My Horse Prince: Falling in Love With a Human-Faced Horse
It should be common knowledge (on the internet, anyway) that Japan tends to be the birthplace of the weirdest things possible. So there should be no surprise that they create pretty weird games, too.
Despite the plethora of "weird" games out there, there are rarely any being localized for Western audiences -- with the exception of Hatoful Boyfriend, a visual novel in which you romance pigeons (...yeah). But that's just one anomaly in a long list of visual novels that people want translated from Japanese.
Yet despite that, we were graced with My Horse Prince, a love story between a lonely girl and one very special horse. And it was the best thing ever.
My Horse Prince is a free episodic visual novel that follows your typical story of a woman who is tired of the average-looking men at her office and wants to find love. Through the logic of "princes ride horses," she visits a ranch in the countryside to look for some. Despite having no interests in the horses themselves, she lays eyes upon a beautiful human head on a horse called Yuuma.
While she instantly tries to reason with herself whether she finds him gross or dreamy, she is told that there are girls (who are born during the year of the horse) who see horses as attractive men (and apparently, there are several theories to explain this... none of which are never explained).
Anyway, she is told that the previous owner of the human-head horse can no longer take care of him. And of course, she is unable to say no to that beautiful face. Consequently, she reluctantly becomes his new owner and thus begins their strange romance.
The dialogue in the game is pretty much just slapstick comedy and essentially parodies romance visual novels as a whole. It has a simple plot with generic romance clichés and scenarios made amusing by how the heroine consistently points out the irregularity of it all -- such as questioning the physics of a horse being able to hold a knife -- only to give up and just accept the reality of it.
Even Yuuma himself is a pretty funny character --- and that's because he basically represents your stereotypical prince archetype. It isn't clear whether he finds this situation weird, but never the less, he is grateful for the heroine agreeing to be his owner and is always kind and caring toward her. And these all lead to very sweet and romantic moments, which are always spoiled when you (and the heroine) see that long brown neck and hooves.
The gameplay portion of the visual novel is reminiscent of Alpaca Evolution, in which you click on the items (dependant on the chapter) that drop on the ground to fill up a meter at the top of the screen. When you get to 100 percent, the story will progress and you'll get one pretty CG before the chapter ends.
It is a pretty simple mechanic and isn't anything revolutionary, but the comical situations, such as Yuuma needing to "train" by running on treadmills, can be very entertaining to watch. His mood also affects the amount of points earned, which you can improve by talking to him and choosing the right choice to improve his mood. The wrong choice can decrease his mood but the game allows you to redo your choice by watching an ad. You can talk to Yuuma three times before having to wait 30 minutes, or replenish one talk option by watching an ad.
Speaking of adverts, while they do pop up from time to time during gameplay and appear along the bottom of the screen, they aren't actually that intrusive.
This is the same with the microtransactions. They do have a shop to purchase items to boost points or make the game ad-free ($0.99/£0.79), but nothing too heavy and unreasonable.
There is absolutely nothing else I could say about this game. It's silly and it's simple and while it won't be winning any awards, I would still recommend anyone who is a fan of visual novels to try this. I'm currently on chapter four but I'm excited to see how the plot develops, or how it will end. Will the heroine get with Yuuma? Will there be any rival horses that will vie for her or his affections?
I'm still surprised they even localized it and even made it free but their efforts should rewarded, and everyone in the world needs to know this exists.