There’s an ironic level of meta to My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! Pirates of the Disturbance, one that occasionally borders on breaching the fourth wall, that’s best summed up by the odd disclaimer that appears upon starting a new game. This visual novel, releasing November 28 for Nintendo Switch, developed by Idea Factory’s otome-specialized Otomate division, reminds the player that the events in the game are completely unrelated to the light novels, manga, or anime of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
It’s a little strange, to be forcibly reminded that a video-game tie-in isn’t, strictly speaking, canon; although given that this is—for all intents and purposes—a romance visual novel, it makes sense. No matter the ending you achieve, which character your version of Catarina ends up smooching, or whether she and her friends meet that titular Doom flag, the show must go on (in quite the literal sense).
And yet, despite that, Pirates of the Disturbance feels very much like an OVA for the anime. If you’re already a fan of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, you’ll find the familiar beats of comedy and romance waiting for you. Catarina is perpetually hungry and causing trouble with her apparent blindness to her personal harem of guys and girls, while everyone around her tries to outdo each other for her affections.
Thrown into the mix are two new characters, including the dashingly-handsome pirate, Silva, and the mysterious purple-haired Rozy. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to compete with two anime seasons’ worth of character building, but the new additions are welcome new blood if you’ve grown tired of the existing cast. And speaking of cast, the entire Japanese voice cast return from the anime, lending an excellent sense of audio production—we’ll never get tired of Catarina’s delighted squeals for food.
If you aren’t particularly familiar with My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, then this game isn’t necessarily a great jumping-off point. There are some minor flashbacks that cover the events depicted in the first season of the anime (and their original light novels), but hardly enough to give context to the characters and their affections for Catarina. That said, the recap is nice for those of us with poorer memories, and a welcome excuse to retread familiar ground. Still, we’d highly recommend you watch at least the first season of the anime before going into Pirates of the Disturbance, since the game clearly expects you to be intimately familiar with the characters.
And that point—your familiarity with the characters—is where Pirates of the Disturbance hits some rough waters. If you’re a fan of Catarina and wanted to pick up the game thinking it would be an easygoing foray into visual novels, you’ll be sorely mistaken. This is unapologetically an otome game, complete with 25 different endings spread across 6 main characters, including bad ends and ‘normal’ ends. This replayability is one of the main selling points for otome games, but Pirates of the Disturbance has been structured in a way that gives the player only two chapters to woo one of their chosen characters enough to shift the story onto a ‘route’. Accidentally send affection to too many members of Catarina’s harem, and you’ll be shuffled onto the ‘normal’ end, which wraps up in a highly unsatisfying manner after a scant three hours of gameplay.
The problem therein is that Pirates of the Disturbance doesn’t explain any of this; we had to experiment through trial and error, and eventually figure out the process to avoid this ‘normal’ end. If you manage to get onto a proper route, you’ll have nine chapters instead of three, along with a full-fledged romance with the guy of your choice (anyone hoping for a yuri route will be left sorely disappointed). Once you’ve muddled that logic out, you’ll be right as rain—but if you’re a first-time visual novel player enticed by a tie-in to your favorite anime, proceed with caution.
As mentioned earlier, Pirates of the Disturbance has an enjoyable narrative filled with some mystery, humor, and romance; all standard fare for My Next Life as a Villainess. The visual style largely matches the anime, for better or worse; if you’re more familiar with other Otomate games like Olympia Soirée or Piofiore, you might find the stark cel-shading a little confronting compared to the rich shoujo-esque style more commonly found in otome games. There’s also little in the way of dynamic action on-screen, unlike Idea Factory’s more experimental forays into visual novel-adjacent games such as their other studio, Compile Heart’s, Live2D-animated Death end re;Quest or Mary Skelter.
In summary, it’s difficult to determine who the audience is for My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! Pirates of the Disturbance. If you’re a JRPG addict looking to get into visual novels, there are better choices that deliver more impact, such as Witch on the Holy Night or the infamous Doki Doki Literature Club. But if you’re a fan of all things ‘Bakarina’, and willing to negotiate an unusually difficult harem pathway, then Pirates of the Disturbance is an enjoyable visual novel that carries the spirit of the anime into a new medium.
©2023 SATORU YAMAGUCHI,ICHIJINSHA/”HAMEFURA” Production Committee.
©2023 IDEA FACTORY All rights reserved. Licensed to Idea Factory International, Inc. and published by Reef Entertainment.
Anime Corner received an advance copy of the game for review purposes.