Otome game review: Piofiore Fated Memories

In the 1920s, South Italian town Burlone is ruled by three mafia families: the traditionalist Falzone family, the meritocratic Visconti who split off from the Falzone, and the violent Chinese newcomers the Lao-Shu. Our protagonist Liliana is an orphan who was raised by the church, who ends up being taken in by one of the three families due to a series of seeming coincidences. Dragged into a world of crime and being kept in the dark by those around her, Liliana has to figure out what these organisations want from her and how she can get back to her normal life. Our love interests are the diligent Falzone boss Dante, flirty Falzone underboss Nicola, mysterious informant Orlok, cruel and unpredictable Lao Shu boss Yang and charismatic Visconti boss Gilbert.

If you’re thinking that’s a pretty short summary, it’s because the common route is approximately 30 minutes long and barely even introduces all the characters. It’s possible to not even meet one of the love interests in the common route! As this game is about the mafia, be warned that there is a fair amount of dark themes and violence. Personally I like my otome games dark, and this is still a fair bit lighter than something like Black Wolves Saga but it also varies route to route. Some characters come across very differently from one route to another, which is sometimes down to circumstance but also showcases the game’s at times inconsistent writing.

Lili as a heroine was very middle of the road to me. There was nothing particularly annoying about her and her design is very cute, she gets to dress up in a ton of different outfits throughout the game. Still, there’s nothing interesting about her personality either. She’s the typical naive and innocent good girl without special skills, who tries her best but rarely accomplishes anything. She never drives the plot, she merely gets whisked along by it.

The art in this game is very pretty, and I never noticed any major issues with anatomy or perspective. All the boys look really gorgeous and appealing, to the point I was upset we couldn’t romance side characters like Oliver and Roberto. The backgrounds and music didn’t particularly stand out either positively or negatively. The voice acting was great and fitting for most characters but I do have to point out that I really didn’t like Morikubo Showtaro as Gilbert. For one, Morikubo Showtaro always sounds more like himself than any particular character which makes it hard to really get into the game, but more than that his slightly silly, endearing voice just didn’t fit with the confident and cool Gilbert. For my fellow Fire Emblem fans, Dante is voiced by Dimitri’s VA and Orlok is voiced by Claude’s VA!

Routes

The routes in this game are unlocked in a specific order. Nicola and Dante are immediately available, after 1 route Yang and Orlok are unlocked, after all four Gilbert is unlocked, and finally a “finale” route. It’s hard for me to recommend a particular order because I feel like both Nicola and Dante benefit from having seen more of the game before you start their route.

Nicola Francesca (VA: Kimura Ryohei)

Nicola’s was the first route I played and I found that I didn’t really understand his character until I saw him in other routes. He presents a front of being a playful and friendly ladies’ man but instead is cunning and even ruthless in the way he lies and deceives his way to achieving his goals. Lili is initially very taken with him and completely falls for his act, and because I as the player hadn’t seen much of him yet I couldn’t distinguish between his real and “fake” self very easily, especially since the difference is fairly subtle. It’s not like Nicola has two distinctly different sides, he skillfully weaves the lies through the truth. When I encountered him in other routes I wanted him to stay far away lol, I didn’t believe any of his kindness anymore. This kind of archetype is never my thing, so I was happy to get his route “out of the way”.

Nicola is Dante’s cousin and is extremely dedicated to him, even if his dedication is somewhat misguided. He wants to do what’s best for Dante, and he thinks that means freeing him of life as a mafia boss, even though Dante really has never indicated he wants out except for when he was a young child. I believe in a way this is Nicola projecting his own desires onto Dante, as Nicola himself never seems to enjoy the life he’s been forced into, even though he executes his role perfectly. I found it hard to know when the romance between Lili and Nicola was sincere, and was annoyed with the way Lili was kept in the dark about literally everything and never seemed to do anything other than wait for Nicola to come back. Almost all the eventful scenes were in Meanwhile sections from other characters’ perspectives! Overall I feel like this route was an okay introduction to the game since it barely spoils any of the main plot, but that is at the same time the route’s weakness. I did really enjoy the three different endings and how they were all valid conclusions to the story.

