Submit a news tip

[Review] Cupid Parasite: Sweet and Spicy Darling

Posted on May 25, 2024 by in Reviews, Switch

Cupid Parasite: Sweet and Spicy Darling review

System: Switch
Release date: May 28, 2024
Developer: Otomate
Publisher: Idea Factory

When Cupid Parasite released on Switch back in 2021 I was immediately taken with it. The premise of Cupid working in a matchmaking agency to try and find partners for hopeless cases without resorting to her powers to basically cheat them into a relationship was absolute genius, and it was the perfect marriage (if you’ll pardon the pun) between romance and comedy, punctuating its more serious moments with highly entertaining lighthearted moments. Despite being satisfied with the conclusion of each of the Parasite’s story arcs, I was never going to pass up Cupid Parasite: Sweet and Spicy Darling, a fan disc that picks up where the true ending of each route leaves off and introduces a brand new Parasite into the mix. It certainly lives up to its name, but there is also a sourness to it that hints at the overindulgence of too much of a good thing.

Sweet and Spicy Darling features three different sections: After Drama, New Parasite, and Bonus Episode. The After Drama stories are all quite lengthy, being around five hours each on a first run through unless you read a little more quickly than average. These take place after the true ending of the original love interests in Cupid Parasite, and offer a good amount of variety, ranging from fairly serious and grounded to outright ludicrous and ridiculous. Each one has at least three endings to experience, and the ten choices that you make between a “Sweet” and “Spicy” option throughout the story will determine which ending you get. It feels more than a little arbitrary at times when you consider what constitutes a “Sweet” or “Spicy” choice, but it’s significantly easier to manipulate the outcome here than in your standard visual novel, which is often a lot more nuanced and will require several reloads. As the game’s flowchart is cleanly divided into small segments, and you can jump between these at any time, it’s much easier to go back and pick a different choice without having to resort to multiple save files.

Although your choices will have little impact on the story flow, endings are always distinct and unique, and tie up the narrative presented nicely, even if they don’t necessarily provide a conclusive ending the way that the endings in the original Cupid Parasite did. In most instances I felt that the Spicy endings would have been better labeled as bad endings, often being dissatisfying, inconclusive, and even unsettling a few times – although I am not someone who would consider possessiveness and overprotectiveness to be particularly “Spicy” by definition. Some characters also have additional endings which lean very heavily into more disastrous outcomes, and the game gives some very strong warnings when you’re about to veer down these, going so far as to ask me three times if I really wanted to experience Shelby’s Bad Spicy End. Generally the combined Sweet/Spicy endings are presented as the best route to take, as viewing these will unlock the Bonus Episode for that character, which are three short scenes that highlight a particular moment in the story overall – Gill’s for example, focus on when he first met Lynette, and his thought process at the time. They’re a nice extra for fans, but nothing substantial.

Cupid Parasite: Sweet and Spicy Darling review

Despite mislabeling its endings somewhat, Sweet and Spicy Darling nonetheless really doubles down on the latter part of its name, with an almost excessive amount of steamy scenes and dialogue that is never overly explicit, but often all the more awkwardly written for what it wants to imply while staying out of range of a higher age rating. This is to be expected to some degree, as the relationship between Lynette and her chosen love interest has already been established so there is no need to build up to these scenes, but the short length of the stories here combined with the frequency of these more heated moments makes it feel overly gratuitous; Cupid Parasite was notably light on steamy romance scenes, and Sweet and Spicy Darling seems determined to make up for this lack by cramming in as many as possible. It also makes some aspects of this feel doubly awkward, and not handled with a seriousness that they perhaps deserved – for example, Shelby’s discomfort at being unable to perform due to stress, fatigue, and being overworked is not helped at all by the writing’s dancing around the issue in a way I can only describe as juvenile at times, and the reluctance to outright say what is going on can make Lynette’s futile resistance or hesitation seem outright creepy when it happens anyway.

