is a Japanese developer of Romance Game Visual Novels
for mobile phone
. The company originated in 1999, based in Tokyo, and began to expand to English-speaking audiences in 2011, releasing English-language versions of their games through the Apple Store and Google Play. Expanded versions of several of their games were previously released through GREE, a social gaming network which provides the games Free To Play
on a limited daily basis with the option of further advancement via Microtransactions
. Support for the GREE versions of the games ceased in 2014, replaced by the similar free-to-play/social media "Party" versions of Be My Princess
and My Forged Wedding
Voltage's American subsidiary, Voltage Entertainment USA, releases adaptations of existing Voltage, Inc. games which have been heavily localized to appeal to Western audiences, including replacing the anime-style character sprites and CGs with new artwork in a more Western style. Beginning in 2013 with Speakeasy Tonight
, the subsidiary has begun producing original games marketed directly to their English-speaking audience.
Tropes common to the games of Voltage, Inc. and Voltage USA:
- Allegedly Free Game: The GREE/Party versions of the games are free to play, and with effort and patience it's possible to complete everything without resorting to microtransactions. However, the player's ability to progress through the game is limited by day, and progress requires some social networking and a lot of grinding for points if you're not buying your way through.
- All Men Are Perverts: Expect to hear the "all men are wolves" adage at least once per game.
- Big Eater: The standard Voltage game protagonist enjoys good food, and is often teased by her love interests about her enthusiasm for meals.
- But Thou Must: A standard feature of Voltage games, which present choices to the player at various points. The choices determine the way the story ends, but any immediate effect is minimal, typically only influencing a few lines of dialogue before events proceed along a single track. The few aversions (in Kiss of Revenge, True Love Sweet Lies, and the original Japanese version of In Your Arms Tonight) thus stand out enough to be noteworthy
- But Not Too Foreign: Across all their games set in Japan, you can count on one hand the foreign characters who aren't half-Japanese. Including the ones who aren't love interests. Given Japan's demographics, this makes sense.
- Camp Gay: Whenever a gay man shows up, expect him to be one of these. Indeed, "screamingly flamboyant" is pretty much shorthand for "gay" in any of the games, as showcased in a rather cringeworthy declaration from the Seduced In The Sleepless City protagonist: Fashion designer Trevor Konno cannot possibly be gay — he has masculine interests! Later games adopt a (comparatively) more sensitive and nuanced approach.
- Central Theme: Each Voltage Romance Game tends to hang on a single trope as a theme for the game's love story.
- Chocolate of Romance: Most of Voltage Inc's romance games get a Valentine's Day Episode side story sooner or later, and the protagonist's efforts to present her love interest with handmade chocolate for the holiday feature prominently in all of them. Drama caused by lost, stolen, or damaged chocolate is also common, as are various other obstacles ranging from cross-cultural confusion to angst when the guy in question seems to have accepted chocolate from another girl. See the page for some specific examples.
- Christmas Episode: Most games have a Christmas-themed side story for the holiday season sooner or later.
- Seduced in the Sleepless City and Love Letter from Thief X have two crossover stories, "Thieves vs. Celebrities" and "Ryoichi vs. Takuto/Takuto vs. Ryoichi." In addition, although there has not yet been an official crossover story, My Forged Wedding has referenced characters from Seduced and the clothing brand Infinite, which is the workplace in which Office Secrets is set.
- The Pirates in Love side story "Pirates vs. Bodyguards" crosses over with My Sweet Bodyguard.
- The My Forged Wedding side story "My Wedding Knight" crosses over with A Knight's Devotion... sort of.
- 10 Days With My Devil crosses over with My Sweet Bodyguard in the "My Devilish Bodyguard" side story.
- Kissed by the Baddest Bidder and Love Letter From Thief X have three crossover side stories per game, for a grand total of six.
- Sweet Cafe has a few crossover themed stories that are far from anything resembling canon, mostly in that it has to do with several different guys from completely different games living under one roof with the protagonist.
- Earn Your Bad Ending: Most Voltage games don't even have bad endings, but even so, it's generally not too difficult to end up with the best ending unless you're actively making an effort to fail.
- Expansion Pack: New content is released for existing games on a regular basis, including epilogues, sequels, side stories, and new characters.
- The Faceless: As is common in visual novels, the protagonist's face is never fully shown. CGs in which she appears usually show her with her face hidden or turned away from the camera; failing that, her eyes are obscured by her hair or simply not drawn in.
- Flower Motifs: Many games have at least one guy versed in hanakotoba (Satsuki, Ebihara, Riki, and many more), and the narrative will usually explain to protagonist and player alike what the various flowers mean.
- Hello, Insert Name Here: The protagonist of each game is named by the player.
- Insecure Love Interest: The protagonist in many a route, sequel, sub-story.... Usually, she has absolutely no reason for feeling so.
- Interface Spoiler / The Law of Conservation of Detail: Given the effort that needs to be put into the character pictures, it's obvious when someone is going to be important to the plot, or at the very least a re-occurring character. Not only will they have a name, they'll have character art.
- Microtransactions: In addition to the GREE model described above, the standard versions of the games involve downloading a free prologue and then purchasing the stories you're interested in playing individually.
- Multiple Endings: Another standard feature of Voltage games, usually involving a "Good Ending" and a "Happy Ending."
- Perspective Flip: Several games, beginning with In Your Arms Tonight and also including Our Two Bedroom Story and Kissed by the Baddest Bidder, include "His POV" side stories which show events of the main routes from the guy's point of view.
- Phenotype Stereotype: Since a mundane version of Curtains Match the Window is in effect for most characters, this comes into play as shorthand for "Westerner, or Western-influenced person". Thus, Noel, Ren, Shota, and virtually all foreign characters with their own sprites are indeed blond with blue or green eyes.
