Originally released for PC in 2011, Japanese pigeon dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend has now been remastered in HD.
Set in 2188, a time where birds have taken over the world and the few humans that are left are forced to live in the wilderness, you take on the role of a young human girl who has been invited to enrol in St. PigeoNation’s high school.
As you leave your cave each morning to attend school, you are engulfed in a world full of birds - your fellow students, your teacher, the school doctor, and ‘anybirdie’ else you encounter.
Your aim? To form a romantic relationship with one of these birds.
That’s right, to ‘win’ the game you must have a successful romantic relationship with one of the eight main characters, including a rock dove with an upset stomach, a bookish mourning dove, a sporty fantail pigeon that’s obsessed with pudding, a narcoleptic button quail, an antisocial chukar partridge, an RPG-obsessed Luzon bleeding-heart, a snobbish aristocrat fantail pigeon, and the popular bird with the beautiful singing voice.
In traditional ‘visual novel’ style the gameplay involves choosing between multiple options for dialogue and plot choices to push forward the game’s narrative.
While the gameplay is simplistic, players are tasked with finding all the possible endings. There are 14 in total, meaning lots of temptation to give Hatoful Boyfriend multiple run throughs.
The game runs much as any other dating simulator, but along with the humorous angle of attempting to woo birds instead of boys, Hatoful Boyfriend is packed full of insane storylines, amusing nods to gaming culture and some incredible one-liners – one of my favourite being: “Okosan loves you, gentle maiden, but fake pudding cannot be forgiven!”
While the game clearly pokes fun Japanese dating sims, it’s clear that the developers have a lot of admiration for the genre. The game is well thought out, and while I personally think it starts out a little slow, the evolving storylines become incredibly engrossing once romance starts to blossom.
Whether you’re going on an adventure to find the ‘one true pudding’, trying to convince pigeons they look good in maid outfits, or uncovering the disturbing past of the creepy school doctor, there’s a lot of werid stuff to uncover.
As you replay the game to peruse other romances, you’ll come across new scenes and stories. For the ones that you’ve already seen, the game has a handy skip button to help you progress quicker.
Hatoful Boyfriend is very simple to pick up, but not so easy to win. If you haven’t managed to catch the eye of a bird by the time you get to the halfway mark you’ll find yourself murdered in the night while sleeping in your cave. And more often than not you'll find out they've also stolen your iPhone 4S. But fear not, you can get through most romances in about an hour so if you do end up dead, it’s tempting to go back for one more shot.
While Hatoful Boyfriend may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I’d challenge anyone to play this crazy game without laughing out loud.