The Boys are Back in Town
Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star is a comedy and romance visual novel and a sequel in the Hatoful series. If you’re not familiar with the series, here is a brief summary. You role-play as Hiyoko, a high school student who attends the prestigious St. PigeoNation’s school for gifted birds. As the only human accepted into the school you can expect drama, comedy, and of course, romance. In the first game, the player could date a variety of talented birds at St. PigeoNations, and in Holiday Star they have returned. Get to know your fellow classmates (and faculty members) and steal their hearts. The pigeons and Hiyoko are back in Holiday Star celebrating a jolly Christmas and New Years’ beginnings. But does it live up to the first game?
Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star takes a step away from the first game in that it’s not a dating sim. It’s more of a visual novel, an expansion of the characters and the world that the first game created. Whilst it is fun seeing what those crazy birds have been up to, Holiday Star has been stripped of all interactivity. There are next to no choices to be made, and when there are choosing the ‘right’ answer will continue the story and all others will get you a bad ending. Apart from the new characters, there is no branching narrative between the first two episodes and the last two making them disjointed.
Even though they don’t have a strong overriding narrative, each episode is still fun to play, the birds getting into bizarre scenarios that involve magical girl transformations, tanks, cosplay and an anti-material rifle wielding pigeon. The characters keep their charm and humour, an example being that Hiyoko’s character is more rugged and wild human instead of a cute anime high school girl.
With four main story episodes and five mini episodes, there are a lot of wacky situations and comical moments. However the Hatoful Boyfriend series has a tendency to be all romance and fun on the surface but simultaneously conceal a dark undertone. It’s the third and fourth episodes of the game that are truly heart breaking. This is what made the first game and Holiday Star worth playing. In the final episodes; magic, illusion and desire trouble Hiyoko and the birds as they face the mysterious Holiday Star. These two episodes also have wonderful watercolour background art making it feel like a children’s book or a dream.
Not only are there the story episodes but Holiday Star also has some unlockable bonus features including a gallery of the art used in the game and also six radio episodes. The radio episodes are in a talk show format with Ryouta as host revealing behind the scene info about the bird ‘actors’ and a real life pigeon-relevant tour of Kyoto.
Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star has a lot going for it; beautiful watercolor backgrounds, great music, bonus content, comedy. But it just doesn’t have the heart that the first game has. If you are a fan of the series and have played the first game then Holiday Star is a great expansion upon the Hatoful world. Even though it has lots of content, it still feels a little empty.