Hatsukare Renai Debut Sengen was supposed to be a filler game to keep me busy until Fire Emblem Echoes came out next week, but now I can’t stop playing it. I was only going to do one route and then drop it, but at this rate I’ll end up doing at least three, maybe four. I’m sorry FE, but Hatsukare scored a critical hit on my heart.
And the nice thing is I don’t have to write a lot about gameplay or stories because it’s just a visual novel about a girl who wants a boyfriend in time for the fireworks show at the end of the term. It’s like Tokimeki Memorial without the stat-raising. No stress, no story, no great angst, no great goal, just stalk guys until they like you and away you go.
I picked this game because it’s by FuRyu Corporation. I love them for their Unchained Blades dungeon crawlers, but I’ve also played their pseudo-visual novels like Tsukumonogatari and Last Bullet and enjoyed them, so this was the natural next step. While I normally shy away from visual novels, there are a few conditions under which I might enjoy one. I’ve stated them before, but they bear repeating here:
-Characters I can stand
-At least one bishie I want to pursue
-Short, snappy dialog and fast-moving scenes
-Affection-based, not flag-based. No bad end because I missed one random scene near the beginning.
-Less telling, more showing. No lengthy descriptions of pounding hearts and golden hair shimmering in the sunlight.
See, it’s not that complicated, is it? Hatsukare ticks all those simple requirements. Plus I could see myself getting with 4 out of the 6 dateable guys (the other two just need to die, srsly). And the main character has a cool older brother who is not dateable. That’s a good thing. I mean it should go without saying that you can’t date your brother, but you just never know with these otome games.
The Story, such as it is
Our main character’s name is Yui and she’s in her second year of high school. She muddled through her first year in boring fashion, but now she wants to spice up her life. To that end she started a part-time job and joined the student council, and now her next goal is to find a boyfriend. Or actually it’s not explicitly her goal, but she does think it would be nice to date someone.
And if the legend that a couple that kisses under a tree while watching the annual fireworks show will be bound together for life is true… then she’d better stop wasting time with these childish high school boys and wait until she’s older and more mature so she can find a committed man with a proper job and a good personality and… Yui? Yui?! Are you listening to me?! Yui!!!! …It’s no good, she’s off like a shot. =_=
The Gameplay, such as it is
Wander around the school yard before, during and after school hitting on hunks. There are vague rumors about students actually studying once in a while but they’re just that: rumors. At first all characters are on a “common” route, but as you do romantic events some guys get shunted onto the Friend route and others onto the Romance route. Eventually the guy with the highest affection for you at the end of the game will be the last man standing, or so I assume. I haven’t made it that far yet.
Hatsukare does do something slightly interesting with the “Dokkyun” conversation system. When you talk to your school mates, you occasionally pick up conversation topics. For example a friend might mention how she spent the Golden Week holidays. That gives you the conversation topic “How did you spend your holidays?” Every once in a while you can initiate a conversation with a guy that looks like this:
Oniichan included for illustrative purposes only. This is where those topics you picked up come into play. Ply him with questions, bring up interesting topics. Ask questions he likes and avoid topics he hates and eventually he’ll progress to the Dokidoki stage.
At this stage you can ask even more questions or make romantic overtures. E.g. call him by his first name, make sexy eyes at him, touch his body, etc. All completely worksafe, I assure you. Rub him the right way and he’ll move into Dokkyun stage. He even says “Dokkyun” out loud. It’s VERY VERY STUPID. VERY.
But Dokkyun stage means you get an affection boost and a one-on-one date with the guy, which is too good to pass up no matter how stupid he sounds when he says “Dokkyun.” Seriously Furyu, what were you thinking?!
Yah anyway, that’s all you have to do in Hatsukare. Talk to a boy on the map, talk to him in Dokkyun conversations, over and over and over again until his affection is high enough at the end of the game and then you win. I think. As I said I haven’t gotten that far yet, so some unforeseen gameplay elements or complications might yet arise.
The Candidates for Love
At this point I’m seriously pursuing one guy: Kariya-sempai. I’m half-heartedly toying with two other guys: my childhood friend Kakeru and resident anime otaku Shun. And I have passionate but naive freshman Aoto saved for a future playthrough. I have a feeling he’s going to be fun. Let’s take them from the top.
Kariya – Met him when he almost ran over my dog on his motorbike.
Got closer to him under the pretext of apologizing.
He’s a pretty nice guy underneath, one of those “misunderstood delinquent” characters.
It’s implied that his family is violently dysfunctional. I don’t wanna deal with crazy in-laws.
Doesn’t seem too bright, since he rides around on the bike without a helmet.
You can catch him singing to himself sometimes. It’s very cute.
He also likes cooking and sweets. And he has dreams where I’m actually a guy.
…And he offers to let me dress up in his clothes.
I don’t know, Kariya-sempai, I just don’t know.
Kakeru: Yui’s childhood friend.
Ex-soccer star who broke his leg in first year and just rejoined the team.
Bummed out about his poor performance recently, but of course I’m going to help him through that with the power of lurve <3
All-around perfect guy that everybody likes. I like him too.
The problem with Kakeru is that he’s been friends with Yui so long that their relationship is super-close right from the start.
He doesn’t feel worth pursuing since he’s virtually mine already.
But he’s such a nice guy I’ll date him anyway.
Plus there’s always the possibility that the writers will throw in some kind of twist.
Shunichiro: Anime and game otaku.
His favorites seem to be Gundam (a.k.a. Dansam), Dragon Quest (a.k.a. Dragon Fantasy) and any kind of fighting game.
His subplot involves entering a fighting game tournament together with Yui, who has never played a game before but is somehow a natural prodigy.
He has too many hangers-on and ‘friends’ who just want to use him, I don’t like that.
I don’t like his voice either.
He often makes game references that I get but Yui doesn’t, which completely kills the mood. Rrrgh.
While I share his love of games, he comes across as a very one-note character. Will Yui always be third in his life behind video games and anime?
Again there’s the potential for an unusual turn of events, so I’ll date him with that hope in mind.
Aoto: Eh. I’m not interested enough to do his route right now. I get the feeling his route will be either super stupid or super awesome, I won’t know which one until I try. I don’t usually like kouhai characters, but it’s good to try something new every once in a while.
The way forward
Kariya-sempai will notice me. After that I really want to get Kakeru’s route. Shun is optional, Aoto is very much optional, I’d like to do some friendship events with oniichan… I’ve been doing romantic events for all three guys at the same time, so I don’t know if the game will stay fresh long enough for me to do all that, but I’ll give it my best shot! And when I’m done with all this romanticking I’ll probably be craving a good ARPG again. In fact I’m craving one already, wat do? One game at a time, see you in a bit!