Sidenote, anyone else loved Roberto (and his impeccable clothing choices) initially? I wish he had a route! The way he was awkwardly hamfisted into the villain role kind of got me annoyed lol

Dante Falzone (VA: Ishikawa Kaito)

I decided to play through Dante’s route next to complete the Falzone family package, and to my pleasant surprise this route delves a lot deeper into the greater narrative and Liliana’s role in the plot. Dante seems to be the poster boy and because of the whole key maiden plot where Liliana banging Dante will unlock the relic (kind of a weird plot point, but I’ll take it) this almost came across like a true route, which is strange considering it’s possible to play it first. Dante’s route is a typical slow burn romance, which made the early parts a little bit boring, but their romance felt rather natural and I enjoyed Dante’s surprisingly gentle character. Though I felt like his character was a bit of a mismatch with his role as a mafia boss, this concern is actually addressed in the game by Dante himself, who derides himself at times saying Nicola would be a more fitting boss.

Speaking of Nicola, he was an absolute douchebag in this route, and though I got a clearer view of his character it really didn’t paint him in a favourable light. What I enjoyed most about this route was that we got a clearer picture of the lore behind the game/why Liliana is being targeted. While the romance between Dante and Lili was cute enough, it felt fairly straight-forward and… vanilla? Dante’s route had less interesting ending variations than Nicola’s, which might be a bit of “true route” syndrome, where they’re really setting up for a perfect resolution to everything (which I usually find boring). Sidenote, I want to know more about possibly-immortal church shota Emilio right now. Give him a route, Otomate. Seriously, this game might have the highest incidence of hot side characters who really should have had routes ever.

Yang (VA: Okamoto Nobuhiko)

I was really excited for Yang’s route because the idea of a villain love interest really appeals to me. In that regard, Yang certainly didn’t disappoint. He’s unapologetically terrible and isn’t going to change for the heroine, and especially the beginning of the route was very exciting as we worry about Liliana’s fate. Yang has an irresistible charm despite being an unscrupulous bastard, and his voice actor does an amazing job getting his character across. Still, once we dig deeper into the route things get dreadfully slow and boring. It seems like this game has a recurring problem with not being able to give the characters anything to do. Liliana just hangs around the Lao Shu base for days on ends, rejecting Yang’s advances and making sweets for Lan and Fei. So while I loved Lili and Yang’s interactions and dynamic, I ended up not caring for the plot of the route very much. It seems that we got the lore dump out of the way in Dante’s route and now we can just… pretend there isn’t any lore in this one? Kind of a weird writing choice.

This route made Dante and Gilbert seem a lot less sympathetic, both not caring in the slightest that Elena and Liliana (aka their precious Key Maiden, but I guess literally everyone forgot about that plot point) were possibly being raped and/or sold as slaves. At least Yang is consistent, it’s kind of jarring to see the other guys’ morality flip-flop all over the place depending on the route they’re in.

Orlok (VA: Toyonaga Toshiyuki)

From the big bad to the cinnamon roll, Orlok was the other route I was most looking forward to. White-haired, mysterious and ostensibly tragic, what’s not to love? In Orlok’s route Liliana is taken by Orlok to stay with the Lao Shu and he tells her that she is a sacred maiden of Bishop Rosberg’s prophecy. This information is used by Yang to stir up more trouble than in any other route and Orlok and Liliana slowly end up becoming everyone’s enemy as things spiral from bad to worse. Because of the way he was raised, Orlok is naive about a lot of things, and I found his character unrealistic at times. He’s almost too good, too pure. This also contributed to the almost familial feeling I had with regard to Lili and Orlok’s relationship, their interactions don’t feel very romantic basically throughout the entire route.

