Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s talk parody.
No creation, no medium with an ounce of popularity will escape the squeezing, wrenching, occasionally awful shadow that is parody. If you gain enough publicity you will find a crowd ready to expose your flaws and make the whole world laugh at you. The good news is that the best, and funniest, parodies come from a place of love, so best course of action is often to laugh alongside the rest of us.
Enter Hatoful Boyfriend, living proof that VN’s, and Otome in general, like to repeat themselves. This parodic Visual Novel takes fans on a journey into a pigeon-based dating sim, where their favorite tropes are taken to the extreme and the story goes from kooky to dark in record time.
Also, possible spoilers. Skip the final verdict if you’d rather play the game yourself.
See you then
Had to borrow from the wiki on this one, because I didn’t have the time to carve through the whole story of this game. The world has ended (surprise surprise) and birds have now reached the same level of intelligence as humans. You are a human – a hunter-gather, hominid, living-in-a-cave human – who by some complicate happenstance gets to attend the prestigious St. Pigeonation’s Institute. Here your goal is to survive three terms in an all male bird school, where danger lurks around every corner.
That danger comes from Hiyoko, who’s a human liaison to see if birdies and humans can coexist in this post-apocalyptic world. The humor here, as glorious as it is, also hides a rather serious story with some very dark implications. There’s heavy science horror going on behind closed doors, and this rosy exterior is only a lie, a lie I tell you!
We have a full-fledged game that doesn’t make use of the RenPy engine anymore, a fact which makes life easy on newbies, harder on experienced players like myself. The hotkeys I know by instinct are gone now, left with a somewhat clunky screen where you can’t go back and you have to save before you make your choices that change the plot. Thnakfully you can avoid the awful mouse controls with arrow keys and and spacebar. It only goes to show you that this game was meant for a console and not the PC.
One of these things is not like the others….
Once again, the VN operates like a mix between novel and sim game. You have a Wisdom, Vitality, and Charisma stat that you increase through one of three electives. Which elective you take dictates which flags will trigger and whose path you have a better chance of following. I recommend a walkthrough if you’re here to read and not play the guessing game because this gets very specific.
When you aren’t choosing electives you need to make specific choices that flag relationship moments with the birdie of your choice, which twists the story around and gives various different views of the main story going on. They range from ridiculous to insane and tend to poke fun at a variety of different VN tropes: the dangerous spy, the bad boy, the supernatural boy, etc. Also, in order to see the real meat of this game, you have play almost all the routes. When you do, things go from funny to dark real quick. I didn’t have the time to comb through all of it, but a reading on the site’s wiki will take you to weird places.
If you want hints of how deep this rabbit hole goes, check the “archive” in game.
Hoo boy we got ourselves a weird one today. The actual art, when it likes to draw, is decent stuff. It’s a very simple, cartoon style with not a lot of shading and bright colors. But most of the time you’ll be seeing these lovely backgrounds with photoshopped birds on the screen, like real photos, that don’t change in the slightest. It’s part of the joke, really, to hammer in that you’re romancing birdies, but I feel like an opportunity was missed. Why not actually draw the birds with clothes, and allow for facial expressions? Either way, the game is still nice enough to look at.
Romantic Options (Sorta)
Sakuya La Bel Shirogane
The Perfect Sakuya is an aristocrat with a lot of high expectations… and some mighty impressive plumage. Stuck up unapologetically, even after you’ve won him over, Sakuya is the cold jerkwad who thinks he’s better than everyone else that somehow still earns himself fangirls. But Sakuya’s refusal to ‘unjerkify’ is pretty funny, and the big reveal is actually pretty charming.
Once again, we have the option to flirt with our teacher. Kazuaki is kind, falls asleep in worse places that Portgas D. Ace, and has a tendency to keep a professional distance from you – how tragically realistic. In truth, besides being “flighty” (heh) the joke on Kazuaki is his want to keep everyone at arm’s length, and his scatter-brained sensibilities. It’s a bit dull, but sweet in the long run.
Our shy quiet type, who seems to always be in the library and completely ignored by the student populace… for real, no one seems to talk to him. You don’t know where he lives, you always find him reading in the library. Is he shut in, hiding a closet horror that you should have stayed away from? The actual big reveal for Nageki is a sweet and genuinely emotional, so I do recommend this if you want to see the game get serious for the briefest of moments.
But, taking a departure from serious, we have Sakuya’s brother Yuuya. He’s the “ladies bird” who’s always going on about being a charming, suave, sophisticated fellow… who hits on you in the most obvious, goofy, and over-the-top fashion. Still, Yuuya’s path seems a little bland up until the final part, where everything suddenly fits together in the most glorious of fashions. It’s short, sweet, and dangerous: It’s Yuuya Sakazaki.
Your Childhood Friend option, and one of the few straightforward paths on this game. Ryouta has a weak body and takes care of his equally frail mother. Thus he’s always working several jobs, doesn’t really have time to hang out, and relies on you for emotional support. In fact, Ryouta’s path of the “Childhood Pal” is so straightforward it’s downright boring when compared to most of the others. I feel like I may be missing a joke here, but I just couldn’t find anything here all that funny or exciting. Or maybe that was the joke. Who knows?
Ah, the Fallen Angel of Judecca. Our unlocked character can only be seen after playing Shuu Iwamine’s path (more on him in a sec) and has most of the funny lines in this game. Anghel seems like the eccentric crazy in the class next door, a Mad Birdie who babbles on and on about apostles, sin, demons, and Trees of Filth (trademark). But, what if instead of “fixing him” you played along, allowed his delusions to go forward… or are they even delusions? Anghel’s path surprised me in the best way, and I recommend it to everyone.
To ride is the way of life… provided you follow the speed laws. Azami is our female option and Takoyaki salesmen, and pretty much kicks the idea of the female love interest in the face. Loud, proud, strong and ready to take on the world, Azami is a free spirit with a broken heart, which you can mend or take for yourself. t’s a fun experiment in ‘outside’ choices, and a nice breath of fresh air.
You knew you were in for something strange when your powerful visualization engine refuses to put a human reference face to your birdie. Okosan is a fantail pigeon through and through, on the hunt for the ultimate pudding whilst zooming around the track. Hyper, violent, and more crazy than Anghel, Okoson is the “weird” option… which turns out to be even weirder when finished. But hey, if you like to laugh, give him a go.
Ah, the one everyone was likely waiting for. The obviously creeptastic, serial killer doctor, who’s so obviously bumping off students it’s amazing the protagonist didn’t catch on. Quiet, dropping creepy, clinical lines, and oh so crazy, Shuu is proof that sometimes The Bad Boy is bad for a reason. He’s also far more sinister than he seems, if that were possible, as each ending unravels more skeletons dancing in his closet. Or in the cafeteria. Yum.
I realize what this game looks like from the outside. It’s a bunch of photoshopped birdies, lots of talk of world domination, and lots of serial killer doctors out to get you. But the game is ultimately quite charming, with a great sense of humor and some pretty smooth story transitions. I believe that fans of VNs love this game because they have a good sense of humor. Because, really, if you can’t laugh at yourself, you can’t laugh at anyone.
Next time: Seduce Me
Did you love Hatoful Boyfriend? Or could you not get past the concept? Leave comments below and don’t forget to follow and ike for more content. You can follow by email or wordpress.