Fureraba: Friend to Lover Review – Comedic to the Very End

    Title: Fureraba: Friend to Lover
    Developer: Smee
    Release Date: May 4, 2018
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: NekoNyan
    Genre: eroge

When you start a new game, it’s nice to know what you’re getting into. So when I picked up Fureraba, I looked up the name a few times and found myself completely incapable of deciphering its meaning. Oh, what’s that? We’ve got a lovely little subtitle here that reads “friend… to… lover”.

Never mind all that then. You all know exactly what kind of game this is. Fureraba: Friend to Lover is quite clearly, a dating sim but in a world filled with plenty of entries into this genre, it sadly doesn’t seem to set itself apart.

Fureraba: Friend to Lover is a classic eroge starring a faceless second-year high school student, who is this time, nameable by the player. His objectives are simple: Get a girlfriend before summer vacation. Why is he so motivated? Who cares! This game is an Eroge that has the subtlety of a brick through a window. The formula is as follows: Our protagonist goes to school and each day you can choose for him to run into one of four girls.

These make up our four lead heroines whom you are able to try and romance. You’ll be given a choice of topics, each one containing several questions and/or conversation starters. If you can pick the right ones you’ll earn points with that heroin and become closer to unlocking small scenes and more topics. Once you become close enough you’ll be able to confess to them and start their respective character route.

Fureraba Friend to Lover 1

Fureraba: Friend to Lover actually sets itself apart with its characters — one difference you’ll quickly notice is the protagonist is part of a trio of guys. Genki takes the role of your stock loud and perverted sidekick who even the protagonist thinks is too outwardly horny for his own good and Momo is a strange carefree child who plays video games a lot and looks up anthropomorphic reptile porn. I’m deadly serious; I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Remember when I mentioned motivations? I’m starting to understand why someone would want to, at least, get literally anyone else as a friend. Unlike characters with similar roles in other games, this duo actually ends up being quite amusing and didn’t annoy me anywhere near as much as I would have expected.

The heroines themselves are an interesting amalgamation of tropes, which isn’t a bad thing at all. We’ve got an extreme tsundere who flip flops between both parts of the words like a pendulum, a long lost childhood friend with a big heart and a girl who is just good at everything and somehow already likes our protagonist. What’s that? I said four heroines and that’s three? Ok, you’ll love this. The fourth one is a third-year student who the protagonist has made repeated attempts to talk to before, but due to poor luck, he’s only ever seen her from behind. The writers decided that being a serious eroge was too tall an order and decided on going pretty much full comedy. That was a fantastic idea because this game simply has far too much fun with its ridiculousness and I am very thankful for that.

Fureraba Friend to Lover 4

Unfortunately, all writing in the story breaks down after that. The game doesn’t know how to be anything other than comedic, so when it tries to write serious or heartfelt scenes, they come off stilted and jarring. The pacing and story seem to have been written by someone without any romantic experience at all. In all honesty, I’ve seen bad soap operas with better writing. What doesn’t help is the process to actually romancing one of the girls is inconsistent at best. The topics that do and don’t work contradict the information you’re given during the game itself, leaving you prone to save scumming to try and pick out the right choice so you can actually get anywhere with a girl.

The CGs in the game are non-existent outside of the character routes, where the writing just simply stops being good. The only reason you’re playing at this point is for the h-scenes, and well, at least they’re ok. The main artists, however, have a serious problem drawing men, as one adult is just a teenager with a beard drawn on them. The protagonist is also wildly inconsistent and drawn so questionably during h-scenes that sometimes I just needed to get up and walk away or press the skip button and put my head in my hands so, hopefully, when I looked back at the screen, the scene would be over.

Fureraba Friend to Lover 2

Bizarrely enough, the UI in this game is fantastic. It’s almost entirely customizable and filled with all sorts of options that I adored. You can change the font to literally anything installed on your computer. The size and color of the font are also up for changing, which does lead sometimes to spacing issues but that feels inconsequential. Sometimes the text box bumps up during certain scenes and it feels like it should be a larger box so you don’t get a small jarring gap along the bottom of the screen but that’s also easily ignorable. I love the options menu in this game for some reason and I spent a good while messing with everything. The music in the game is also pretty good and I feel like that should be mentioned.

All in all, Fureraba: Friend to Lover is a super odd game. It starts off as a really funny and interesting dating sim but progressively gets worse as it goes on. The writing and pacing just couldn’t keep my attention and the immersion was broken on multiple occasions throughout the story. I can’t seem to recommend this visual novel even with its good qualities because the bad just outshines anything interesting this story brings to the table.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Pyre Kavanagh

Senior Editor - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so they can buy more murder mysteries. @PyreLoop on twitter