Review by Ragn_Charran

"Don't let appearances fool you - this slapstick romantic comedy has some surprising depth!"

First of all, it must be said that Heart de Roommate is an adult game with graphic sexual content. It should not be played by anyone underage or who is offended by depictions of sexual activity.

Imagine you're stuck in a new town, where you don't know anyone, and you have no place to stay. Whatever will you do? Well, I doubt it would be dress up like a girl so you can move into a dorm with your old childhood nemesis and her two roommates, but when you're Yusuke Sawada, the most effeminate man the world has ever known, that's the ideal solution. Play the theme from Three's Company, things are about to get crazy!

Characters and Story: 8/10

At first glance, Heart de Roommate seems little more than a slapstick farce – the scenario is ridiculous, the hero a pansy, the women rehashes of common stereotypes, and the entire game a simulation of a Japanese television comedy. And while all of this is true, as one progresses through the game a lot more depth begins to shine through. Though each woman is based on a stereotype – Asumi the bossy little snot, Tomoe the overly nice sweetheart, and Marumu the strange and mysterious wild card – Yusuke's time with them, whether as lover or friend, scratches below the surface to reveal well rounded characters with reasons for their outer personalities. As for Yusuke, a key part of the story comes from watching him develop from a little boy in a grown-up body to acting like a real man. And while the bizarre scenario feeds the first half of the game, once Yusuke finds love and the slapstick has played itself out, a much more romantic theme, with a very serious side story, dominates the second portion.

Notice, however, that I said nothing good about the simulation of an anime series. While it is an interesting concept – complete with an intro sequence, title and commercial break screens, “coming up next” teasers, and two distinct “seasons” with a cliffhanger ending – it often interferes with the smooth flow of the story or, much worse, is used to provide filler, from a strange third-wall episode where the “actresses” discuss their characters and the progress of the story to a pointless “from the cat's perspective” retrospective episode. As well, the zany comedy is occasionally carried too far, or used to slip comic relief into a section of the story that doesn't actually need it.

Despite this, the bottom line is that Heart de Roommate is a very touching game that really captures the feel of first love, and first times, in all its confused, bumbling glory. Yusuke's feelings for whichever woman he falls for, and the resulting awkward moments coming from the shyness, trepidation, and simple innocence of both sides made an “old-timer” like me remember what it was like to first learn what love was all about. And whether the route ending is happy or sad, not once does Yusuke express any regret for following the path down which his heart led him, nor should he. The romance feels real, the development feels real, the pain feels real, and most of all the uncertainty that goes with it all feels real.

Gameplay: 4/10

Heart de Roommate really makes no effort to step beyond the standard “answer right and make a woman fall in love with you" format of the bishojo genre, but it does at least make more use of the format that some games. Some of the choices are relatively complex, having three possible answers with no clear guide to which is ”right”, while other choices have more effect on the immediate plot than just having the woman smile or frown – for example, some scenes can be completely cut out depending on your answer. Scoring more points with me is the fact that, as a player, you actually get to choose which woman Yusuke falls for, rather than the game just picking the one with whom you have the highest score. You can even choose to not love any of them (but don't expect much after choosing that answer)! Unfortunately, once you have chosen a lover the choices all but dry up, so the second half of the game is basically an illustrated novel. However, this “novel” has no typos or fits of engrish, making it a relatively easy and enjoyable read.

One odd thing of note is that the three bonus episodes – one an epilogue to one of the main routes and two where Yusuke falls for a woman outside of the roommates – are not accessed directly through normal gameplay. Though you must answer questions correctly for them to appear, the game will not take you to them. Rather, once the correct prerequisite answers have been given, the scenes appear as bonus episodes in the album section of the appendix (scene library), and must be played from there.

Graphics: 9/10

Heart de Roommate really stands out visually from other games with its own unique style. While the standard “standing and chatting” mode is similar to other games, the women are very beautiful and relatively realistic (for anime, at least), lacking the balloon breasts and wasp waists common in the genre. However, the special scene portraits are breathtaking. Compared to other bishojos, Heart de Roommate is like upgrading your monitor from 256 colour to 32-bit, making use of both richly painted full-colour art and minimalist monochrome where appropriate. And while I normally hate chibified expressions and over-cartooned scenes, Heart de Roommate uses them well, reserving them for comedic scenes where the style fits the over-the-top zany action. In short, the art direction is superb, with excellent artwork to back it up.

Sound: 8/10

Very well done. In keeping with the “sitcom” theme of the game, each “season” starts with an opening sequence played out to a very fitting theme song. Like the graphics, the in-game music varies in keeping with the scene, with manic music for slapstick scenes and soft and quiet music for romantics scenes. As for voices, the five different tracks are very clear and well acted, are free of any censorship of words banned in Japan, and can be individually turned on or off.

Sexual Content: 5/10

Heart de Roommate is a romantic comedy, not a sexual one. While there are uncensored sex scenes drawn in the detailed graphic style praised above, they are few and far between compared to most other bishojos, and do not explore any special territory, nor is there any sort of “harem” scenario. While this suits the first love theme of the game and the pace of the story, players strictly looking for sex will be fairly disappointed.

Replay Value: 3/10

Unfortunately, Heart de Roommate's emulation of a TV sitcom greatly limits the replay value of the game, as the main plot remains virtually unchanged between routes – regardless of which roommate Yusuke chooses, the same events still happen, with only a few scenes (like the first date) actually changing beyond some minor dialogue updates. (I will say, however, that this also keeps character personalities, based on their actions, consistent between routes, a concept many games ignore.) The only real bonus to going through all routes is learning each woman's secret. Why is Asumi afraid of something she thinks Yusuke knows? Why is Tomoe so timid? Why is Marumu so detached? Each route answers each woman's question. Fortunately, having viewed dialogue in one route counts as seeing it in others (meaning the skip function will let you blow through it), and if there is a particular scene you wish to revisit, Heart de Roommate lets you revisit any episode, not just the sex scenes, from the archive menu.

Overall: 8/10

Heart de Roommate is definitely not for everyone – its initial focus on slapstick comedy and television emulation will drive many away, and the end focus on first love, rather than limitless sex, will disappoint those just looking for some easy hentai. But for anyone looking for a romance sim, Heart de Roommate will deliver in a beautifully illustrated fashion. I fully recommend this outstanding game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/02/07

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