Genre: Adventure, Casual, Simulation
Publisher: NekoNyan Ltd.
Release Date: May 5, 2018
Edited by KnightAvenger
It’s difficult for me to summarize the plot of Fureraba. Not because it’s particularly complex, but because the game does that job for me with its opening line: “I want a girlfriend.” That’s…pretty much it. Don’t get me wrong; this is a dating sim and while I love them, a lot of the time, the plots don’t get much more complex than that. It’s not the simplistic plot that was the main deterrent by any means. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Fureraba is a visual novel in which you play as a boy in high school (though the game is very quick to tell you that all characters in this game are, indeed, 18 or older) who is trying desperately to get a date with a girl. Any girl. So long as they have giant boobs, pale skin, long legs, and are stick thin. Sometimes, he’s gracious enough to mention that a personality would be nice, too.
The prologue is lengthy, so it takes a while before you have any element of choice in the game, but once you do, you have four options for your future “friend to lover.” The first is Himari, the classic childhood friend that you lost touch with over the years and finally reconnect. Also, in this route, do your respective mothers meet up often and discuss when the two of you are going to bang it out already…?
The next girl you can give your affections to is Rina, a girl that you have a kind of fun back-and-forth with. Even though you start the game being outright insulting to her, she gives the same back to you, so, at least, there’s some concept of a mutual give-and-take. After you start dating, she kind of loses everything about her personality that was interesting and ends up being just another blank-canvas date-giver whose every action seems to be to convince you how much she loves you.
Third on the list is Yuzuyu, who is your tsundere girl. Your first meeting with her ends with you – conveniently – falling face first into her crotch by accident, then refusing to apologize and instead, staying there a little bit longer despite her protests. It’s your classic tale of Boy meets Girl, Boy sexually assaults Girl, Girl repeatedly tells Boy to leave her alone, Boy eventually dates Girl because dating sims seem to love it when the perpetrator of sexual assault wins?
The final girl is Misaki, a character I began referring to as the “Mystery Box” girl. You don’t see her face, or hear her voice, or know anything about her, apart from snippets of conversation you overhear. You know the personalities of the other girls…but the “Mystery Box” girl could be anything! It isn’t until halfway through that you actually see her face, and her doe-eyed lack of personality. From there, you get to teach her the world like she is a four-year-old in an eighteen-year-old’s body. A healthy relationship often has one member entirely dependent on the other…right?
Let’s focus on some positives first, because I’m an endless optimist at heart. The art is beautiful; all of the sprites have a lot of personality in them and there are a good number of different outfits and hairstyles for each girl; it doesn’t seem recycled in any way. The music is upbeat and catchy and can add a lot of humor to the story.
Now on to where it lets itself down for me: the story and dialogue. None of the routes of the girls seems particularly unique. As for the dialogue, it is so outlandishly strange that I was almost convinced it was a parody of its genre. Unfortunately, that might be the optimist in me talking again, as I’m pretty sure that the game is meant to be taken at face value. Over and over, we see the protagonist harassing the love interests and then, in the end, winning their affection. As much as this is “just a game,” it falls in line with a discourse in our society that still is all too pervasive; if you keep hounding women, even when they expressly ask to be left alone, you’ll eventually “get the girl.”
All in all, I just felt overwhelmingly uncomfortable with many of the conversations and situations in the game, from the harassment of women, to some good ol’ fashioned homophobia and transphobia. Though I do have to say I was pleasantly surprised that when they went down the “girl scared to lose her virginity” route, our usually garbage protagonist actually stopped what he was doing instead of the common “she will end up liking it eventually” trope, which is a breath of fresh air. Even if now I do have to question when exactly the bar got set so low that “didn’t do a rape” comes with brownie points?
- Beautiful character art with many variations
- Well translated
- Good comedic timing
- Long play time
- “Boys will be boys” rhetoric
- Bland story
- General garbage treatment of women
- Transphobia, homophobia, misogyny…the list goes on
aTeacupGamer gives Fureraba ~Friend to Lover~ a Drastik Measure of 3.2 out of 10 (32)
Fureraba ~Friend to Lover~ is available on Steam for $29.99 (USD).