Important Importables Review: Hatoful Boyfriend for Windows, Mac

December 24, 2011 - 3:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports Review: Hatoful Boyfriend for Windows, Mac

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Hatoful Boyfriend

Title: Hatoful Boyfriend
Price: Free, a paid version is available in Japan for ¥500 and is twice as long with an extra character and lots of extra content
System(s): Windows XP or better and Mac 10.1-10.6
Release Date: August 6, 2011
Publisher (Developer): PigioNation Inc. (PigioNation Inc.)
ESRB Rating: N/A. I’d say at least 16 and up, because of Shu Iwamine’s route.
Pros: An English patch is available here, you can have human portraits for bird characters show up on the intro screen (But why would you want that?), you have to manage stats to earn the affection of certain guys, the story and dialogue is absolutely ridiculous and hilarious and there are ginormous pictures of birds used as character portraits! Also, there are 8 endings and a skip function. You can unlock an additional route after playing through once.
Cons: YOUR CHARACTER IS A HUMAN GIRL WHO’S DATING BIRDS. (BIRDS!) Oh, and the skip function is too fast making it easy to skip over both seen and unseen text at the speed of sound. Music is generic. It’s rather short. Nageki’s route is a bit slow and boring, compared to the others.
Overall Score: 9/10.

So, Hatoful Boyfriend. Yeah. Way to go proving those Japanese gaming stereotypes right Japan!

Here, I’ll translate the title. That should be enough to give you an idea of the crack-tacular adventure you’re going to embark upon if you play this free, recently translated into English, dating sim. Hato means pigeon. Hatoful is a combination of “Hato” and “Beautiful”. So basically it’s Pigeon-Beautiful Boyfriend.

Did I just blow your mind? I knew I would.

Don’t get me wrong though. If you go into Hatoful Boyfriend with the right mindset – preferably suffering from some kind of cold-flu and doped up on Nyquil and Robotussin – you can enjoy a gaming experience of epic proportions. It’s an absolutely ridiculous and outrageous adventure, made even better by a English translation that isn’t afraid to proudly flaunt how messed up this game is.

It’s so ridiculous, you will have to play it at least eight times so you can acquire every ending. Maybe even more, since your brain will go numb in some endings due to the inexplicable twists and turns, requiring a second run-through to appreciate the hilarity of the situation.

Hatoful Boyfriend

Welcome to St. Pigeonation’s Institute, every girl’s dream school!

So here’s the deal. For some unknown reason, Hatoful Boyfriend‘s heroine decided to attend a school for birds called St. Pigeonation’s Institute. Yes, she’s a human being. A somewhat ordinary girl named Hiyoko Tousaka. (You can change the name to whatever you’d like, as usual.) She’s a sophmore who’s starting her second year at this most unusual school.

Of course, Hiyoko probably wasn’t too ordinary in the first place. Because, you know, she lives in a cave on a cliff.

Back to the story! This year, school’s going to be more special for Hiyoko. Because this year, she may just find a birdie-boyfriend! Huzzah! There are seven to choose from: Ryouta Kawari the rock dove, Kazuaki Nanaki the quail, Sakuya Le Bel Shirogane the fantail, Nageki Fujishiro the mourning dove, Yuuya Sakazaki the fantail pigeon, Shu Iwamine the partridge and San Oko the fantail pigeon. Yes, there are seven elligible bachelors.

As far as gameplay, it’s a standard otome visual novel with some mild life-sim elements. You do have to take certain classes and participate in select activities to boost Tousaka’s stats so she can end up getting a good ending with one of the seven dateable birds. There will also be instances where Tousaka will have to respond to questions from certain birds or decide on what she wants to do for the day, which could bring her closer to a happy ending. Of course, how happy can said ending be when you’re trapped with a talking bird for the rest of your life? Nevermind. Let’s not dwell on that.

