Hatoful Boyfriend Review

Title: Hatoful Boyfriend (はーとふる彼氏〜希望の学園と白い翼〜)
Release date: 2011-07-31 (2011-11-22 in English)
Developer: Hato-King
English publisher: S. Nazerine Zarib & Hato-King (as a patch)

o_O ................ >_> ................ -.-' ..................... OTL .........................................
Yeah, let me introduce to you a BL (bird love) visual novel named "Hatoful Boyfriend" or "Heartful Kareshi" where you are a female character that can romance various birds... 'Hatoful' here is a joint word of 'heartful' and 'hato' (bird). THIS  IS FUCKED UP, I'M GETTING OUT OF HERE!!! Why are the doors locked and... oi, what are you doing with that cleaver and how the fuck are you holding it with no opposite thumbs?! Oi... Splat...

Anyways, currently there are two versions of the game: a downloadable edition and a physical release that adds voice acting, expands the routes and adds one more character. The patch works with downloadable version only, but the creator (who hired translator S. Nazerine Zarib) intends to do the CD version too.
A perfect woman
Let's focus on our female protagonist first. Her default name is Hiyoko Tousaka (though you can change that) and she is a real cavewoman.... that lives in a cave... and has mobile phone and other commodities... Oh, now I get it! You are supposed to give your common sense a well deserved vacation while playing this game. Well, common sense, I know that you have always wanted to visit that Hitler Barbie museum - this is your chance. So, Tousaka is a single human attending an academy built specifically for birds. How she got there in the first place is anyone's guess. Our protagonist is basically a common VN blank slate character, who serves as a walking plot device to provide us with a "romantic" story. In addition to usual VN choices available in the story, there are minimal dating-sim characteristics, but they serve almost no purpose. If you pour all your energy into studying math, you can get all the endings with the exception of Sakuya's.

Tousaka can choose from seven different boys birds to pursue in her search for romance. Let's dissect, then stuff and roast them. Roasted doves... nom nom, but I digress.

The first of unlucky romantics that will fall into the clutches of our primitive hunter-gatherer is her osananajimi Ryouta Kawari. I wonder if he wakes up the protagonist every morning by gently cooing by her window.
With oil or with butter?
Brothers Sakuya Le Bel Shirogane and Yuuya Sakazaki are next in line. They are of noble birth, but where Sakuya is a stuck up bastard begging for an oven, Yuuya is a lovable chivalrous pervert. Sakuya also requires for you to engage in the studies of music in order to get his ending.

Nageki Fujishiro is a strange bookworm that is always holed up in the library and apparently even lives there. He is not very social nor friendly.

Nanaki Kazuaki is your maths teacher. There is not much else to say.

Oko San is a completely crazy birdie that is obsessed by sports and especially running. He can even run faster than fly. How that even works? Oh, right, common sense is is currently touring Kremlin and observing Stalin's adipocere formations. Oko also has the shittiest ending of all possible "heroes".

Iwamine Shuu is...
"Mad Doctor type, looking for a couple of sexy tourists who just want to get down and really dirty for a long period of time. If this is you, then let's get freaky!"
Now let's replace all birds with blonde bishounens.
Anyways, if we forget for a moment that all characters are birds (and you even have an option to portray them as humans, when you meet them for the first time), then this is just a normal dating-sim. And badly realized dating-sim. The routes are dreadfully short and each one can be finished in 20 mins tops, so there is almost no time for sufficient character interactions. Protagonist and "heroes" barely get to know each other and the concluding romantic interactions are presented out of that blue as the characters had almost no time to know each other. Of course, the period in game lasts for a year, but we see only a few days out of that and it's hard to make a lasting impression when you don't make the reader to care about the heroes. I probably should have quit playing this thing after the first route, but my common sense was doing a Švankmajer movie marathon at that moment, thus I finished the whole VN.

If you remember that characters are birds, then... nothing much changes as everyone makes a point in ignoring that (hell, our pigeons even eat poultry). Only once in the game a topic of difference in life spans betwixt primates and avians comes up and even that is brushed away with no conclusions in other routes.

In the end, the birdyness of the heroes comes up as a mere gimmick and HB fails both as a parody of otome dating-sim genre and as a serious VN. My reaction after playing the game was not WTFPOLARBEAR, but just "That's it?". Graphical and sound aspects are also largely uninspiring and any denizen of Lemma Soft with a proficiency in Ren'Py could have cooked up something superior in a few weeks time.
That's her home, OK.
I have a nagging feeling that many people would better appreciate the game under the influence of alcohol and/or pot. I have tried this solution, but sadly the reserve of beer in my fridge proved too low to reach a phase where I would start appreciating the ingeniousness of marrying a bird. All that did for me, was made me dream about a light snack... roasted pigeon stuffed with dates for example.

Lastly, the game uses a shitty engine that requires you to have Quick Time or QT Alternative installed on your computer and even then I couldn't find a way to play this VN in full screen. Translation is also not top notch with many typos, missing words and overflowing lines. Menus and images are also not translated.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese page
Download the free game for Mac or Win here
Download translation patch here

Final Verdict: 10% for proving that all females are cavewomen and employ their hunter-gatherer instincts on daily basis, 10% for many different routes, 10% for emptying my beer reserve, 10% for keeping weirdness flowing out of Japan and 2% for this comic strip. Total: 42%


  1. Oh Japan. Never change. While your clearly sexually repressed people will never stop making stuff like this, it is the same people that make awesome stuff like Sengoku Rance. So please Japan. Don't change. :)

  2. This is a case of 'so bad I need to see it myself', I wonder how long I'll be able to play :D.

    But yes, I doubt I'll play it for longer than 10 minutes. The fact that you can switch the birds for human portraits and that they don't really explore the problems of marrying a bird... kind of shows they didn't know whether to be a parody or normal dating sim and went with both. What a waste.

  3. It's not that you can switch birds for human portraits, but when you meet the characters for the first time, you can briefly see a human portrait alongside a bird. The portrait quickly vanishes after that.

  4. Oh you're right, I just noticed!

    And apparently I overestimated myself - playing time 7 minutes.

  5. Anonymous9/12/11 03:44

    Well from what I've read the "Free" version is just a demo. So I'm hoping the Full Version is much much better. I'm not entirely sure they can top being decapitated and raped by a fat bird though. Dammit, how come the only Three games I'm looking forward to in 2012 are VN that are already released but not translated and weird as fuck?

  6. @Anonymous
    Care to tell what these three VNs are?