In the ecchi title Love on Leave, the player character, exhausted from thankless office work, vacations to his rural childhood hometown. Three sisters with familiar personality types welcome the protagonist: the ‘tsundere’ Amane, the caring ‘onee’ Kanami, and the devious ‘imouto’ Hibiki. This premise sets up a very typical visual novel with side-scrolling adventure elements, and Love on Leave is absolutely conventional. But familiar figures and a boring protagonist don’t keep this title from being fun.
Great voice acting and art elevate the three love interests past cliche; the story and writing are simple, but Love on Leave is jam-packed with touching, funny, and sensuous scenes. Blending visual novel dialogue with 2D side-scrolling movement, focused around minigames, Love on Leave does not innovate, but manages to strike a smart balance between various styles of gameplay. Rough around the edges and a bit derivative, this ecchi visual novel on Switch and Steam still makes for a pleasant, not-safe work experience.
▍Great CG Artwork But Mediocre 2D Sprites
Visually, Love on Leave is a bit of a mixed bag, though there is more to like than to loathe. The sisters are represented through CGs during dialogue, 2D sprites in the town, and 3D models during ecchi scenes.
All art for the love interests is superb, especially the CGs and 3D models, which are used during interactive lewd scenes. The 2D sprites are often less visually appearing, looking a bit dated. In particular, the player character looks perpetually dull and disinterested, which will wear on the player as he performs awkward animations over and over. Overall, the good definitely outweighs the bad, and the 2D sprites for the love interests are used quite well in various romance scenes.
▍Love Interest Artwork Shines in Event Scenes
The 2D art does not detract from the title’s main draws: romantic and ecchi scenes. In particular, a big appeal for this game will be the ecchi scenes which do not disappoint. Ridiculous scenarios place the sisters into compromising positions, which require the help of the main character.
The player must interact with appealing 3D models, touching the girl to remove entangling branches or spiderwebs, in scenes filled with blushing, moaning, and suggestive voice acting. The game does not feature any explicit 18+ content but ensures that its incredibly suggestive 3D models in underwear are as enticing as can be.
▍The Three Conventional but Fun Love Interests
You get what you see with the romance options in Love on Leave. The tsundere sister Amane will physically berate you for attempting to get close but gradually reveal signs of affection and hints of a promise between your younger selves. The Onee-Chan-type Kanami dotes on you and the rest of your family while making accidental innuendos and growing to be less selfless. The imouto Hibiki goofs around, playing games and reminiscing on your adventures together as kids while gradually growing more responsible.
The characters fall very neatly into the molds of tsundere, onee, and imouto, and Love on Leave will not surprise you with character growth. The player character, especially, has no personality outside of doing nice things for others. But the scenes with the main girls are still very fun, and lewd.
Excellent voice acting and character models elevate scenes that will give you precisely what the game advertises: heart-warming moments in which the love interests grow closer to you, and become more honest with their feelings. And the consistent scenes of all the characters speaking together after meals offer light-hearted diversions.
▍The Most Unusual and Heart-Warming Options
Hibiki’s route is the most unusual, lacking a typical, cliche plot. Instead, you and the younger sister mess around with live streaming, card games, and an old base you played in as kids. Hibiki is competitive and a bit sly, willing to mock her sisters at one moment and scheme for pocket change at the next.
The imouto archetype doesn’t entirely fit her character, which makes the route feel fresh and enjoyable, though the constant games you and her play can become a touch dull. Especially when embarrassed, the character’s voice acting and art are very endearing.
The best route, however, belongs to Kanami. Though her character is a very typical, hardworking oldest sister, her struggles and character growth are genuinely touching, and it is easy to become attached to her acts of kindness and the player character’s efforts to lighten her burdens. Her cheery demeanor pairs perfectly with the game’s laidback country setting and goes well with her great character artwork and model.
▍Side-scrolling Adventure Gameplay that is Surprisingly Fun
The core gameplay in Love on Leave involves completing various tasks to increase the sisters’ affection for you or to earn money that can be used for gifts. Within your two weeks of vacation time, you can fish at various ponds by correctly timing a button press to reel in your rod; this activity gains favor with Amane.
Crops can be farmed at the press of a button for favor with Kanami, but harvesting produce at the correct time of day will reward you with better yields and new farming patches. To endear yourself to Hibiki, you can play simple games in town like a retro space shooter or a battle card game requiring timely button presses; clicking to collect bugs across town can get you presents for Hibiki, as well as pocket change.
The simplicity of these tasks could easily make for a stale experience, but Love on Leave is surprisingly engaging. Constantly earning new, fun cutscenes with the sisters creates a strong incentive for farming or fishing, and the game is packed with romance events for the diligent player to unlock. The game’s time system is quite tight, forcing strategic action if you want to unlock as many scenes as possible. Though simple, the minigames, especially the retro games, end up being dumb fun perfectly suited for a game where you’ll need to repeat actions constantly as you search for new endings.
Love on Leave has plenty of replay value if you want to get to its difficult-to-obtain endings and romantic events, but in order to do so you’ll feel frustrated as well. Some aspects of the game, especially picking up bugs and items, are simple to the point of being dull; I grew very tired of the long animation of the dull-looking player character bending over, to get a useless insect.
No mechanics are explained so a player must struggle blindly to discover the best time to harvest crops or the optimal fishing spots. The game is confusing and can seem too chaotic, forcing the player to struggle around the map for events, in spite of the laid-back country setting. However, a New Game+ mode certainly helps unlock any missing content from a first playthrough.
▍Love on Leave Offers a Simple and Derivative, But Fun Romantic Diversion
You won’t be dazzled or wowed or blown away by Love on Leave, but the game does a great job at the essentials of an ecchi title. The art and voice acting are great, and the game offers a surprising amount of fun content through cute romantic scenes and charming minigames. Secret endings are waiting to be discovered, including a harem ending, as well as an ending centered around the game’s mysterious tanuki figure known as the Sage. If you’re interested in ecchi content, and any of the game’s three main girls, then Love on Leave is a decent purchase, especially if any sale comes up for the Switch and Steam release.
This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Love on Leave is now available on Nintendo Switch, and PC (Steam).
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Love on Leave Review – A Familiar Romance Brought to Life
Love on Leave has great artwork and cute romantic moments distinguish this derivative but enjoyable side-scrolling adventure game. Though rough around the edges, this ecchi visual novel still makes for a pleasant, not-safe work experience.
Operating System: Switch, PC (Steam)
Application Category: Game