Join Ella McConnell for Waifu Material, a monthly column in which she navigates the murky, cherry-blossom-strewn waters of visual novels, dating sims, and everything in between (reader masochism not required but strongly recommended). [Content warning: brief mention of suicide and sexual assault as themes dealt with in the game but no further discussion thereof.]
When I first started my Tumblr-based visual novel review blog, Seduce Me had the dubious honour of being the very first one I ever reviewed – and now it’s time to go back to my roots.
Seduce Me 2: The Demon War has actually been sitting in my Steam library for a while now, with me having picked it up in a holiday sale at some point after its official release all the way back in May 2016. I’d gone into my visual novel review quest with some apprehension but Seduce Me surprised me, and I probably should have known sooner or later I’d come crawling back…
Here I go watching trailers again:
The Seduce Me 2 trailer hits all of the key dating sim trailer food groups:
Fleeting character introduction teasers to aid you in your initial anime boy banging decisions
There’s also story hints with DRAMATICALLY CAPITALISED WORDS and an entirely new nu-metally original theme song. The latter is definitely a cool thing for a visual novel to have but the vocals in this particular one have an uncomfortably metallic ring at some points, like someone’s sliding a nail file into my brain through my eardrums on the high notes (but maybe I’m just getting old).
However, as trailers go it’s definitely in alignment with the first game’s #brand (as seen here).
The first Seduce Me game’s premise was as follows: your parents are terrible but luckily for you your toy tycoon grandfather snuffs it and leaves you his entire estate – including the sxc incuboiz who just so happen to be holed up there.
From then on it’s pretty standard dating sim territory (with a demonic twist), with you pursuing the guy you want while gradually revealing bits of the overarching story as you go.
Seduce Me 2: The Demon War picks up a couple of years after the first game finished, with you about to be married to the incubus of your choosing.
However, you’re soon sucked into the eponymous war against the Demon Lord (who is also the incubi’s father), and must work together with Diana, a succubus who was the previous game’s primary antagonist, in order to defeat him once and for all.
Also sex happens.
Seduce Me 2: The Demon War gives you a choice of the following suitors:
I will get absolutely fucking livid if you don’t stop using those goddamn tildes
Made a demonic living toy in the first game that proceeds to fuck with you into the second game
Second-born sleazeball with a squishy centre
Says “princess” more often than tabloid royal wedding coverage
I’m not joking about the tentacles
Almost, but not quite – step it up, James
The eldest and also the one with glasses
Two sleeves short of a sweater vest
The man with the golden gun (and other implements besides)
Me attempting to express human emotions
So this is what it’s like to be bench pressed by an angry Ken doll
Middle child meme made flesh
Both the tough guy and the bad boy (meaning he gets to beat people up and do swears)
Around 75% of his dialogue is either “doofus” or “fuck”
Now when you say “toy”…
The youngest and owner of the most fucked up backstory
Can read minds better than he can read words
Wants to be a real boy (AKA human)
*teleports behind u*
I ask myself this every time
Bad girl turned best girl
Dearly loves using “dear” as a term of endearment, dear
I could ask the same of you
There’s also a quite frankly excessive array of side characters, but we’ll get onto them in a bit.
See no evil: art
Seduce Me 2 has a different artist to the first game (which is fine), but like the first game the visual part of this visual novel experience is of mixed quality.
The backgrounds are all nicely done, as are the sprites for the most part (although Diana’s perma boob scoop/illusory back boob combo will never cease to confuse me).
The CGs, however, are a bit of a roulette wheel.
Some are alright and even good…
This seems fine and not at all suggestive of there being some kind of evil magic at work
The horse seems as unimpressed as she is happy
But others demonstrate degrees of anatomical bafflement that make it hard to view them as rewards, for example:
Not sure if thumb or flipper
The longer you look, the weirder it seems
This one isn’t actually that bad but the nose is just off enough to spin me out
None of them hit the point of being hilariously awful (as they have been in some games I’ve reviewed) but lack of consistency and weird proportions definitely let the visual aspect of Seduce Me 2 down.
Hear no evil: voice acting and music
Although I may not be a fan of the trailer track, overall Seduce Me 2’s soundtrack is pretty damn good, with its only real issues being the same as in most visual novels (the music eventually starting to feel somewhat repetitive after multiple playthroughs, for example, or moments when the point at which a track loops is briefly but jarringly apparent).
The majority of the voice cast are super strong in their performances, and although it sounds like there were some differences in audio equipment quality between actors this doesn’t really detract from the overall experience.
However, while most of the voice acting is great, a few of the side characters – particularly some of the wives of whichever incubi you aren’t pursuing who turn up rotationally in each route – are starkly underwhelming.
That said, because both the rest of game’s voice acting and music are really well done, I’m willing to overlook it.
Speak no evil: writing and plot
There are some clunky lines, some purple prose, some phrases that resurface again and again (I challenge you to find a character in this many-charactered game who does not “press [their] lips into a fine line” at least once or twice), and especially after your first playthrough it becomes apparent that some of the story’s alleged high-stakes choices actually don’t matter all that much (“WE MUST KILL A DEMON FOR X TO HAPPEN! Oh no, I didn’t mean a main character or even one from our side – we conveniently have this random mook we can off, it’s cool”).
