Himitsu: Yui ga ita Natsu (Dreamcast)  

WOW

Ingredients for the standard-issue Dreamcast gal game include things like pretty artwork, an animated opening, a vocal introduction song, and at least one or two inspired character designs. Princess Holiday may be dull, but it’s gorgeous! Shirotsume Souwa features one of the coolest introductions and most powerful vocal songs you’ll find on the Dreamcast. As for character designs, the Memories Off series thrives on giving introverted Japanese teens some gorgeous fake girls to love.

Now forget all of that, because Himitsu: Yui ga ita Natsu isn’t like any of those games. I’m tempted to call it “sub-standard”, but such a kind description might mislead you into thinking the game actually approaches some human definition of “standard”. Most redeeming quality: the voice acting could have been worse. Huzzah! Everything else — from the horrid music to the retarded character designs — doesn’t even deserve a spot in Dreamcast Hell. By the way, before anyone takes offense at my choice of adjectives, I mean “retarded” literally, as one of the so-called villains is a gluttonous pudgeball in an orchid shirt whose tongue perpetually dangles from his mouth. And he wears suspenders. Suspenders! Only James Bond gets to wear suspenders and not look like a dork.

Even before I met that swill-slurping goon, Himitsu tried my patience like few others. Following gal game tradition, its by-the-numbers introduction consists of female photos scrolling across the screen while music plays. Himitsu’s unique qualities are its amateurish character designs and horrendous non-vocal intro song. It’s some of the most abrasive MIDI I’ve ever heard, and no, I haven’t forgotten AdLib.

The basic plot involves a stereotypically weak hero heading off into the woods with a bunch of butt-ugly girls. Two of the girls occasionally look cute, but then the picture changes and you realize they’re just as ugly as all the rest. The hero and his female companions do incredibly boring things like sit inside a cabin and talk, or walk around in the woods and talk, or stroll along the river and talk. This is the part where smart readers protest: “that bastard Zig doesn’t understand gal games!” . . . but I frickin’ love gal games. I just don’t love uneventful, ugly gal games.

The most extraordinary event was when the brown-haired girl got sick and began sweating a lot. Feverish girls are so hot! This exciting event results in the hero sitting inside a cabin and talking to the sweaty girl. There’s some potential emotion in the concept of a protagonist returning to the place where he grew up, but it’s drowned in dullness.

I think some people over at 4chan were working on a hentai game. Did they finish? Surely it’s better than this.

The hero’s annoying and extremely effeminate best friend tags along, but he’s quickly out-feminated by a midriff-baring, bleached-blonde Benimaru ripoff who hassles Our Hero in the woods. The blonde goofball’s fearless leader is a rather sour young man with pink hair. This shirtless rebel has firm pecs and a killer six-pack. He also has a tattoo on his chest . . . of a butterfly. How am I supposed to react to this? Are the developers homophobic? Am I homophobic for not being intimidated? Help!

I’m not really sure what else needs to be said — it’s hard to care about a gal game when the hero is boring, the girls are unattractive, the adventure is uneventful, and the villains are laughable. Even in Japan, no one cares about this game. There aren’t any fan pages and it’s only got one review on Amazon. The dude gave it three stars, so I clicked “IIE” when Amazon asked if the review was useful. Amusingly, even that guy admitted that Himitsu’s artwork was poorly-received. But if you don’t mind any of that, then Himitsu: Yui ga ita Natsu is well worth buying!

Mine’s up for sale.