Hatoful Boyfriend has just been released on the PS4 and Vita and is perhaps the oddest game you’ll ever see. Originally released on PC in Japan back in 2011 as a April Fool’s joke and re-released and developed on since, it’s a dating sim with a difference.
As you may have gathered from the pictures on this page all the possible boyfriends (you play as a female) in Hatoful Boyfriend are birds. It gets weirder, you play as a human in an otherwise all bird school. So you’re a human female chasing after male birds hoping for love. Hatoful Boyfriend takes place in a future where birds have become intelligent and so communication isn’t a problem but still, birds. The initial couple of playthroughs will be driven simply by the unusual premise.
If you are unfamiliar with dating sims then generally speaking they are pretty basic. Text will explain in detail what is happening, what’s being said (there is no voice acting) and you’ll get a still image of the person you are speaking to on a background of the location you are at. You’ll have choices to make which will guide which boyfriend you go for and how successful you’ll be in your conquest. Hatoful Boyfriend is pretty low budget, even for this type of game. There are a decent amount of music tracks but otherwise you’ve basically got a photo of a bird taking up most of your screen with a crude background behind it. That’s not what you’re here for though, it’ll be the writing.
Hatoful Boyfriend generally has quite a playful mood. Whether you’re talking to your best friend, the posh aloof one, your teacher or the sporty one there’s no real danger or worry about failing. There is a bad end where you don’t end up with anyone but it’s not too difficult to avoid. You won’t want to eventually because each ending has its own little clues as to what is happening in the world of Hatoful Boyfriend and the story can get incredibly dark and yet the mood change doesn’t feel too out of place which is a credit to the writing.
Depending on how quickly you read (or how much text you’re skipping because you’ve seen it before) each playthrough can take up to an hour so you can knock out quite a few reasonably quickly. After completing a few story lines I was ready to write a review stating how although initially interesting it is just an above average dating sim with multiple stories that in the end don’t really matter. However, get enough endings and you unlock the ability to play a hidden story which starts off the same but ditches the dating sim aspect and just becomes a story with very little interaction and is much, much longer. It answers a lot of the questions you might have about Hatoful Boyfriend’s world and characters whilst being an interesting story in its own right.
That is it though. I was surprised by the amount and tone of the content in the end after my initial playthroughs misled me, but at the end of the day this is just a dating sim that if you put enough time into turns into an (semi-)interactive novel. I imagine that’s not for most people, but if you’re interested enough in the premise then you may find more than a joke game if you’re willing to look hard enough.
+ Decent writing
+ Early playthroughs don't take too long
+ Hidden ending explains a lot
- Hidden ending goes on a long time without any real interaction
- Presentation is weak