No one ever said being in love was easy, but if you are looking for dating tips or a virtual romance, your smartphone can be there for you.
Once the exclusive preserve of Japanese gamers, dating games which let you romance great-looking virtual suitors are now available in English on mobile platforms.
Each game typically features several potential partners with whom you can pursue a relationship. Treat your date well and watch the sparks fly. However, say or do the wrong things and you will likely be headed towards the virtual equivalent of Splitsville.
While most dating sims are targeted at girls, some of the most popular recent titles are made for guys. Konami's best-selling Love Plus series garnered sales of more than 500,000 copies in Japan.
Whether you are looking for virtual love or just getting ideas on how to romance your real-life significant other, these dating games will make your heart flutter.
FOR THE GIRLS
Be My Princess 2
Android, iOS, Free
Marrying into royalty is many a girl's childhood fantasy, but let us face it - chances are, it is not going to happen in real life. However, that does not mean you cannot live your dreams virtually.
Be My Princess 2 is the second instalment in a series which lets you date handsome virtual men who also happen to be royal princes.
This game is essentially a beautifully illustrated storybook with multiple endings based on the choices you make as each tale unfolds. You play a strong-willed apprentice pastry chef who, by chance, runs into six princes while they are on their way to a gala ball.
Featuring beautifully drawn manga-style art and somewhat unconvincing but sweetly romantic stories, Be My Princess 2 is everything a classic Japanese dating game should be.
Playing its prologue chapter is free, but alas, when it comes to the real romance, it is "no money, no honey". Each prince's love story costs US$3.99 (S$5) on Android and $4.98 on iOS.
If you want to know more about your virtual suitors' back-stories, check out the game's first instalment, Be My Princess.
Shall We Date? Heian Love
If you are into historical romance, this app lets you be swept off your feet by handsome samurai and noble lords of the ancient Japanese court.
Set in the Heian period of ancient Japan, this dating game puts you in the shoes of a lowly court lady who has just moved into the royal palace from the countryside.
Potential suitors include the handsome but stern-looking Emperor Kuze; veteran samurai warrior, Lord Masakuni; Mikage the court magician; Lord Yui, a young nobleman; and the emperor's mysterious body double, Sakuhito.
Presented in the storybook gameplay style, each suitor's story has multiple endings based on the choices you make along the way. While the manga-style art looks great, I feel that the pictures are not as well illustrated as the ones in Be My Princess 2.
However, Heian Love features better written stories, with some interesting plot twists.
The price may seem steep, but it is better value for money than Be My Princess 2 as the upfront fee includes all the romance stories of the game's five main love interests.
FOR THE GUYS
Dating games are not just for girls. Sweetheart is one of the few titles in the genre which cater to guys looking for virtual romance.
You play high-school student Ito Nobunaga, who has just moved back to the hometown of his childhood. There are five girls you can date, but wooing a potential girlfriend while keeping your grades up can be challenging.
Sweetheart's RPG-inspired gameplay lets you do much more than just make decisions as the story unfolds. Players must take charge of Nobunaga's schedule - attending classes to get better grades, working part-time to earn money to go on dates and joining school activities to build skills.
I am blase about Sweetheart's unexciting storyline, but its gameplay is fun and watching a virtual romance grow feels rewarding.
Love Plus for the iOS
A mobile version of Konami's popular Love Plus game is availve Plus iN. Each game features a different virtual girl you can date.True love may not come easy in this game, but it is well worth the hard work.
At 700 yen (S$8.35) each, the apps are pricey, but the awesome graphics and excellent voice-acting make them worth paying for.
FOR GIRLS AND GUYS
Roommates Visual Novel
Android, iOS, Free
Designed for guys and girls, Roommates is probably the only dating-game app you can share with your real-life girlfriend or boyfriend and not get strange looks in return.
Set in a college dorm, this game lets you play a male or female character. Pick aspiring rocker Max and you get to date the girls. Choose shy Anne and you can date the guys.
As in Sweetheart, you are in charge of developing your character's skills. Before the start of each in-game week, you must plan your character's schedule - allocating time for classes, part-time work and relaxation.
As you progress in the game, you will run into various events which give you a chance to impress your potential date.Each activity affects your character's statistics, making you more or less attractive to different suitors.
Play your cards right and virtual love may be around the corner.
The first few hours of this game are free to play, but unlocking Max's or Anne's full story will cost you $8.98 each on iOS.
Jasmine Osada is a freelance writer.
This article was published on Sept 10 in Digital Life, The Straits Times.
Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.