- Pink Means Feminine: Title screens, menus, and splash screens for almost all Voltage games up to Kiss of Revenge invariably use a pink color scheme. Beginning with KoR, and especially following the change in game format that began with Our Two Bedroom Story, this has become much less of a rule.
- Romance Game: Voltage's bread and butter.
- Stock Footage: Expect recycled backgrounds, not necessarily within the games themselves, but amongst the different Voltage games. For example, the storage room in Pirates In Love is used in Zain's route in Be My Princess, and the nobleman's bedroom from the former game is the guest room in Nobel Michel in the latter. Usually the backgrounds will either be exactly the same, have some minor change, or just have a Palette Swap.
- Strictly Formula: In any given Voltage romance game, you can expect the cast of potential love interests to be composed of some combination of the following:
- The confident alpha male and/or Tsundere whose relationship with the protagonist is characterized heavily by Belligerent Sexual Tension. Often redheaded, usually a good cook, and almost always featured more prominently than the rest of the cast in the game's prologue and promotional material. (Russell, Yamato, Genji, Keith, Yuzuki, Riki, Subaru, Toranosuke, Kakeru, Ichigo, Taketo, Minato, Eisuke, Jinpachi, Hanai, Miyabi, Momoi, Leon.)
- The cynical guy who resists serious emotional entanglement. Sometimes The Gadfly, pushing the heroine's comfort zones to get a rise out of her, but is more often a Tall, Dark and Snarky ice queen in need of defrosting. Almost always dark-haired. (Eduardo, Kyoichi, Koichi, Joshua, Ryoichi, Ishigami, Ryoma, Satoru, Homare, Seig, Chikage, Scorpio.)
- The Handsome Lech: smooth, suave, and always ready to put the moves on any reasonably attractive female in the vicinity. The trouble is knowing when it's safe to take him seriously. Even more likely than the cynical guy to be The Gadfly. (Saeki, Kiyoto, Ginnosuke, Haku, Junya, Kyosuke, Rihito, Baba, Kyobashi, Kyouga.)
- The friendly, energetic Keet who is younger than the other guys, or at least comes across that way. He's either an earnest, puppyish Nice Guy or - more commonly - an incorrigible flirt. The most likely to cross-dress. (Thomas, Yuta, Roberto, Mirai, Hiro, Sora, Shota, Meguru, Kanji, Izumi, Eiki, Yoh.)
- The considerate, kind-hearted Nice Guy. Usually down-to-earth, brotherly, and The Reliable One, but some versions have more of a romantic head-in-the-clouds bent. (Christopher, Takao, Aiba, Edward, Chihaya, Kenshi, Mizuki, Lute, Koji, Haruhito, Junpei, Haruki, Yasuto, Shusei, Aki.)
- The quiet introvert who is either a lazy Deadpan Snarker, a Stoic Sugar and Ice Personality whose withdrawn nature makes him hard to read, or both. Most likely to be blond in earlier games, more likely dark-haired in later ones. If the alpha male isn't the promotional "face" of the game, this guy probably is. (Nathan, Ren, Soji, Wilfred, Noel, Takuto, Shion, Shingo, Shiki, Issei, Takeshi, Kaoru, Soryu, Masaomi, Asano, Hayden, Huedhaut.)
- The older guy. If he's not the mature, responsible Team Dad who keeps the other guys in line, he's a frequent butt of good-natured jokes thanks to his easygoing demeanor, immaturity, and offbeat hobbies. Occasionally he manages to be both. Often has facial hair and tends to wear his hair longer than the other guys. (Morgan, Kunihiko, Satsuki, Atsumu, Katsuragi, Gaia, Tamotsu, Johji, Shindo, Akiyoshi, Mamoru, Kirisawa, Maximilien.)
- Later games trade in a new archetype: the angel-faced Stepford Smiler and/or Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who at first blush comes across as pleasant and polite, only for the protagonist to discover fairly quickly that it's all a front to cover his devious and jaded true personality. (Irie, Chiaki, Ota, Shinobu.)
- True Companions: Most of Voltage's games feature most/all of the woo-able boys as a tight-knit group, either from the beginning of the game or becoming so over the course of the main routes. The exceptions are Kiss of Revenge (in which the guys have good professional relationships but don't necessarily consider each other close friends or spend much of their off time together) and In Your Arms Tonight (in which, with a very few exceptions, they are at best colleagues or distant acquaintances if they know one another at all).
- Unmoving Plaid: How most games handle patterns on the sprites' clothing.
- Updated Re-release: The games adapted for GREE generally have a good bit of content added, both to expand the storyline to better fit the GREE format and to improve on the weaker elements of the original plots. For just one example, the protagonist of the original version of Be My Princess is an exchange student who becomes involved with the princes through a string of coincidences, while in the GREE version she comes into contact with them after she gets a job working for a famous fashion designer.
- Valentine's Day Episode: As with Christmas, the Valentine's Day holiday provides a prime side story opportunity, and most of the games have one released for February.
- The Verse: Crossovers and shout-outs confirm that My Forged Wedding, Seduced in the Sleepless City, Love Letter From Thief X, Office Secrets all take place within a single continuity, with Dreamy Days in West Tokyo and Metro PD: Close To You probably also included. Whether or not any of the other games also fall within this continuity is mostly unconfirmed, but Our Two Bedroom Story and Kissed By The Baddest Bidder are excluded.note
- Welcome Episode: Voltage games start with a free prologue to introduce you to the Main Character, the situation/world they are in, and often include an Establishing Character Moment for the love interests. The first chapters often have elements of this as well, giving a reader a more in-depth look at the guy whose route is being taken, and usually ending on a cliffhanger.