During my time in Tokyo, Japan, I’ve had my fair share of playing those weird and unique games that you’d only hear about from US/EU gaming sites or YouTube videos. There was a mix of shoot’m ups (also known as “shmups”), fighting games with creatively drawn characters, racing games with a plethora of characters – some of which weren’t seen outside of Japan, and then there were the dating sims. I’ll admit, this genre was and still is included in my list of gaming interests. Reason being is that I’ve seen improvement in how the dialog works so well, compared to most other modern games, including ones from the states, and Hatoful Boyfriend does take a rather original spin on this genre.
Why, or rather, what is it that would attract a gamer to this title? Certainly isn’t the immersion of the world being set up, as your guided through a few select areas with only dialog and music to keep you interested, and those two points are two of the four that help strengthen this game and make it stand out amoung other dating sims. The other two points are art and user interface (UI), but let’s focus on one at a time.
We all know, or should know, that the dating sim genre isn’t known for having any sort of combat scenario, puzzles, or even horror. But what does stand out, as I’ve mentioned before, is the dialog. You’re given a variety of potential boyfriends, and each are govern (mostly) by their bird/pigeon persona. For example, you’ll come across a person who is stuck up, snobby, and flaunts his social status, and given that he’s a fantail pigeon, you’ll think that both human personality and the physical form of such an avian would be perfect. Same goes for all of the other students and faculty that you’ll meet, such as rock doves, parakeets, mourning doves, and quails. Each with their own persona that will either want you to play with multiple saves (so that you can try out all the options), or go through playthrough after playthrough. And depending on your stats, those being Vitality, Wisdom, and Charisma, each interaction – even with the same person, can be different.
Not much to complain here, as each background track fits perfectly with the given scenario. From pleasant and soothing to intense and dramatic, or even dramatic and romantic, all of these flow so well and won’t give you a reason to turn down or off the volume.
I do have an issue with a certain aspect of the art used in this game, such as the photos of the pigeons and other avian. Sure, it might look cute, but it doesn’t look consistent with the rest of the game. It draws away from the attention of the story and characters. Aside from that, the character portraits look great and well-detailed – the sort of look that you’d expect from this sort of dating sim. Though my only complaint is that there isn’t enough of the anime art being shown, even with the unlocked art gallery.
This goes for any genre, be it console, mobile, or PC, and that is you need to have clean UI (User Interface) for the player to easily navigate and understand what’s going on and the choices they can make. While there are simple choices to make, the text boxes are bigger than they need to be, taking up too much space. For example, the Stats Box (let’s just call it that for now) that shows you the current level of Wisdom, Charisma, and Vitality you have, is a bit oversized than what it could be. The same goes for the dialog text box, though the width of it is fine. There’s an Archive section in the game menu, but I have no clue what that’s for…
The choice of having multiple saves is a must for a dating sim, as players would want to go back on a choice if they make a mistake or want to see a different reaction. The Main Menu is easy enough to navigate, as well, going through the game options. As for the choice selection, when it comes to initiating dialog with a character, gives you time to make a choice, so don’t feel rushed at all when deciding which guy you want to dump.
If you’re into dating sims, no matter what type of partner you’re longing for, then I highly recommend Hatoful Boyfriend. It has some moments of hilarity and sorrow, and at the end, depending on your choices, you really do feel the impact that you’ve made and the bonds with the friendly avian.
Overall Score: 9/10
RGN Rating: Gold Game
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of this game was provided to RealGamerNewz by the publisher for the purpose of this Review.