NekoNyan has been nonstop with these slice of life romcoms and as someone that consumes them almost on the daily – I am absolutely here for it. Especially so in this case because it comes from ASa Project – the same studio behind the excellent Sankaku Ren’ai.
Okay, so Koikari is one of those VNs that immediately sets itself apart from the crowd with its protagonist. Remember that anime/manga “Rent-A-Girlfriend”? Well, this is basically that but the dude is the one being rented instead and there’s FAR less pointless drama. You start off with some quick character introductions and then are immediately thrown into this loop of being rented by the heroines one at a time, all while somehow keeping it a secret from the others and even keeping your identity at school a secret as well.
It’s the same level of absurdity that we got in Rent-A-Girlfriend, where for some reason no one (aside from one early exception) can tell that the dude they are renting is the same as the dude from their class – his hair and fashion changes are just that powerful I guess. It’s a ridiculous plot setup, but it makes for some great comedy and common route shenanigans, something they did well in Sankaku Renai and now again here in Koikari.
That said, you gotta have a certain amount of tolerance for this kind of writing. It’s a constant tug of war between the different heroines and the story gives off a ton of harem vibes. That and the protagonist definitely doesn’t help there either with his greed – give the man some money and he’ll be your guy, but otherwise he wants nothing to do with you. He’s a bit of a mega chad in that regard and I would point no further than the common route scene where he straight-up declines confessions because it would lose him money if he went out with one of the girls normally.
On one hand, it’s a nice change of pace from the usual dense wall or self-insert type protagonist, but I can’t deny that he comes across as a bit heartless. It’s made worse by the fact that he is a siscon and is only doing all of this to raise money to put his little sister through school – which sounds noble and all, but is such a common character type that if you play any amount of these types of games you’ll probably be bored by it.
The rest of the cast is a bit 50/50 too. They each fit their character type and usually have one really exaggerated trait – there’s the super clingy tsundere type, the “nyuhuhu” sly, cunning type, and the lazy teacher type for example. The exaggerated character types really sell the comedy during the common route, but if you’re looking for some quality character routes – this is not the game for it.
Fortunately, the common route makes up the majority of the experience. It’s long on its own and there is even an extended “second common route” of sorts that you can end up on if you make the right choices. The second common route becomes more of a love triangle, but maintains the comedy from the rest of the game, so it’s a pretty nice two-in-one package with the first common route.
Just like Sankaku Renai, the common route is pretty much nonstop comedic slice of life stuff – some taking place at school, but most taking place outside of it with the whole rental boyfriend gimmick. Not all the jokes land (especially with a certain couple of characters I’ll get into shortly), but it was easily my favorite part of the game and worth a play for that aspect alone.
Then you get the character routes, where the quality drops off hard. Gone are the fun antics of the common route with all of the heroines and now you get these character routes where the romance comes across as artificial and a lot of the scenes feel like filler. The protagonist does a 180 on his personality (and is suddenly open to romance) and the heroines – who were previously just used for comedy and did not get much development beyond that – are too shallow to carry individual routes.
In fact, I believe the game itself recognizes this. The main two heroines, for example, have their own routes, but you can’t play either of them without the other main heroine constantly showing up. I may have liked Emi’s character in the common route, but I don’t need her popping up every other scene in Hasumi’s route just to play her clingy character type. And no, I don’t need Hasumi popping up in Emi’s route either – it really brings down the romance aspect of the game.
This is made worse by the H-content, which, as usual with a lot of games in this genre, gets WAY too much focus for its own good. The character routes themselves are on the shorter side, but you bet they are packed full of these scenes and jokes surrounding said scenes – the latter of which are present even in the all-ages version.
In fact, my least favorite route in the game (the twins route) is literally this to the max. It is nonstop middle school humor and is just unbearable for someone beyond that age like myself. Tsubaki, the teacher, is probably my favorite route of the bunch because the romance actually felt like such, but even then, it doesn’t completely escape the problems present in the other routes.
Still, none of this really takes away from the common route. That part of the game is some good stuff and I don’t regret my time with it, I’m just disappointed it doesn’t carry over that quality into the character routes.
As for the art – I will admit, I was not the biggest fan of it when I started off. I didn’t think it was outright bad, but it looked kinda generic. As I played though, it grew on me a bit. There’s a good bit of movement and pose changes to match the comedy, the facial expressions were on point, and the CGs (while few) were nice too. The character designs are fine, but I’d be lying if I said they were better than the usual we get for this genre. And the music, well, I can’t say I recall any of it being too bad, but I also can’t recall any individual tracks – so nothing too notable there I guess.
On the settings front, the game is also fine. Text speed, auto mode speed – all the usuals, plus some handy ones like wait for voice with auto mode, animation speeds, and a fully swappable font. Not bad at all there.
And the translation, as usual with NekoNyan releases, is some good stuff too. I can’t say I noticed any typos, grammar issues, or other such localization oddities. It reads and flows well and I can’t say I have any complaints there.
Koikari – Love For Hire is a bit of a tossup. The comedy and slice of life stuff during the common route is some good stuff and carries the studio’s signature style with it. The character routes though are not quite as good, failing to live up to the “romance” part of a romantic comedy. The characters are fun, but don’t have the writing behind them to carry such routes, so if you’re looking for a well-rounded VN then this isn’t it. However, if you’re looking for some pure comedy and don’t mind a handful of shorter, less impactful character routes, then it’s worth a shot.
Quote: Koikari – Love For Hire is a bit of a tossup. The common route is some good stuff with solid comedy and character interactions, but the character routes are more of a disappointment.
Koikari – Love For Hire retails for $30 USD on Steam. A free 18+ patch is available directly from the publisher.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.