A recent lament on the #AnimeBlogger channel about the apparent dearth of a certain type of bishoujo games, namely the sort which had a happy, cheery story, and yet didn't focus on sex, resulted in my being introduced to Heart de Roommate. (It also resulted in another post in my drafts folder being discarded for inaccuracy, mainly for the assertion that "there's no such thing". But that's another matter.) Thanks to Xebek for the recommendation.
Heart de Roommate is a fun bishoujo game, with gameplay typical of its genre (one needs to make only a few choices in the entire game), albeit still adult. One gets the impression that the ero scenes were tacked on because the makers, Angel Smile, felt that it was expected of them. I'm not entirely sure if I'm allowed to link to any way to obtain the game, largely because of the "no H content or links thereof" clause in the TOS. It's pretty safe to say that if you Google it, you'll be able to find some place that stocks it, so I'll leave it to your resourcefulness.
The game itself plays out much like a very standard harem comedy anime, and indeed I think it may map well onto an anime made from it, with the H-scenes removed. I counted three outright H-scenes per scenario in the entire game, although there were a couple of cases of nudity, mostly boob-grabbing sequences (female-to-female, even), and one other case of nudity later in the game that might have to be rewritten. Other than that, though, there's just the usual ecchi situations (improbable accidents resulting in embarrassing positions) and such.
Mostly, I can say that putting the dialogue on Auto makes it feel as though I'm watching an anime, rather than playing a game. In this case, it works.
The premise is that Yusuke Sawada, representing you, transferred (or rather, was transferred by his "airhead parents") to a new school, Aiho Academy. Unfortunately, said parents also forgot to register him for the dorm, and the apartment he was supposed to be staying at burned down just before he got there. Having nowhere to go, he coincidentally ran into an old childhood acquaintance, Asumi Hirota, and, through a further contrived series of events, got to stay in the all-girls' dorm. Since males are not allowed in the girls' dorm, Yusuke has to dress as a girl when entering and leaving the dorm, and make sure that nobody figures out his secret.
Yusuke is the stereotypical weak-willed pathetic harem male lead (who very coincidentally looks better as a girl than a guy). As may be expected, your options for actual relationship development are with the three existing roommates (and technically two others, plus one more side fling). You only get to pick one. Events in the game play out in a more or less common manner, but with differences based on whether you're involved with the girl who's getting the focus that episode, and with different viewpoints depending on whom you're with. There's a lot of repeated dialogue, but you can skip them easily in options.
The game is divided into twenty-six "episodes", and they really do feel like episodes; there's the title screen (with bouncy music), the eyecatch (with bouncy music and a voice actress or three saying the game title), and the next episode previews. There's even filler episodes (at least one blatant one, plus a few more which depend on one's definition of "filler"), and two recap episodes. Each episode takes maybe ten to twenty minutes on Auto, although some fiddling with the message speeds may be required.
Episodes one to thirteen have the majority of the decisions to be made, but the fruits aren't borne until the second half of episode thirteen, when Yusuke has to decide which girl he wants to confess to. (If he decides on none of them, the game ends quite quickly and tepidly, but a couple of side stories, which are their own mini-routes, are unlocked.) Episode fourteen is a kind of recap (with chibis!), and then the game continues in more or less the same direction for all three routes with minor branching depending on the girl you picked.
All female characters are voiced. None of the male ones are. I suppose there's a reason for this, but it could range from not being able to find a good male seiyuu to marketing decisions.
This is Asumi Hirota, the "childhood friend" archetype. Well, technically, she's more of "childhood bully", and Yusuke's memories of her largely stem from her constant bullying of him. Even now, she still bosses Yusuke (and others) around, since she also drew the archetype classes of "loudmouth" and "energetic girl". She's the self-proclaimed leader of the trio of roommates (with Yusuke's addition, four), and everyone more or less seems to accept this, possibly because she's just that pushy. She insists that all her roommates call her "Asumin", and is the one who gives the other roommates their nicknames.
Her route is technically the One True Route, although you'll have to go through all the three main girls' routes to unlock it. Personally I don't really like her character type that much, but the True Route does answer a few questions from the other two endings. She also helps Yusuke because of a childhood promise made during a certain incident (which she refers to as "that"), and because she's worried that Yusuke would blackmail her with "that" if she turned him away. (Yusuke, for his part, doesn't remember what "that" is.) You only get to figure out what "that" is if you go through Asumi's route, but it's revealed in the episode thirteen H scene, so at least it's a swift payoff.
