Introducing The Parasite 5
Not too long ago I've previewed Cupid Parasite, an Otome visual novel by the developers of Otomate. Known for developing romance stories in the past, I took interest in Cupid not so much for its story, but for its genre. While there have been a total of four visual novels previewed to date, Cupid Parasite seemed like one of the easier ones to digest should I decide to flesh out my first impressions to a full-blown review.
For a general synopsis of the plot for Cupid Parasite, the goddess, Cupid, has a disagreement with her father who is dissatisfied with her work. Convinced that humans are well enough to act sufficiently without the intrusion of the Gods, Cupid dons the alias Lynette and foregoes her romantic powers to prove that she can connect with others as a human.
This is put to the test as she is tasked by her bridal agency to handle the "Parasite 5," five hapless suitors who each wish to get married. All have but given up on the quintet except for our heroine, who is determined to be the best matchmaker to get a promotion and prove her father wrong.
Unbeknownst to her, each of the Parasite 5 harbors a challenge that seemingly only Cupid can solve. In no particular order, here are each of the Five and their quirks.
Raul Aconite - Obsessed Parasite
Introduced partway through the Parasite 5, this youthful trendy blonde was one of the first to draw my attention, specifically their knowledge of mythology. One of the first things that he notes about Cupid is the bow on her necklace. As Cupid is trying her best to conceal her identity, she passes it off as a coincidence despite it being actually her bow and arrow.
As the two engage in conversation, Raul's intent isn't to marry but rather to research the gods. He's energetic when it comes to the topic at hand, but it has been hinted that other advisors have given up in the past. As Cupid is a goddess herself, this is something that Cupid is, of course being who she is, well versed at. Not much is entirely known about him as of yet, but he brings off a positive aura initially.
Ryuki F. Keisaiin - Glamour Parasite
The youngest yet arguably haughty of the quintet, Ryuki pulls no punches in letting Cupid know how high his standards are. As fitting of the term "Glamour Parasite," everything related to Ryuki has to be up to his standards in beauty. This is ramped up to such extremes that he classifies a person's face by a letter grade. Even an "A-Rank" is worth less than average, with Ryuki determining that Cupid is a "C-Rank."
He does, however, see potential in her as he gives her a color palette based on his first impressions of her. Ryuki's first word to Cupid is simply "#da536e," which art savvy players will know as a bright red, almost pinkish color. While Cupid's peers name the color "Camellia," it is not quite the case as the color appears to be slightly darker. Perhaps this exchange is foreshadowing that Ryuki thinks of Cupid as unique with potential.
Shelby Snail - Prestige Parasite
As we reach the median, here is someone who has been a key member of Parasite 5 as this is the same person who had put Cupid up to the task. While it's obvious to the player and even Cupid herself that the CEO of the marriage organization is one of the "P5," it's amusing the effort made to throw Cupid off her path. Of the five biographies that each of the Parasites filled out, his biography is intentionally left blank. When asked about it, Shelby, horribly, "feigns" ignorance. It gets to the point where he hires a representative to cover his tracks, which does little to help his cause.
The extent of his secretive identity stems from the public image established by Snail as a loving husband. Exactly why keeping such an image is so important isn't revealed at this point, but it's still humorous how terrible he is at hiding details such as this. There may be hints of foul play afoot that may keep Snail under blackmail, but at this point, it is all speculation.
Gill Lovecraft - Lovelorn Parasite
We are now reaching one of the two suitors featured on Cupid Parasite's cover suitors (heroes?). Of all the Parasite 5, Gill Lovecraft has the most history with Cupid, being her roommate throughout college. With Cupid deep into her work and her mission, Gill moved away from the apartment after graduation. Years later, the two reunite and it's obvious that he has the hots for her.
Of the 5, he's the happiest to meet her again, much to the surprise and awkwardness of Cupid who doesn't know how to process this. In her mind, if he really missed her he could have sent a letter. Something doesn't add up and he appears timid in his approach. This is because, in his mind many years ago, Cupid had rejected him and has been lovesick since.
Again, if their interaction was anything to go by, this was entirely the fault of Gill himself for not making his emotions obvious? Maybe? We'll see how their story unfolds later on within Cupid Parasite. While I am usually indifferent about the "First Love Interest" role that Gill plays, it's interesting to see where it leads. You know the type. The one character in any romance story that fell in love with the protagonist first and is usually the one left to come to terms with their emotions? That's Gill.
Thieving Parasite - Allan Melville
The other "hero" on the cover and by far the most interesting in my opinion, Allan and Cupid get on the wrong foot almost immediately. The former does not shy away from his attraction towards her, one that is merely physical and possessive. According to Allan, it's no thrill in going after others if they aren't in love with someone else as it makes the hunt more enticing. In his words, everything gets shared so why not "love partners?"
This stands against everything Cupid is for, who wishes to find stable marriages for her clients. This is one of the few times that Cupid gets heated, mainly due to Allan's outwardness. However, much like Cupid, Allan is not all that he appears to be as they are similar than she realizes. As Cupid is the goddess of love, Allan is an incubus who has knowledge of the gods as much as Cupid does. It may already be assumed that he knows Cupid's true identity. Regardless, as someone who is of the supernatural much like the protagonist is, it'll be amusing to see them clash heads.
