, he becomes likeable. The reveals in his route were very predictable, I think I knew in chapter 2 or 3 what exactly was going on. But in the end, I did enjoy their relationship and thought it was adorable. They both take the lead in their relationship, and there isn’t any awkward slow burn. 

In comparison to the other routes, Soatome’s route was a bit meh to me. Nothing bad, but it just didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. Soatome’s was also themed around their work, way more than other routes. This does make sense if you account for his genius status within the company. But I could do it with less work and more romance. 

Kohei Minato

Age: 25 years old
Voiced by: Umehara Yuuichirou. Same voice actor as Canus Espada (Café Enchanté), Musashibou Benkei (Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei), Enishi Rokurou (Jack Jeanne), Paschalia (Radiant Tale).

This is a character visual from the video game Sympathy Kiss, featuring Kohei Minato. He is depicted with a modern and thoughtful expression, blue eyes peering through strands of his tousled dark hair. Kohei is in a casual pose with one hand adjusting his hair and the other in his pocket, wearing a white shirt with a light blue collar, coupled with a red and pink jacket draped over his shoulders. Behind him, a stylized cityscape at night creates an urban backdrop. The text 'Episode 01' is overlaid in large letters, indicating an episodic content within the game. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The cold and curt Minato

I related so much to this character in Sympathy Kiss. In the first chapter, Minato is just at the company to do his work and isn’t there for all the socialisation. Which is me sometimes, I have to admit. He would like to follow the rules and keep things the way that they have always been done, so Akari coming into his life changes his whole world. Most of the time, he is curt and cold toward everyone, but when his family comes up, he melts a little bit. In that way, I think Akari and Minato were a well-matched couple. I think this is the type of relationship where both parties can learn from each other, and in my eyes, that is the right relationship. 

In terms of their relationship at the office. He respects Akari and helps her out, and still maintains a business working relationship with her. Which I can’t say for all the other couples in the game. This route just had all the right elements for me, and even I fell in love with Minato and his sensual voice. Early on I looked forward to some spicy scenes, and they did not disappoint.

Yoji Kobase

Age: 31 years old
Occupation: The director of the Estraci improvement team
Voiced by: Okitsu Kazuyuki. Same voice actor as Epilogi (Café Enchanté), Tsukuyomi (Olympia Soiree), Dante Gunpei (Jack Jeanne) and Ankou (Virche Evermore ~ErroR: Salvation~).

Artwork from the video game Sympathy Kiss showcasing the character Yoji Kobase. Yoji is portrayed with a cool and collected demeanor, his hair a mix of dark shades with a hint of red, swept back except for a few strands over his face. He's wearing a pinstripe suit, with a hand raised to his collar as if adjusting his tie, the other holding a pen to his lips in a gesture of deep thought. His green eyes are partially hidden behind a pair of stylish glasses, adding to his mysterious aura. A patterned background with his name and the text 'Episode 01' suggests a significant storyline development. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The workaholic boss Kobase

Kobase is our newly appointed director and the leader of the Estarci division. He handpicked each person on this team and is determined to make the revival of the app a success. I can say without a doubt he is a workaholic, often staying late to finish his work or even working weekends. Overall, Kobase is pretty serious when it comes to work, but we see his softer side a lot when interacting with his coworkers. He often shows how dependable and kind-hearted he can be and is. 

Although I think Yoji is really nice, it did take a while for me to get used to how he acts towards Akari, mainly because he is her boss. Even though they are both adults, I couldn’t help but feel a little weird about their whole situation. Until of course, I stumbled upon Usui’s route. In real life, it would be extremely weird for a boss or manager to act towards a coworker this way. But putting this thought to the side for gaming purposes, and because I am a sucker for romance and spice, I loved this route. 

From the beginning, Kobase’s feelings were super clear, and I loved the immediate build-up to the spice. Even seeing a different side to Kobase just made me soften up for him. I think this was also the only route where Akari had some difficulties with her work. This made Akari feel all the more real because I can’t explain to you how many times I dealt with awkward situations or made some mistakes at work myself. 

Rokuro Yoshioka

Age: 28 years old
Occupation: Heir to Tempesty and Estrario’s business partner
Voiced by: Yamashita Seiichirou. Same voice actor as Yoichi (Spirits of Edo: Winter’s Wish) and Hugo (Virche Evermore ~ErroR: Salvation~).

A promotional image from 'Sympathy Kiss' features Rokuro Yoshioka, a character with an alluring presence. His hairstyle is casual yet stylish with strands of blonde and a hint of orange at the fringe, complementing his light green eyes. Rokuro is shown with a thoughtful expression, biting on a pen while gazing off to the side. He's dressed in a chic beige jacket over a white shirt with a green tie, exuding a mix of intellect and playfulness. The name 'Rokuro Yoshioka' is presented in bold letters alongside the text 'Episode 01', indicating his central role in this part of the game. Abstract, geometric designs form a colorful backdrop. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The prince on a white horse, Yoshioka

Rokuro has been introduced to us as a new business partner for Estario. It is announced that Tempasty will be assisting Estarci in their new project. Though he is the heir of a huge corporation, he is not at all the guy you would expect him to be. Right away, it’s clear that Rokuro cares a lot for the company and tries his best to understand all the departments that make Tempasty run. You can quickly see he is invested in the company and would love to help out wherever he can. Outside of his work, he is a gentleman and kind to a fault.

