Review by Johnny Cairo
"Continuity Is Power"
Ah, high school! Four years of my life whittled away sleeping, snorting junk, and doing occasional paperwork. While such an environment might be stifling to your average teenage male’s sexual development, there is the exact opposite problem in Japan. Daisuke, our protagonist, attends an elitist private school, and he faces a rather unique crisis—all the girls he meets are young, foxy, and stacked, with very few exceptions. At the tender age of 18 he’s already been kicked out of his parents’ house and lives in an economy-sized pad nearby, and he’s horny as a jackrabbit. With all his vital materials handy (a penis and a jar of Astroglide), Daisuke sets off on an epic quest to get laid, all the while trying to succeed in school and not make an ass of himself in front of the girls. This is like juggling a dozen eggs with one hand.
Your only male friend is an unlucky soul named Kazuhiko, who is somehow twice as oversexed as you are. The first thing he does, even, is ask you for 3,000 yen so he can show you the best way to peep into the girls’ locker room (but he does mention saving up to buy “Final Oxymoron VII”… yuk yuk). I didn’t exactly feel like giving him the money, but I was manipulated into doing it by the game, and even after I clicked “Hell No”, Daisuke caved in and handed over the ¥. No shame. Beefcake Boy Toshio, whose barrel-like chest visibly sticks out like he’s the subject of a WWII army recruitment poster, harasses you in the hallway. He’s just in the narrative to serve as a counterpoint to Daisuke’s shy, introverted nature, thusly he must brag about his latest conquests and stress that he has sex frequently without the aid of his right hand.
Whoops, it’s time for Biology class with the ravishing (and available) Ms. Yumi Matsumiya! Daisuke doesn’t seem to learn much in her class, what with all the time he spends staring at her knockers and earnestly discussing their astounding breadth and width with himself. After class he’s confronted by the azure-haired biologist, who tells her lascivious pupil that he needs to haul ass if he wants to pass, no joshing. Tragically it’s his last year at the Snotty Private School and apparently he spent too much time shooting up in the restroom when he should have been learning about cosine ratios and mitochondria. This explains his typical befuddled response whenever confronted by a looker; during this vital parent/student conference I rolled my eyes as far back as they could go when Daisuke audibly muttered something about jumping into Ms. Matsumiya’s breasts, and I couldn’t stop him. He could be the brightest academic whiz and still act like an otaku whenever speaking to a member of the opposite sex.
Yes, you can sort of mold Daisuke into whoever you want, be it a studious bookworm, a sophisticated man about town, a slacker, a pretentious artist, or a manly jock (Toshio will still pick on you, the bastard). At all times a series of gauges on the right margin display your current Appearance, Physical Strength, Knowledge and “Art”. Some are useless (such as the Horniness/“Passion” Meter and Fatigue), but skillful management of the main four is essential for would-be wankers. It’s pretty easy to handle all that stuff—you can establish a schedule every day, with up to three different activities during Morning, Evening, and Night. Working your part-time construction job boosts physical strength and fattens your billfold, for example.
Unfortunately having great affinity towards one department doesn’t yield many rewards, if any at all. Day by day, Daisuke must go through his everyday routine, and running into girls is a game of chance; a matter of simply being in the right place at the right time. Unlike my usual real-life tactics of meeting girls by hiding in the women’s restroom at the mall and leaping from the stalls (always good for a court summons or two), I wasn’t used to, like, talking to potential sperm receptacles on the street. Daisuke’s tongue is nimble as a cobra’s, and can often cause once-standoffish girls to swoon like they just drank a gallon of absinthe. There’s lots of wily doubletalk going on, as the parade of strikingly gorgeous (and available!) girls processes across your screen.
What surprised me the most was the amount of variation present in the first-rate character designs (for hentai, anyhow). Just the fact that their faces looked different was enough to shock me, mainly because I was fresh from “playing” through Chain where you were fellated by the same druggie over and over again. As you would expect, all but one of them is built like Cinderella’s Castle, and they don’t vary in terms of body size/structure; the real effort went into their lifelike expressions. The brash, obnoxious girl shoots you wild glances, but some subtle facial cues also hint that there are some stinky skeletons in her walk-in closet. The bookish girl from a rich family will gaze into your eyes with some crazy mixture of longing, snobbishness, and desperation—perhaps due to the fact that her dad’s a dickweed who forbids her to have sex until she’s married to the inbred anus-faced son of one of his wealthy CEO buddies. Agony!