Oh yes. There are also optional human portraits for each character. I have no idea why. Maybe the human portrait on the splash image is supposed to show what the bird’s soul would look like? It’s confusing. As I mentioned earlier though, who in their right mind would want to enable those pictures? I mean, with a game like Hatoful Boyfriend, you’re coming for the pigeons!

Hatoful Boyfriend

Critiquing? We don’t need no stinking critiquing!

In a typical review, this is the part where I’d say what was incredibly awesome or unbelievably horrible about the game. However, this is Hatoful Boyfriend we’re talking about. I think you already have some idea of the good and bad from the outset. So instead, we’re going to go through the various topics that flew through my stuffed up and sniffling head as I played. I’m typing these up during my Shu and Yuuya playthroughs, so forgive me if they come across as disjointed.

  • The first thing that came to mind is, are we dealing with gigantic, mutant birds? Because everything in the school is human-sized and you’d think a school geared towards birds would be more accomodating towards them. Especially since the heroine is supposed to be the only human there. So could these be some kind of freakish birds that are the size of human beings and attending this school to prepare for world domination? Or are they normal-sized, super intelligent birds who have learned how to use the standardized equipment? I don’t know which idea is worse! I’m leaning towards human sized, simply because the character picture for each bird is freakishly huge. Plus, it’s more amusing that way. Plus, that way I can imagine the bird Hiyoko ends up with carrying her away in his talons as they fly off into the sunset.
  • Then there’s the sports festival. Now, this is a school for birds. Birds, mind you. And yet, every single sporting event involves not flying. In fact, one of the most publicized events is the three-legged race. Now, I can understand bird cheerleading. That even made me chuckle at the thought. (Especially since it was the pretentious, stuck up fantail who chooses to be a cheerleader!). But seriously. Birds participating in a three-legged race? All I can conjure up is a mental picture of two birds tied together, floundering on the ground and spinning in circles because they can’t stand up. Okay, maybe the ¥500 paid version would be worth it if there was a CG image of that event. Yuuya also says they have an obstacle course event, which seems like it’d be cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Kazuaki got me thinking what life would be like for a narcoleptic bird. You know, if there were such a thing. Which there probably is. Anyways, it’s got to be ridiculously dangerous. Especially if it happened while flying. Maybe that’s the secret reason why some birds get sucked into airplane engines. The more you know…
  • Why does Hiyoko live on a cliff? I think she was secretly raised by birds, explaining why she’s so happy to attend a bird school and is okay with dating avian creatures. Because if you spend 14 to 15 years of your life living alone, outdoors, I’d imagine birds may start looking pretty good.
  • Doctor Iwamine comes across as quite the bloodthirsty bird, which makes you wonder how he would actually manage it. You know, the cutting off of limbs, disposing of bodies and such. His beak doesn’t look all that sharp and I’d think it’d be quite difficult to manage a scalpel or saw with talons. Besides, he doesn’t look like an especially large partridge, which would cause some trouble as well. I suppose he could just have a twisted sense of humor. It’s hard to tell with birds though! They have the ultimate poker face.
  • The school festival puts the birds in costumes. Maid costumes. And not photoshopped costumes either. The artist just drew maid outfits on top of the pigeon. That is just classy right there. What other game, do you know of, includes pigeon maids? And Animal Crossing doesn’t count, because Brewster is a barista! Of course, this event image is made even more special because the pigeon in question is actually a male, so it also involves cross-dressing. Headline! “Japan’s major contribution to gaming in 2011 was a pigeon in drag!”
  • This chick considers herself ordinary, and yet she lives in a cave. A cliff-side cave. With a visible fire as the only furniture. Plus, she considers this kind of dwelling not only acceptable, but glorious. Even the birds think it’s weird! Oh, but it can’t be that bad because this cave apparently has a door.
  • Oh yes, and the school’s cafeteria serves poultry. If we saw a hawk, eagle or vulture at any time, I’d consider this no big deal. But all we see are pigeons, a partridge and a quail. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen any of those birds snacking on their own kind.
  • When it’s convenient and suits the story, the birds have hands. It’s magic!
  • And then there’s the route that’s only unlocked after playing through the game once. This route is the craziest, most outrageous, ridiculous and weirdest thing. I couldn’t even imagine a visual novel or game ever including a route like this. Part of me wants to say that’s a bad thing, but another part is thinking back to how many I was laughing while playing through Hatoful Boyfriend and thinking that it can only be good. The worst thing about this additional, insane route is that it ends on a cliffhanger that can only be resolved in the full version of the game. (Which looks more and more attractive, each time you play.)