This was the first route in Sympathy Kiss that I played, and the drama in this one was real! I often felt like Yoshioka’s route was a cheesy, dramatic TV show. And it had me hooked until the end. Even though the theme in the route is predictable, I didn’t know what the ending was going to be. It could have gone multiple ways, but the sappy romantic lover in me was pleased with the ending. 

One note, which I think may come with the TV show territory, was that I felt annoyed by some of the characters in this route. When dealing with the issues in this route, Yoshioka, for example, just didn’t make the decisions that I wanted him to. This sometimes left me sighing in annoyance. But I think this attests to how engrossed I was in the game.

Nori Tainaka

Age: 22 years old
Occupation: He doesn’t have a job
Voiced by: KENN. Same voice actor as Shelby Snail (Cupid Parasite).

Character art from 'Sympathy Kiss' featuring Nori Tainaka. Nori is illustrated with a contemplative and somewhat melancholic expression, lavender hair partially covering one eye. He's shown leaning his face on his hand, with a backdrop of city buildings in shades of blue and purple. His attire consists of a pink and beige checkered jacket, adding a soft contrast to the urban environment behind him. The name 'Nori Tainaka' and 'Episode 01' are overlaid on the image, hinting at his significance in the game's storyline. The composition combines a sense of introspection with vibrant graphic elements. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The gentle couch-hopping Tainaka

We meet Tainaka as some sort of couch-hopper in the Evergreen bar. We quickly find out that he doesn’t have a permanent place to stay and will stay with a woman he meets on the streets most of the time. Tainaka also claims to have memory loss when asked where he lived and what his occupation was before. This makes him mysterious and strange. His overall image screams innocent to me; everything he does is in a sort of low self-esteem way. Which makes you feel sorry for him. We can immediately see he is caring and kind and loves physical affection. And no, I don’t mean that in a sexual way. In the end, Akari is persuaded to let him stay with her over the weekend. And he will suggest right away to do all the housework by himself, which gives him extra points! 

I will be honest: this was not my favourite route. I am just not a fan of this type of character. The way he talked to Akari just gave me the creeps, and his personality would sometimes change out of nowhere. In the end, it was even a bit of a chore finishing this route because I was over his low self-esteem attitude. But maybe this is a good sign for the game because that means I was invested in Sympathy Kiss. 

His appearance also threw me for a big loop. When looking at his character design, I thought he was going to be a player and act, though, but this wasn’t the case at all. Which is a fun twist, I think. 

Shuya Usui

Age: 45 years old
Occupation: Owner of the bar Evergreen
Voiced by: Uchida Yuuya. 

In this image from 'Sympathy Kiss', Shuya Usui is elegantly depicted with a confident and serene expression. He has striking hair that transitions from dark roots to a bright teal at the tips, complemented by his sharp green eyes. Shuya is shown holding a single purple tulip close to his heart, which adds a romantic element to his character design. He wears a white shirt with a green-striped blazer, and the inner lining of his jacket reveals a traditional Japanese pattern, suggesting a blend of modern and cultural influences. The background features abstract geometric shapes and the title 'Episode 01', indicating his importance in the game's narrative. Published on: LadiesGamers
The mature bartender Usui

Shuya is the comforting bartender we meet at his own bar Evergreen. His bar is such a hidden gem and what makes it so special is Usui himself. He creates a relaxing vibe in the bar and will give the customers a drink that will satisfy their needs that they didn’t know they had. Usui is older than most of the characters in the game, and it shows. He is calm, collected and an absolute gentleman. He will listen to anyone intently with a smile on his face to show that you are being heard. 

If we’re talking about consent, this route exemplifies it. Usui is a prime example of how every man should behave at the start of a relationship. Given that he is twenty years older than Akari, I initially had my doubts about this route, finding the age difference somewhat off-putting. However, upon playing it, that was not the case. At every turn, he strives to maintain a professional relationship between them, always considering her well-being. Even during the more intimate scenes, he consistently asks for consent, which at one point made me laugh at how frustrated Akari became because of it. The most enjoyable part of this route was the courage Akari displayed. She took the lead and actively pursued Usui until he eventually gave in. I laughed multiple times at her assertive advances.

Visuals of Sympathy Kiss

The visuals in this game were a real treat, especially the chapter visuals. They had a very dynamic vibe through the colour and composition of the characters. Because it’s about Estario, an IT app company, I think they were trying to go for a more technological design in all the visuals. And they nailed it. If you look closely, you will see a techy style (which is purple-ish colours, icons and trendy colour combinations) combined with a fun and inviting romantic vibe. What made the visuals have a romantic feel was the different types of lighting in the CGs (Computer Graphics). In short, it is a visually beautiful game. 

