One thing to keep in mind while starting a play through of Hatoful Boyfriend is to not expect a typical romance simulator. The strange, unique qualities of this title embrace a Japanese, virtual novel theme and to its core, Hatoful Boyfriend is truly one of its kind — in some ways that are great and some not so much.
With its own comic book series, Hatoful Boyfriend’s notoriety was born in Japan. Once the series had developed its own cult following, Hatoful Boyfriend began to produce CDs, comic books, visual novels and several sequels. With its increasing popularity in Japan, the Hatoful Boyfriend craze later spread to the western world, gracing our PlayStation 4 consoles as a downloadable title.
You play as Hiyoko Tosaka, a hunter-gatherer human who is starting her first semester at the prestigious St. PigeoNation’s Institute. Unlike her feathered classmates, Hiyoka is the only human and surprisingly, fits in very well.
Interesting enough, Hatoful Boyfriend takes place in a dystopian-like future where birds are seen as intellectually competent as human beings. This grants the characters of which Hiyoka encounters, a sense of human qualities.
Using manga style backgrounds and stock photos of different breeds of birds, exchanges occur from screen to screen. There is hardly any movement aside from scrolling-on-screen features similar to what you would experience in a PowerPoint presentation or any dialogue scene in a Japanese inspired role playing game.
To clear up the confusion, this title is nothing similar to a Sims title, or any other simulation title for that matter. It is a purely dialogue centric video game, utilizing seldom choices which allow you to romance other birds and increase your stats. There is no actual interactive gameplay.
Romancing other birds can be fun although it feels extremely silly. Depending on where you decide to focus your time while attending the institute (student council, library staff, etc…) you will mostly likely grow close to the bird that is within that focus. However, the fact that they are ultimately just birds keeps it from being as fulfilling as if you were to romance say, Jack in Mass Effect 2 or your friendly neighbor in Sims 4.
Hatoful Boyfriend certainly accomplishes complete and total hilarity. I found myself laughing uncontrollably when I encountered a birdie biker gang and could not contain my giggles when I was sassed by the “good looking bird” at school. Overall, Hatoful Boyfriend is incredibly ridiculous in a very Japanese, wonderful way.
The most infuriating thing about Hatoful Boyfriend however, is the intense and sometimes grueling exchanges. Thankfully the translation from Japanese to English was well transitioned. There was never a time that any strange phrase or expression was awkwardly worded. It was purely the amount of extraneous, and mostly flat, encounters which made the game intolerable.
If you have a free hour to spend and enjoy reading virtual manga, have a profound love for cutesy Japanese themes and appreciate romance simulators, this game could be a sheer delight for you. For all others who enjoy actual gameplay and despise dialogue, stay away. Stay very far away.
This review was based on a digital copy of Hatoful Boyfriend for PlayStation 4 paid for out of pocket.