Cupid Parasite - Lynette Mirror (The sixth parasite?)
While writing each of the introductions and first impressions of Parasite 5, I couldn't help but think back to the title Cupid Parasite. While not officially a part of the five clients, Cupid is just as much of a "Parasite" as they are. Her conquest to succeed at love, getting back at her father, and obtaining a promotion in her field is a topic of Lynette's parasitic behavior much like everyone else. Like her clients, she has no idea of what love is which is ironic considering who she is and what her job entails. Perhaps this will also be a topic in the story of Cupid Parasite but only time will tell.
Kiss Kiss Fall In Love?
Following the introduction of Parasite 5, it is quickly revealed that Cupid will have her hands full, not in finding love for P5 but getting them to cooperate. Each of the individual traits mentioned earlier is constant turn-offs from each of the Parasites. These include, but are not limited to, Raul's obsession with Roman mythology, Gill's fixation on Lynette, Allan's hedonism, Snail's dishonesty, and Ryuki's increasing rudeness.
After a failed class on love and several failed public gatherings, the fate of Cupid Corp hangs in balance due to tabloids referring to Snail's marriage status. Coincidentally, as stories like these go, Cupid would miss this key point of information as it makes public news. Unaware of Snail's secret, she agrees to share television time with him on behalf of the ad agency, where the latter dolled her up as his "wife."
Ultimately, this scene is meant to light a spark between Snail and Cupid. There's a scene earlier that does the same between Allan and Cupid, providing friction yet compatibility between the two ironically. To the average player, while the risk of a "scandal" between the CEO and the top-ranking beauty advisor may be a thing, it's all about chemistry. This is where Cupid Parasite shines thus far, making each potential relationship with each suitor genuine.
The problem arises in giving each equal amounts of screentime, which was what the original introductions sought to achieve. Eventually, the player will find themselves locked in a route, and seeing enough of each person's personality is enough to determine that decision. Throughout the game, there are also minor characters who are just as interesting. One is a client of Cupid's who lacks in self-esteem, another is her aunt who masquerades as a human and observes Cupid's progress and Cupid's roommate Claris filling the role as "best friend who minds their own business."
Perhaps what I like most about the roommate, from first impressions leading into the first major twist in Cupid Parasite, is her honesty. Claris serves as a support beacon for Cupid, often giving her advice as well as moral support. She is also unapologetically ace, with Cupid calling her a "stone wall." Claris exists in the story to show that most are unbothered with finding love or not. Some are just living their lives, one failed date at a time until they realize they're asexual. Of course, I could be a hundred percent wrong about all of this, but, again we write these as we play so we can come back to it later.
The Bachelorette: Roman Goddess Edition
Eventually, to raise and restore the reputation of Cupid Corp, an idea erupts involving Cupid spending an entire month at a vacation house with the five suitors for a TV show. While the sudden shift from "scandal" to "reality television" is a bit jarring, it must be repeated that this is the perfect set-up for the story. Now, Cupid can't find downtime and she, along with the others, must learn to live with each other. Six different clashing personalities all with raging hormones of various levels. What could possibly go wrong?
So far, nothing but potential character development from not just the Parasite 5, but also from Cupid herself. It's at this point in the story that the game's main premise comes to light. You met P5, you're accustomed to their negative traits with a splash of potential positive traits. Now it's time for everything to come together. At this point, Cupid needs to get closer to the quintet to discover things about herself she wouldn't have by staying with Claris. Our girl Lynette is finally spreading her wings and rightfully so.
Following the fanservice-filled "first episode" of Parasite House, it is brought up as an idea for Cupid to go out on a "mock date" with each of the five Parasites. After all, what better way to learn what love is than to have a hands-on experience with the advisor herself? There's just one giant elephant in the room. Cupid, herself, doesn't know what love is. A shocker that's first hinted at by Gill during one of his internal monologues, showing genuine care and concern about Lynette's well-being.
Remember when I asked earlier if Cupid, herself, is considered a "Parasite" due to the title of the game as well as her attitude? Leave it to good ol' clairvoyant Claris to point out the elephant that everyone is too foolish to do themselves. Cupid is a workaholic, naturally so for all their life, they've known to bring others together in a relationship. She, herself, has no clue what that feeling is as it's something she's never felt before.
This brings her to the level of the other Parasites, ironically, as they are just as clueless about love as she is. Up until this point, compatibility has been nothing more than using data, trends, and other instances that she had learned from other humans. This makes the dating segments interesting as these are emotions genuinely felt by Cupid, without her realizing what they are. It's best to put two clueless potential lovers out on a date and force them to learn for themselves, which is exactly what I did with the "dates."
Just Some 1-on-1 Time With The Boys, Nothing Out Of Place Here
The story of Cupid Parasite makes the player assume they will be going out on a date with each of the boys, but the game will let the player choose one of the five. It is at this point I'll mention something that's common knowledge, but always keep several save files for your visual novels. There are an ample number of save slots available and players who wish to see how all five dates pan out should do the same.
