Shuffle! consists of a typical harem romance set-up, where the main character is liked by a number of attractive girls, and he must choose which girl he wishes to be with. The game is fully voiced (except for the main character) and offers approximately six hours worth of gameplay for each path.
The basic storyline of Shuffle! follows the romantic life of Rin Tsuchimi, a normal human, Japanese high schooler, who finds himself being sought after by a variety of girls. The world of Shuffle! consists of humans living in harmony with gods, resembling humans with slightly pointed ears and devils, who have more prominent pointed ears. Despite their respective positive and negative connotations, both races are equally kind and good-natured. Rin soon finds himself as the potential marriage candidate for both Lisianthus and Nerine, the two daughters of the kings of the god and devil worlds who recently transferred to Rin's school. In addition to them, he is also liked by his childhood friend Kaede, his senior Asa, and the mysterious, reserved Primula. Through the course of the game, Rin will end up with one of those five girls and fall into mutual love.
Depending on how the player plays the game, the story beyond this basic set-up can differ greatly. The storyline of the adaptations of Shuffle! generally try to incorporate the stories from all of the paths in the visual novel, but still vary greatly in which events occur and the order of those that do, not to mention which girl Rin falls in love with.
The gameplay mostly consists of just reading and listening to the conversations provided. Every now and then, a "Please Select Your Destiny" event will occur, giving the player multiple choices on how to respond or act. The choices selected determine who will be Rin's destined lover. However, there aren't very many of these; depending on which route the player takes, there will only be between 8 and 12 multiple-choice questions. Once a certain point in the game is reached, a translucent image of the destined character appears when the day changes, indicating who Rin has fallen in love with. Afterwards, the multiple choices become almost nonexistent. Eventually, very late in the game, an H scene will occur. The first scene always involves foreplay for the female character followed by intercourse. After the first H scene, more conversation follows until the second hentai scene occurs. The second hentai scene tends to be slightly more varied in its content, although they all include fellatio. There are only two hentai scenes for each character, and after some more conversation the game ends.
: Rin Tsuchimi is a seventeen year-old high school student and the male protagonist to the series. In the game, Rin is the role that the player assumes.
(anime only) : Nicknamed Sia, Lisianthus is the daughter of the Lord of Gods and came to the human world as a possible marriage candidate for Rin. She is energetic, enthusiastic, and outgoing. Due to her absorbing her twin sister Kikyou's spirit at birth, she has a dissociative identity disorder.
: Nerine is the daughter of the Lord of Devils and, like Sia, is also a marriage candidate for Rin. Nerine is a more capable magic user than Sia, and occasionally uses it to devastating effect. Similar to Sia, Nerine has absorbed the spirit of Lycoris, her clone. Unlike Sia, however, this has not led her to developing multiple personalities and only caused her to share Lycoris' emotions and singing voice.
: Kaede Fuyou is Rin's childhood friend who grew up with him in the same house after her mother and Rin's parents died in a car accident. Some time after they started junior high school, Kaede started taking care of Rin. Kaede is easily embarrassed and is happy in her role as homemaker.
: Asa Shigure is Rin's friend and senpai. While she has a weak constitution, she makes up for it with her energetic personality. Despite being a touch of a tomboy, she is an excellent cook. She uses English loan words often and is notable for her "Hello!" greeting which is her catchphrase. She is the daughter of the first being involved in the experiments jointly done by the gods and demons.
: Primula is a strange, soft-spoken girl that's often seen carrying a stuffed cat around. She is the third artificial life form created from a result of gods' and devils' experimentations from which she escaped from to go to the human world to search for Rin. Additionally, with her young appearance, Primula serves to fill the lolicon niche of the series.
Voiced by: Hitomi (Japanese), Cherami Leigh (English)
For example, the high school that the series takes place in, , refers to the genus Verbena, which has connotations of family union and magical power. Also, in an indirect flora allusion, the city the series takes place in is , which literally means "Sunshine Town", alluding to sunlight's beneficial effects on plants.
Shuffle! had much pre-sale hype due to it being the first work produced by the then-new Navel company, which was largely composed of former members of BasiL (maker of Cherry Petals Fall Like Teardrops), including Hiro Suzuhira and Aoi Nishimata, the illustrators for Shuffle! The Limited Edition was released on January 30, 2004 and came with a special artbook featuring original drawings of the cast by twelve guest artists and a special edition box. This was a risky date, as it was also the launch date of Fate/stay night, a highly anticipated visual novel by Type-Moon. Despite the competition, Shuffle! was able to sell well, as many otaku pre-ordered the two games together. Shuffle! was the second highest-selling computer game for the second half of January 2004 in Japan, just behind Fate/stay night. The Normal Edition was released on February 27, 2004 on one DVD instead of three CDs and came with an original Shirotama & Kurotama keychain. The Standard Edition was released on December 17, 2004, also on one DVD. An Anniversary Edition was released on November 22, 2007 and comes with a phone card of Sia nd Kikyou.
Shuffle! On the Stage was released on October 20, 2005 and sold well (for a visual novel) during its first week, selling 29,732 copies by October 23. It was released in two versions: the regular version, with just the game, and the DX version which came with a 12 cm figure of Lisianthus, a Shuffle! On the Stage Mix soundtrack CD, and a cell phone cleaner.
There have been two official series of Shuffle! manga produced by Kadokawa Shoten which originally appeared in Comptiq magazine. The first, titled Shuffle! Days in the Bloom, is illustrated by Shiroi Kusaka, has six tankōbon. Days in the Bloom began running in Comptiq on December 2003, a month before the Shuffle! visual novel was released, to build publicity for the game.
The second series is a comic anthology titled which is illustrated by various artists. It has five tankōbon.
A second twelve-episode anime series titled Shuffle! Memories began on January 6, 2007. It is a recap of the original Shuffle! anime, rearranging scenes from the original series into individual character specific episodes. It contains very little original content, such as the use of the opening and ending theme songs from the character song CDs, the opening and ending videos themselves, and the last episode being the only original content.
There have been seven character novels published by Kadokawa Shoten. There are separate novels for Lisianthus, Nerine, Kaede, Asa, Primula, Kareha, and Mayumi.