On a whim, and a sale, I bought Hatoful Boyfriend during the Steam Sale. I have played dating sims in the past, and had low expectations for one with such a strange premise. Seduce birds for you entertainment! It seemed shallow from the start, banking solely on the hopes of weird for sales. Hell, though, why not? Who am I to judge?
I started up the game and immediately noticed something strange: Devolver. The people who brought us classy games like Serious Sam and Hotline Miami. They’re a publisher with unique tastes, and I was intrigued.
Whenever you start playing a new attempt, you enter your first and last name (so the game can talk to you), and decide if you want to see the characters’ human portraits. I guess this helps normalize seducing birds. After the setup, you go through the process of meeting all of the characters. Each birdie has their own personality, internal struggle, and general trope to follow. For a lot of the characters, the route is obvious. Basic flags let you know if you’re on the right track or not. As you progress, depending on which trail you’re following, you’ll meet new characters that can affect how successful you are. You might just end up seducing the wrong bird, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You’ll start to see what really stands out for Hatoful Boyfriend: the plot lines.
The story goes far beyond the expected dating sim endings. The idea of having a sexualize relationship with a bird (your character is still human) probably didn’t fare well with some, so PigeonNation stepped up the plots to be far more interesting. There’s an underlying evil at the school that influences several of the storylines. Sometimes you battle this evil, sometimes you try to escape its clutches. Sometimes you help your target aspire for greatness, or aspire for great pudding. Each story tries to have an interesting ending and provide sufficient twists for the player to enjoy.
After completing several stories and successfully seducing my birds, I can confidently say this is an enjoyable game. Hatoful Boyfriend shows that you don’t need large breasted anime girls to create a fun dating sim. You can pretty much take the bird part of the equation out and you’d still have a solid game. Replace pigeons with various fruits (“Notice me, Coconut-sempai!”) and you’d still have a fun game fighting evil and eating udon. The only thing I don’t really enjoy are the looks I get from my various friends while I’m explaining my latest birdie conquest. I’ll get over it.
If you, fair readers, have experiences with Hatoful Boyfriend, or have another dating sim for me to try, bring it up in the comments. If you need someone to rant to about your hatred of dating sims, yell at the comments! If you need a hug, I am digitally projecting one to you now. Thanks for reading!