This Game Has A Lot of Heart
1bitHeart is an adventure JRPG by Miwashiba. The game was originally released for free but Playism has brought 1bitHeart to Steam for easier accessibility with some extra tweaks. Is this game worth your time and money? Or is it just another disappointing Steam indie title?
The game takes place in the year 2222, where a master program oversees people’s everyday life. The player takes the role of Nanashi, an eccentric shut in living with his genius cousin. One day Nanashi stumbles upon a girl named Misane in his bed who claims to have no memories. She urges the reclusive Nanashi to go out and make friends, to which he agrees. From there Nanashi and Misane set out make friends while also stumbling upon a series of hacking incidents.
The story was passable, enough to keep the player invested in the game but nothing to write home about. The game is divided into four chapters, each connecting to Nanashi’s attempts at making a friend, during which he stumbles upon a problem caused by hackers. It feels very episodic, and even predictable at times. However this is offset by 1bitHeart’s short length (my playthrough lasted around 9 hours which included getting every friend), ending just as this formula was beginning to become tiresome.
This all builds up to a climax with one of three endings based on how many friends Nanashi has made. I ended up getting the “best” ending which was still pretty underwhelming. Without spoiling anything the game’s finale left me disappointed. I went in expecting a final conversation sequence with the mastermind but the only interactions I as a player had in the end was pressing button prompts to hack viruses and moving right. It felt like the game didn’t even really need me to be around to finish it; no dialogue options, just some text and a catchy end credits song.
Gameplay and Making Friends
I call this a JRPG but there is no combat, instead players partake in a series of conversations called “Talking Time” that they progress by bringing up topics they’ve picked up or by using a topic to refute another character’s statement. Failing to chose the right topic will damage the player’s health gauge and upon reaching zero the player will receive a game over. I liked the talking time system, it reminded me of the trials in Phoenix Wright and the debates in Danganronpa, but it had enough differences to be its own thing, such as the ability to ask for more information.
At the end of each chapter is a free mode, where Nanashi can walk around the city and make friends. To make friends the player simply has to give them enough presents until it triggers an event. It’s actually a little too easy in my opinion. The only real challenge in making friends is getting the money to buy presents. To earn money you play one of two Tetris mini games but there’s also an in-game secret that gives you enough money to buy all the characters presents. The actual process of making friends is a bit flat but the events themselves can be quite good. I feel like some dialogue options or talking time conversations would have spiced up the friend-making system and added some difficulty to the game.
You Can Never Have Enough Friends
The game has a lot of characters: around 50 that can be befriended. Each of these characters has their own unique quirks and personalities. No two characters were the same with the exception of a set of friends who were intended to be virtually identical. Just don’t expect each friend to be a trope-breaking three dimensional character. Several of these characters appear on other character’s free time events, giving them further development and screen time beyond their own free time events by showing their relationships with other friends. It makes the world feel more alive and connected by showing characters from different areas traveling and interacting with people from other areas. It’s good that a game about making friends has a lot of variety in the differing personalities of those you meet.
The plot centric characters tend to have more personality and development, which makes sense given that they have notable roles in the story. Nanashi himself is a bit of an oddball character that is initially hard to follow but eventually I got a pretty good understanding for him. The other major characters were well written with a few exceptions, such as a delivery boy who I forgot existed for 25% of the game. They weren’t very memorable characters but they were pretty good nonetheless.
A Style All Its Own
Visually 1bitHeart is amazing. The character designs have a flair and style unique to each character while still keeping a consistent style that fits in with the game’s setting. They make sense in the context of the game’s world but have enough variety to where you won’t see too many characters with the same aesthetic. The game uses a lot of lighter colors in its visuals, which the game utilizes quite well to form its own unique visual identity.
1bitHeart has a good soundtrack full of short catchy beats, but I couldn’t hear a lot of them very well in my playthrough. Most of the music is in conversations with the exception of overworld themes. However in conversations the music is quieter, like it’s playing from the room next door. At first I thought it was my speakers that were the problem but even after adjusting it the music was still mostly quiet during conversations.
1bitHeart is by no means perfect but it’s still a pretty fun game. Despite an over-simplified friendmaking system and an ending that lacked energy, the game’s many characters, visuals and soundtrack, and the conversation mechanic kept me invested in the game and it’s world and up until the very end. I enjoyed my time with 1bitHeart and I’d recommend checking it out if you have a chance.
Final score: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: AGM PLAYISM ; Developer: Miwashiba ; Players: 1 ; Released: August 28th, 2017 ;
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail PC copy purchased by the reviewer.