Love is always in the air, and a lot of people sure do want to shack up with monsters, and who can blame them, really? You got your orcs, your vampires, your honorary local cryptid of choice—but famous monsters like Godzilla have also set the standard for what a good monster is, because sometimes bigger IS better!
Developed by Squiddershins and published by Top Hat Studios, Kaichu – The Kaiju Dating Sim taps into these keen feelings for all sorts of fiends of the colossal kind. You play a kaiju who goes by the name Gigachu, a pink, softer pastiche of Godzilla who is on the prowl for love and is seeking out dates with other monsters.
When you start a new game, Kaichu already attempts to establish its intentions in good faith with the ability to select Gigachu’s pronouns with a plethora of many options to settle on for the rest of that file’s run (Gigachu’s default pronouns are chu/chu—but for the purpose of this review, Gigachu will be referred to with they/them). You are then immediately taken to a breaking news segment by a pair of newscasters, and after some light banter and riffing, their attention has been caught by the sightings of a kaiju now roaming about. This giant, pink reptilian—oh wait, that’s you, Gigachu!
Throughout the game, the newscasters comment on your escapades like a live play-by-play, feeding you instructions on what to do with their own interpretations and descriptions of what the monsters are doing on-screen. Given that the monsters do not speak, the newscasters phone in what exactly they may be seeing to each other, truly proving that love can even cross the boundaries of language. They explicitly explain the game’s controls and mechanics as you navigate Gigachu across an overworld map that is basically a condensed, simplified interpretation of our world. Various monsters are scattered about awaiting Gigachu’s charms, amidst the peppering of famous historical landmarks depicted in miniature form.
The prime objective of Kaichu is to develop a successful relationship. Once Gigachu initiates contact with another monster, they remain locked in as your one and only target for that playthrough. The game is a multi-act structure where you take your partner to the various landmarks—from places like the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt to the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington—and initiate “dates”.
Dates consist of a series of questions, assisted with the narration of the newscasters, that Gigachu must answer through a spectrum of emotes that pop up over their head. These emotes stand in for the more traditional responses of, “Agree”, “Neutral”, and “Disagree”. A successful response is met with the gradual destruction of the landmark, marking your progress. Along the way, the military tries to stamp down on all the collateral damage caused along your path.They are less of a literal antagonist that you have to confront one-on-one in gameplay, and more like a narrative force, their presence being suggestive to the escalation of the date questions’ increasing difficulty. All of this is pretty much the course of gameplay for the rest of Kaichu and every consecutive date is one step closer to progressing towards love or heartbreak.
As you make positive progress, you slowly complete a bestiary of the monsters, particularly focusing on your partner’s profile to get access to key information that could be useful in answering future date questions. This profile starts off with a preliminary bulleted list of tidbits such as likes and dislikes, and eventually reveals more complex pieces of information such as future ambitions and the potential conflicts that might get in the way of such. But here is where a particular flaw of Kaichu stands out: The system that Kaichu has to help you is not really interested in getting more in-depth than what the game ends up providing you beyond a shallow description and bulletpoint. There’s no concrete, conducive way to predict and strategize over what each monster likes to figure out the right choices you must make on these dates. There really is not a lot to work with when you are suddenly being confronted with loaded questions about raising a family when all you know is that your date likes to crush buildings.
Kaichu is a game that wants to reiterate simple, pleasant suggestions about what dating can be, but there are simply too many missing gaps within its gameplay mechanics that get in the way of what it’s trying to accomplish. For example, the monster of your choosing starts off as a complete blank slate at the start of each game. Sure, the mastery of conversation is actually paying attention to the context of dialogue, but there is really nothing to work with in the beginning, urging you to ironically judge your date’s appearance to figure out how they tick. For instance, Mossra, a plant-themed Mothra pastiche, is “national park personified”, and the answers to her date questions should favor horticulture and conservation of nature, but questions about looks, or whether you should kiss on the first date, barely rely on those sorts of visual clues.
Later on, you learn that Mossra has children, and therefore family matters are important to her, which suddenly becomes much more pivotal and important bits of info to consider as the questions previously to this stage were not as nuanced. Otherwise, you have to ride on the fact that her character design is based on a plant and that she must like plant things in her first couple of dates. It is a bit of a weak incentive to encourage multiple playthroughs. Even dating apps provide its users the means to build a foundation off of so they are not meeting someone blindly without some pretense of personality and preferences established.
Kaichu’s biggest strength truly lies in its presentation. From every bounce and step in the character animations, to small details like the ability to wreak havoc on the overworld map, Kaichu is a damn charming game. Although its flaws lie in its reductive approach to how dating works, its overall intentions urges you to approach meeting new people (and even monsters!) with kindness and an open heart. Anyone can find appeal in how lovable all of the character designs are and kaiju fans can appreciate all of the nods and passing references to the respective source material that each monster is inspired by.
Queen Seadora is a blatant reference to King Ghidorah, and although they both have three heads, they are different in a lot of obvious ways, with Seadora looking more like a cute Pokémon than a scary serpent. On the other hand, Garudon does not seem to be based on any specific monster, and even the in-game newscasters comment that he reminds them of several large, mythical birds of legend, like the roc. Garudon is designed as a bipedal, anthropomorphic bird, and at a glance, is likely taking a lot of design inspiration based off of colorful wrestler outfits and that of the flamboyant character costumes worn during Carnival.
I would compare Kaichu – The Kaiju Dating Sim to a nice refreshing sip from a well-chilled drink. It’s a pretty short game with a straightforward premise and it makes its point in that brevity. However, it is that brevity that makes me want to have more, but it sadly does not offer much more in its glass. It is ironic for the game to boast about communication and developing connections with others to get to know them better, when it was very limited in what it can do in that regard. On top of initial progress mostly needing to depend on a guessing game, given Kaichu’s repetitive gameplay, it can definitely use a little more content: There’s a whole lot of map that offers a lot of wiggle room for future updates, such as perhaps adding other giant creatures of yore and to shake off the tedium that is the game as it currently is.
Kaichu – The Kaiju Dating Sim is very much a game that knows and emboldens its identity through something that feels earnest in what it wants to do. It is nothing but a simple, lighthearted ode to kaiju, and sometimes, lighthearted is all you need when you’re busy crushing buildings to give your heart away.
Love rises through ruin
Kaichu - The Kaiju Dating Sim is a cute game, but it tries too hard to overextend its hands far past where it can't deliver nuance. At the very least, it has everything else to offer in its brevity so you won't feel guilty simply leaving your date in the dust.