by Robert Thomas
reviewed on PC
Revisiting the Hatoful World
The original idea for Hatoful Boyfriend was a certainly an interesting one: create a visual novel and dating simulator with pigeons as the characters. Romancing doves and other birds was definitely a unique idea. Now, the sequel Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star keeps the bird series going, with a Christmas themed episodes. Here, it's less about the romance and more about the story of these bird characters in the holidays. Holiday Star definitely has some big shoes to fill in the Hatoful Boyfriend world.
Holidays in a Bird World
Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star assumes you played the first visual novel, so it skips a lot of the explaining of this bizarre world. In the Hatoful Boyfriend world, birds became advanced and you are the only human in an all-pigeon school. Now, it's Christmas time in your bird community. The game takes place over four different Christmas themed scenarios, the first being about a series of Christmas Tree thefts, and then escalating to more serious things from there on. The four campaigns are pretty short, with it only taking about forty minutes to make it through each. To supplement that there are a few 'short episodes', where you take part in a brief story. There's also a 'radio' section, which answers what I think are real fan questions, as a sort of fan-service.
The writing in the first Hatoful Boyfriend was what made it a real treat. Holiday Star is not quite as funny as its precursor, but it still has its moments. Holiday Star is packed with references from visual novels and Japanese culture, so if you're into that, this will be a treat for you. However, it also makes a lot of in-jokes and references to the first game, and avoids explaining much about the characters and setting, further proving it's not for first-timers.
Holiday Star doesn't really do anything to improve the series visually. Like the first, Pigeons are photoshopped onto drawn backgrounds, where they sit still as text scrolls by, though they look slightly better than before. Most of the old returning characters models are re-used, while some of the new characters are drawn by an artist. The music is mostly re-used as well. Some of the songs are arranged from typical Christmas music, which might get a little annoying. All around the music does its job pretty well.
More Like an Expansion
One of the things that's really lacking in Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star is player agency. The first Hatoful Boyfriend gave you some small choices, like what to do during your free days and picking the Bird-Man you wanted to romance. In Holiday Star, you're mostly along for the ride, with only a few, obviously superficial choices along the way. The lack of focus on romance really hurt the game in the end, since that was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the previous Hatoful Boyfriend.
Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star feels more like an expansion-pack or DLC than a full game, though the price point would say otherwise. I can say that if you're a huge fan of the first, you're going to love all the fan service and in-jokes that Holiday Star provides. If you only somewhat liked the first one, you should take into consideration that the game drops most of the 'dating-sim' aspects of the game. If you didn't play Hatoful Boyfriend or didn't like it, this game is in no way for you and should be avoided. Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star is a game that is made just for fans of the first one and does not stand on its own.
Funny writing. Charming visual novel. Plenty of things fans can appreciate.
Doesn't improve on the series much. Fewer choices and less romance.