Dōkyūsei – one of the most important visual novels ever released. It came out all the way back in 1992 and is generally considered to be one of the biggest dating sims of the time and part of the reason why that genre took off. Now here we are thirty years later with a remaster of that very game. Does it hold up? Maybe.
Okay, so right upfront – it should probably be made clear that you cannot really play this like your average visual novel. Usually, with such games, you have this story to go down, some branching routes towards the end, and a substantial narrative backing it all up. Dokyusei does a bit of this, but is first and foremost a dating sim and it absolutely shows.
For one, there is practically no real “story” here. You’re just some dude spending the rest of his summer break messing around and trying to pick up some girls. No major drama, no twists, none of that – just constant dates with girls and maybe a little bit of character building for each, especially towards the end.
I found this approach to be both good and bad. It’s good in that this lends to a lot of interactivity – gameplay, rather. You don’t just sit there and spam enter a bunch, but instead are constantly moving around, interacting with the environment and different CGs, and picking which characters you want to talk to by the in-game minute – you can literally leave in the middle of a conversation if you want to and go somewhere else entirely.
As someone that plays a ton of visual novels, it was refreshing to have this sense of control. No more talking with characters I dislike, no more wasting time in random slice of life scenes – I was completely free to do absolutely whatever.
That said – it does come with one major downside: a lackluster main story. If you’re not a fan of whatever character’s story? Well, there’s really nothing else to do other than pursue some other character. They are hardly tied together and even the individual characters themselves don’t have that going for them. There’s a bit of a spectrum going on here. Some characters only have a few events and, as such, have really poorly developed personalities, backstories, all that. This leads to the relationship coming off as forced, cheap, and there just to fill a specific archetype.
Then you get a few other characters that have a lot of events and even some conflicts to overcome – which in turn develops their character. I found these to be the most satisfying personally. Maybe I just like a well-written character or maybe I’m playing the game wrong by looking for something like that. But again, it is a dating sim, so I would hope that such a game could at least deliver a bit on that front.
There are H-scenes in this game – which can be patched in for free if you’re running the Steam version – so the handful of characters that don’t have a lot of scenes feel more like they were written in just to serve up these H-scenes for their archetype – the mature neighbor and homeroom teacher are two specific examples.
And even then, the character stories themselves are the most surface level thing – those conflicts I mentioned earlier are resolved just as quickly as they come up and often left me disappointed with what could have been. Again, some are better than others, but I have now finished the game multiple times and really only liked maybe two or three characters max out of the fourteen total.
So I guess it all comes down to what you want. For a dating sim? It’s got pretty much all the bases covered. Don’t go in looking for deeper character writing and you are set. There are a ton of choices to make, tons of places to visit, tons of character events to unlock – the game does an absolutely solid job there. Actually caring for said characters and remembering them weeks after beating the game? Maybe not so much.
What you will remember the game for is probably its writing. It is VERY comedy-heavy and VERY 90s. Like, it reminded me a lot of some of the older shounen anime I’ve seen from the time period. Stupid one-liners, characters acting completely ridiculous, and an overemphasis on perverted jokes. The protagonist definitely fits that last one and pretty much every character has some sort of tripping, falling, or being above the protagonist CG and he happily partakes in the view. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of that part of the comedy, but the rest at least makes up for it a bit.
And I should probably mention the difficulty. Because along with the mountain of choices and events comes a literal mountain of difficulty. This is why, back in the day, you would have wanted a walkthrough. You need to know which characters to meet at which locations at which times to actually advance along their route and score hearts with them. In classic mode, this information is entirely up to you to figure out, but fortunately, with this remake, comes the now default “easy mode”.
This mode just straight up gives you a calendar plotting all of the key dating events and it is super helpful to have as someone that did not want to waste time mapping out this web of character interactions. That and it even tells you what choices earn or lose you hearts – again negating the need for a walkthrough which I usually end up using for most visual novels anyways. A nice addition that makes the game far more playable than it was thirty years ago.
In fact, it is probably due to this new mode that I was able to complete the game in a relatively short amount of time. I was not able to get all of the characters in my first playthrough, but for those I did (maybe half of them), it took me around eight or so hours. Future playthroughs were even easier because I could just ignore the characters I already completed and just skip directly to the character events I missed. So it’s not that long a VN, but also not too short – for this genre I’d say it’s fine.
And I can say similar things about the art. Although a part of me wishes they had some sort of toggle to enable the old art – I also cannot deny that the new art is completely fine and somehow manages to maintain a newish look while also being somewhat nostalgic – if that makes any sense. I feel like the backgrounds add to this aesthetic a lot and you can definitely tell that this is an older VN remade for the modern age – whether that’s good or bad is up to you. The music, on the other hand, I honestly cannot recall at all now that I’m writing this review. I don’t remember it being terrible though – so let’s just leave it as “okay, but forgettable”.
Settings-wise the game also does fine. You got all your usuals like text speed, auto mode, skip options, and the like and then some nice extras like animation speed, Chinese language options, text box color, and customizable right click. It’s not the best I’ve seen, but good enough that I can’t really complain either.
Dōkyūsei: Bangin’ Summer is a bit of a mixed bag by modern standards. What it lacks in quality writing it makes up for with its solid dating sim mechanics and nostalgic art. That said, I can’t say any of the characters are that memorable and the experience is more so just fun in the moment – the dated humor actually adds to this too. So I wouldn’t say it’s an instabuy, but maybe worth a look if you want to play through a piece of VN and dating sim history. Otherwise, it’s just okay.
Quote: Dōkyūsei is a bit of a mixed bag by modern standards. What it lacks in quality writing it makes up for with its solid dating sim mechanics and nostalgic art, but overall – it is just okay.
Dōkyūsei: Bangin’ Summer retails for $20 USD on Steam. It is also available through Johren.
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.