My Lovely Wife Review: Get Seduced by This Dark and Compelling Visual Novel
I first learned about what a succubus was thanks to video games. Primarily series like Darkstalkers and Persona, which incorporated lots of demonic flair and certainly had a hand in making them more popular and downright commonplace nowadays. But I’ve never played a game that dealt with the concept of succubi quite like My Lovely Wife. It tells the twisted tale of Jake. He finds the love of his life, gets married, and enjoys a few blissfully short years together. Then a tragedy occurs, and he accidentally kills his wife while trying to fend off a home invasion.
A Simple Life Turned Upside Down
Bereft and utterly alone, Jake is suddenly thrown a lifeline. He discovers a letter written to him by his late wife, implying that they’ll meet again someday and that a certain someone will help speed the process along. Then Jake meets Phillip, who is studying Carnal Essence and how it can be utilized to bring people back to life. All Jake has to do is summon, use and murder said succubi to harvest Carnal Essence and bring his wife back. And that’s the crux of the story. Keep reading this My Lovely Wife review to find out why it’s one of my favorite visual novels in years.
Magic Most Foul
I’m a big proponent of streamlined and easy-to-understand games, no matter how complex they may be. My Lovely Wife is perfectly clear about what you have to do and how you do it. It even offers a quick tutorial chapter to get you ready before they take off the training wheels. Jake quickly learns that he can indeed summon succubi using a summoning circle in his home. All this requires is utilizing three ingredients, and you’re ready. Depending on the combination of items, from wood to ichor, metal, and animal parts, you’ll get a different species of succubi. Then he has to lodge them in one of five rooms.
From there, you spend your days sending your dangerously beautiful assistants to various locations. They can spend time with clients, pleasing them and earning coin and Carnal Essence. But first, it’s a good idea to increase their skills with some training, either to learn how to speak more like a lady or how to truly be a fiend in the bedsheets. Once you select a location, they’ll spend a set amount of time there, slowly filling up a meter. Once it’s full, you can send them somewhere else, though if you keep sending your girls to the same location, they’ll develop new traits, which can be positive or negative. So it’s best to vary your routine until the clock runs down and another day starts. Just make sure to check the forecast to see what business establishments will be open and closed the next day, and which will provide more bang for your buck, so to speak.
I should mention, random events can occur while your succubi are fulfilling their assigned tasks, and you’ll have to choose how to proceed. There’s a chance they can even die if you pick the wrong choice, though the possible consequences are clearly laid out for you. It’s best to do what you think would make your succubi happy, though often that might not be what you expect. There are a lot of very complex personalities on display, and no two succubi are the same. One of my favorite things about My Lovely Wife was how disparate and entertaining the various succubi were, from angry assassins to wild drunks and even one species that looks like a sleepy little girl.
Much to my surprise, I started to get attached to one of my demonic ladies. Which I told myself wouldn’t happen, but then I started to get drawn in by Anna. Not just because of her looks, but also because of her personality. She was witty and devoted to learning new things. It also probably didn’t hurt she was the only succubi I discovered that sported glasses, completing the sexy librarian look I find so fetching. So no matter what lengths Jake was forced to go to in his quest to bring back his beloved wife, I refused to ever harm Anna. Unfortunately, my other girls weren’t quite so lucky.
Which brings me to the moral quandary that makes My Lovely Wife so very addictive – no matter what you do, you’re going to have blood on your hands. There’s no way to play the game without sacrificing at least one of your succubi, and probably a lot more. The reason being, doing this is the only way to enhance Jake’s magical skills. Once sacrificed, you’ll absorb a portion of the succubus’ Carnal Essence, as well as getting random items you can use to craft more succubi. Then you can spend that Carnal Essence to upgrade nodes in your Skill Tree, from levels 1 to 3. While the Skill Tree started out pretty simple, one choice I made during the conversation portions of the game upgraded it significantly. Enhancing your skills can make it, so your succubi can obtain more Carnal Essence, get more cash faster, and much more besides.
At one point, the game introduces the Shrine. They’re what appears to be a religious organization, and they claim to have your wife’s soul in their care. They also imply that Phillip isn’t who he pretends to be. Thus, you’ll have to choose whether to send succubi to Phillip or the Shrine to have their Carnal Essence extracted. Depending on your choice, you’ll get one of two endings, but fret not, cause there’s a ton more. Apparently, there are some 40 endings besides that, one for every species of succubus. The catch is all of these endings are much more complex and require befriending and learning as much about each girl as possible. That, in turn, requires certain skill levels to even start some conversations, which makes the whole affair a lot more involved.
While I very much enjoyed My Lovely Wife, I would be lying if I said it never got repetitive. You’re mostly sending your succubi to different locations with a click of the mouse until you can complete larger objectives, which then brings you to the next chapter. Thankfully, you can speed up how quickly time passes, making the wait far less onerous. That said, I think it’s a pretty large oversight that there’s no New Game+. Mostly because each new game, Jake’s stats start at zero, and it would save a lot more time if you could carry over some of your skill progress. Though at least the developers allow you to start from any chapter you want on subsequent runs.
Beautiful and Terrible
Visually, I was really drawn in by the design of My Lovely Wife. Sure, the succubi are attractive, but their designs are also really detailed and different from one another. There are wild color choices, and some succubi are downright terrifying, like the horn sporting Taurus. I thought it was a very clever choice that almost all the humans seemingly have no mouths, while all the succubi do. This, in turn, makes them more human-looking, despite their monstrous appendages and visages. Musically, the game is equal parts mournful and mysterious. Though there’s no voice acting, there are lots of useful sound effects, from Jake’s horrified gasps to the quiet sighs the succubi make when Jake goes on a date with them. Better yet, the translation is very solid here, and I only found a few rare instances of grammatical errors, and no typos.
Get Tempted By These Dangerous Ladies
Despite or maybe because of the intense moral choices the game forces on you, it’s hard to stop playing My Lovely Wife. I didn’t get up for at least an hour after starting my first session, and reached my first ending a couple of hours later. While the subject material found herein is heavy and dark, the story and setting are nevertheless compelling and downright addictive. Even though I’ve never played the previous game, My Lovely Daughter, I’m sold on My Lovely Wife. If you’re a fan of dark and fascinating Visual Novels, this is your game.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Switch; Publisher: Neon Doctrine; Developer: GameChanger Studio; Players: 1; Released: June 8, 2022; MSRP: $14.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.