After coming out of Hatoful Boyfriend with a smile on my face, despite the fact that I was not in-fact a female, I was ready to take on another. I figured that if they could pull off an otome bird-dating game and have a guy enjoy the ride, then they could do anything.
The announcement of Holiday Star had me a bit apprehensive again however, as the holiday theme tossed me for a loop. What were they thinking making something so niche even more niche? After thinking back to my experience with the first title though, I figured that my cynicism of their creativity was pretty unjustified. If they could pull off an otome bird-dating game, then they could probably do anything.
I was giving them too much credit I suppose; but let’s rewind a bit.
Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star is a Christmas and New Years themed title under the Hatoful Boyfriend umbrella. It contains everybirdie we’ve come to know and love from the original game, and jams them lopsidedly into four “parts” that look to give you a slice of their lives during the holiday season. The four main parts involve a Christmas tree thief, a trip to Comiket, and a two-part ending involving an eclipse viewing and a trip to a strange land. That all sounds well and good in concept, but the problem is that none of these parts have any depth. Though the main points may be interesting in places, they fall flat because they don’t pull you in by getting you invested with real choices.
While the original Vita title had multiple paths, endings, and scripted ways to your death (I got killed a few times before I even made it to a proper ending); this one is more towards pure visual novel on the scale of things. Here you can either mess up and end the game by accident or continue to the singular ending. There aren’t any real side paths, or distinctive good and bad paths here; just endings and screw ups. The linearity of it all definitely leaves something to be desired.
That said, the first part’s introduction of two excitable new characters (Miru and Kaku), and the more drawn out and full-feeling story of the eclipse and the strange land were stand out stories – it’s just too bad they didn’t feel tied to me in any way.
Moving past the main story (those four parts), there is more content to be had in Holiday Star – though it’s almost all just as flat plot-wise. The additional content includes six short episodes which fill in some seemingly inconsequential bits (and unlock as you beat the main four parts), and six radio shows which break the fourth wall and answer “questions from readers.”
The short episodes are quick, devoid of choices, and generally pulled from pieces of the story. They don’t really add much other than maybe some character development, though being that this story ignores the events of the first game completely it becomes a little too awkward to take seriously.
As for the radio shows, they’re actually quite funny and interesting – especially with the added benefit of breaking the fourth wall easier. Aside from the main story’s two part ending they were my main source of enjoyment from the title, and the only bits I’ve run through twice before writing this review.
Looking to the visuals, they’re pretty static – meaning that they’re both clean and have the ability to be shown in full resolution. All the images are well drawn, and over all this title actually appears to be a more detailed and eye-catching one than the first; especially when you reach the strange land near the end of the main story. The only true visual mess-up I noticed is the text framing in a few areas (like the one above). They could’ve paid a little more attention to that detail, but I digress.
The sound is also a step up from the original, giving you a soundtrack that doesn’t go wonky like the original did. It’s not overbearing, it plays through like it should, and all the sounds fit the story to a “t” – making for something that isn’t as obnoxious to the ear. This was much appreciated.
One real problem I had with the game however, was the mess up with the Vita’s sixth additional story line (the Pigeon Shrine Visit one). While it seems to be present in the game (appearing select-able), no matter what you do you can’t choose from any of the eight available routes – or do anything at the selection screen save for back out.
As of the writing of this review it’s still yet to be patched, though by having eight routes available – one for each side character – it’s the most interesting content-wise of the bunch from the outside. It’s a real shame that it didn’t work out of the gate, as the further we get from the holiday season and the initial play-through the less inclined I’ll be to go back and clean it up (or even enjoy it).
Speaking of cleaning up, let’s get to the point; looking back at my Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star experience, I honestly can’t say it was a great one. While some of the stories provided were fairly enjoyable for their surface value, they felt shallow in comparison to the depth of choice and inclusion the first Vita title had. This was not the next step for Hatoful Boyfriend I was expecting, hoping for, or needing – and honestly I would’ve probably been better off without it.
Somebirdie hold me. 🙁