Kakeru Yuiga | Character Review | Norn9: Var Commons

Kakeru Yuiga – a sweet, cheerful tease with a spoonful of angst to help the sugar go down. His route is a heartwarming tale of reassurance and finding oneself amidst overwhelming uncertainty — and the perfect place to start my Norn9 journey…

Game Name: Norn9: Var Commons
Developers: Idea Factory, Otomate
Publishers: Aksys Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS Vita
Genres / Vibes: Otome, Romance, Sci-Fi, (Psuedo)Historical
Price: $49.99 (USD)
More info: Website, Aksys Store, Nintendo Store

Otome Bookclub

Bookclub: For the release of Norn9 on Nintendo Switch, we started a weekly Otome Bookclub on the Sweet & Spicy Discord Server! Heishi’s route is up next on Wednesday 12th April at 6pm PST, so feel free to stop by and gush about Norn9 with your fellow otome fans! ❤

Our Heishi bookclub meeting is on Wed 12th April at 6pm PST!


Sweet 5/5: Kakeru’s route was so uplifting it was basically therapy. Anxiety? Don’t know her.
Spicy 1/5: Norn9 ocassionally teases us with a tantalising taste of spice, but never lets us indulge.
CD 4/5: Kakeru is incredibly easy to love, but he was a little too easy breezy to truly captivate me.
Story 5/5: Kakeru’s story was engaging from start to finish – even in seemingly tangential scenes.

The Cutest Bully

Name: Kakeru Yuiga
Pronouns: He/Him
Potential Endings: Bad, Tragic, Happy
Voice Actor: Kaji Yūki (梶 裕貴)
Tropes: Natural leader, cheerful façade, relentless tease
Dynamic with MC: Kakeru initially takes MC under his wing but they both come to support and challenge each other in equal measure, building a balanced relationship on a foundation of mutual trust and respect.

I laughed out loud a lot in Kakeru’s route. Even now, looking back on the 500+ screenshots I took, I snort in a very unladylike way at some of the lines I captured. There’s just something about him and his budding romance with Koharu that makes you feel good in the most wholesome type of way.

That’s not to say his personality is entirely sunshine and rainbows – his cheerful demeanour belies some serious shadows – and while Kakeru’s route didn’t present any particularly traumatic scenes, this shady ray of sunshine is certainly hiding an angsty streak behind his dazzling smile.

My favourite aspect of Kakeru’s character is his ability to reassure and motivate the people around him, which suits a protagonist like Koharu who struggles with low self-esteem and a lot of anxiety. Plus, hearing him soothe and uplift her felt especially moving when Koharu’s insecurities resonated with my own.

Usually the flaw for this natural leader, “good guy” archetype is that they focus too much on other people and forget to take care of themselves — and Kakeru is no exception. However, this flaw leant itself well to Koharu’s personality, as his usual tactic of joking around to distract from his pain doesn’t work on someone who fundamentally doesn’t understand what a joke is (this is an actual plot point and I loved every second of it).

Thanks to her sweet, genuine nature, Koharu pushes Kakeru to be more authentic by paying attention to who he is behind his perfectly crafted smile and confronting him when what he says doesn’t match how he really feels. A natural pair; they support and challenge each other in equal measure and I loved watching them fall for each other.

Romance Kakeru if you’re looking for a kind, playful love interest who’ll see you for who you are and make you feel like the most loveable person in the world.

Ushio Ayane: The Wordsmith

Ushio Ayane is the writer behind Norn9 (also known for “even if TEMPEST“), and boy does she know how to weave a story. The early chapters of Kakeru’s route were full of seemingly random scenarios which were later revealed to be integral to Kakeru’s story – but even when I still thought they were tangential fluff, I was hooked.

Further into Kakeru’s route, the story takes a sudden turn for the dramatic that I have yet to emotionally recover from. This twist hit even harder considering how the comfortable predictibility of his route thus far had lulled me into a false sense of security. I thought I knew Kakeru, and I thought I knew where his story was headed, but I was wrong.

And on that note, I’d definitely recommend reading his tragic ending first. It is a little painful to read after the progress Kakeru and Koharu made in the route prior to the ending branch, but this is exactly why you’ll want to finish on a high note and save his happy ending for last.

There is also a bad ending earlier in the route, but it doesn’t unlock a CG and it’s not needed to clear the game. I didn’t play it myself, but RJ did, and they confirmed that nothing of note happens in it, so there’s no reason to play it – at least not on purpose.

Once you finish Kakeru’s route, you’ll unlock a side story in the store for 110 points. If you haven’t spent any points until now and you played Kakeru first, you should have enough to purchase it. Otherwise, there’s a minigame that you can play to (hopefully) gain more points.

