Originally released back in 2007 as an adult title, Himawari made a big enough impact for it to be ported to various systems and now it has finally made its way to western shores. At a glance, the lollies in space theme might sound off-putting, but scratch the surface a bit and you will find a competent visual novel with an enjoyable plot.
The year is 2048. Flights to the moon are an everyday occurrence and music CDs have once again become all the rage. Like all good visual novels, the tale follows a stereotypical amnesiac high schooler. Youichi is the sole survivor of a space crash. It has been two years since that terrible day where he lost both of his parents, but despite this he is still insistent on romantically gazing at the stars every night.
He is not alone however, as Ginga, the eccentric president of the Space Club, also shares the same hobbies. Together it’s their goal to launch a homemade rocket to the moon. Youichi also drags in his rich childhood friend, Asuka, who is clearly head over heels in love with him.
His simple life changes when he catches a glimpse of a UFO which crashes in a nearby park, the very same spot where he lost his parents. He rescues a girl called Aries from the mysterious craft and takes her in to nurse her back to full health and help her regain the memories she lost from the crash landing.
In spite of its more serious events, these scenes never linger on for too long before comedy strikes and breaks up the tense atmosphere. The striking difference between these two aspects makes some of the gags feel mindless and unfocused. In one moment our group runs out to steal an armed missile in order to retrofit it into a rocket so it can reach the moon and in another they are enjoying the sights of the nearby planetarium.
With that said, the game has a rather complex plot and by the end of the first episode you will be left with even more questions. And it is not until later episodes that you slowly unearth the events that led to the accident.
Whereas the first chapter starts you off rooted on the small blue planet known as Earth, the second blasts you off into outer space. The game constantly introduces new characters and even changes who you are playing as per chapter. It’s definitely interesting to see different events from another perspective.
Himawari takes queues from the When They Cry handbook, as each chapter follows a self-contained story. Unfortunately, this naturally means that any choices you get along the way are minor, if they don’t immediately throw you down a path which shortly after leads you to one of the game’s numerous dead ends.
Taking this into account, the core game is pretty lengthy. Each chapter takes around 10 hours, so you can expect a very long adventure.
Originally released as an adult title, the game was reworked removing all sex scenes (of which the game had only 3), as well as modifying some other questionable material such as underage drinking. Thankfully non of this was integral to the plot and the game is perfectly enjoyable even without these scenes.
When production values are concerned, Himawari strikes all the right notes. The visuals are clean but detailed. It’s an unbelievable improvement over the 2007 PC original. Everyone looks adorable, even Johnny, the middle aged butler, looks cute in a way. All the characters including the protagonist are fully voiced. This version is based of the Vita version which does ultimately mean its interface is not entirely as user friendly and accessible when using the keyboard and mouse or even while playing on a Windows tablet.
Himawari is a sweet tale which blends slapstick humor with more serious themes. The first chapter does drag on for far longer than it’s welcome and some jokes miss the mark entirely. However, the game makes up for this in its later chapters. If you are the type of person that loves to gaze into space in deep thought of all the possibilities it might offer, Himawari may be the shooting star you have been waiting for.