The late 2000s saw a boom in western dating sims — now adults, developers who’d been influenced by Japanese visual novels, eroge, and dating sims began making their own forays into the genre. Given the explosive success of Dream Daddy and the romance elements of latter day Bioware games, it might be hard for younger gamers to imagine how niche the market was less than ten years ago. Barring a few translations by small companies like JAST USA (which started in 1996 and primarily focused on pornographic titles), the bulk of the VN genre was shared peer-to-peer or sold at convention booths.
Hanako Games (founded in 2003) was one of the oldest indie developers to take elements of this style, usually incorporating them with “raising game” (focusing on the development of the player character’s stats), RPG, or adventure game elements. They developed their first dating sim in 2008 with Summer Session and ventured into the otome game model with 2010’s Date Warp. The team continued to develop and experiment within their chosen genre, and 2011 saw the release of Magical Diary, one of the company’s most narratively thoughtful if visually unremarkable games.