Each of the ten or so girls is accompanied by their own theme, using the popular leitmotif style of scoring. While you’re listening to a mere BGM file, the music is actually good and can help enunciate certain idiosyncrasies of their characters. Brash Obnoxious Girl is accompanied by a, jangling, jazzy theme with a mournful bass line. The buxom captain of the school’s swim team enters with an up-tempo “sports” theme that sounds like it’s straight out of a Rocky picture. The stunningly bashful art student’s theme is more like a funeral dirge than anything else. There’s actually some memorable stuff here, mainly during emotional events in each of the many subplots.
All of the co-ed vixens carry with her enough emotional baggage to derail an Amtrak train, and as you delve deeper into relationships with them, their individual stories will unfurl like wads of sweaty gym socks. While some of the emotional grapplings are grating and simplistic, others are actually elaborate tales that could have been made into quickie hentai games by themselves. After a few rolls in the hay with a certain character, you’ll be caught in an elaborate kidnapping/ransom scheme culminating in a tense showdown with the hostage taker right before the cavalry swarms in. While not quite achieving the incredible emotional “pull” of good old Kana Little Sister, the denouements of a couple of these stories were genuinely touching. This would not have been possible if the characters weren’t cardboard as in most other hentai— even your annoying friend is likable in his own way.
…And what would be the use of having likable, attractive characters in a game unless you showed them splayed out on a couch, totally starkers? You’re not getting away without proper titillation, buster. After a few run-ins with a girl, they will either make hilariously overt passes at you or say something vague and blush a deep shade of crimson before running off. Now’s the time to zero in for the kill! Bump into your quarry again, and if they’re ready to hit the sack they’ll make appropriate gestures. Daisuke, our unlikely Lothario, is all too eager to stick it to ‘em—curiously you have the option of backing out of a lay at the last second, which will usually send them off dejected and weeping openly. If you happen to be a Eunuch this feature might come in handy. At any rate, if you happen to be a Eunuch and are playing a hentai game, I suggest you turn to self-mutilation to get your kicks instead.
A picture of your target lying prone on a bed or other flat surface fills the screen. Text zooms by, usually consisting of Daisuke’s thoughts (“Wow, what a fox! Look, there’s the Eiffel Tower in my trousers!”) and sparse dialog, which usually never progresses beyond simple grunts. The character might later move to a prostrate position, affording you an up-close look at her inner workings. After some time, the dialog moves into brainless banality. The most profound line is either “UUUNGH” or “GGGGHHHN” in this case. Then gallons—literally gallons-- of “man juice” shoot haphazardly through the air and splatter against the wall, the ceiling, your partner, and the window of a plane cruising overhead at 10,000 feet. Wow, that was the payoff? It was more entertaining trying to get them into bed than actually doing the deed once you have them.
I really grew to like the magenta-haired rebel who showed me her knickers when we first met and never looked back since. I know this because she told me after I bathed her in my bodily fluids. I’ll be the first person to confess that I also banged the class valedictorian and my best friend’s underage sister. She may have looked young for her age and might have attended “junior college”, but that didn’t stop me from giving her body a once-, a twice-, and quite possibly a thrice-over. Strangely they all submitted to hysterical sobbing after they got fire-hosed in the face and confessed their undying love for me. They’ll fall for Daisuke while he’s channeling the Tom Jones spirit for sundry ridiculous reasons. One of them knew I was The One when I rammed my elbow against her boob after dropping a stack of papers. She also happens to be the sexiest cartoon in the game. Bad news for anyone taking this as a serious “dating sim”—the random fondling of breasts is NOT a good way to meet girls.
Many reviewers here have praised this as a flawless combination of two weird Japanese subgenres: the dating sim and the hentai game. As a dating sim this is curiously flat; there’s no challenge trying to maintain relationships with these wenches. In fact, you don’t really get an official girlfriend until the end of the game where you can take your pick amongst the girls you’ve taken advantage of to see a risqué “ending” picture before the closing credits. As a hentai game there’s way too much talking and planning for the gamer who would rather play Fatal Relations with its wall-to-wall sex sure to please any fetishist. This leaves True Love in some kind of limbo between the two genres, unsure of what it wants to be.
Granted, this game has many good qualities, but if you take out the unerotic sex scenes you’re left with an extremely dumbed-down dating/real-life simulation with little to nothing in the way of rewards. Just pretend that it’s all buildup toward getting a girlfriend and you’ll probably enjoy it much more. Keep on stalkin’!
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/24/03
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