For this year’s #DatingSiMonth, I elected to go for an oddball title that I’ve heard come up several times over the past few years, Hatoful Boyfriend. After picking it up for a song during the Lunar New Year sale on Steam, my wife and I played through one path of the game in a single evening. It was a very bizarre experience indeed. Bear with me here as I attempt to explain this one…
Hatoful Boyfriend is a visual novel dating sim that takes place in a school attended exclusively by sentient birds. The player character, as the first and only human student, must navigate their strange school life and build relationships with their classmates (I did my best not to think too much about how human-bird dating would work while playing this). Like most visual novels, the majority of the gameplay consists of reading through dialog and looking at still images while making the occasional decision that leads down different branches of the story. Playing through a single story path takes less than two hours.
- While the game initially starts out very jokey, it has some genuinely dramatic moments as it goes on, especially during the "best friend" character's plot arc (which is the route I completed during my playthrough).
- The decision-making is very simplistic. Most of the time you're just picking where you'd like to spend your time which generally very directly correlates with whom you'll be spending time with. Want to get to know the librarian bo-... bird better? Spend more time in the library. I didn't have an issue with the directness of this, but it could have been interesting to see a little more depth to the choices.
- As the only human in the game, I like how the player character is frequently the target of "hunter-gather" stereotypes. It was also a nice touch that the player's strength stat is always maxed out (presumably because the stats are on a scale intended for birds).
- For a seemingly silly game, there appears to be some sort of dark subplot going on in the background. I'm kind of interested to play through a few other paths to see more of it, but I must admit that it's unlikely I'll end up getting around to it (unless I pick up the mobile version at some point).
- I appreciated the mixture of serious and completely off-the-wall characters (e.g. Okosan).
This ended up being a strange one, but not in the way I expected. It’s simultaneously a parody of dating sims while also occasionally being a very earnest one. I tend to be someone who only plays through a game once, so the extra depth that may be added by replaying is something I'll likely miss. As interesting as Hatoful Boyfriend was as a cheap game to play on a lark (see what I did there 😜), for the next Dating Sim Month or Visual Novel November, I think I'll go with something a little less gimmicky that can tell a richer story in a single playthrough.
Completion Time: 95 minutes (one story path)
Note: Events like #DatingSiMonth and #VNNovember are put together by ApricotSushi from the Chic-Pixel Blog. Be sure to check out her whole calendar of Community Game-Along events.