Hatoful Boyfriend was one of the stranger games I played this year. Both a silly tale of a human girl going to school with, and consequently falling in love with, pigeons, and a striking commentary on visual novels as a whole, it managed to parody many aspects of the genre while still creating a tale uniquely its own. It was one of the more outlandish but memorable experiences I’ve had with the genre.
Holiday Star is the sequel to Hatoful Boyfriend, though that seems like a bit of a misnomer. It doesn’t follow any set canonical path, and does away with most of the “true route” revelations that happened in the first title, though not completely. It’s difficult to place exactly where, when or why most of this happens outside of it being the Christmas of Hiyoko’s second year at St. Pigeonations.
That ends up reflecting my feelings on Holiday Star, which through two routes in and more to go has failed to grab me in the same way the prior game did. Holiday Star comes off as less of a sequel and more like fan service, with the commentary and parody ditched in exchange for more lighthearted “meme” humor.
There are once again several routes through the game, though they’re not related to any specific bird-boyfriend and so far don’t seem to lead to an ultimate path. They act more like vignettes, offering different perspectives and side-stories of potential Christmas tales. In one, strange human-pigeon hybrids are ransacking the town for Christmas presents. In another, broody bad-pigeon Anghel returns for a darker Christmas story.
The writing is goofy and reminiscent of Hatoful Boyfriend, but with a little more emphasis on the zany over the “this will mean something at some point.” There’s tanks, lab experiments, epic showdowns and the typical cross-dressing pigeon segment. There’s even a few Phoenix Wright references, which made me laugh a bit more than I thought they could have. The best parts of this title are when they’re humorous and filled with holiday cheer, but it’s when the genuine laughs fade there’s a few problems that become fairly transparent.
It’s enjoyable at times, and certainly gives you more of the same, but fails to do anything above or beyond that. It’s purely more pigeon stories set in the universe of Hatoful Boyfriend, but you never really get the same twists and turns that happen in some of the main routes of the original game. Just some Christmas gags and holiday cheer, with enough in-jokes and references to keep the Hatoful faithful satiated. It’s hard to tell what’s “canonical” and what is just a fantasy side-story, so you end up feeling like you’re reading crazy “what-if’s” rather than things that pertain to the overarching Hatoful story. Not that the canon was ever taken that seriously, but it got hard to figure out why certain plot points or telltale nods to the audience were actually important.
Presentation-wise, it’s largely the same game. There’s a few “radio dramas” that add a bit more to the story, but other than that, what you see is what you get – follow the routes in front of you, make choices (none of them affect endings) and move on to the next.
If you’re dying for more Hatoful, or really want a Christmas-themed visual novel about pigeons, love and anti-material rifles, then this will feed that need for a short time. Otherwise, it’s hard to recommend this even to someone who was interested in the original, much less those who never played it. For the asking price of $10, though, it isn’t much to ask, so if you really do crave more Hatoful than you could do much more wrong with the price of a couple cups of coffee.