Appropriately, Tomoe Katsuragi was given the nickname of "Moe-Moe", and I heartily agree. Tomoe is the shy and timid girl of the group, also with the biggest bust size (of course). She tends to think of others before herself, and is usually reluctant to speak her mind. And yes, for those experienced in harem comedy tropes, when she does get angry, she's really scary.
Tomoe also owns (well, more specifically "is friends with") a cat, called Toshibo. Toshibo is really fat and really round, and apparently Tomoe can understand whatever Toshibo is saying. Tomoe's family owns a hot springs hotel, and yes, it gets used several times for hot springs scenes.
I loved going through Tomoe's route, mostly because it feels the most "natural" to me. She's the nicest one out of the trio, and when Yusuke and Tomoe are paired together, they really do feel like a couple. It also helps that Tomoe is, to me, the cutest of all the girls in the game. I pretty much had mental CHECK!Points going through my head every time she appeared.
Marumu Ogamayama, nicknamed "Marutan", is a strange girl. There's a reason given in her route for her strangeness, but, like many anime excuses, it reeks more of Convenient Plot Device without much bearing in reality. Her hair accessories are usually yellow, but they change colour according to her moods. No, there's no special significance to this, and it's never fully explained.
Despite her loli appearance, Marumu is the same age as the other characters. She usually speaks in short, weird phrases, leaving others to decide what she really means. I'm not really sure how to describe it other than "weird girl", really.
Apart from the three roommates, there's also three more characters you can conceivably hit on (with results), although for two of them, their starring scenes are in the extra side-stories, and for the third, if you do decide to boink her when the opportunity presents itself, it's a Game Over (even if you do unlock a single extra CG scene).
Namiki Honjo is the oneechan archetype, even though she's technically the same age as everyone else. She's just as bossy as Asumi, and tries to get herself declared the "leader" of pretty much every group she gets into. When she inevitably fails to do so, she decides to settle for "shadow leader".
Namiki technically isn't Yusuke's older sister, but his cousin. She insists that everyone calls her "oneechan", and has a thing for big breasts, which makes Tomoe a frequent target of her assaults. (There's even that doll of Tomoe in her room, pictured above.)
Yoshiki Yagami is the homeroom teacher. There's some hints of her (rather predictable) backstory in the main game, but it's only really revealed in her side-story. She's kind and cares for the welfare of her students, but she's also "too kind", and ends up being in charge of pretty much every club in the school, mostly since she can't seem to say "no" when asked. She's also the dorm manager, and knows (through a rather contrived and amusing accident) about Yusuke's secret.
Hikaru Saeki is a mysterious transfer student who joins the class in the second half of the game. Her story is told as kind of the backdrop of the developing relationship between Yusuke and whomever was chosen as his girlfriend, and it's… well, I suppose it's a touching story, and I do think that it is, but I'm sure that it doesn't stand up to the real tear-jerkers out there, since it borrows from several familiar concepts and ideas. (It's not sci-fi or fantastical, if you're wondering.) Hikaru acts coldly towards everyone, and refuses to associate with anyone else, which makes Asumi determined to break her shell.
Further characters, whom I haven't gotten good screenshots of, are the "Trio de Bitches" (who're the "rivals" to the trio of Asumi, Tomoe, and Marumu; no, you don't get to boink them), Tomoe's sister Tomomi (who looks like an older version of Tomoe with glasses and a kimono; no, you don't get to boink her either), Misaki (a very bishounen guy who appears in maybe two episodes), and assorted classmate characters. Not a lot of characters are introduced overall, and some are relegated to perpetually side characters.
The first half of the game has a lot about the daily Wacky Hijinks of Yusuke and the three roommates, as well as the usual character-development episodes. After Yusuke makes his choice, the game focuses (or at least tries to) more on being a couple, and dealing with things like jealousy and misunderstandings. As mentioned, I think the Tomoe route feels the most "natural", but that may be my biases talking.
Overall, this game satisfied my craving for a relatively mindless, fun harem comedy story with pretty art and pretty girls to look at. It's definitely a keeper, and not for the rare H scene. The story isn't going to compete with the greats like Kanon, but the characters (or at least Tomoe) are, for lack of a better word, familiar; experienced harem-comedy watchers can guess with some accuracy how a given scenario will go, and there aren't a lot of curveballs that will require significant brainpower. It's something to relax with, something to play in short bursts and chuckle at the humour.
It's not for the cynical or the jaded. It's not for anyone who hates the usual features of harem comedy. But if you want a cute little bishoujo game that should probably be made into an anime, and don't mind skipping through the occasional H scene, then you could do much worse than give Heart de Roommate a try.