I am at this stage in life where I would dare think that i’ve played a lot of japanese games and that little could possibly still surprise me. Then i saw this one and thought: nah can’t be what I think it is but then I wonder what it could really be about. But I didn’t wonder enough to buy it as it’s clearly not for me. Some time later, it came around as the PS+ lineup, and I thought hey what the hell I’ll play it for fun and get some free trophies along the way.
I will not spoil the story but will still talk about how it starts and what you’re supposed to be doing here. You start as a female transfer student coming to this bird only school with a mission: prove that love between humans and birds is possible. You see, in this world birds have become the dominant race on earth and have basically aquired intelligence and knowledge on par with us and humans have become rarer and are considered inferior now. So this “can the two fall in love and get along” thing is some kind of attempt to fix the relationship between the two races and prove they can coexist peacefully. Weird right? It’s just begun…
On the graphic side of things, it also feels a bit weird. You get some classic school/town backgrounds you would get in pretty much any anime games but the birds are more like pictures over those backgrounds. When you begin the game, you have the option to see an anime representation of what each bird would look like as a human, probably to better choose which hot guy you want to go for ! But they’re still birds stop dreaming…
Nice japanese atmosphere in the details of this game, such as this little flyer where looking for your part-time job
I will divide this game in 2 parts, as I feel that’s how it was meant to be. The first one if gonna be what you would expect from this title: a dating simulator where you, as the female student, will become closer to one of the birds and try to get an ending with them. As far as gameplay is concerned, it’s just about reading text and making choices. These will determine what kind of reactions you’ll get from the birds speaking to you and will place you on different routes, especially when you have to decide where to go, which will result in different encounters. You also have to choose which classes you will attend (neat school huh never had a choice myself), and depending of those you will get some stats increases. These will determine if you’re compatible with one of the birds or not for romance. Maybe this is all obvious for someone used to the mechanics of dating simulators, but it was a surprise to me.
I admit, I found this part pretty boring, as i’m not much for romances in video games, let alone a game based on that. Some endings were funny but still not enough to keep me interested. It’s the second part that really surprised me.
Visual novel time
While i’m not much for romancing a bunch of guys/girls/birds in a game, what I really like is a good story. While the first part of the game is about romancing the main characters, the second one is a proper visual novel, telling us the full story behind this bird dominated world in a thrilling plot happening in the school grounds. It blew my mind that we went from “I love you pigeon sempai” to “omg people are dying and we’re trapped”. Seems like quite a jump right? But that’s exactly what is happening here and the switch was pretty brutal. It was quite refreshing to me as I was bored from the dating part but suddenly got a big spike of interest seeing how things had become dark and mysterious. The background of all the birds are revealed, the world story is made clear little by little, there are betrayals and twists… I really had a good time reading this second part and I really didn’t expect that. I will not spoil the story as the surprise was really nice for me, but to give a comparison, it felft a bit like the beginning of Dangaronpa to me, when you switch from normal life to being stuck in a gloomy and inescapable place all of a sudden. Really nice and I didn’t see that coming from a game like this.
Not every bird is nice like in Disney movies. Some are not fooling around…
My personal rating
- Gameplay 70% 70%
Well, not much to tell about gameplay here… Reading text and selecting options is pretty much all there is to it. But with this type of game can’t expect much more can we?
- Audio 60% 60%
This is where the game could have been so much better for me. No voice acting in a dating simulator/visual novel? That’s a big loss to me especially since I love japanese so much. It would have made the story and characters so much more alive.
- Graphics 70% 70%
The artwork is of good quality, it’s like being in a manga, except for the bird pictures. Not bad, but i regret not having a bit more variety in the places you visit and characters you meet.
- Lifespan 70% 70%
Even when reading everything and finishing all trophies like I did, it won’t take much more than 5 or 6 hours total. Not very long, but honorable for a small game like this.
- Writing 90% 90%
This is where the game really shines for me. It first grabs your attention with a very original concept: dating birds. While I don’t really like this part, it’s pretty unique and fun. Then, it really takes off with a nice story full of mystery and revelations, which i didn’t expect.
- Trophies 70% 70%
No problems here even if nothing exceptional either. Trophies are awarded for reaching all endings which is fine for this type of game.
The final word for Okosan
“ COO !! ”
I’ll be honest: I only tried this game because it was free on the PS+ and I thought I was gonna regret it as I’m not into dating games… And I had trouble with the first part. Not that It was bad, I was simply not interested. But I was so pleasantly surprised by the second part with its nice story that I’m really glad I tried it after all. If I really have an objective flaw to point out it would be the lack of voice acting which would have made it so much better for me. However, the fact remains that this little game was created with a lot of imagination, talent and passion. You just have to see how the title of this game alone has been thought to have multiple meaning: Hatoful Boyfriend, the first meaning you think of is a play on words in japanese between “hato” (はと), which means pigeon, and “heart” (ハート) which sounds a lot like “hato” in japanese. I won’t spoil the other meaning as it would be a major reveal of the story, but it’s yet another word that sounds like the first 2 in japanese… I thought it was pretty brilliant.
If you have this game in your library give it a chance. It’s pretty short and well written.