My date of choice was...Allan. His mysterious past is up there with Mr. Snail's but it's also made obvious that Allan and Cupid had a history together in the past. While Lynette and Gill were roommates, her real self had met Allan in a past life. That is because, again, Allan isn't human. Too bad no one knows when did the other meet before. Perhaps this is a tease for when the player decides to pursue Allan's path.
The date is as spicy as what one would expect from Allan, but there is a hidden soft side to the incubus. Allan fits the "ladykiller who is slain by a lady killer" archetype and there are instances of him genuinely trying to be a gentleman towards Cupid. Unfortunately, his carnal urges take over and he drops the ball. Still, compared to their first interaction, you can tell he (alongside the rest of the Parasites) is genuinely trying. They're opening up to their real reasons why they "wish to get married." They're mellowing their personalities out and it all but points to the inevitable split paths.
The dialogue is modern, using current slang and references to pop culture to make the story appear modern. The "chic 60s" design I mentioned in the preview is ever prevalent, leaving a "transitional style." Slang terms like "spilling the tea" or "boomer" are among the few that make their way throughout the dialogue. It's not off-putting and it's rather on par with the entire game's aesthetic, but it can seem forced for some players. Thankfully these are few and far in between and don't break the pacing of the story.
"Where Are They Now?"
Following the success of the "Parasite House" show, a dilemma approaches that are unrelated to the issues of Cupid or the Parasite 5. Following the final taping and a night of celebration, Cupid comes across a blog post with hundreds of comments filled with a single stalker. Bringing this to the attention of the CEO, she's asked to determine the best way of handling this. There are two options, reporting this to "Instegrimm" (The social media where the stalker posts are made) or "report to the local authorities"
Selecting the former gives a harsh reality on how useless social media is because the next scene with the title card "Farewell, Los York," plays. following a "Meanwhile at Celestia..." As it turns out, the woman was able to lash back at Cupid Corp causing such a whiplash that the entire company failed on 'harassing a social media user." While it's amazing how "0-100" everything goes belly up, companies have failed for much less in real life.
Regardless, everyone comes out of this a loser, Mr. Snail loses his business, the Parasite 5 all go their separate ways, and Cupid, having been captured by her father, is left to spend her days realizing that she was wrong as she returns to her former life, reluctantly. All that work just to be destroyed by the one tool you use to connect to humans huh Cupid? After this scene, the game sends the player directly back to the main menu. No "Fin" or any wise-cracking comments. Go back and let the local authorities handle this! Social media is a farce!
Bad Ending Count #1
While choosing to contact the police may be the right option, it didn't stop the dating apocalypse, as it were. Following the events of Parasite House, Cupid Corp's popularity has been booming, met with the desire of meeting the Parasite 5. The problem lies with CC's members not being met with the expectations of those featured on the reality TV show. What's even worse is that all five Parasites had left Cupid Corp to follow their own path.
The Prologue Is Over, Now The Real Fun Begins
This ends the "common route," but segues into a route I was not expecting to enter. Suddenly the game placed me in Ryuki's route, the kid who speaks in hex color code. I was gunning for Allan but the issue with reaching Allan's route was that I couldn't access it quite yet. Curious, I looked at Otome Kitten's walkthrough for insight, and apparently, Allan isn't an accessible route until the second playthrough! Make the most interesting suitor locked behind New Game Plus, of course, Cupid Parasite would do this.
Well, as much as I like Ryuki, I didn't feel like pursuing him yet. Gill's a sweetheart so I wanted to go for him since it wouldn't let me go for Allan. Time to backtrack and redo some choices. Fortunately, due to the Flowchart function, it's easy for players to go back to a specific chapter and select different choices. Through trial and error, outside of choosing the most favorable option for each Parasite, it seems the biggest factor in what determines the route that Cupid enters is the "mock date" she has. Guess it's time to give Gill a chance. Ryuki will have to come back later.
And Scene (For now)
As I am typing this, I am currently in the middle of Gill's route and it is here that things become, well, spicy. I'm also realizing the pathing that otome games such as Cupid Parasite takes. Everything I had mentioned above was the "Common Route," better known to players as the "Main Route" of the game. For all intents and purposes, the main route focused on the Parasite 5, the TV show, Parasite House, and the aftermath following. There are hours of content to enjoy and read, with the main route lasting as long as a regular game. The Common Route barely scratches the surface
What about Cupid's powers? Surely those at Celestia are aware she's missing and are going out of their way to find her right? There are many loose ends that only the individual routes can conclude. Of the five bachelors, Gill is the most straightforward as he pines over Cupid. How this obsession resolves is left up to how Cupid handles her own emotions.
With each route focusing on each Parasite as well as Cupid's own dillemma, I'd say it's best to split this review into several chapters, deeming this one as "Chapter 1." While I intend to go for each route, they will be spread out accordingly so it's easier to read. What I will say is that I am invested in Cupid's story far more than I had anticipated. Fans of otome games as well as those who wish to try something new (and are helpless romantics like myself) will enjoy Cupid Parasite. See you in the next installment where we cover our fellow hapless romantic!
Cupid Parasite is avaialble on the Nintendo Switch.