A scene from 'Sympathy Kiss' video game depicting a suave bartender character with slicked-back silver hair and piercing green eyes. He is captured in the middle of an action, skillfully shaking a cocktail shaker with both hands, his movements conveying both precision and flair. He is dressed in a dark grey pinstriped vest with a rolled-up pink shirt underneath, hinting at his stylish yet professional demeanor. The warm ambiance of the bar is filled with an array of bottles and glasses in the background, suggesting a well-stocked and inviting atmosphere. His confident expression and posture suggest he is an expert at his craft. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The cocktail sorcerer coming up with his next concoction.

System: Work/Love Status and Emotion Picker

The game emphasises your being able to choose your story, which is the case with most Otome games. But Sympathy Kiss takes this a little further. They added a few new functions to enhance this experience.

Work/Love Status

Like with a lot of Otome games, we have an affection meter. But this time it ranges from work to love. You can max out either of the two, but to get the “best” ending, you have to find a good balance between the two. Giving the message that work to love (life) balance is very important.  There are three achievable endings per route. The best ending, the love ending and the work ending. Neither of the three is an actual bad ending, which is a nice change from some of the previous games I have reviewed. 

A character profile image from 'Sympathy Kiss' featuring Nori Tainaka. He has a charming smile, with lavender hair framing his face, and his eyes are a captivating violet. Nori is wearing a light purple shirt that adds a softness to his look. Behind him, there's an artistic rendition of golden tulips on a cream background, and a graphical interface with various shades of gray, blue, and pink, along with words like 'STATUS' and 'LOVE' which indicate elements of gameplay. The composition of the image creates a balance between character and game interface, showcasing Nori’s role within the game. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The work/love status menu

Emotion Picker

Sometimes in conversations with other characters, you are offered a choice between two emotional responses. This does not affect the work/love status, but these choices do come back later in conversations. Which gives the game a more realistic touch. 

An image from the video game 'Sympathy Kiss' featuring a character in a dialogue scene with emotion icons. The character has soft blonde hair and gentle blue eyes, offering a friendly smile. He's dressed in a stylish beige jacket over a white turtleneck, and his look is completed with a distinctive necklace with a cross pendant. On either side of him are circular emoticons: one smiling joyfully and the other expressing sadness with a tear, possibly representing the player's potential response options in the game. The emoticons add an interactive element to the character's engagement within the game's narrative. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The emotion picker

Overall thoughts on Sympathy Kiss

This game came at just the right time. A few months ago, I started my first job in an office, and I think it was fun to play something that was in theme with my own life. Without the office romances of course. Each route had its unique drama going on I was invested in it. I didn’t feel like playing a game; it felt more like watching a dramatic romance TV show. Next to the dramatic topics, I could also relate to Akari on a lot of levels. She was figuring out her place in the company and getting the hang of the skills she needed to work for Estarci. It’s not always fun trying to find your place in a work setting, and the game makers conveyed that well in most cases. 

Another smart addition to Sympathy Kiss was the work/love meter. Normally, you have to get all the love interactions to have a happy ending. But since this is an Otome about work, they want you to achieve the perfect balance between work and love. And I loved that. They want to send a message of sorts to balance your life and not put all your energy into just one thing. That’s what I picked up anyway.

The developers of Sympathy Kiss tried to give you, the player, the feeling that you are Akari. They have done this by letting you choose what emotional reactions to give, the choices that don’t have an influence on the ending and through not showing Akari’s features in the CGs. In the beginning, I was thoroughly confused when I didn’t see her face at any time. But when the first CG presented itself, it clicked. In the first route, it bugged me not to be able to see her face. But after a while, you get used to it. Unfortunately, I still don’t know if this was a smart design choice.

An inviting scene from 'Sympathy Kiss' captures a light-hearted moment with a character holding out a refreshing drink. The character, with tousled blonde hair and blue eyes, is smiling warmly at the viewer, offering a plastic cup with a fruity beverage and a red straw. He's stylishly dressed in a light beige jacket over a white turtleneck, with a pendant hanging from his neck. The background suggests an urban setting with blurred buildings and a sign that reads 'NISHIMIYA', giving the impression of a casual stroll through the city. The image's bright and cheerful tone conveys a sense of warmth and friendliness. Published on: LadiesGamers.
Being whisked away by your very own prince

Sympathy Kiss has such a cosy vibe to it. There wasn’t a big overarching plot behind it all; it was just romantic stories that had a different trope. This would be the game that I picked up on a rainy day; I was lying with a blanket on the couch. Yes, there are some character tropes that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but the overall game was enjoyable and easy-paced. And a major plus for me was the spicy scenes. I have waited a while to play another otome game that had a little more spice to it than just kissing. So I was pleased.

A side note: The scenes in the Evergreen bar reminded me so much of the game Coffee Talk. The music, the drinks and the kind-hearted and friendly bartender were sometimes very similar. And I think I like this game for the same reasons as I liked Coffee Talk, easy going and it has a good story. 

Conclusion for Sympathy Kiss

Sympathy Kiss has great aesthetics, lots of interesting story topics and an overall easygoing vibe. If you love those things just like I do, definitely pick this one up.

Final verdict: I like it a lot
I like it a lot

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