|Which one's the bird of your dream?|
First, let's set something clear! When you search around for places talking about it you get a lot of places featuring it because it's so weird (and don't get me wrong, it is totally weird) and it's usually followed by "WTF Japan?", but let's get serious for a second here in this conversation about pigeon dating, this isn't some sort of weird perverse game that was created to target some very specific fetish or something like that, it's a game that started as an April Fools joke a couple years ago that took on a life of it's own. It's not so much a dating sim as it is a parody of one that ends up very entertaining and even touching. There's no pixelated bird parts, and despite playing through 4 different routes, the closest I got to a pigeon falling in love with me was (Highlight the black bar for the spoiler) helping one realize his true form of Lord Pudi. This isn't some rule 34 game, made only to fill some completely weird niche you never wanted to know existed, it's a surreal parody that ends up being more than just an extended gag.
|Cave sweet cave!|
For those who need to be eased into the idea of a pigeon dating sim, there's actually an option at the beginning of the game to enable gijinka portraits for each of the characters (except Okosan, who is based on the creator's own pigeon, in his case you just get a cartoon version of a pigeon in a suit), so you can sort of imagine them as anime boys throughout the game. But don't think this is some way to totally avoid the fact you're trying to date pigeons and make the game something that it's not (you know, a human dating game), because these portraits only pop up the very first time you meet a datable character, and the game repeatedly reminds you that you are, in fact, at a school for actual pigeons.
Why exactly are you the only human at a school for pigeons? The game apparently manages to explain this very unusual schooling situation later in the plot, and you're given hints, as well as unlockable files, about the real reason you're there throughout the game. This game promises more than just wacky bird humor and surprisingly manages to deliver!
|Don't let this screenshot fool you, Okosan is the only one that speaks in bird.|
The first time through this game, after flirting around with different birds, I decided to attempt to romance my Math teacher, primarily because I just couldn't decide and he was the first bird to offer to walk me home.
|Ah, my first love!|
I had read a few reviews before playing that insisted that you really enjoy the characters, despite the fact that they're depicted as photos of various birds. I was totally suspicious of this claim, but I honestly found it to be true. Sure, these are just pictures of birds, but the game really sucks you in and you learn to look past their feathery visage.
Despite the fondness that I was feeling for the character, and how interesting these mysterious school events were, I found the my first bird-romance to be a rather short quest, and bittersweet. But I definitely wasn't ready to put the game down now, if anything, the quickness it took to get to the end of the particular romance just made me determined to go another round and see if different play throughs would give me more clues as to what exactly was happening at the school, I was also determined to find a bird that would love me back!
|Not only is he a good cook, but he also enjoys crossdressing. Could he be any more tropey? I guess maybe if he wasn't a pigeon.|
Pretty much totally bummed out at this point by my adventures in trying to date birds (will it ever be meant to be?!) , I was told by some other Hatoful Boyfriend fans, who were very excited to welcome a new fan into their ranks, to try Okosan's romance, because it has a happy ending.
I was a bit suspicious of this, because up until this point I had only known Okosan as the spazzy pigeon hanging out at the track yelling about pudding all the time, not exactly dateable material, even if he wasn't a bird. At this point I was getting more serious in my attempts to woo these pigeons, so I had a wiki up with tips on how to woo them. To romance Okosan and get the good ending, I was instructed to forgo studying and just hang out at the track all the time. Sounds good to me!
|Most conversations with Okosan went like this. I also spent a lot of time breaking up the fights he constantly got into.|
My final play through of the evening is apparently a fan favorite, Shuu- the terrifyingly creepy doctor quail who works in the infirmary and had spent the last three play throughs making creepy comments and mysterious threats towards me and the rest of the students.
|This is how I felt about pretty much everybirdie in the game.|
The game also has some reoccurring, non-dateable, characters that pop up in various story lines that are absolutely fantastic characters. Kenzaburou, the gentlemanly parakeet who runs a cafe you can potentially decide to work at, is not only a totally charming character, but the particular bird that's used as his picture is just totally adorable.
|Those eyes! They're so sparkly!|
However, my absolute favorite side character was definitely Azami, the bad ass, traffic law abiding biker finch. She saves your ass a couple of different times. Once because you stupidly got lost, and once because a bunch of delinquent city pigeons were hassling you.
|Yes. Very intimidating.|
All-in-all, so far I've found Hatoful Boyfriend to be a ridiculously enjoyable game and was so much more than I was expecting. I thought I was just going to have some laughs at the weirdness of a pigeon dating sim, and don't get me wrong, I laughed a lot over it, but I also found it to so far be a very satisfying and fun game.
Over the next few days I plan on trying to finish the other 4 endings and trying to complete any other alternate endings before going onto the legendary Hurtful Boyfriend AKA Bad Boys Love section of the game, which is supposed to be a wild ride through rip-your-heart-out-ville. I have tried not to spoil it too much for myself, and again, I can barely resist taking peeks at the wiki, but it looks like the world of Hatoful apparently has been some sort of Battle For The Planet of the
I look forward to my heart being ripped out, stomped on, and pecked at like inferior non-legendary pudding! And then I look forward to coming back for more with the sequel Holiday Star, which is apparently a non-dating sim visual novel.