Reviews: Hatoful Boyfriend

Holiday Star - a Good Sequel?

Like the first game, making a review that is both informative and spoiler-free requires some careful wording, so please forgive me if some explanations feel odd.

First of all, unlike Hatoful Boyfriend, Holiday Star has almost no Dating Sim elements. It's a much more linear Visual Novel. Each time you finish one chapter, you'll earn both the next chapter and a side-chapter. These side-chapters are usually comedic in nature, and they're also often non-canon. Despite being non-canon, however, they tend to offer subtle clues that will gain importance later in the game, analogous to the "Archives" from the first game.

The more linear structure strongly affects the story itself. The meat of the first game was a Slice-of-Life-y high school story. In Holiday Star, each chapter revolves around a surprisingly large-scale central conflict, each getting larger and larger (though, the stakes in the end don't quite reach that of the first game's BBL route). However, even with the change, Holiday Star still maintains the characteristic combo of unbelievable silliness and heavy gravitas, so fear not. There are some rather good character-building moments (for both the new and old characters), but they don't feel quite as frequent as before. I really only have one complaint with the comedy. While first game certainly wasn't afraid to get referential and fourth-wall-break-y, Holiday Star seems to do it more often, and it felt just a little distracting for me.

There's one last thing I want to add. In the main menu, there's an option called "Radio," in which an assortment of fan questions are answered by the cast. Based on the title, I assumed it would be like an audio drama, so I didn't check it out immediately. Fret not, non-Japanese speakers, it's all text (it's reminiscent of Higurashi's "after parties"), and as such, it's all translated.

Ultimately, Holiday Star feels more like a side-game than a sequel. Still, if you liked the first game, I do recommend it. I am thankful it'll also be getting an HD re-release; the original font isn't terribly reader-friendly.

Funny, wacky, and mostly enjoyable

Hatoful Boyfriend is... Well, let's save space. This is the worlds best - and to my knowledge, ONLY - Pigeon Dating Game. You are a young woman who dates pigeons! The premise is hilarious, and the writing is good enough to keep ya around even after the initial shock has worn off. If you're someone who plays quality Visual Novels, like Katawa Shoujo, without thinking too much of the premise, you'll find very interesting characters, some great laughs - and well, it's a game about dating pigeons! How awesome is that? You have a strong core/supporting cast who each grow from beyond somewhat simple characteristics into quality characters. The originally silly atmosphere becomes part of that story-telling itself... And that is something impressive.

The main character is very interesting - and tied into that story - a modern-day tribalist, who hunts for her own food and survives on her own; yet isn't presented as being unintelligent because of this (though her book-learning leaves a lot to be desired if you don't take the right classes..!). This is a very pleasant change from most of the shrinking violets you play as in these kinds of games, and see fluffing out the supporting cast... But also leads to one of my biggest fault with the game and its writing.

You can be killed by a certain character, with no option to fight back. Putting aside the fact said character is a pigeon and you are supposed to partially 'want' the impending death (which offended me on mindnumbingly stupid level), you don't have the option to TRY. Maybe the character you are opposed by is so fast they can finish you before you wring their neck. Maybe you are shocked and lose ground, or something. But c'mon, really? Thus continues a long (and frankly) disappointing tradition of women in these games being barred from fighting back; again, there is not even an option to attempt so that gets you a 'bad' ending. I am very tired of this, especially when it is coupled with '.. and then you were the inspiration for a bunch of (pigeon) men after your tragic death!.. Gee. Swell.'

Would I still recommend this? Yes, because the writing is very good and the concept - for those who have hit it as a stumbling block - is engaging. But I am very, very tired of implications.