The core problem with the After Dramas is that they often feel largely unnecessary, and although they explore some interesting themes and can be quite touching at times when Lynette and her love interest overcome a genuine barrier in their relationship, they will often veer completely off the rails and create needless drama, rather than meaningful conflict. The new character Eli Omar is unfortunately often at the heart of the former, and he could have easily had a fully fleshed-out romance route of his own for the variety of roles he takes and how frequently he crops up in an antagonistic role.

The After Dramas are not something I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t read the original visual novel, but this is to be expected given that they all take place after the true ending of the original routes: without that knowledge of what went on before you’re going to be lost, and although the game makes some attempts to bring you up to speed with “what happened” segments sprinkled throughout that bring up the main plot points, these are more a reminder than they are a summary, and the lack of a glossary means that there is no real substitute for reading the original. However, even with that knowledge, your mileage may vary depending on how attached you are to the character in question and how satisfied you were with their ending.

Cupid Parasite: Sweet and Spicy Darling review

New Parasite acts as a seventh route, focusing on the main new character introduced in the game, Merenice Levin. It takes place after the Common Route from the original game but is not overly reliant on it, making it the most accessible part of the fandisc for newcomers who haven’t read anything prior to this. After her experiments with the Parasite Five turn out to be a disaster and they all quit, Lynette turns to fortune-telling to find out what her next step in her career could be, which leads her to Merenice – who, unfortunately, cannot read her fortune at all the way that he can everyone else’s, prompting him to register with Cupid Corp himself to find out more about what makes her special. This route features the same flowchart structure as the After Dramas, making it easier to jump back and forth between sections to make different choices, but is formatted more like a traditional visual novel, with good and bad endings.

I found Merenice’s route to be quite satisfying overall, exploring different themes not covered in the other routes, and balancing the more grounded relationships with the humorous mythology-based elements quite nicely, where the other love interests tended to lean more heavily into one or the other. The addition of an ending for Owen a short way into New Parasite was also a nice bonus for his character, although I would have liked to have seen similar additional routes for the other two recurring characters who were added to Sweet and Spicy Darling, Eli Omar and Robin. Overall, it feels like a natural extension of the concept, rather than something that was added unnecessarily in the way that the After Dramas often did.

Cupid Parasite: Sweet and Spicy Darling review

Sweet and Spicy Darling is presented in the same explosively bright style as its predecessor, with the main menu screen assaulting your eyes with a mess of clashing colors that somehow manages to be distinct and legible despite the flowery fonts and text sizes. The UI is part of the game’s charm and identity, leaning into that more playful side of things, and it’s complemented well by some jazzy new tracks and extremely cheesy vocal songs. It’s a style that returning fans will be familiar with and one that I feel fits well with the overall aesthetic of the game. The new CG artwork maintains the high standard set by its predecessor and there is a good amount of it considering the smaller amount of content here overall, and the quality of the localization is, for the most part, excellent – at launch the original Cupid Parasite was filled with text issues that weren’t patched until much later after release, and I did not encounter any glaring typos or grammatical errors during my playthrough.

The original voice actors reprise their roles with the same level of enthusiasm and range of emotion, which heightens the experience considerably, although this is spoiled somewhat by the random news reports scattered throughout the routes that are delivered in extremely poor broken English and do not match the subtitles on the screen. I also experienced several inexplicable crashes during my playthrough, forcing me to completely shut my Switch down to get it to work again at all – this resulted in a lot of frequently lost progress, and may be something to keep in mind if you plan on picking this up at launch.

The Verdict

Cupid Parasite: Sweet and Spicy Darling never quite manages to strike the right balance between its two flavors, with the Sweet elements often failing to feel like a meaningful continuation of the character’s stories or relationships much of the time despite exploring some interesting themes, and the Spicy often leaning too far into awkwardly-written steamy scenes or endings that would almost certainly be classified as “bad” in any other visual novel, and are certainly worse than the bad endings featured in its predecessor. It’s a worthwhile read if you enjoyed the original and are particularly attached to any of its characters (except perhaps for Raoul, whose After Drama is so wildly inconsistent I would actually advise his fans to steer clear of this) but it never quite manages to hit the same emotional highs or justify continuing stories that were perfectly wrapped up previously.

Cupid Parasite: Sweet and Spicy Darling copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

Leave a Reply
Manage Cookie Settings