Monday, March 13, 2006

Love Hina Totsuzen no Engeji Happening

Genre: Romance / Comedy
Platform: Dreamcast
Parental Guidance Recommended
Ken Akamatsu (creator).

Love Hina Manga
Original Soundtrack
Everything Love Hina
lensman's Description:
After having failed the Tokyo-U entrance exam, Keitaro Urashima is nowhere near achieving his goal of entering Tokyo University and meeting his fabled "promise girl". Or is he?

After catching a glimpse of his latest bad scores, Granny Hinata decides to send a real Tokyo-U student to help Keitaro, Naru and Mutsumi pass. Her name is Mizuho Fujisawa and she bears more than a passing resemblance to the girl Keitaro made a promise to several years ago. Furthermore, she is so confident that she can get Keitaro to pass, that she makes this wager: If Keitaro can't pass under her tutelage, he will get to marry her.

Just who the heck IS she?

Only dedicated for fans of Love Hina >>> by lensman
Having been obsessed with the Love Hina franchise, it became one of my life's goals to acquire all the Love Hina games that were ever made. So far, I have managed to acquire the PSOne game, the PS2 game, and the Love Hina Dreamcast Games.

The PSOne Love Hina game made me curse Japanese Technology and gadgets for the first time in my life, since it required something called "The Pocketstation" in order to play it. I eventually bought one, but I couldn't get it to work... ARGH!

The PS2 game was also a bust, because I couldn't get the import to work on my non-modded PS2... DOUBLE ARGH! I believe that says something about me...

Fortunately the Love Hina Dreamcast Games were playable...

In all honesty, Love Hina is not what you may call a "Game Friendly" franchise. At least Tenchi Muyo! had aliens, mechas, action and space pirates to go with the whole harem thing. You can easily make an RPG or a Strategy game out of it (in fact, several years ago, it was exactly what a certain company did for the SNES). But in Love Hina, you just have a student living with a bunch of girls. What sort of game can you get out this premise?

The guys that made the Dreamcast game certainly took an interesting approach. Instead of making a game that is based on the manga (the Anime was still being made at the time the games were made) they have decided to do an original story that ties in to it and tell a few original tales, based on the characters from a completely different perspective. Hence, the Love Hina Dreamcast game is set in a completely different universe from the manga and the anime.

Actually, the story of the Dreamcast game ties in quite well with the anime where no explanation was given as to who exactly was Keitaro's "promise girl." In Love Hina DC, we FINALLY get to not only meet her but also know her a lot better. Yes, Mizuho Fujisawa is Keitaro's real promise girl, and she is a crucial part of the game's plot. With her peppy, kind and uplifting personality, she is a welcome addition to the Love Hina cast. It's a real pity that she wasn't featured in the manga or the anime. Her "good ending" is especially poignant, as she decides to do one of the most touching things I've ever seen in a dating sim.

If you are a fan of the Love Hina franchise, the game is a must for several reasons:

-You will get to see several original LH stories, such as a "Who is better wife for Keitaro" pageant, in which all the girls participate. The cooking contest in particular is very memorable. And you won't believe what Mutsumi gets up to in there.

-As I said before Mizuho Fujisawa is an excellent addition to the Love Hina cast. Her interactions with Naru and Mutsumi are hilarious.

-The Voice Actors are all in top form giving some trully stand-out performances. Horie Yui's Naru, and Satsuki Yukino's Mutsumi, are laugh-out-loud funny, even if you don't happen to know the Japanese language. Even Masayo Kurata's Shinobu has a very funny scene near the end of the game which you will remember for a long time.

-You will get to see original artwork by Ken Akamatsu made specifically for the game.

-You can finally choose which girl Keitaro ends up with.

-You can connect to the internet via the Dreamcast's built-in modem and send Love Hina themed email messages.

Of course the game is far from perfect. The in-game graphics, with the Super-Deformed heroes as well as the building graphics are overly simplistic. And Ken Akamatsu's art is great when it shows, but it's static. I mean, come on, the Dreamcast gave us games like Skies of Arcadia and Grandia 2, we know it can do WAY better than that.

While the voice actors do a great job, the in-game sounds and music are nothing to shout about. There are a couple of original songs created specifically for the games, but even those fail greatly to impress.

But the game's biggest flaw is definitely in the way it is played. Love Hina is a "Roulette Adventure" meaning that, at various points in the game, you will be asked to choose a path and play a "Roulette Game," which affects the story in a negative or positive way, depending on the outcome. The paths you choose unlock "Omake Chapters" which focus on a certain character and sucessfully completing them affects the ending. To further complicate things there are "Study Roulettes" which affect Keitaro's mark and "Relationship Roulettes" that affect Keitaro's relationship with the protagonists. The ending depends on the overall mark and relationship rating that Keitaro gets and whether or not he successfully completed the character's "Omake Chapter."

While this sounds well in theory, it doesn't actually work out that well when you are playing. The roulette game means that you will be saving and restoring on a regular basis, cursing the game's developers when you get the wrong outcome FOR THE TENTH FRIGGING TIME IN A ROW! TRIPLE ARGH! In all honesty, it may allow non-Japanese speaking players to play and finish the game but it kills whatever joy it can bring you. Plus, all the Study and relationship ratings render the game somewhat confusing. I really wish they would have made this as just a "Multi-Choice" dating sim. It would have worked out, gameplay-wise, a whole lot better.

If you are a fan of Love Hina and Ken Akamatsu's work, you should definitely play the Dreamcast game for the extra-stories, the excellent voice actor performances, the original artwork, and the for the LH-Themed emails. But if you are not, and you are just looking for a good anime-based game, you should look elsewhere.

NOTE: Playing the game is actually a very tricky business. It doesn't run on the American Dreamcast, unless you insert a special "Import Boot Disk" first.

Finding the game is also tricky. Your best bet is eBay, where you can find some pretty sweet deals. Of course, you could also download it, but we don't want to condone game piracy, now do we?

RATINGS: Gameplay 4; Battle N/A; Story 8; Visuals 6; Characters 8; Sounds 7; Replay Value 7

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