I kinda like a bird dating sim. Send help. Now.
I’ve played my fair share of strange titles in my day, but I can safely say that Hatoful Boyfriend takes the cake. Without a doubt this is a biggest head scratcher in the game world, and is quite possibly one of the most ridiculous premises I have ever seen. That being said, I have to admit, I couldn’t stop playing it.
Hatoful Boyfriend is a visual novel that has players take on the role of a teenage Japanese high school girl as she goes to school, interacts with friends, and falls in love. The catch is every person in this world besides her is a bird. Yes, this game has players playing as a human trying to court intellectually intelligent birds. She goes to school with birds, goes to restaurants owned by birds, and even runs into a hard core biker that is a bird.
Platforms: PS4, PC, Vita
Price I’d pay: $9.99
Humans and birds living together. Mass hysteria.
The point of the game is to see each story through to its end. Usually each story takes around 30 minutes to complete, and with numerous birds to fall in love with, players have a good amount of story to get through. In choose-your-own-adventure style, players read dialog and events through a series of worded texts. At certain points, players can make choices that will affect the characters as well as some of her stats. Having a certain stat high will help her court the bird she wants. It’s all really dependant on the bird’s personality. I may need to get my charisma up in order to court a pompous rich dove, or have my intelligence high in order to get the affection of the math teacher. I can do this by going to certain classes for each stat. Yeah. It’s really crazy.
The reason I say that I could barely put this game down was not the insane idea of trying to date pigeons, it was what was really going on behind the scenes. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory with the premise, but it is rather crazy. Even more so than trying to fall in love with birds. Even more than the crazy story is how subtly and almost subliminally they implement the “other part” of the story is really what intrigued me. The small instances where I was asking myself “Wait, what the heck was that?!” was what kept me coming back for more.
There is certainly more going on in this world than what the media and developers have lead people to believe. After finishing a character’s story, players unlock a bit more of the mystery in notes they can read in the main menu, and upon completing all the love interest’s stories, a new mode is unlocked that dives deep into what is actually going on in this world. The entire time I’m going through it, it keeps giving small hints as to what is really going on, but it never actually told me. That type of storytelling captivated me, and kept me wanting to know more. It was so well done.
Come on, a “true ending?”
There is one issue I had. Certain characters have an ending and then a “true ending.” This means I would have to replay a scenario again just to see a small extra bit at the end to get the true ending, but this time I had to have one of my stats at a certain threshold. It was a bit annoying considering I couldn’t get the special story mode without getting both endings.
Let’s be straight here, this is a visual novel game. No real game play, no action-based anything. You are basically reading a book. Granted, said book is full of bird love and other insane plots, but it is well paced and decently organized. People need to keep in mind – they will be seeing a lot of the same dialog until you make it to the branching paths that take you on another dialog set. Luckily there’s a fast forward button for that. I can’t stress it enough, if you can make it past the fact that you’re trying to date birds, you’re in for a pretty insane but intriguing time that is told impressively well. If you’re into the crazy Japanese stories that eventually lead to some even crazier madness, this is the game for you. If you think cutesy pigeon dating is not for you or if you’re not much of a reader, stay away. Stay far away.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.