It’s very rare that dating sim games make their way outside Asia. That’s why the discovery that Europe will be receiving a translation of Agarest Senki under its revised English title, Record of Agarest War on PS3. The game was originally released in Japan on PS3 in September of ’07 with an Xbox 360 port the following year.
Record of Agarest War is commonly described as a typical strategy RPG, though it’s been noticed by its unique “Soul Breed” system. This system injects dating sim gameplay, allowing you to create the next generation of characters by developing romantic relationships with the female characters.
This isn’t the first time that dating sim elements have been incorporated into an RPG, nor is it the first that has been ported to the West. Some may remember Thousand Arms, a steampunk JRPG by Atlus where the lead character must date the girls in his party in order to draw the necessary inspiration to construct improved weaponry.
The idea of breeding–aside from tentacles or guro–is one of those that appear pretty frequently in Eastern erotica, though it doesn’t have much presence in the West. It’s not hard to find hentai where it’s regarded as a triumph for the male protagonist to either impregnate or at the very least, cum inside of the girl.
There’s an amount of sense to it, though. After all, the biological keystone for male sexuality is finding females with suitable genes to produce heirs. Referring to it as an “impregnation” or “breeding fetish” is often regarded as a misnomer, since its biological roots exempt it from falling under the definition of fetish or paraphilia. When you apply it to actual fetishes with themes of rape and domination, insemination is just as visceral as a symbolic means of placing your “mark” on (or rather, in) the woman being subjugated.
The concept isn’t completely alien to Western culture. In fact, eugenics play a significant role in ancient European civilization when bloodlines defined power. As we approached the modern era, sex became viewed more as a recreation. In fact, we tend to value sex without consequence even more, with the reflection of our growing birth control market.
Even so, it’s easy to recognize the surviving unconscious drives that fastens mating as a factor in our sexuality. Social/financial status still weighs in heavily as a factor for how many women a man will have sex with and the physical attractiveness of those women. Alpha males have more sex with more women, thus their dominant genes have greater chances of being passed on to the next generation.
In video games, the idea of breeding isn’t all that new. Since Pokémon Gold/Silver (a popular game geared toward children), players have been able to breed different species of pokémon together in order to produce new types of pokémon. Final Fantasy VII encouraged players to breed superior “golden” Chocobos to access secret areas and items. (Though that often resulted in bizzare inbreeding.)
You may even consider the Materia Fusion system from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII as a form of item breeding. It’s only when human breeding is introduced that its presence in video games becomes controversial.
Back to the game at hand, it’s unfair to casually toss Record of Agarest War in with hentai games. If there is any pornography to the breeding aspect of the game, it’s soft-core at best. Each female character has a wedding cut scene for when your form your blessed union, which ends in a “honeymoon” shot of the girl shrouded in bedsheets. Horny gamers looking for some nudity will be painfully disappointed. Even the hot springs scene, while titillating, keeps the girls respectfully covered as the main character ogles their fair-skinned girly parts.
Since the game has succeeded in achieving a European publication, I’ll assume that a North American release will depend on European sales. So far, the game has barely registered as a blip on enthusiast gaming news sites, but if the mainstream media catches wind of a “breeding video game”, that could be a deal breaker. Then we’re at the mercy of greedy importers taking advantage of a scarce print run.
While the game would only deliver disappointment to both strategy RPG and eroge enthusiasts, it would be a cool new cultural perspective for the gaming community. I applaud mature, real-life subject matter acknowledged in games. (Breeding is a fundamental part of humanity–deal with it.) Otherwise, video games just grow stale and cliché.