Hatoful Boyfriend Review

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Title: Hatoful Boyfriend
Developer: Media Tonic, Devolver Digital
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.9 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

The visual novel scene is growing for the PS Vita, but when you combine visual novels with dating simulators, you start getting a much smaller library.  How many dating sims can you think of that are on the PS Vita?  Off-hand, I can only think of one pure dating sim, Don’t Die Dateless Dummy and that was on PS Mobile, which has shut down.  What does that leave us with?  Games that have dating elements but are focused more on other genres, like Persona 4 Golden and Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment.

With the dating sim libraries growing in the West, there are more and more games coming out.  However, some developers have begun to take odd twists and turns with the genre, making games that are not only dating sims, but are more casual and wacky games with their stories.  Just this past week, such a game came to the PS Vita and PlayStation TV.  Here is my official review of the pigeon-themed dating simulator, Hatoful Boyfriend!

Story

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You play as a human girl that is attending a high school that was made for birds, known as St. Pigeonation.  You’ve been going to this school for some time now, and you’re about to enter a new year of school.  As you move into the New Year, you attend your first class and meet a host of different birds, mostly male from different sections of the school.  You have childhood friends, new teachers, and new classmates of varying personalities.

To go along with the comical idea of a dating simulation between a human girl and male pigeons, the game is full of comedy and is clearly meant to never be taken seriously.  It has plenty of fanservice to various other forms of media, such as Pokemon and other game franchises.  Almost every scene is filled with comedy, from character personalities to dialogue from your character.  Not 10 minutes passed by without something popping on the screen to make me start laughing.

Gameplay

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Hatoful Boyfriend is a visual novel packed with dating elements.  As you play through the game, you will be thrown through story scene after story scene in a very linear manner, similar to Fragment’s Note from PS Mobile or Xblaze Code: Embryo.  There are different options, but you’ll be taken to the same kinds of scenes by the game’s story progression, much like a standard visual novel game.

The main gist of Hatoful Boyfriend that makes it more than just a strict storyline is its implementation of different options and choices you can make as you enjoy the story play through.  There are several different characters you’re introduced to and, therefore, many different branch paths you can do as you enter specific scenes.

As an example, there may be an event where you will have a choice of who to spend it with, or an elective day where you can choose whether to go to Math Class, Gym, or Music Class.  Each of these will allow you to spend time with certain characters or enhance your stats to be able to do different dialogue choices in scenes (much like how the stat system worked in Don’t Die Dateless Dummy).

Paying attention to who you’re spending time with and what your stats are is the key to getting an ending you want.  The game runs on a calendar, much like Persona 3 and Persona 4 do.  If you don’t spend enough time and receive Intimate status with one of the characters before a certain date, you will get the bad ending, showing you getting into an unfortunate accident when the game’s true story is revealed to you.

The key to getting endings is knowing who you spend time with during what events, so you’ll need to save often to make sure you can always get the events and choices you want.  Even one or two choices not put in correctly could be the difference between which endings you’re going to get.  If you want to go even further, you can try for a character’s good ending, because there are 2 endings for each character.  How well you do with choices will determine which ending you get.

All in all, Hatoful Boyfriend is not a very long game.  In all reality, you can clear the game a single time within 1 or 2 hours.  You can multiply this if you go for multiple endings.  However, a single outing isn’t going to take you long and can be done in a single sitting.  Compared to other Vita visual novels, it’s a very short game but given the progression of the game, any more could have led to the game becoming repetitive.

Controls

Controlling the game is easy, like any other visual novel at your disposal.  Since this game is compatible with the PlayStation TV, you don’t need to worry over proprietary touch controls.  There are some brief touch controls in the main menu, but there aren’t any within the main game.

When you’re playing the game, all you really need to use are the D-Pad and the X, Triangle, and Start buttons.  The X button will select an option and progress dialogue.  Triangle will switch scenes to Auto-Skip for replays.  The D-Pad will cycle through choice menus.  Finally, the Start Button will pull up the menu to adjust the audio settings and allow you to save and load your data, be it local PS Vita saves or Cross-Saves between the Vita and PS4 versions of the game.

It’s not a very hard control scheme, but the game puts in no effort to explain any of them to you.  The X button is pretty standard for progressing dialogue, but I’d gone through over half the game before I realized there was even a save option.  I just happened to accidentally press the Start Button and found it.

Presentation

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This is the section where the game will get the most criticism from me.  First of all, the visuals look great.  All of the environments and character models look flawless and that is to be expected for a visual novel.  There are no 3D graphics or engines to worry about, so the art and text boxes all look great on both the Vita and PSTV.

The problem is the game has a host of technical problems.  You would think a visual novel would have no problems playing on the Vita, but Hatoful Boyfriend is an exception.  The first thing to mention is lag.  The first part of this is the main menu.  When you’re going into options, like the Gallery, you should expect some lag between pressing the button and the game loading the next menu.  Also, half the time when a new character model pops on the screen, the game has lag and frame-drops just trying to load the 2D render onto the screen.  This is apparent from beginning to end and sometimes with the same models every time they show up in dialogue.

Another problem is the audio.  On several occasions, I found the audio trying to load music but instead, it would load a loud beeping noise that would last as much as a few minutes before finally going back to the background music.  I tested this and went through the same scenes again and never had any issues.  There’s also the fact that when loading a saved game, the game will sometimes not load the music at all until the next scene.

Summary

Hatoful Boyfriend is the most comical and wacky dating sim you will ever play.  However, a host of technical problems may hamper your experience with lag and audio glitches and controls you aren’t made aware of.  If you can get past these annoyances, you’re in for a very funny, yet short journey.

6/10

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