The story of otome visual novel Piofiore: Fated Memories checks all the boxes for those seeking an action-packed romp filled with suspense, conspiracy, intricate lore, and charming mobsters. But like anything involving such dangerous sorts, there’s bound to be something unsavory beneath the surface. For Piofiore, it’s errors that undermine its brilliance.
Set in 1920s Italy, Piofiore centers on the fictional city of Burlone, which houses three major mafia Families: the Falzone, Visconti, and Lao-shu. The protagonist — default name “Liliana Adornato” — is a young lady who has lived in the church since childhood whose fate becomes intertwined with members of the mafia as both political and religious conflict begin to encroach upon Burlone.
As an otome game romanticizing the mafia, Piofiore: Fated Memories is in the perfect position to safely explore more questionable relationship attributes, something utilized very well in Lao-shu leader Yang’s route. My only qualm in overall route execution is that some aren’t contentious enough — specifically Falzone underboss Nicola’s. Considering the amount of questionable content present in Yang’s story, combined with how drastically Nicola acts out in certain routes, it feels like a massive missed opportunity that his own route was more lovey-dovey than dangerous. Thankfully, his bad ending doesn’t disappoint. In fact, all of Piofiore’s bad endings are appropriately tragic for its setting, while the good ones — aside from the aforementioned Nicola’s — feel appropriately built-up.
Each love interest has a bad, good, and best ending — nothing unusual for the genre. But what really sets Piofiore apart is its unique approach to storytelling. The first thing I noticed while playing was just how quickly I was thrown into a love interest’s route. There are only two “prologue” chapters before assigning you your route, as opposed to a longer “shared” route that establishes the worldbuilding basics.
This doesn’t harm the story, however. The lack of foundation that would normally be provided by a “shared” route gets developed within the love interests’ routes themselves. Any confusion and bewilderment you endure feels natural considering the protagonist is being swept up into a world shrouded in mystery and intrigue that she had little to no prior knowledge about.
The prologues are also unique in that they flat-out change the more routes you complete. The first time around, you’re only given options that lead to Nicola’s or Falzone boss Dante’s route. After completing either, new dialogue choices appear in the prologue, opening up the routes for Yang and Orlok, a church disciple. Clearing all four routes expands the prologue even further, allowing you to pursue the Visconti’s boss, Gilbert. It feels like a more seamless version of Nameless ~The one thing you must recall~’s “initial choice” system, giving you a sense of intentional narrative progression even across different routes.
Once on the path to a particular love interest, the choices you make are of the utmost importance. Rather than certain choices splitting the story off into entirely different chapters, past choices may cause notable variations later on and compound upon themselves in a rippling effect. This is most prevalent in Yang’s route. I can’t recall a time I had to work harder for an otome boyfriend than I had to for Yang. Each choice on his route felt like I was making a move in a game of 9D chess. Any and all choices had the potential to come back and bite — or, more accurately, kill — me in the future. This made completing his route, including getting all of his “game overs,” a refreshing challenge.
Even though you can go into the “Chapters” menu to start any given chapter with the parameters of your choice, this mostly helps in obtaining the primary bad, good, and best endings. With certain “game overs” only coming from specific sets of choices that must be built up over time, getting 100% for every character — which counts all three main endings plus all “game overs” — feels worthwhile and takes dedication.
In addition to the galaxy brain plays you need to make while on Yang’s route, Gil’s route involves investigating different locations to solve a crime he is wrongfully convicted of. You need to consider the best places to gather information, lest you not be fully prepared for the trial. This adds an additional layer of complexity to Gil’s route, trying to uncover the crime’s true culprit while juggling his parameters — affection and trust.
While the other love interests have routes that develop in a way that is far more par for the otome course, they all rely on two different statistics that determine whether you make it to their bad, good, or best endings. All of them have affection, while the second stat is unique to each man. These distinctions help further flesh out the already impressive cast of characters. In addition to Gil’s focus on trust and Yang’s on wisdom, Nicola values honesty, Dante respect, and Orlok tolerance.
This isn’t stated outright, but can be picked up on with careful attention to each character’s behavior. For example, due to his young age, Dante is very conscious about what people think of him and whether they respect him as the Falzone boss. And even if you don’t quite catch the need for appealing to these certain traits in your first playthrough, selecting any chapter from the Chapters menu gives you the option to put both of the character’s parameters at your choice of high or low, making replaying for the primary endings welcomingly simple.
As you make your way through the tussles and turmoil, “Meanwhile” stories can pop up for you to watch. Like the usual otome game, Piofiore is written through the protagonist’s perspective, but “Meanwhile” stories run concurrently to what you’re experiencing. Written through another character’s perspective, these snippets help put the complex chronology in order while offering a refreshing look into the thoughts of the diverse cast. The already dynamic story unfolds further as players catch a glimpse of events outside of the protagonist’s reach, making the world around her feel fully fleshed-out.
The world is further filled with a hearty number of relevant side-characters, complete with unique designs. Rather than focus solely on the protagonist, her love interests, and a small handful of secondary characters, Piofiore’s setting feels realistically alive with a large cast befitting the gravity of the underlying conflicts. And they’re not simply one-and-done write-offs but instead play notable roles in multiple routes.
But these fantastic facets of Piofiore’s storytelling don’t mean much when the game is hard to read. And it just so happens that the most dangerous part of this mafia-ruled game is the typographical errors.
Many of these errors are quite minor, such as text barely squeaking out of its assigned box, the use of two periods instead of one or three, or even sentences ending with no periods at all. But even the smallest typo can leave a massive impact, such as a heartfelt reunion after being abducted tragically interrupted as Sister Sofia is referred to as “Sister Sofa.” Another common immersion-breaker is having a line of text appear in a new box instead of wrapping and appearing on the next line within the same box. Through literally breaking up lines of text that should clearly be within the same box, players’ immersion is similarly shattered, reminding us that we’re playing a game rather than personally amidst the high-octane action. Beyond this, when these breaks occur in dialogue boxes accompanied by voiced lines, going to the next box to keep reading cuts the audio off prematurely.
On occasion, the writing will simply be poor. Sentences such as, “If we saved her too late, it could have been too late for her” have no reason to be worded so repetitively. The otherwise gripping writing begins to lose its hold as these problems pile up like the corpses of the mafia’s unfortunate victims. The worst part of these errors is how, much like members of the mafia, where there’s one, there are usually many more lurking. It’s not uncommon to enjoy a long stretch of flawless writing only to be bombarded with many errors in rapid succession. I would have been far more lenient with the simpler errors if they weren’t so frighteningly frequent, to the point where they sometimes even synthesize with each other to create Frankensteinian abominations, such as, “HIs crimes doesn’t end there!”
And yet, although the errors’ crimes unfortunately don’t end there, I find that, after becoming smitten with these mafiosos, challenging myself to get 100% for each route, and spending the entirety of the Finale howling as the remaining puzzle pieces fell into place, I truthfully can’t say that the typos ruined the overall experience. Piofiore: Fated Memories deserves to be up there with the other otome greats such as Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom and Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~. I would even dare to say, with the unique storytelling structure, nature of its subject matter, and mechanic-related plot twist near the end, it begins encroaching upon Zero Escape territory. Sadly, the comparative lack of quality control holds it back. The fact that the game is fantastic despite these glaring issues is a testament to how strong it is, but it would be wrong to turn a blind eye to these errors all the same. Just as peace in the city of Burlone is tragically built upon mafia-inflicted violence, Piofiore’s errors are a bloody stain on an otherwise pristine experience.