Game: Variable Barricade
Genre: Visual Novel, Adventure game
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PS4 and PS Vita)
Developers|Publishers: Design Factory, Otomate | Aksys Games
Age Rating: EU 12+ | USA Teen
Price: UK £44.99 | EU € 49,99 | USD $49.99
Release Date: February 24th, 2022
Review code used, with many thanks to Reef Entertainment
Variable Barricade follows Hibari Tojo. Hibari is the sole heir to the Tojo family fortune. Her grandfather, who is the current head of the family, has decided it is time for Hibari to find a husband. Her grandfather selects four suiters that who will be living with Hibari in their luxurious vacation home.
The men try hard to persuade her and win her heart, but Hibari is not having it and is dedicated to not falling in love. Especially after finding out that each of the men have skeletons in their closet.
The Four Suiters
For this Otome game there isn’t necessarily a recommended order to play in, but there is one advice: play Ichiya’s route last because this reveals some more information about the true route. The order I chose to play in was: Nayuta > Taiga > Shion > Ichiya, because Shion wasn’t my favourite at first glance. I really wanted to mix up the suiters so I could play one I really did like (Taiga) between the ones that didn’t appeal to me.
She is the sole heir to the Tojo family, and her main goal is to fulfil her duty. Her grandfather is the current head of the family. They don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things and Hibari often refers to him as the “vulture”. Due to circumstances her grandfather tells her to marry one of the suiters he chose for her. He wants to give her at least a choice, so she has the opportunity to marry for love and not politics.
Hibari has very strong opinions, is intelligent, and not afraid to tell everyone how she feels, she can also sometimes come across as quite bratty. Personally, I really enjoyed her personality, she seems more like a real-life person to me and she often echoed my thoughts about her situation when playing the game.
The first and youngest suiter is Nayuta Yagami, he is really into physical activities and is cheerful, positive but really dense. Everyone in the house treats him like a pet and he even enjoys that. When Hibari picks Nayuta as her main candidate, she chooses him because she feels the safest with him and that he wouldn’t betray her. This relationship is very much a young love kind of thing, because they both can’t see how much they care about each other.
Shion Mayuzumi is the second suiter. He is half-French and has lived in France for a while and he loves all things that are beautiful. He is vain, confident and is a good people reader. His dark secret is that he has been a “kept man” for years with a lot of different “friends”. Hibari picks him because she thinks he is the most harmless one.
The third candidate is Taiga, he comes off as a bit of the bad boy and is very laid back. In the house, he is very much the one to go to for advice, is actually really wise and has a good heart. This is also the reason Hibari picks him as main candidate, he is attentive and just a nice guy. He and Hibari love to bicker with each other and that will eventually reveal Taiga’s flaw: he is a gambler.
The final and oldest suiter is Ichiya. He loves cooking, especially for Hibari, and swears he loves Hibari the most. Ichiya is definitely the most hopeless romantic of the group, every time he talks to Hibari he says the most cheesy things to try and flatter her. He is also very sensitive and will do anything to prove himself. In the end that is the reason Hibari picks Ichiya as the main groom contender, because he is so pushy and makes the biggest impression on her.
Visuals and Sound
The visuals of Variable Barricade really reminded me of a race car theme, with the black and white checkered patterns and the heavy black shadows on the characters. Aside from the shadows all the characters were very light or pastel coloured, which gives the characters a washed-out look, which again fits with the racer theme in my opinion. The character graphics where very pretty to look at, some had sort of a glow on them which made them look whimsical.
As for the music in the game, it is very modern upbeat music and every character has its own theme, that really fit with their personality. I also liked the opening and ending songs, the opening really fits the theme of being thrown in a crazy new life. The ending song I especially loved and have been playing a lot over the last few days. It has a very romantic theme to it.
I noticed the heroine actually speaks in this game, this is the first time I have played an Otome game where the heroine has her own voice!
In Variable Barricade they worked with a game board of sorts to show you all the chapters and where to go. At first I really liked having a clear overview of where I was in the game, but as the game progressed it got less helpful. You can’t rewatch a chapter unless you go to the main menu and I was confused on what the shapes on the board meant. It looks like a flowchart but it wasn’t used as one. One important feature I want to mention is that when picking a route you can immediately see if that would up the romance or the respect, so you kind of had an idea which ending you were getting. I did find this part very helpful.
Now on to the guys. Out of all the guys I really didn’t like Shion. From the start of Variable Barricade I thought he was so vain and arrogant, and it only got worse in his own route. During his storyline my thoughts did change a bit about his personality, but when I saw how he treated Hibari that didn’t sit well with me. In every other route I felt Shion was fine though, not as much of an annoyance to me.
I did like the other three suiters. Each of them had a unique personality that balanced out the game and they also each showed different kinds of romances. My personal favourite has to be Taiga, I just loved him as a person and in his relationship with Hibari.
Overall I did enjoy the game, especially Taiga’s and Ichiya’s routes. Even the other endings besides the love endings I was satisfied with. The game also made me laugh multiple times, I especially laughed a lot about Ichiya’s and Hibari’s grandfathers’ reactions. They were mostly jokes but the game also used Chibi images sometimes, this made the situation ever funnier. I would categorize the game as a romantic comedy.
As for what rating to give Variable Barricade, I had a tough time. Difficult to chose between I like it and I like it a lot. I definitely loved the story lines and the characters, but I sometimes had a hard time really getting into the stories. I think this was due to the way the game board was set up, it took me out of the flow of the story. So I rating I am going to give Variable Barricade is:
Final Verdict: I Like It a Lot
*I want to give a warning about Variable Barricade. Sometimes characters have conversations about mature topics that I thought wasn’t appropriate for the age rating (12+/Teens). These are about intimate relationships and suicide for example.