Best Friend Forever is a recent dating simulator from developer Starcolt. In it, you play your main character (MC), who is moving to Rainbow Bay to start anew. The town is considered the most dog-friendly town as there is about one dog per adult. Your first step is to sign up for a dating app to help dog owners meet other dog owners, adopt a dog (naturally), and settle into your new life in Rainbow Bay.
In case you don’t know dating sims are… well, they stretch the definition of games, so more like interactive novels. You generally have many branching story paths that you unlock by doing various things in the game. There are different ways for the “gameplay” to work. In some, you are just given dialogue options and let the rest of the game roll, so really just choose your adventure novels. Best Friend Forever, and ones that I tend to enjoy, add a little more interactivity to them. As you can imagine by the word “dating” in the title, romance is a major theme, and of course, due to the nature of the games, story development is pretty much 90% of it.
In recent years many of them have moved away from the “dating sim” label to “visual novel.” There are many reasons for this, one being that a lot of them that feel like dating sims might not actually emphasize the dating aspect. There is also just sort of a knee-jerk reaction that people get to the idea of a “dating sim” if they aren’t already a fan. But I digress.
As I mentioned, Best Friend Forever does not just have you choose different dialogue options but also stat management. Every week you have to decide what to do with your dog to build stats. Stats include fitness, manners, smarts, etc. All things you would want to teach a real dog, and things needed to have you dog mind better as the game progresses.
You must also manage your dogs “feels” (there is a lot of cutesy things like that, such as dogs don’t bark they bork. Some of them I like more than others.) which are basically their health stats—hygiene, food levels, cleanliness, etc.
The point is to balance how you train and raise your new dog while also developing friendships and possibly relationships with the people in town. The more “dating” part or rather just social comes after you take care of your dog’s needs. You will then get options of who to visit, date, etc. You only have a limited amount of training, care, and relationship development you can do, though. So you have to plan and really prioritize.
You can also not date in this game. Signing up for the dating app is step one, and you have to do it. However, after that, you don’t have to actually go on any dates, and can instead just have encounters with people. This makes sure that the player doesn’t just get caught up in the dog aspects only because developing relationships to at least friendship is required for certain parts of this game.
The truth is, stat building included or not, visual novels boil down to you, clicking on things and make choices. But the simplicity of gameplay is what makes them nice sometimes. It is a very laid back experience prime for escapism. You allow the story to unfold, making a few key choices to keep you involved but not a lot of “game.” Still, I like the inclusion of more than just dialogue options. It makes me feel like I am more of a participant.
Best Friend Forever has a decently sized cast of characters, each with fairly unique personalities. Some dating sims will boil it down to just a few well-developed characters and some background happenings, but BFF brings a larger cast. This also means you get to see more romance lines develop, and they all really do bring their own flare.
The character’s themselves are… interesting. For the most part, I actually really like the characters, but some of them can be a bit much. There is something realistic about that, in that we all have personality flaws, and those come out and can be irksome to those around us. Just a few instances were a bit grating. The developers have their perspective on things, and I have to admit it gets a little tedious at points. I hate making that criticism because I sort of admire just putting it all out there and taking a stand even in this way, but I also can’t change the way I responded to it.
The MC is an interesting one and is overall a decent character and has some great quips and lines. But I did not appreciate the character’s rudeness at times. Also, some of their moments made it harder for me to project onto them, something that is more emphasized in other dating sims. On the other hand, some dating sims rely on “projection” so much they don’t bother to develop the MC at all, and the player ends up making up their personality so, pros and cons either way.
The game is lacking in other areas. There isn’t key art for certain moments (the romance basically), which is something most fans of the genre will find missing. Also, there is basically no customization (three characters to choose from), and the stories themselves need to be a little more fleshed out. The game is also short, like feels slightly underdeveloped short. But honestly, it is not too much of a drawback. The character’s still have enough development that even with a few rushed moments and plot holes, I have been satisfied with every playthrough.
Honestly, that’s what it really is for me. There are a few aspects of this game that I wish were slightly different, but it is a fun experience. It is actually one of the more enjoyable dating sims I have played. The art is solid, the music is good, some decent voice lines thrown in, and some interesting characters. I wish it were longer, slightly deeper, but honestly, it’s great the way it is.
So bottom line? If you have never played a dating sim and are curious, you might enjoy this one. There are some crazy dating sims out there, and while this does have a degree of zane to it, it is much more down to Earth and approachable. If you do already like them, then this is a solid entry into the genre, and really one of my tops. For all that I had issues with here and there, I have genuinely enjoyed each playthrough and am looking forward to seeing the other romance plots unfold.
Also, I mean… it’s all about friendship, romance, and dogs!