Review by Ecchifan
"A Bold and Innovative Game!"
Ever since the English release of the highly regarded Private Nurse, North American PC gamers have been clamoring for more English translated games from Angel Smile. G-Collections.com answered the call by distributing Heart de Roommate, in which you play the role of Yusuke, a luckless wimp of a high school senior who cannot find housing at the school he's transferring to. While pondering his options on the street, he runs into a childhood friend and bully, Asumi Hirota, who is blackmailed into agreeing to let him stay at her dorm room, with her beautiful and gentle roommate Tomoe Katsuragi, and with her mysterious and young looking roommate Marumu Ogamayama. Unfortunately for Yusuke, Asumi is residing at an all female dorm where boys are strictly forbidden. So not only does he have a bed in the closet, Yusuke also has to dress up as a female student whenever he enter and leave the dorm. Will he be able to keep his residence a secret long enough to graduate? Or will he be kicked out of school?
When you start playing Heart de Roommate, the first thing you'll notice is that the game is divided into 26 mini episodes, like an anime show. In every episode, there is a short prologue, and a short advance notice of the next episode. Out of the three dozen English bishojo games played, this Reviewer has never come across such a format in a game. In this regard, Heart de Roommate is innovative. There are a number of positives and negatives to utilizing this format. First, this format is an unique gaming experience. Second, having 26 episodes mean that the game itself is lengthened. However, like any regular show, Heart de Roommate is filled with fillers; there are many episodes that do nothing to develop the storyline. Furthermore, the starts and stops as the game moves from one episode to the next deflates any emotional buildup experienced during the game. This is the equivalent of a player in a basketball game streaking toward the basket for a lay up, only to be called for a traveling violation and thereby killing the momentum.
Another notable aspect of this game is the strong balance among the three female characters' storylines; each character stands on equal footing with the other two in terms of depth of the storylines. This is usually not the case; a good example of storyline imbalance is Angel Smile's Private Nurse, where Maria's storyline is longer than the other two characters' combined. As a result, Heart de Roommate is surprisingly long even if you disregard the anime show format, and takes more than a half dozen hours to finish, even with the message skim mode.
The Music soundtrack is not particularly inspirational. The opening song is lackluster. However this weakness is tempered by the strength of the voice acting for the female characters. And, in all fairness, the sound track does contain some good songs.
Graphics is another interesting point of Heart de Roommate. The game has a strong focus on comedic episodes, and sharpens this focus through the heavy use of Super Deformed modes for the characters. And as poor Yusuke is often beat up by an angry Asumi, stars pop up on the screen. Some people will like this style of graphics, and others will hate it. Furthermore, because the moral message of this game is friendship, there are very, very little sex scenes in this game; if you're among the hardcore sex crowd, you'll be very disappointed with Heart de Roommate.
Gameplay is a mixed bag. Controls are the basic left click or ''enter'' key to advance the text. There is a skim message mode, and the speed that the text is displayed can be adjusted as well. The start menu has an Appendix option leading to the soundtrack, the CGs, and an ''Album,'' which turned out to be a menu to replay episodes of the game. While the episodes album is really well organize, it is regrettable that the CGs are not organized at all but instead just lumped together with no separation by character.
The game has some replay value. Each girl's route will lead to some differences in the later episodes. And once all three girl's normal routes are played out, Asumi's true ending will be unlocked and accessible in the Appendix. In addition, two side characters' route can also be unlocked and accessed in the Appendix.
Heart de Roommate will delight fans of light-hearted comedy. While Angel Smile's decision to use a 26-episodes format didn't pan out, they should be applauded and praised for their willingness to experiment and to expand the boundaries of Bishojo gaming. Heart de Roommate certainly deserves some room in your English bishojo game collection.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/16/04, Updated 03/16/04
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