The progression of this route is better than the previous ones, as there was a lot less time for Lili to sit around and make food for her boy. Instead plot and romantic development go hand in hand. I really liked Lili in this route: where Orlok is overly trusting of people like Yang and Bishop Rosberg, Lili proves to be a better judge of character. She’s strong where he isn’t, and is proactive in helping Orlok figure out his life. The two feel much more like equals than any of the other routes, which was a refreshing change of pace. I was actually expecting to get some more information about the church, its workings, who the hell Emilio is in this route, but it was very disappointing in that regard. The focus was almost 100% on Orlok’s personal arc, and there was no room for worldbuilding.

Gilbert (VA: Morikubo Showtaro)

I was entirely not looking forward to Gilbert’s route seeing as he left a rather boring impression, and Morikubo’s voice is not my favourite. On top of that he was kind of a dick in both Orlok and Yang’s routes so that left a bad taste in my mouth. Surprisingly enough, I actually ended up really enjoying this route, although it had little to do with Gilbert himself. The plot of the route centers around solving the mystery of who is bringing counterfeit money into circulation in Burlone, and because of this outside enemy, all factions work together for once. This provided for a comfy vibe throughout the whole route, and also had a lot of interesting interactions between characters who otherwise rarely met (or only met to shoot or stab each other). It did make me feel a little salty on behalf of the other boys, why couldn’t this have happened in their routes?

It almost felt like this was the real, main storyline of Piofiore and the other routes were just… bad endings of some sort, an idea that was further supported by the fact the Finale route branches off from it, and I couldn’t help but think that was a little unfair. This route also gave side characters like Oliver, Leo and Roberto a chance to shine again. I was so happy to see my boy Roberto again, sane this time. Where is his route, Otomate?

Final thoughts

In the end, I didn’t like Piofiore as much as I thought I would. The dark themes seemed right up my alley, almost all of the boys interested me and everyone online seemed to love it, yet what made Piofiore fall flat for me was the plot, or lack thereof. I really feel like Piofiore could have benefitted from a stronger central narrative, some sort of plot to tie all of the routes together (for example, the plot of Gilbert’s route with the counterfeiting could have appeared in all the routes). As is, the characters often felt aimless, like whatever was happening was just an excuse for Lili to be around a specific boy. A short or non-existent common route can work well when it’s used to take a game into very different directions depending on the route, but here it seemed like regardless of the route you picked, things always resulted in everyone wanting to shoot each other. It wasn’t even clear why one thing happened in one route but not in another. After Dante’s route, I felt like all the “mystery” was revealed and the routes were only as interesting as you found the love interest they centered on. The Finale route wasn’t as much of a reveal as it was a tacked on storyline that was barely even hinted at anywhere else in the game, and I didn’t find myself too captivated by it.

My other critique is the sometimes inconsistent characterization of the characters, particularly noticeable in Dante and Gilbert. While their own routes make them out to be sympathetic good guys despite being in the mafia, their actions in some of the other routes were so baffling and antagonistic that it seemed less like showing two different sides to one character and more like shoddy writing. It’s a shame because I did feel like a lot of the characters were complex and interesting (extra props for having a ton of interesting and likable side characters), but sometimes it was like there were different writers at work who didn’t share memos with each other. A pure and morally upright church girl like Liliana would not have been my choice as the heroine of a mafia game, and sometimes the chemistry between her and the love interests felt lacking because of it. Despite the game trying to make her relevant as the “Key Maiden” she really doesn’t end up doing much of any consequence at all.

I’m not sure whether I would recommend this game or not. I love dark themes, but the dark themes here don’t feel like they serve any real purpose. The plot is kind of weak, and while the characters are interesting it feels like the writers struggle to do them justice. It’s not even the sort of entertaining trainwreck Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk was to me. But it’s not like there wasn’t anything to like about the game either. If you’re interested in the love interests, feel free to give it a try.

Routes ranked in order of enjoyment: Yang > Gilbert > Orlok > Dante > Nicola > Finale
Recommended route order: Nicola > Dante > Yang > Orlok > Gilbert > Finale

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