Last year, our own Jay Petrequin reviewed the Steam version of Hatoful Boyfriend and gave it a 3.5/5, citing clever writing, an absurd premise (the bird puns… oh, god, the bird puns), and its ability to make you actually care about the various birds. He had this to say:
“Hatoful Boyfriend is funny, cute, and simple. It’s short, begging replays in order to pursue everyone from the reclusive bookworm to the creepy school doctor. There’s not really much to it beyond clever writing and the promise of the warm, winged embrace of somebirdie close to your heart. It tends to fall on its face when it tries to be serious, because we all know it’s not meant to be. That would be like trying to watch Birdemic and legitimately critique it as a film, instead of just making fun of the whole thing. You just don’t do it.”
My major gripe with Hatoful Boyfriend, also, is its length. Each of the romantic plots can be completed in about an hour and a half, and several take less than an hour. The main problems here are that I was left wanting more character development, and some of the endings are actually pretty boring. That said, Hatoful never failed to make me laugh. It’s one of the only games I’ve played recently where I was actually crying of laughter alone in my apartment.
Hatoful Boyfriend runs the spectrum from funny to awkward and back again without so much as a smidgen of self-awareness; it manages to evoke laughter while being completely incomprehensible, and that is its greatest asset. It’s so wildly different than other dating simulators that it’s worth trying out for the novelty alone.
While the PS4 and Vita versions are almost identical to the original, the addition of a new bird (a golden pheasant named Tohri Nishikikouji) joins the fray of courtable feathered companions. Tohri’s story deals with doctor Shuu Iwamine, the cold, expressionless partridge who runs the school’s infirmary. Tohri is seeking vengeance against Shuu for a previous accident in the medical lab, and most of his dialogue is about plotting his revenge in hilariously impractical ways (like wanting to kill the doctor with a death ray). It’s an interesting new story, especially since it gives more insight into how odd and kind of twisted Hatoful Boyfriend’s world is.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a dating sim on your PS4, and you’re a fan of clever writing and off-beat premises, you should consider picking up Hatoful Boyfriend. It’s even better on Sony platforms than on the PC, and it’s $15. According to reports, the Vita version has some technical issues, such as popping music and stuttering when shifting between scenes in fast-forward, but they are by all accounts infrequent and not game-breaking. The PS4 version, however, has no technical flaws to speak of. It does have cross-save, though, so taking your save between the PS4 and Vita version is possible, which is certainly useful for commutes.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita; Publisher: Devolver Digital; Developer: PigeoNation, Inc. (original), Mediatonic (remake); Players: 1; Released: July 21, 2015 ; MSRP: $14.95
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Hatoful Boyfriend provided by the game’s publisher.