Dating sims such as Tokimeki Memorial often revolve almost entirely around relationship-building, usually featuring complex character interactions and branching dialogue trees, and often presenting the player's possible responses word-for-word as the player character would say them.
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They are also sometimes put under the category of neoromance.
The most common objective of dating sims is to date, usually choosing from among several characters, and to achieve a romantic relationship.
The term "dating sim" is also often used incorrectly in English as a generic term for romance-driven games (ren'ai games), a subject matter which is stereotypically associated with the visual novel genre.
This can lead to confusion, as visual novels are considered a subgenre of adventure games and are not technically included in the dating sim genre.
While the two genres often share a common visual presentation, dating sims are sometimes considered to be more statistically based than the "choose your own adventure" style of visual novels.
The technical definition of a dating simulation game, known as a romantic simulation game in Japan, can involve several technical elements such as a time limit, several statistics such as looks and charm which can be boosted through exercise, or an "attraction meter" which can increase or decrease depending on one's decisions.
Some original-English dating sims include Sim Girls, In a typical dating sim, the player controls a male avatar surrounded by female characters.
The gameplay involves conversing with a selection of girls, attempting to increase their internal "love meter" through correct choices of dialogue.
The game lasts for a fixed period of game time, such as one month or three years.
When the game ends, the player either loses the game if he failed to properly win over any of the girls, or "finishes" one of the girls, often by having sex with her, marrying her (as in Magical Date), and/or achieving eternal love.
This gives the games more replay value, since the player can focus on a different girl each time, trying to get a different ending.