Recommended ending order: Bad Ending ➜ Tragic Ending ➜ Happy Ending

Updated Localization

One of the advertised benefits of buying Norn9 on the Nintendo Switch – as opposed to the classic PS Vita version – is the updated localization of the script. I didn’t notice any glaring issues with the text, but there are still a few instances of awkward wording and I felt further improvements would have helped make certain key scenes more impactful.

I haven’t played the PS Vita version, but RJ is playing it alongside our bookclub meetings and they confirmed that some of the text in this classic copy is a little jarring. There are also some glaringly obvious mistakes in this original version, including one notorious scene where “thunder” was referred to as “snow”.

While these major issues have been fixed, nothing stood out as exceptional in terms of style or flow – unlike other localizations I’ve read, such as Shakespeare or Jean’s routes in Ikemen Vampire. However, not everyone enjoys a highly stylistic approach, so I do appreciate that this more neutral, directly-translated text is more likely to appeal to a wider audience.

Personally, I prefer a more literary style of writing, so I’m typically drawn to stories written in descriptive, evocative prose. The script in Norn9 is less flowery and more plain-spoken and simplified, which does suit a dialogue-heavy medium, but I would have enjoyed a little more creative license with the localization to give it some extra flair in English.

However, my main gripe with the localization was how Koharu refers to the other characters. In the Japanese text, she refers to people in a strangely formal way – e.g. Sorata-kun for a boy younger than her, instead of simply saying his first name without the honorific.

This was originally translated by adding the title “Mr.” before their first names (although this was apparently applied inconsistently, making it confusing to work out who she was referring to). This would definitely sound odd in English, but from what I understand of the original text, Koharu’s use of naming conventions is meant to sound odd.

In the new localization, Koharu refers to people by their surnames, rather than their first names, with no titles like “Mr”. I understand why this decision was made, as it’s the closest English equivalent to being overly formal; however, the love interests’ first names are what appear in the label for the text box, so I still found it tricky to work out who she was referring to, as I struggled to remember which surname belonged to which character.

Koharu calls Kakeru “Yuiga” in the English text, but “Kakeru-kun” in the original Japanese

This will likely be less of a problem as I get further into the game and I learn everyone’s first and last names, but regardless, I still found it a little jarring to see one name and hear another. I would have preferred “Mr. Kakeru” to “Yuiga”, but I also think it would have been fine to just use “Kakeru-kun”, i.e. the name she uses in Japanese, just spelled out in English.

Most otome fans have some knowledge of Japanese naming conventions since a lot of us enjoy other Japanese media, such as manga and anime, but even if a player doesn’t know the connotations of calling him “Kakeru-kun”, it still just sounds like a nickname and therefore has the same effect as her addressing people differently from everyone else.

That being said, from what I can see of the changes between the original PS Vita localization and the new, updated script, there have been vast improvements to the accuracy and flow of the text. I’m all for publishers updating games when porting them, especially older titles like Norn9 that notoriously had awkward errors, and the updates in this case are very much appreciated.

More info: If you’re interested to know more about the localization update, Blerdy Otome wrote an in-depth interview with Anne Lee, the Localization Consultant & Proofreader for the new Switch port of Norn9.


I like to live dangerously, so I played blind for my first run of Kakeru’s route. As was inevitable, I ended up in his tragic ending… so I used Otome Kitten’s walkthrough for my second run to make sure I got the happily ever after this adorable couple deserve!

From what I can tell, I only made two choices that differed from the walkthrough, so there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for mistakes in this game. A friend tested how many choices you could get wrong before you’re doomed for a tragic ending and worked out that we’re only allowed one incorrect choice. Two or more mistakes and there’ll be no happy ending for you!

Even at this level of difficulty, I prefer to play without a guide on my first attempt. For me, making choices and seeing where I end up is part of the fun of visual novels, and following a walkthrough takes that away from me. Furthermore, I recommended playing his tragic ending first anyway, so even if the odds are against you, the worst case scenario is you’ll play in the ending order I suggested earlier.

Gameplay Tips

Note: The following instructions are for the Nintendo Switch version of the game.

One thing I didn’t know until recently was that you can skip to the next choice in Norn9. It’s not particularly obvious in the settings – I only found out because a friend’s game had been glitching and she went on a deep dive into the options – and it’s not available by default.

To access the “skip to next choice” button, go to “Options” > “System Settings” > “Smart Menu” and set it to either top or bottom (icon only won’t work). Then, when you’re next in the story, you’ll see a small menu of icons along the top or bottom of your screen, depending on which one you chose.

