Operation Backlog Completion 2018
Dec 282015
 

Holiday-StarLast year, Hatoful Boyfriend amazed me by being actually a really good game instead of the joke it appeared to be on the surface.

After that, I bought the tie-in manga set in Anghel’s AU, backed the Kickstarter project for character plushies, and waited patiently for the sequel, Holiday Star, to come out on Steam.

I’ve now played Holiday Star. Does it live up to the original?

First, Holiday Star both is and is not a sequel. It’s set during the same time period as the first game, and BBL hasn’t happened. Think of how the routes in Hatoful Boyfriend worked. If you followed Ryouta’s path, it was a different story than Nageki’s path. The two routes can’t both occur in one timeline. This is also true of BBL… and Holiday Star.

At the same time, Holiday Star is written as a sequel. It expects the player to know the events of the first game. In particular, if you don’t know the story from the BBL route, much of Holiday Star’s most significant moments will be lost on you. It also spoils details from the first game.

In short, consider Holiday Star a game-length additional route that should only be played after the Hatoful Boyfriend routes, as a perfect companion to the BBL route.

Also, it isn’t a dating sim like Hatoful Boyfriend was. It is a visual novel, split across multiple episodes. So think more BBL in terms of structure. The main story is split across 4 episodes.

Holiday-Star-Ace-AttorneyThe first two episodes have very silly tones, with so much fourth-wall-breaking and ridiculousness it feels weird even for the sequel to a game in which you dated birds.

On the other hand, there are numerous shout-outs and references, including one to Ace Attorney that becomes a running gag. The protagonist occasionally shouts, “I object!” and “Hold on!” (with inferred finger-pointing) much to the alarm of her classmates.

Amid the absurdity of these incidents, you’ll catch a few darker glimpses into the characters’ backstories, especially if you’re familiar with BBL. Still, these first two episodes might feel a little too jokey and bland (though appropriate for this time of year, as they are set around Christmas and New Year’s), without enough to set the game apart.

In the third and fourth episodes, however, Holiday Star truly shines.

Not only does the third episode truly kick the game’s main plot into action, it also changes the art style.

Holiday-Star-The-KingFrom there on, the game incorporates a more surreal, storybook-like art style that really works well with the change in setting (the “Holiday Star” itself) and its storytelling.

Holiday Star doesn’t have an abrupt shift like the BBL route, but instead follows a more gradual path. Its humor remains, but becomes tempered by a stronger story. More serious elements emerge.

It’s hard to say more without spoilers, but let’s just say Holiday Star doesn’t lack the emotional impact of its predecessor.

What I really love about the story, though, is its subtlety. Some aspects are presented directly, but others aren’t. They’re left to implication. Holiday Star’s darkest, most twisted revelation is never said outright, but when all the pieces are put together… wow.

The game also has several mini-episodes. Some are funny, some are set in an alternate universe where the Hatoful House incident never occurred, and one even lets you see each bird’s human form if you choose.

Human or partridge, Shuu is as twisted as ever.

Human or partridge, Shuu is as twisted as ever.

A gallery unlocks pictures as you play through the story, including some not used in the game, and finally there are 6 “radio” segments where the characters answer questions from fans. All are worth checking out.

Holiday Star is a shorter game than Hatoful Boyfriend, taking me 6 hours compared to the original’s 8. However, since it is a visual novel rather than a dating sim, there is much less repetitiveness. (Sadly, it is also buggier than the original, though it should be straightened out soon.)

Holiday Star was very special. It doesn’t carry the shock and impact of Hatoful Boyfriend, but it’s enjoyable and intriguing. I can’t recommend it to someone who hasn’t played the original, but if you have? Then absolutely get Holiday Star.

Have any questions about Hatoful Boyfriend or Holiday Star? Let me know in the comments and I’ll answer to the best of my ability!


Buy Holiday Star from Steam

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