Shoji is a top student, his grades are fantastic, but unfortunately his life is unstable with his parents always traveling. He never had enough time to create real friendships, but this year, it’s the very final year of high school, and as always, Shoji is sent to a school while his parents are away. Nothing out of the ordinary, except… The school his mother sent him, is a girl-only institution. One of the best nonetheless, but still, an issue considering Shoji is a perfectly normal and healthy young man.
Lea, the school’s principal, comes up with the idea of keeping Shoji in the school, by making him pass as a girl throughout the year. This won’t be easy, but with a few tips, a new hairstyle and some light makeup, Shoji can pass as a girl, and the plan is in motion. Can Shoji make friends even though he is secretly a boy? Or will his shy personality stop him from getting close to any of the girls in his class?
Highschool Romance is the fourth game developed and published by Dharker Studio, with an interesting plot that we rarely get to see in a Visual Novel. Most fans either expect this to be a romantic comedy, or a dating game tagged with Trap, Crossdressing or even Futanari all over it, but worry not, as this is a simple and funny romantic comedy.
Plot moves around Shoji trying to deal with his new temporary identity, clothing and behavior near other female students. Players interact with three different girls, as possible dates. Lea is one of them, a somehow older woman who fantasises with Shoji in several cosplay items. Students Selina and Hoshi, are also romantic dates, each very different from the other. Selina is a popular athlete, while Hoshi is a bookworm at heart, and both represent different paths for Shoji to romantically get involved through friendship and trust. There are several events where one must choose who to be with, lunch, school activities and special weekends with that special girl are some of the choices that will result in the inevitable ending.
As gameplay goes, players can expect a traditional Visual Novel with key decisions that determine the ending routes, along this three hour adventure. With humour and light emotions attached to characters, Highschool Romance does not have an adult patch, and it’s not sexualized entirely, however, it’s extremely erotic when comes to flirting and fantasies such as Cosplay, in which are heavily present.
Technically the game is presented with great quality, even if upscaled to 1920x1080 or higher. Renders don’t lose significant quality, and as usual for Dharker Studio games, the visual quality holds up. Highschool Romance it’s only available in English and contrary to the game prior to this one, we don’t get to have voice-acting, but the dialogues and literacy remain as good as ever.
Each character has their own personality, and they are deeply rooted in their behavior towards our protagonist. Some, such as Lea or Selina, are more flirty and it is reflected in the choices players can adopt. In some specific moments, scenes end periodically to soon, and advance towards another very different scene, pushing forward particular moments too soon. This only happens a handful of times, and even if doesn’t leave gaps in the storyline, it’s still rare to see this behavior in previous Visual Novels by the studio. Nonetheless the game is well directed and is presented with a distinct order of events, never compromising the experience or plot. Dialogues are extremely smart, engaging and captivating, which is rare to see!
Highschool Romance follows an optimistic and positive artwork, with pleasant backgrounds that although are simplistic and basic, set well within the game’s plot and momentum. Every situation, location and event have its own space, maintaining the artwork atmosphere intact. Characters are designed as it’s already common among Dharker Studios releases, through a more western style. Every character style has a very distinct look, and although they have some emphasized body shapes, they still have a very cartoonish outlook, that somehow fit perfectly with the humoristic characteristics of the game.
Cutscenes are displayed with special drawing pictures representing a special key moment in the game. They improve in the details, but at the same time preserving their style, which is the most important thing. Overall appeals are nice, such as the menus and text colors, especially because each different character has a unique text color, making it fun to read.
As soundtrack goes, Highschool Romance is one of the weakest releases by Dharker Studios. The soundtrack is not available for purchase, but in-game music tracks are simple and serve the only purpose of creating the necessary ambience, to avoid the uncomfortable background silence of not having a soundtrack at all. Compared to other games such as Beach Bounce or Divine Slice of Life, the soundtrack in this title is uninspiring. The handful of tracks seems to keep on a loop depending on the scenes, ranging from neo-classic tunes in a modern approach, with still the typical upbeat and nice atmosphere regardless.
In a less sexualized context, and with no nudity, Highschool Romance still manages to become sexy and interesting for those looking for a naughty escapade. Yet, it’s the romantic element that brings this game to the spotlight, with its comicality events, and the overall mess that our protagonist got himself into. A fantastic game with a very unique storyline and artwork that will definitely please anyone looking for a casual and funny Visual Novel.