I did just write a sentence that’s almost 100 words long, though, so maybe I’m not the best person to advise on writing right now
However, relatively minor niggles aside, the writing quality of the game as a whole is quite good (even if the concept feels a little like a fanfic of the first game before you get into it).
Unlike the previous game, you know which guy (or girl) you’re getting yourself in for from the start – like The Men of Yoshiwara: Kikuya, you pick a route from the selection at the start menu (which can be a somewhat confusing process if you don’t know their key colours off by heart). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does lead me on to one my biggest annoyances: THERE ARE TOO MANY CHARACTERS IN THIS GAME.
Now don’t get wrong – some of the side characters are great (and sometimes plot-necessary) inclusions. However, some really aren’t. If I’ve understood some of Seduce Me 2’s Kickstarter rewards correctly, this may partly be due to some of these offering cameos in the game, but it’s still A LOT of characters.
I’ve heard that one before
Additionally, I really dislike the wife characters (and not just because they’re stealing away potential husbandos).
The fact that every single one of the main incubi characters just so happened to have entered into a relationship of equal length and seriousness in the time between now and the last game is way too neat. It feels forced, and in most routes the wife characters add hardly anything to the story (and certainly nothing that couldn’t probably have been given to another, less superfluous character to say or do).
Also at the end of the day the point of a dating sim is to make the player feel like they’re their chosen squeeze’s one and only, which might be a fantasy some find harder to maintain when another route forces you to watch said squeeze bend another woman over the battle map.
Also maybe I’m terminally unromantic but isn’t that line just saying the same thing four times in a row?
There’s also the sex scenes.
I imagine it’s probably something of a challenge to come up with what works out as quite a lot of unique love scenes, but there are some recurring words and phrases (straight from my notes: “NEED. REAR. CORE. APEX.”), lots of empty gushing (putting aside the potentially unfortunate connotations of that descriptor: generic rambling along the lines of “OH MY GOD WE’RE FUCKING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER SUPER LOUDLY AND WE DON’T EVEN CARE WHO HEARS BECAUSE WE LOVE EACH OTHER SOOOO MUCH UNFFFF”), and can anyone actually lick their lips sexily? Really?
And these all happen within relatively close proximity of each other
At their best (and they’re by no means all terrible), they’re a playful look into the protagonist’s relationship with their partner. At their worst, they sound like something my much younger self would have written, saved onto a floppy disk, and hidden away while anxiously hoping that nobody else will ever find it.
Also “pleasureful” remains an awful, awful word.
As with the previous game, Seduce Me 2: The Demon War is super considerate when it comes to both content warnings and consent: all sex scenes are optional (and you’re in no way penalised for choosing to opt out), and potential triggers are clearly signposted up front (although these aren’t necessarily route-specific).
That said, most routes touch on reasonably heavy subject matters (such as suicide and sexual assault) quite frequently, and there were occasions where I wasn’t sure whether their inclusion – or at least the extent to which they were elaborated on – was entirely necessary.
I’m sure this kind of omen is completely inconsequential in a story that prominently features demons and magic
Those new to visual novels (or just wanting to find out about the updates made to playability between this and the last game) will also be pleased to find a handy in-game tutorial.
However, UI-wise there is some definite clunkiness: the annoying, often hard-to-see QuickTime event moments (that don’t really add anything to the story) made a return in the sequel, and I never realised how many times I accidentally hit right-click with my twitchy fingers until I was playing Seduce Me 2 (it takes you to the save menu EVERY TIME).
There’s also some typos and a few bugs, but the game runs pretty smoothly otherwise.
Wait, are we in Morrowind now?
Finally, perhaps my biggest issue with Seduce Me 2: this game isn’t about you (or at least it really doesn’t feel like it is).
As already tangentally touched on, the player of a game like Seduce Me 2 is meant to feel like this is a story about them and their choices – but it’s not. It’s about Diana.
Developer Michaela Laws is also Diana’s voice actor, a role she obviously enjoys (and, credit where credit’s due, does really well). However, so much of the story seems to be about Diana and her problems, her choices, and how good she is that if this was a tabletop roleplaying game I’d be calling her out for having a DMPC (AKA dungeon master’s player character, a term usually used in a negative context when a DM makes a character seemingly just for them to show off with).
THIS ISN’T EVEN HER FINAL FORM
Don’t get me wrong – Diana’s story is interesting, but having her pop up at length in every route and peripheral characters often remarking on how good she is at X, Y or Z feels uncomfortably self-indulgent.
However, Diana is a largely likeable character, and considering how hard Laws obviously works on her games I’ll happily begrudge her a DMPC every once in a while.
Who’s your husbando though?
This time it’s Matthew – although I despise the lol so random antics of the possessed toy, Matthew’s route has some of the best voice acting (even if the plot goes a bit off the wall).
Honourable mention to bishie Hellboy Malix for a concentrated dose of raspy villainy.
Seduce Me 2: The Demon War is a decent supernatural romance yarn that drips with drama (sometimes a little too much) and is packed with plenty of content for the price tag, but you’ll probably want to play the first game (which is free on Steam) if you want to get the most out of the second.
Ella McConnell is a writer, editor, comic maker, and game designer – watch her descent further into madness on Twitter (send cat pictures). The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect those of any employer (which is probably for the best).