The two buttons at the far right of this menu will skip straight to the next choice. I’m still not entirely sure of the difference between these two skip buttons since they have different icons, but as far as I can tell, they do the same thing. My friend told me to use the one on the far right and I only discovered the one to its left also skipped by pressing all of the buttons to see what happened.

Either way, for otome gamers who like to play multiple times to collect all the endings, this feature is incredibly useful, so keep it in mind if you don’t want to sit there pressing the Y button and watching the game play on fast forward! It would be nice if there was a more obvious, dedicated button for it – and perhaps there is, but I haven’t spotted it – but I’m just happy it exists at all.

Final Thoughts

Norn9 is an older game – first published in Japanese in 2014, and English in 2015 – so in some ways it will feel a little outdated, even with the recent updates. As a classic of the genre, it shaped the otome experience in international markets, inspiring waves of localized games to come in the following years.

I was a little worried that, due to its age, Norn9 might feel generic or old-fashioned, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the game has actually aged quite well. It may not have the same “mature” vibe as more modern releases – such as Piofiore, Birushana, or even if TEMPEST – but there’s nothing too outdated or cliche in this classic.

Even when it did feel a little trope-y, the storytelling was so engaging that I truly think Norn9 will never go out of style – which is to be expected from a writer who can turn a subplot about strawberries into a memorable character arc that was so compelling it still stands out as a highlight of the route.

Kakeru himself didn’t offer anything to me that will put him in the highest ranks of love interests I’ve encountered, but I enjoyed his route nonetheless. It was an intriguing story to open with as I play Norn9 for the first time, and it made for a natural introduction to both Koharu and the broader game.

After finishing Kakeru’s route, I’m most excited to romance Itsuki, Akito, and Heishi. While I adored Koharu as a protagonist, I’m keen to play as Nanami in the next playthrough, which will be Heishi’s route! We’ll have a meeting for this energetic himbo on Wednesday 16th April at 6pm PST in the Sweet & Spicy Discord server, so feel free to stop by and say hi!

You’ll like Kakeru Yuiga if you like: natural leaders, cheerful guys who never fail to brighten your mood, characters voiced by Kaji Yūki, and compassionate love interests who respond to your insecurities with limitless empathy.

Game Info

Game Name: Norn9: Var Commons
Developers: Idea Factory, Otomate
Publishers: Aksys Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS Vita
Genres / Vibes: Otome, Romance, Sci-Fi, (Psuedo)Historical
Price: $49.99 (USD)
More info: Website, Aksys Store, Nintendo Store

About the Author

Oona Tempest

A yandere, flirt, and DILF enthusiast with a passion for problematic ikemen, melodrama, and all things fae. Pronouns are She/They.

Streamer, writer, and founder of Sweet & Spicy.

Fun fact: Colour blind, but only for red flags.

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  • I managed the Happy ending on my first playthrough, also doing it blind. After going back to get the Bad and Tragic endings, I can confirm that two wrong answers will net you the Tragic, unless one of those wrong answers puts you in the Bad ending. Literally one answer triggers the Bad ending. I happened to pick one wrong answer through my initial playthrough, so I landed on the Happy ending. I’ll be interested in seeing if this system continues in other routes, as even some games (Collar x Malice) don’t have the same weight systems in place through all routes.

    I thought Kakeru was a great place to start my Norn9 journey, but I was left with so many unanswered questions about him. I assume the game will reveal more of the plot and answers to the main story throughout, but I don’t think we’re going to find anything relating to Kakeru by the end because his time has come and gone, and that frustrates me. I spoke in detail with a friend who played the Vita version some years ago, and she basically said that my questions were left unanswered and we might need to play the sequel to find those answers.

    While I love how invested I was because of the writing, the older style of less descriptive and heavy dialogue storytelling did make some parts feel entirely too long while others short and choppy in comparison. Combat scenes suffer tremendously in this sense, and I feel it doesn’t work well with conflict or resolution to the main story, but hugely accentuates character development. In the end, I’m left trying to decide if I enjoy it more peering into the minds of characters while making up what happened in this scene, or more wanting to visualize a scene and often times being excluded from characters’ inner thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with your analysis of the writing style! I think having so many routes meant the story was spread thin across all of them, so some depth was sacrificed. I also prefer a more descriptive style, which tends to be more subtle than having the characters standing around verbally explaining everything to you. Still, I enjoyed the story even if it was more shallow than I would have hoped, and there were still several scenes that stood out as being clever and/or poignant. We’ll have to wait and see what the sequel has to add!

      Liked by 1 person

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