Heart de Roommate (PC) review
"While itís true that there is nudity, thatís not so much the focus as you might anticipate. You probably expect Yusuke to sneak around peeking in bathrooms when girls are bathing, spying on shower stalls at school, and maybe raping a few females for good measure. Thatís just not the focus, though, and Heart de Roommate is better for it."
At one point or another, most guys of a certain age and disposition have wondered what it might be like to live as the only guy in an all-girls dormitory. Those who might ask themselves such questions at length are almost certainly the same sort that would buy hentai, and so it is that Heart de Roommate exists to provide scintillating illumination. Itís an idea with the opportunity for weirdness, comedy, heartbreak and sex. The developers knew that well, and the result is a game that actually lives up to the promise of its premise.
Yusuke Sawada is a young man with a string of bad luck. As the game opens, he has just been forced by his parents to attend a special school in which he has no interest. To make matters worse, his wonderful guardians didnít think to secure him a room at the available dormitory, which is now full up. Relief appears briefly in the form of a nearby apartment complex, only that shelter literally goes up in flames. As he stands watching the blaze, Yusuke is attacked by an energetic young girl who thinks he is a panty thief. Heís not, and as he explains it to her he soon realizes that sheís a former classmate of his, a girl named Asumi Hirota who moved away when both of them were young.
The realization gives him the in he needs, and soon heís living with three girls in a dormitory with a strict rule against such inhabitants. His place of residence is a closet and his reluctant roommates are the self-assured Asumi, the mysterious Marumu and a girl with large breasts named Tomoe. As the game progresses, heíll meet plenty of other colorful characters, including a cat named Toshibo that spends much time under the same roof and a group of girls across the hall known as the ďTrio de Bitches.Ē
Before I go any further, it seems important to note that this is not your typical hentai title. While itís true that there is nudity, thatís not so much the focus as you might anticipate. You probably expect Yusuke to sneak around peeking in bathrooms when girls are bathing, spying on shower stalls at school, and maybe raping a few females for good measure. Thatís just not the focus, though, and Heart de Roommate is better for it. Instead of the norm, what you get is an interesting and even heart-warming glimpse of life at a fictional Japanese dormitory.
Each of the girls has her own issues to sort through, and it will fall to Yusuke to help them do so. Everyone pitches in, so the feeling as you read through hours of text is that youíre slowly going from the role of unwelcome outsider to treasured friend. The progression is pleasant and youíll get to enjoy genre staples as you go. For example, Yusuke will be called upon to squash cockroaches and youíll hear lots of heart-rending music during scenes of emotional turmoil. There are also the usual backdrops, drawn with excellent detail that really gives each location the personality it needs. Cutscenes, while not animated in the strictest sense of the word, utilize their artwork in a free-flowing form that feels extremely polished.
Heart de Roommate goes beyond solid presentation, though, because its story is one thatís worth telling. There were times when I played that the game felt like itís more squarely aimed at anyone who doesnít mind the notion of nudity--boy or girl--since thereís so much depth to each of the characters. Yusuke is likeable but not perfect, while his need to dress up as a girl provides numerous moments of uncomfortable interaction with the gameís supporting cast. Asumi is so determined to be the groupís leader that she overreacts to anyone who questions her authority. Then thereís Tomoe, with more to her story than just a pair of amazing breasts--though the other girls arenít afraid to point out her assets at opportune moments. Finally, the irrepressible Marumu is easily enough dismissed as comic relief, until you get glimpses of her that reveal so much more.
If it sounds like Iíve fallen in love with the plot and its cast, then perhaps itís because in a way I have. Hentai developers have tried to create an enjoyable, sexual environment in their games before and since, but you almost always have to wade through content that will make you squirm. Here, thatís kept to a minimum without dropping altogether the idea of girls showing off their carefully-drawn bodies.
Because of that, Heart de Roommate makes an excellent introduction to the genre. Youíll have to wade through a lot of text before you see so much as a nipple, but the substitution--a plot you can really sink your teeth into, one that works to relax you while entertaining you--is more than worth it. I donít want to say anything more for fear of ruining plot twists and taking away some of the pleasant surprises, but I will say this: Heart de Roommate should be considered a must-have for anyone interested in seeing the genreís best without feeling like a complete pervert.
Staff review by Jason Venter (August 31, 2006)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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