In Japanese anime, a “yandere” is a girl who is so crazy in love she’ll do anything for the object of her desires. Yandere-chan, the main character in Yandere Simulator, is too shy to directly confess her love to her Senpai, which in Japanese can mean “older classmate” and someone who’s usually an object of obsession. However, she will do whatever it takes to eliminate her rivals.
Killing someone or trapping them in her basement? A trifle in the way of high school love.
In 2014, a freelance programmer began this project, called Yandere Simulator. Popular YouTubers quickly picked up on it, turning it into a bit of a phenomenon. A game about a cute Japanese schoolgirl going on murderous rampages seemed like perfect YouTuber fodder, and the video views popularized the project enough to turn it into a steady source of income. The developer, who doesn’t name himself, estimates the game to be only a fraction complete.
Beyond some laughs at overzealous impersonations of a schoolgirl by some random YouTubers, I didn’t think there was much value in this. But after reading more about it on the developer’s detailed blog, the free download tempted me to try it.
For now, Yandere Simulator is just a playable prototype that doesn’t feature an actual story. You can walk around a functioning school and attend classes, socialize with other students, and pick up and use various objects. You play through a week with no particular ending. If you want, you can get a knife or a katana and stab everyone you see. For most actions, students react appropriately, but their actions depend on their personalities. Some will cower in fear and run, while others alert the teachers. Police only show up to arrest Yandere-chan if the day ends or if Yandere-chan leaves the school.
In the full game, Yandere-chan will have one week to stealthily eliminate pretenders to Senpai’s love. Each time, a different girl plans to ask Senpai out at the end of the week. During those five days, Yandere-chan has to figure out a weakness and capitalize on it without drawing suspicion to herself.
As mentioned, Yandere-chan could take the direct approach. If she’s fast enough, she could get rid of the bodies and evidence, ending the matter quickly. In the current version of the game, there’s a furnace by the school’s entrance—perfect for disposing of bodies and bloody uniforms. However, that might not be there when the game fully releases, and the direct approach always carries a risk. A teacher has no problem with knocking Yandere-chan to the ground with some karate moves and taking her to the authorities. And should her Senpai notice her committing a wrongdoing, it’s game over for love.
Instead, it’s much better to set up an elaborate scheme and eliminate a rival without raising any suspicion. The school is ripe with opportunities for a crafty student. At its heart, Yandere Simulator is about stealth and shrewdness.
At the school rooftop, there is an opportunity to overhear two girls talking. One of them hints about possible abuse at home. Yandere-chan remembers this information and can use it against the girl. She writes a note and puts it in the victim’s locker, asking to meet on the rooftop after school. When the victim is close to the railings, she can push her off, making sure to grab her shoes before she plummets down. In Japanese culture, people who commit suicide often leave behind their shoes. Yandere-chan then forges a suicide note which mentions the abuse at home, creating a convincing suicide scenario.
In another case, Yandere-chan poisons a rival’s lunch, provided she paid enough attention in chemistry class and found the right chemical. If she’s popular enough, she can ask other students to do small favors. “Follow me!” she would say, asking the victim to come with her to a storage room with instruments. Then she pulls out a tranquilizer she stole from a nurse and packs the student in an instrument case, essentially kidnapping them to her basement.
Popularity is an important aspect in Yandere Simulator, and recent updates expanded the girl’s possible social interactions. She can compliment people to raise her reputation and ask them to follow her or to do small favors if they’re friends. It’s also possible to gossip about other girls in attempts to lower their social standing. Should Yandere-chan learn anything juicy about a classmate—like that they’re making extra money by engaging in “compensated dating,” which is when a younger girl gets paid for going out with older men—she can use the information in damning social media posts. This can go so far as to turning the whole school against the victim, which can lead to her suicide.
The developer points out that Yandere-chan is not a good person (and you might feel less than angelic yourself after playing).
The settings and the social aspect, oddly enough, make Yandere Simulator stand out in the crowded indie market. Other than dating simulators, which fully center on relationships between characters, few games feature high schools as settings. Those often serve as a mere background or launching point for fantasy stories where a student leaves their boring, everyday life for a magical, alternate world. Instead, Yandere Simulator embraces the prosaic setting and creates a game revolving around high school love—albeit with lots of sociopathy and murder as well.
Japanese anime often features a fair amount of “fan service,” like girls tripping over boys and falling into awkward positions, with regular “panty shots.” Yandere Simulator fully embraces these stereotypes. It revels in them.
For example, Yandere-chan’s panty selection plays a role in her school activities. “Sweet Strawberry Panties” make her more effective at complimenting, while the “Stealthy Black Panties” somehow make her harder to spot. It’s a little gross, but kind of hilarious when you take it with a grain of salt.
The game’s clandestine developer continues adding new features, usually releasing a new version of the game at the beginning of every month, plus a mid-month bug-fixing update as well. And Yandere Simulator is free to download from the developer’s blog.
The sheer ridiculousness of Yandere Simulator somehow complements its remarkably plain setting. As lewd as it is—did I mention that you can take pictures of other girls’ underwear to trade for favors from some strange individual?—there’s something inexplicably charming about it. Maybe it’s her innocent giggle, or maybe it’s the cartoonish graphics that accompany your gruesome acts of murder. Playing Yandere Simulator will make you feel like a total weirdo—and for that alone it may be worth keeping an eye on.
Luke Siuty is a Chicago-based writer who specializes in video games, particularly indies. In between playing miscellaneous indie creations he enjoys long Metal Gear Solid V sessions and fighting game tournaments. Follow him on Twitter @LukeShooty.
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