If you visited the Japanese hot springs resort of Atami recently and spotted a disproportionate number of men gazing longingly at their smartphones, it probably wasn't because they were playing Angry Birds. This summer, the beach town became a vacation hub for guys who like to treat their girlfriends to sun-and-fun holidays. Girlfriends, that is, who only exist on-screen.
And yes, there are such men, particularly those enthralled with Konami's Love Plus, a popular dating sim for Nintendo DS that also comes as an augmented-reality application for iPhones. Players of the game know that to keep their virtual gals happy, they'd best spend quality time with them, throw them birthday parties, take them on dates, and yes, shell out yen for beach getaways. After all, at $84, a return fare from Tokyo to Atami on the Shinkansen bullet train ain't cheap (fortunately virtual girlfriends travel free).
Sadly for romantics everywhere, Atami's summer of virtual love ends Tuesday. It was geared toward players of Love Plus Plus, a sequel to Love Plus released this year. The object is to form and nurture a relationship with one of three high school girls with rotating outfits, distinct musical tastes, and clearly permissive parents. (See a game trailer featuring stars Rinko Kobayakawa, Manaka Takane, and Nene Anegasaki below.)
More than 2,000 visitors have taken part in events related to Atami's lovefest, according to reports, with some traveling from as far as South Korea and Taiwan, locals say. The young bucks did things fairly typical of suitors--gaze into their girlfriends' eyes during long sunset walks on the beach, admire their pixilated bikinis, and touch their virtual cheeks with a stylus.
The Asahi Shimbun newspaper quoted a 21-year-old Tokyo man as saying the game has encouraged him in his search for his first human paramour. "I hope that this will serve as practice for when I have a real girlfriend," he said. … Read more