Written by Flamecaster, edited by Otaku Apologist
“Highschool Romance”, developed by AJTilley (Dharker Studio). “Highschool Romance” is an ecchi, slice-of-life visual novel. Take on the life of Shoji, a new student at an all-girls college, trying to find his way through the next school year. Nothing is ever as simple as that, however, as Shoji has a surprise waiting for him. Available on Nutaku’s storefront for $10.00. Released on November 18th, 2015. The game features plenty of sexy teasing and sexual innuendos.
“Highschool Romance” follows the story of a young transfer student, Shoji. As the game’s narrator and protagonist, everything occurs from his perspective, so it’s up to you to steer him on the right path. The game opens with a short introduction, with Shoji giving us some backstory on himself and his life. Shoji’s parents work for the government, and travel a lot. Unfortunately for him, he’s never really had a place to call ‘home’. This year is different though, as Shoji has been accepted into a prestigious boarding school, finally giving him somewhere he can settle in for longer than a few weeks. Initially filled with excitement, his smile is soon gone after he discovers the school is for girls only.
It turns out Shoji’s mother was too busy to pay attention to the enrollment form. With his gender listed as female, Shoji now faces the prospect of another year on the road. Luckily for him, the school’s busty principal, Lea, has a bright idea. Seeing as Shoji is already quite effeminate, she suggests he simply starts dressing up as a girl. It takes quite a bit of coaxing, but the threat of missing out on a year of studies before university is enough to sway him. Lea promises to help him settle in, accepts Shoji for his high academic aptitude. Lea then instructs Selina, a senior at the school, to show Shoji to his (or her) new dorm.
Shoji’s classmates include Selina, and Hoshi, both curvy, virile females with a penchant for penis. Selina runs track, so you can guess she’s the athletic type. She has long, sexy twintails on the shade of blonde. Hoshi is the studious type, very hard-working. Despite wearing glasses and coming off a bit nerdy, she’s established as a high-status female, by her position as the class representative. She’s a top student, but not too prude to lack a sense of humor.
The writing is on par, I felt they gave each character a distinct personality. Anyone unable to suspend their disbelief might struggle a little bit, as some things are outlandish. Of course, it’s no Shakespeare, but there wasn’t much complain about either. The time between characters didn’t feel wooden or forced, though if there was one gripe I had, it would be this: there isn’t really any obvious differentiation between Shoji’s inner monologue and his dialogue. It took a little getting used to. There were times I forgot some things he said were thoughts, and not actual speech. Shoji’s thoughts are italicized to make the reader aware of the situation, but the bold, outlined text easily creates mix-ups. A different color or even quotation marks would’ve been a better solution.
The game takes place primarily in the school, and a few different locations outside of it. As a visual novel, the bulk of entertainment is in the reading. There’s a fair amount of dialogue to plow through, and the player is given a choice on how to proceed every so often. This is very familiar to fans of visual novels, with your decisions shaping the way the story unfolds. Different choice combinations will obviously lead to different outcomes, and new locations.
There are only a small number of paths through “Highschool Romance”. There isn’t an awful lot to choose from. “Highschool Romance” presents the player with two main love interests; Selina and Hoshi. The two are quite opposite to one another, so it’s up to you as to which girl you pursue. Selina is far more outgoing and confident in her personality, while Hoshi is more reserved and studious. There might even be another lady to woo, but I’ll let you discover her on your own.
Other than the choices you’ll make, there isn’t really much else to do. This is a visual novel though, so it’s not very fair to judge it on gameplay. It certainly reads more like a semi-interactive story than anything else, but for people who just want to enjoy some romance, it’s well-suited. The main appeal here is the ambiguous gender of Shoji, who spends the majority of the game trying to hide his true self. For fans of traps and femboys, there’s a little something here, but overall the game is quite tame.
Personally, I liked the artwork for “Highschool Romance”: It has an anime style with a Western touch. The visuals are still images, the majority being a simple background with characters overlaid on them. Sometimes you get a CG that shows more of what’s going on. Some of the CGs are cute, while some are just downright raunchy. I certainly would have been fine with more of the raunchy.
AJTilley provided a big, convenient camera button on the start screen, which lets you take a look at all the artwork from the game. Originally a Steam release, there isn’t anything too promiscuous going on, but the ecchi moments are aplenty. There are boys in lacy underwear, busty half-naked girls, make-out sessions, and more. Shoji definitely looks better as a girl, so thankfully there are some nice scenes that explore this aspect of the game as well.
MUSIC & SOUND EFFECTS
Highschool Romance has no voice acting.
There are some sound effects, and the game has a full score to go along with them. I felt that a lot of the music didn’t fit the tone of the scenes they were played in. I actually turned the music off after a while. It was repetitive and didn’t add much to the overall experience. Others may feel differently, but I personally didn’t really like it. Now, sound can make or break games, but seeing as this game is primarily a literary affair, it’s not a huge problem.
“Highschool Romance” is just that: a romance. I wasn’t entirely sure just how much adult material there would be, but the raunchy side of things certainly didn’t come to the forefront. The times that did call for saucier writing were fine, but I felt like the experience would be improved with more of it. I also felt Shoji was written to be a little too reserved; I would have liked him to see him grow to embrace his genderbending. Of course, there are paths that do allow him to embrace his feminine side more, but in a game where that’s the focus, it didn’t feel enough.
“Highschool Romance” was a fairly good visual novel. The length was quite short, as my initial run through the game ended quite abruptly. I made sure to get every ending prior to this writing, so I’ve experienced pretty much all the title has to offer. It took me around 90 minutes to complete my first path, so you can, at best, squeeze 6 hours out of it. That’s assuming, of course, you don’t skip anything for the whole game. As I mentioned earlier, I felt there could’ve been more to the title in general. I liked the artwork, and as such, I would have liked more CGs. I’m a big fan of girly boys, so my expectations were higher. There are some endings that satisfied that itch.
You can download Highschool Romance on Nutaku’s digital store for $9.99.