When one thinks of dating sims, they may often think about high school comedy and the hijinks that the dense male protagonist gets into. A girl will try to express her feelings towards the protagonist, but he’s completely clueless and the girl gets distraught. More than likely, the protagonist will magically fall on top of the girl, landing with his face in between her boobs. It’s cute, it’s fluffy, and it’s moe. Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea! follows this same formula, but the different setting makes the game a lot more interesting.
Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea! (abbreviated as DPRK) is a visual novel created by DEVGRU-P, who is best known for their meme-tastic dating sim, Panzermadels: Tank Dating Simulator. After fooling around with WWII history and tank waifus, their next target was North Korea. For this review, I will go against the Glorious Leader’s wishes and refer to this game as Stay! Stay! DPRK!, because it takes too damn long to write out the full title.
You play as a ignorant American, who can be named into whatever you want, meeting his Korean pen-pals in person for the first time. How ignorant is he, you may ask? Ignorant to the point of not knowing that there is a North and South Korea, and that he got himself stuck on the dictatorship side of it. You expect to meet your pen-pals, who you assumed were brothers, but are actually sisters that are part of the military police. The oldest sister, Jeong, is kind, but strict, and the youngest sister, Eunji, is a tsundere that can’t speak proper English. They will serve as your tour guides. You stay with the two girls for the remainder of your trip, as they take you on dates to different tourist destinations. You think it’s all fun and games, but the longer you stay here, the more you realize how different North Korea is from America.
Stay! Stay! DPRK! portrays itself as a goofy dating sim that focuses on getting with foreign girls, but it is also an outsider’s glimpse into what North Korea is like and how indoctrinated Jeong and Eunji are. The backgrounds used in the game are accurate and reference actual pictures taken in real life. The game also makes references to history and current events. I was so invested in the game that I decided to look up some locations and references to see how accurate they are, and I’m impressed by the research that they did for the game. The drawn backgrounds look like animated versions of the originals. The game delivers information and references without making it feel like a history lesson being forced down your throat.
The comedy in the game is clever and implemented into the visual novel nicely, rather than being random for the sake of being funny. There are a lot of fourth wall jokes, but not to the point of being cringe-worthy. The drama and plot does not come until near the end of the game. It explains why the protagonist is in North Korea and what’s going on, but I’m not going to spoil the ending of the game. I can say that it gets tense and that I actually care about what’s going on. When you first play Stay! Stay! DPRK!, you expect it to be like every other cutesy dating sim with teenage drama thrown into the mix, but what makes unique Stay! Stay! DPRK! is the setting. From a narrative perspective, a setting can either influence your characters or the characters can influence the setting. Given that the title takes place in North Korea, Stay! Stay! DPRK! falls under the former category.
Another interesting part of the execution with Stay! Stay! DPRK!’s story was how the sisters were written. The banter between them makes them very believable as sisters, with the way they interact with each other bringing to mind my own experiences with my sister when we were younger. It was extremely relatable. Their interactions with the protagonist is interesting as well, because you can feel their uncertainty about whether they should trust the words of the protagonist or what their country has taught them. One scene that especially got to me was when the protagonist finds flashcards used to help North Korean children learn the alphabet, and one of the cards involved blowing up the U.S. He was shocked and told the sisters that the country must indoctrinate their children to hate America at a young age if they think that this is okay. It was an uncomfortable and serious scene for a game like this, but it was worked into the game perfectly.
Personality-wise, the protagonist is also interesting. He isn’t boring or ordinary; he’s a Marine Corps water support technician with a sense of humor and a toned body. While the protagonist is meant to be used as a shell of self-insertion, he wasn’t bland or boring. I found myself liking all of the characters, except for Sumeragi, who served no purpose in the story, had no character development, and offered no fanservice. She was annoying, and it felt like she was thrown into the game just to be the random pervert. Sumeragi just comes in and disappears without a second thought in all but one of four endings.
The endings you get are decided by choices and who you go out on a date with. Before each date, a map of North Korea will show up, showing you all the tourist spots you can go to and who you can take with you, though Jeong and Eunji have their own assigned locations. Once you have chosen your destination, you and your chosen girl will go on a date while the other one stays home just in case the Glorious Leader calls. These dates can be played in any order, and the progression and flow of the story aren’t ruined no matter what you pick. As such, there is no single, correct way to choose date locations. Every event in the story is linear and doesn’t suddenly hop around from one day to a week later. It’s easy to follow.
The art in Stay! Stay! DPRK! was good overall. It didn’t go above and beyond average, but it definitely was not bad. The character designs were cute and the backgrounds were interpretations of actual tourist spots in North Korea. The CGs are cute, and Jeong and Eunji’s bodies were drawn nicely. There may not be any written h-scenes, but the CGs for each girl are hot. Sadly, the sex ends before it can even begin. It starts off strong, but I was left disappointed, because nothing was done with the h-scenes and the CGs are not up for very long. If you’re looking for detailed sex scenes that leave you feeling satisfied, you won’t find them in this visual novel.
The background music was decent and something I enjoyed listening to, never getting repetitive, dull, or irritating. Overall, the music was well-implemented into each of the scenes. I especially liked the theme song on the main menu and ending credits. Continuing with the sound in Stay! Stay! DPRK!, voices can be enabled if you press the “V” key, but they’re just a robot reading the text out in a monotonous voice. I can tell it’s a feature put in just for fun and to troll people into thinking that there is genuine voice acting in the game. In a way, it kind of sums up what the game is: a well-made, meme-related visual novel that has a lot of effort put into it.
Overall, Stay! Stay! DPRK! is a really good visual novel. The protagonist is forward and he isn’t dense when it comes to the affections of Jeong and Eunji. The girls have differing personalities that are common in dating sims, but the interaction they have with each other fleshes them out. There are also scenes where you can see them struggling between the indoctrinated loyalty they have for their country and what the protagonist tells them about the outside world. This visual novel is witty, hilarious, and, even with all the ridiculousness added in, still has time for drama and plot development.
I would recommend this to someone who likes visual novels and dating sims that can be a little educational, but do take it with a grain of salt. It’s not meant to be a super accurate representation of North Korea; it’s fiction that references history and current events. The characters are interesting — with the exception of Sumeragi — and it is an enjoyable read. While the only thing lewd about it is the CGs, it’s something you check out. If you’re still not sure about it, just get the game on sale.