8.5 / 10 Banzai!s
“For the boy of pure heart.”
Welcome to Dream Club, a Japanese kyabakura (hostess club) where all your dreams come true. Tamsoft first developed the Dream Club dating simulation series for the Xbox 360 in 2009 in an attempt to boost Microsoft’s market in Japan. The same idea was behind Dream C Club Zero: Portable, a sequel released as a launch title for the Playstation Vita on December 17th 2011. Dream C Club Zero was then ported onto the Playstation 3 a year later, titled Dream C Club Zero: Special Edipyon!
Essentially, the goal is to reach the “happy ending” with one of the 13 hostess girls by answering her questions correctly, buying her gifts, ordering her favourite drink, and performing well in mini-games. Succeed, and the girl is yours – with a kiss to seal the deal. Fail to win her favour, and watch the hostess fade away from existence.
This may sound like a cute little “moe” game for lonely teenage boys with pure hearts, yet it’s anything but. I’m not sure if the “Engrish” tagline was meant to be a joke, but there’s a reason why Dream C Club Zero received a “D” rating in Japan – equivalent to the Western’s “M” for Mature.
When you first visit Dream Club and are introduced to the girl of your choice, the conversation begins harmless enough as you discuss a range of topics from favourite TV programs and food, to horoscopes. But in order to score points, you must get yourself drunk (and not too drunk) then wait for her to start slurring her sentences. It’s only when the two of you are wasted that the real conversation begins. These drunken topics range from a discussion about porno magazines, to tricking her into touching your private parts, to ones I don’t feel comfortable mentioning in this review.
Then there’s the mini games. Some are simple bits of fun, like a karaoke rhythm game reminiscent of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f, or writing the girl’s name in ketchup over an omelet. Then there’s the other mini-games, such as catching a fly that happens to land on the girl’s private parts, getting a “Nice Shot” with the camera (aka, a panty shot) while she’s riding a mechanical bull, or controlling a dog that’s licking her breasts.
While all this is going on, your player-character is going to his part-time job to earn money for gifts and paying for Dream Club’s admission, shopping at one of three different districts, and playing a “gacha” game, which is basically either buying decorations for your apartment, or trading cards featuring the 13 hostess girls.
What I Liked:
It’s hard to rate a game like this, but for what it is – a dating sim game – there’s plenty to do and lots of variety in everything that’s available. Unlike AKB 1/149: Renaisosenkyou, the girls in Dream C Club Zero aren’t still images, but three-dimensional capable of moving, smiling, opening their mouths when they speak, and even singing and dancing. The correct “choices” aren’t so easy to figure out, and aside from some trial-and-error, required you to listen and get to know the hostesses in order to guess the better option.
There may not be 149 possible girls to take out on sim dates, but the 13 hostesses leaves enough of a selection to find the girl of your dreams. There’s the quiet girl in glasses, the spoiled brat, the mature cougar, the spunky sports player, even a female android, and a girl from a hostess club in the future. All colourfully presented with distinct personalities, just waiting to get to know you.
There are tons of mini-games, all sporadically placed so as to prevent the game from feeling like you’re just listening to conversations and answering multiple choice questions. These games range from getting a “nice shot” of your hostess girl with a camera by getting the perfect focus and pose, to competing in a drinking game in which you either tilt the Vita as though it were a glass of beer, or twirl the analog stick, depending on which console you’re playing. Overall, the mini-games are fun and challenging, and add much welcomed variety.
What I Didn’t Like:
Aside from the variety and great presentation of the game, there’s not a whole lot of room for improvement. I suppose my only real complaint is that it’s hard! Unless you’re following a walkthrough or guide on the internet, it’s next to impossible to figure out all the correct answers, or that some girls require you to give them non-specific presents at certain times. There are some characters in which, so long as you’ve learned through trial and error, which answers are the correct ones, you can easily reach the “happy ending.” But there are others which don’t provide clues as to why you keep encountering the “bad ending.” Is dating really supposed to be this difficult?
Well, I guess you got me on that one.
Dream C Club Zero is not a game for everyone – particularly if you’re under 18. For one thing, there’s no English version. Plus, you really need to be at least mildly curious about dating simulations to find any appreciation. But if you are, and your Japanese language skills are at least at an intermediate level, then I’d highly recommend checking this one out. It’s strangely bizarre as a stereotypical Japanese game can be, but with good graphics and great presentation, lots of variety with new things to challenge you upon each playthrough, and a chance to utilize most of the Vita’s capabilities (if you’re playing Portable) ranging from touch-screen to the AR camera, to trading your cards online using the Near application.
It’s certainly one of the craziest, and even hentai (perverted) games I’ve ever played. Reading this review, you may think I’m exaggerating that such a game could exist here in Japan. But trust me, I wouldn’t lie.
I’m a boy of pure heart.