Visual novels and dating sims are a big thing in Japan, but not so much over here. Some people have put together software to help fans make their own visual novels, and I’ve kinda wondered if it would ever catch on. Still, I’ve seen quite a few indigenous American visual novels showing up on Amazon’s game download store. Unfortunately, many were creepy.
So here’s a clever premise. Matches and Matrimony, by Reflexive Entertainment, blends together three of Austen’s novels, thus allowing more scope for fannish matchmaking. It also seems to have some kind of dating sim characteristics, because the things you choose to do will increase or decrease your marriageability.
You play Elizabeth Bennet, obviously.
Here’s the game’s website. The website also includes some cheatsheets for the storylines.
UPDATE: I played the free preview, which gives you a half-hour of play time. It’s pretty clearly a work of original programming. First, you choose activities to raise your scores in seven ladylike attributes: Willpower, Wit, Talent (artistic accomplishments), Kindness, Propriety, Sensibility, and Energy. Then you will be confronted with a social situation. If you have a high enough score in an attribute important at the moment, you will be provided with more choices, or different choices, in social situations.
You do play the second daughter of the Bennet family, but you get to choose her name — and remake her personality and ability by the way you raise her stats and make her choices.
The game was written by one Russell Carroll. (Here’s a blog he did for a gaming magazine.) A lot of the dialogues and descriptions come from Austen, obviously. The character art, backgrounds, and music are all lovely, and it’s a very pleasant sort of game.
UPDATE: Apparently the current US term for this kind of game is a “life simulation”. I guess that’s supposed to mean that it’s non-creepy, and involves more than just dating decisions. (Some are totally non-dating.) These seem to involve a lot of the strategic balancing skills of time management games, except that you have time to think about your choices. Often you are building the school or business career of your character.