Noun – English Twice-Borrowed
Japanese for ワイフ
1) A fictional character from non-live action visual media (typically an anime, manga, or video game) that one is attracted to and/or considers a significant other.
Barcode Kanojo is a dating sim. More than just a dating sim, it’s a bona fide waifu generator. It rides the line between the utterly bizarre and the incredibly offensive. By ride the line, I mean has it’s feet firmly planted in both. Most of us in the nerd circles will dismiss the offensiveness with a wave the hand while saying “Japan, am I right?” However, to those less familiar with some of the video game oddities that hail from Japan, any attempts to describe the concept of this game will result in looks of sheer horror and disgust. I know, I tried.
There is very little in the way of decent documentation on how to play Barcode Kanojo. What is available through the app and the official site is riddled with translation errors and misspellings. The basics are such: You scan a barcode. If someone else has already generated the Kanojo you have the option to add her to your “Just Friend” List as a potential girlfriend for 5 stamina. If no one else has ever scanned that particular barcode you can generate a new Kanojo for 20 stamina, and she will be listed as “yours.”
The main screen, showing your currencies and Kanojos
This is where things get hairy, as this game treats these characters as property with next to no agency of their own. It’s tough to say how I take this. It totally perpetuates backwards ideas of women; mainly that they are owned by their boyfriends/partners/husbands and that their affections can only be achieved through the act of spending money on them. On the other hand, every other dating sim has these problems, not that it makes this sort of thing okay, but this game lacks the depth of those games. So little depth in fact, that it makes it hard to take any possible or unintended messages as anything of any weight.
Part of this game harks back to the days of the Barcode Battler, a handheld device released in Japan in 1991. You swiped barcodes that came with it or of items laying around the house, and from that data characters, powers, and equipment would be generated. No graphics, but it was immensely popular in Japan. The sequel device, cleverly named Barcode Battler II, was released in Japan in 1992, and in 1993 was released worldwide. It didn’t do very well outside of Japan. The tiny little difference between the two is with Barcode Kanojo you generate women to date, instead of monsters to use in combat.
A freshly generated Kanojo is created based off of the data in the barcode, the location it was scanned at, and probably some dark sorcery that is beyond my ken. There are tons of different eye, nose, and mouth shapes, as well as hairstyles and face shapes. There are even rare special features that some Kanojos have, like cat ears or blue skin. There is a personality chart with the stats Celebrity, Jealousy, Dedication, Sexual, and Flirtable, but it’s unknown if it has any effect at all, or is just there for flavor.
The display uses an interesting bit of tech called Live2D in which the end result in this game is a somewhat 3D effect. As you twist your phone, the layers all move independently giving a feeling of depth. This tech is being used more and more in anime-style video games including Summon Night 5 and Hyperdimension Neptunia. It’s very attractive and is well suited to this game.
Mai #1 waifu Kyoa Musume (scanned from a Japanese music magazine)
You have 100 stamina that refreshes on a 4 hour cycle. This is spent on scanning in new Kanojos, taking them on dates, and the creepy option: flirting/kissing them which is done by touching and tapping them. The latter two options are both ways to raise your love meter or decrease the love meter of someone else’s Kanojo.
Aside from stamina there are two different currencies: Tickets and B-Coins. Tickets cost real money – about a dollar a piece – and can be purchased in 1, 3, 5, or 10 packs. Tickets are used to buy your Kanojos special outfits, which range from 1-5 tickets, and buy fancy date passes which range from 2 tickets for 10-pack to 9 tickets for 1 depending on the type and duration. The outfits themselves work in an interesting way: your Kanojo decides when she wears the outfit you bought her, and changes outfits throughout the day.
B-Coins are earned through gameplay, with generating and stealing Kanojos being worth the most coins. They are used to buy gifts and take them out on normal dates. A “Just Friend” Kanojo can only be given an item or taken out on a date every 20 minutes, giving the keeper of her the chance to notice what is happening and take action. If the Kanojo is yours, there is no cooldown. There are promotional Kanojos that don’t have the 20 minute cooldown even if they are not yours, but they are unmarriable. Using the Domestic, Overseas, and Expensive Overseas dates make it so no one can give that kanojo items or take her on dates for 2 or more days.
Possible dates for a Kanojo. Just Friends only get the first 3 options.
For 1 ticket you can marry your Kanojo, which means no one else can take them away and you can change their appearance by buying hair dye, contact lenses, foundation, hairstyles, and fringe styles. All which are bought with tickets.
The gameplay is simplistic, but I am okay with that. I think the addition of mechanics would actually detract from the novelty of this game. It would transition from a barcode scanning game with simple dating sim mechanics in the background to a dating sim with a gimmicky barcode scanning mechanic. To me the interesting part is the randomly generated Kanojos rather than the dating aspects. I would recommend that everyone at least give it a try. It’s unique and quirky, but somewhat offensive and I doubt it will have staying power in my daily phone game upkeep after a week or so.