Love Once: Mermaid’s Tears is a game so obscure that I could hardly find any information on it or the developers who made it either. I couldn’t even find a review of it on the Japanese side or even about the publishers. This game is a Japanese exclusive as well so your choices are limited to purchase it. You can get it by visiting a store that deals exclusively in imported games from Japan or from Amazon like I have done and there are specialty retailers online as well like Play Asia. It only sold about 20,000 copies so not many people have played the game.
Love Once: Mermaid’s Tears is a dating sim visual novel and was done by a visual novel company that went by the name “Maid Meets Cat”. I am playing the complete version of Mermaids Tears which was ported from the PSP to the PS3 and was published by Happinet. The story was inspired by the fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” so it reflects the concept of true love and finding the perfect someone for you. The visual novel was written by Hiroki Miuri (Not the same voice actor) who also wrote the screenplays for the Naruto Do and Samurai Do.
In the Mermaids Tears edition, the story has been expanded and it introduces Michiru Tsutsumi, a new heroine to date. There are new CG scenes for her character in the PS3 version as she was a supporting person in the original PSP game. Theres also an epilogue that is given that was not included in the original PSP version.
The protagonist is Shoji Takanashi whose mother was a mermaid but since she became human, she lost her mermaid abilities like singing. Her husband, Shoji’s father recently died. Shoji lives in a small town near the beach in the early 2010s
Two girls show up at Shoji’s place. They are mermaids who have come to the surface world to meet Shoji. Their pseudonyms are Mel and Mei Toridome as their real names would be much harder to pronounce for humans. Shoji has met mermaids as a small child but has long since forgotten about the events. Since his father died, now is the time to really start focusing on girls if Shoji wants to prevent an early death. Half mermaids are physically unstable and they do not live very long. However, if he finds the right partner, especially if one was a mermaid, then death can be prevented through a special spell where the mermaid turns fully into a human and everyone lives happily ever after.
The cast is not as large as other dating games but it allowed for a more intimate storytelling. The control system is pretty straightforward and easy to learn. Each of the scenarios Shoji is placed in is one on one situations with the girls he is seeing. Neither the story nor the characters were the most original but the game was was entertaining.
The game’s art design was created by the same artist who worked on Chaos Head and Chaos Child and the character designs, as expected from a visual novel game looks attractive. However, if you look closely, the characters don’t always blend in seamlessly with the background, the look like cutouts. The background drawings gave an overall peaceful and serene atmosphere.
I've covered visual novels on this site for a while now and I never experienced any glitches or game crashing bugs. The installation was pretty quick and game load time and screen transitions were fast and seamless. The interactivity as expected from a dating sim visual novel isn’t much. It’s choose the girl you would like to go out with and choose the dialogue you’d think would be appropriate.
In the next playthrough other dialogue choices appear to give another response for you to go with. There are plenty of choices for the audio options like how high or low you want the characters voices to be or if you don’t want to hear either all or just a certain character’s voice. There is a lot of fanservice and as it’s a dating game, it is not unexpected.
The musical score and audio quality of this game was top notch. Reflecting on the mermaid nature of the story, the mermaid characters are excellent at singing. But certain tracks were repeated and some others were underutilized even though more were added in the PS3 version. The PS3 version includes a new opening and a new closing song. You can also listen to the music tracks in the game too.
It’s a fairly long game with a decent amount of replay value. There are multiple endings depending on the girl you choose to fall in love with. Each of the girls you date has their own personalities based on who’d you like to see as your ideal dating type. Per the typical visual novel style, the main character Shoji is an incredibly kind, helpful and sensitive young teenager, and a bit of a pushover just like many visual novel characters before him. He’s good at singing but not compared to anybody who’s a mermaid. He gets along well with the girls and shares good chemistry with them. I personally liked Chidori as she was polite, calm and intelligent and a talented cook.
Shoji’s mother in particular was more a stereotypical anime mother seen in many anime. Another character Tachibana Nagomi, is the typical hot headed tsundere type seen countless times in anime.
The voice acting is in entirely in Japanese and the subtitles are in Japanese. I enjoyed the anime cutscenes in the game and the opening was literally something right out of a slice of life anime. The cg art scenes were often recycled over and over again. You can rewatch the scenarios and cutscenes you were in and look at the artwork of the game.
There isn’t much to complain about the PS2 version of Mermaid’s Tears. The enhanced expressions felt stiff at times. There was plenty of cliches and scenes dragged on for a while and filler was there where not much of anything happened. The comedy was forced in and cheesy. There was an odd inconsistency. In most scenes Shoji’s hair was black but for one scene I noticed it was dark brown.
When you beat the game the girl you dated with will appear on the title screen. If you plan on changing it to another date you are going to have to start the game again with a new save file. For a visual novel game especially one that is very obscure I consider this to be a rough diamond.
I would give this a 4 out of 5.
It could work as an anime adaptation. In fact as far as I looked up there was even a media mix of it as well too with a manga that I could have only found on the website,3 music cds and radio programs based around it. Its weird that after announcing the PSP version, the PS3 version was announced 10 days later probably because of Japan’s focus on portable gaming and also from what I looked up. The other characters that are datable in PS3 version are DLC in the PSP version which doesn’t make sense either.
If you are a hardcore otaku who enjoy slice of life romances, get the PS3 version of Mermaid’s Tears. On an off related topic thanks a lot Sony for making the PSP, PS3 and PS4 region free I wouldn’t have been able to write this review. Also, I'd love to get more Japan only exclusive Sony games and eventually Sega Saturn games into my collection, especially the visual novels.