Hatoful Boyfriend

Time for famous bird quotes!

Hatoful Boyfriend is ridiculous and the script clearly reflects that. So to help drive the point home, here are some out of context, ridiculous quotes taken directly from the game. If these don’t make you curious enough to try playing, nothing will!

  • Hiyoko: “But we can’t just let him break the rules like that, sir! The system will collapse and we’ll all turn into kulaks and dissenters!”
  • San: “This is no pudding for a man! Okosan rejects it! It is a lie! A vicious falsification!”
  • “Okosan used WING ATTACK! It’s super effective!”
  • Hiyoko: “Nepotism, ho! Don’t we get a vote!?”
  • Yuuya: “Mystery is the most powerful of aphrodisiacs.”
  • Kazuaki: “Not too… mmm… nope, sorry. You did badly.”
  • Hiyoko: “Doves smell kind of funny when it gets humid like this…”
  • Shuu: “You’re even stranger than I had thought. I’m fascinated. How I’d love to expirement (sic) on you…”
  • Ryouta: “Yeah. Well… there’s one that says that sometimes students will disappear in the infirmary only to show up again as food in the dining hall and quill pens in the school store.”
  • Shuu: “Very well, I will accompany you. In exchange for your left arm, of course.”
  • Hiyoko: “Yup, he’s a pervert. Yippee.”
  • Hiyoko: “… forgive me, sir, but I need to go home. I must return to my people with the spoils of war, lay my bloodied sword at the feet of my great king, and celebrate my conquest of all the lands from here to distant Macedonia.”
  • Sakuya: “What is this ‘fun’?”
  • Hiyoko: “My heart’s racing, but I can’t tell if it’s love or fear for my life!”

As you can see, Hiyoko clearly gets some of the best lines in the game.

Hatoful Boyfriend

Come on everybirdie! Let’s play!

As crazy as Hatoful Boyfriend is, and bear in mind that it is absolutely and completely ridiculous, it’s actually not a bad way to kill some time. Hell, I’m ready to go through an online shopping service to get a copy of Hatoful Boyfriend Hurtful Edition right now. It’s absolute rubbish and nonsense, but part of the fun is that everyone knows it. The developer knows, the translation team knew and of course we know. Sometimes, you just want a game that’s absolutely unexpected to play, and Hatoful Boyfriend is it. If you really want to think about it, it has everything! There’s high school drama, clandestine affairs, scandal, humor, love and a random serial killer.

Oddly enough, don’t go in expecting to easily earn the love of one of the birds. You’ll actually have to work and pay attention to Hiyoko’s stats for some birdies to make progress and end up with one of the seven good endings. Of course, it’s no big deal if you do screw up. Hatoful Boyfriend is usually hilarious either way and I suppose you could consider Hiyoko not ending up with a bird boyfriend to be a good thing!

In closing, here are two recommendations that I feel very confident in making. First! Don’t play Shu Iwamine’s route at night. It’s simultaneously creepy, disturbing and hilarious. Second, save before making the final choice in Yuuya Sakazaki because then you can get his good ending and the “bad” solo ending has the craziest twist ever and is actually better than his good ending.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports talks about Fate/stay night and the whole Fate/ series.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports suggested some imported goodies you could give as gifts.

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