Sunday, May 24, 2009

To Heart PSE

Friday, the classes at the university were suspended due to the swine flu (that is being called "new type of influenza" here). If nothing changes, I will a have a unexpected break until the 27.

Without nothing planned to do that friday and heavily advised to not to go outside if avoidable, I purchased on-line To Heart PSE at Comshop, and I received it today.

To Heart PSE is the PC port of the Playstation version (Play Station Edition), released in 2003.
Years ago I purchased the original adult version of To Heart (when was re-released with a new package and reduced price), and this is the improved all-ages version.

Manual and stickers. There's a minigame called "○△□×" that uses the buttons of the PlayStation, so you can put the stickers on the keyboard to match a PS controller.

The limited edition extras: a telephone card with the serial number (in my case 2,734 of 10,000) and a useless but cool ministand

To Heart is an eroge released in 1997 by Leaf under the publisher Aquaplus.
It was the title that popularized the visual novel genre, created a year before with the other games in the Leaf Visual Novel Series, Shizuku and Kizuato.
Before visual novel genre was the standard for eroge, the standard was dating sims, popularized with the non ero Tokimeki Memorial. In the west, visual novels are still commonly called dating sims because of this.

The Playstation version, released in 1999, removed all the adult scenes but improved the graphics and included voice acting. I think it was the first eroge that was ported as an all-ages game for consoles.
The original character designer was Minazuki Tooru, but was completely redesigned by Kawata Hisashi for the PS version. All the graphics were redrawn, including the character cuts, backgrounds and event pictures.
In the following comparison shots, above is the original To Heart and below the PSE version:

Story-wise, you play as Fujita Hiroyuki -a nice fellow who lives almost all the time alone and is more likable than most of the main characters of visual novels- that interacts with several girls during his school days.

All of the girls are very stereotyped, but when the game was released they were almost original. After the success of To Heart, every galgame character released afterwards tends to use one of the following stock personalities:

Kamigishi Akari
The childhood friend of the main character, who wakes up some mornings and calls with the "chan" suffix. Friendly, likable and a bit shy, she also excels in cooking. She is the main heroine by default.

Nagaoka Shiho
Friend of both Akari and Hiroyuki, acts a bit aggressively towards the later to hide that in fact she likes him. She is bad at studies and prefer to go to an arcade center or karaoke instead. She is also a gossip fanatic.
Hoshina Tomoko
The serious and responsable class president, who looks really pretty if she removes her trademark glasses and pony-tail. Stereotyped enough, she also uses the Kansai dialect and acts as a tsukkomi.

HMX-12 "Multi"
The first and original maid robot. The only sci-fi element in an overall realistic setting.
The "HM" means "Home Maid" and the X is to mark her prototype status.
Multi was sent to Hiroyuki's school to learn how to act like a human, but is very clumsy, so is a fine example of the "too human to be a robot".
Her popularity eclipsed the rest of the cast, even the main heroine Akari, and was a big influence in posterior similar games and mangas.

Miyauchi Lemmy
Half American and half Japanese, she is how Japanese sees foreigners: blond, tall, noisy and overly expressive. Also is a panchira character. 
She's in the archery club to feel the "typical Japanese culture".

Kurusugawa Serika
Heir of the wealthy Kurusugawa family (makers of the maid robots), is the ojou-sama character, but unlike most of similar characters, she doesn't act as an obnoxious spoiled brat. Instead, she speaks absentmindedly and very quietly. She is interested in black magic and the occult.
Serika is a senpai, one year older (17)
than the previous characters.

Matsubara Aoi
Multi palette swap. The slightly tomboy-ish martial arts practitioner. A year younger than the main cast (15). Idolizes Ayaka, who uses the same "extreme style" of martial arts.

Himekawa Kotone
A girl with telekinetic powers, but unable to fully control them. Because of that, she rejects to socialize much. She is also one year younger than the main cast.

Hinayama Rio
Another girl in the same class than Hiroyuki. Her family is poor, so she is constantly doing half-time jobs.
In the original
R-18 version of the game, she was a hidden heroine with a very short route unlocked upon completing Akari scenario, but was greatly expanded in the PSE version.

Kurusugawa Ayaka
Younger sister of Serika by one year. Despite looking almost identical, they have totally different personalities, because Ayaka is outgoing and confident.
She goes to another school than her sister and the rest of the characters, and is a martial arts champion.
Ayaka doesn't have a route in the original game, but gains a short one in the PSE version.

HMX-13 "Serio"
Sister of Multi, she is an advanced maid robot model. Unlike her sister, Serio is (almost) emotionless and eficient, being "too robot to be human". She is in test period in Ayaka's school, so is almost always with her acting as her personal maid.
She doesn't have a route in any version of the game, she have only two almost identical character cuts and only one event graphic in the PSE version, but since is my favorite character I list her with the main cast.

To Heart was my first in many ways: It was the first VN that I played in Japanese (without understanding it), it was the first VN that I purchased, the anime version was the first anime that I downloaded (via Napster, in mov format recorded from a VHS fansub), the first purchase that I did in eBay was a Serio gashapon...
The "first one" is always memorable, so that is why I still love this franchise very much.


Archerwannabe said...

Hinayama Rio
--- That´s some serious ahoge there.

I like how the whole world is panicing over swine flu and still no one actually get´s infected by it, much less an epidemic of it.

I´m not actually too familiar with To heart, just got the first volume of the manga, and it really sucks. Should at least watch the anime since it´s quite a classic in any case.

Soth said...

Yeah, they're overreacting with this swine flu, that is nothing more than a hyped normal flu...

I enjoyed To Heart anime a lot, but are a lot of people that says that is too slow and there are plenty of episodes where nothing happens (that is kinda true...). Is the epitome of "slice of life" anime, since is not really a drama, a romance or a comedy.

The 2nd anime series, Remember my Memories, was just a filler anime planned to increase the expectation for To Heart 2, and is not really recommended (even with Serio appearing a lot, compared to the few seconds on screen in the first anime).

Rio attacks with her ahoge in the Queen of Heart fighting games like Millia Rage. Is her trademark feature because surprisingly is the only character with it in To Heart.

Anonymous said...

My favourite character in this series is unpopular one, Ayaka.

Soth said...


Ayaka is my second favourite character, slightly below Serio. The fans of Ayaka are few, but very loyals, so you are not alone.