Confession: I actually played this last year and meant to review it, but then I decided to wait until the holidays, then the holidays came and I forgot about it, but now that the Hatoful Boyfriend Second Semester plushies are on the way (which, yes, I backed because I can’t get enough of these birbs) and it’s close enough to the holiday season, I have an excuse to review this game again.
The original Hatoful Boyfriend was a dating sim with a weird premise that concealed a thrill ride (and tearjerker) of a visual novel. Holiday Star does away with the dating sim mechanics and opts for a pure visual novel. There are very few choices and making the wrong choice results in instant death, so it’s practically a kinetic novel (that is, a visual novel with no choices, just a story that you click through).
If the original game is a novel, Holiday Star is more of an anthology. There are four main chapters. The first two involve wacky hijinks as Hiyoko and co. attempt to capture thieves who have been stealing Christmas trees, while the second focuses on Anghel. The third and fourth episodes are a bit more serious, focusing on a journey to a strange land ruled by The King who is reluctant to let our heroes leave. There are also a number of short episodes in the format of a radio show, and shrine visits with the main birds (and for those of you who like their human forms, there’s an option to view the shrine events with the main cast in human form).
There’s not much more I can say without spoiling the entire thing. Suffice it to say that you absolutely must play the original (including and especially Bad Boys Love) for Holiday Star to make sense. Fortunately, the game is short, it took me around nine hours to play the whole thing and get all the achievements.
The major trigger you need to look out for is suicide. If you are familiar with the aforementioned Bad Boys Love route from the first game (which again, is required to understand what’s going on here) you will already be familiar with this plot point (which is technically murder). Holiday Star goes into more detail, expanding on the characters involved and describing the victim’s last moments. It’s a heartbreaking, horrifying scene that is not played for laughs.
If you have played the original then you’ve probably already played this. If you haven’t played Hatoful Boyfriend, I highly recommend it. It’s easily the weirdest dating sim I’ve ever played, and although its spawned lots of imitators, most of them focus on the silly premise and have none of Hatoful Boyfriend’s depth.