I’ve played a few dating sims in my time. I wouldn’t call myself an expert but I am an enthusiast, which is why I’m so excited about ValiDate.
ValiDate is a romantic visual novel that features 12 characters and over 30 possible routes. You watch as messy twenty-somethings try to navigate relationships and I have to say, as someone who is a POC, struggling, and single, the premise for this one hits way too close to home.
ValiDate does things that I’ve never seen in a dating sim. The characters are all people of color and each struggling single is drawn by a different artist. In concept you would think it would be distracting but it works and gives everyone a unique flair. It really makes ValiDate stand out against the sea of dating sims that just consist of several white boys with different hair colors. Plus even better, the dev team is made up entirely of POC so you know the characters will be written authentically. You can meet some of the characters now in ValiDate’s free demo.
From playing the demo, I can say that ValiDate holds to the Kickstarter promise that it’s about 20-something people just trying to survive. The characters struggle with emotional intimacy, careers, sexuality, and more. This may be the first dating sim I play that focuses on such relatable problems. It feels fresh and roots everything in reality.
But the main thing I took from playing is that ValiDate is funny as hell. I can safely say that every time Malik, the “Bopeyes” manager/amateur rapper, was on my screen I was cackling and cringing at the same time. Still the game manages to be just as sincere as it is humorous, which is where a lot of the heart lies.
In an interview with DBLTAP, ValiDate’s developers talked about the game’s unique writing process. ValiDate has you play as one of their unique characters as opposed to having the player create their own avatar. Each character has its own writer, meaning that every route will be unique and told in a different voice. I’m super excited to see this in action because dating sims where you play as an omniscient avatar can be one sided when it comes to characterizing the love interests. But with this approach you can play the same route from two different perspectives and get an in depth feel of both characters.
The first route I played in the demo was between Ashlie, the pro gamer, and Yolanda, the poetic hair stylist. It was told through Ashlie’s voice and focused on her issues with making friends outside of dating. The route didn’t end romantically, but with friendship. I’ve never seen dating sims focus on relationships outside of romance so I would love to see how platonic and romantic relationships develop in ValiDate.
ValiDate is funny, innovative and going where no dating sim has gone before. I’m excited to see the game in full and support this Own Voices dev team.
ValiDate: Struggling Singles in Your Area is slated to come out in Spring 2021. The ValiDate Kickstarter ends on August 10th, so you can still back the project if you’re interested!