Hate Plus Review: Love to Hate

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Hate Plus
Price: $10
System(s): Windows, Mac, Linux
Release Date: August 19, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Love Conquers All Games (Love Conquers All Games)
ESRB Rating: N/A. It’s designed for a mature audience, so keep that in mind before playing. There are descriptions of sexual acts.

Here at GamerTell, we tend to follow a certain form for reviews. I’m going to break away from that today with our review of Hate Plus, because this is an unconventional game.

The best way to start this Hate Plus review is with one of the opening lines spoken by the AI *Hyun-ae. “I mean, this… isn’t going to have a happy ending. It’s important to pace yourself, I think.” Truer words were never spoken. Hate Plus is the story of a regression of a society and the repression of a strong, important woman so it could be allowed to happen. Players are learning what lead up to the atrocities committed in Analogue: A Hate Story, and you know there’s going to be heartbreaking tales and unconscionable acts.

It’s an incredible story, one that players are going to want to devour in a single afternoon. Especially if they’re coming into Hate Plus from Analogue: A Hate Story, it’s direct prequel. In a stroke of brilliance, creator Christine Love forces players to pace themselves. The game is designed to be played over three days, meaning players get time to think about and process everything away from their computer screens.

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There is a means of cheating, to get around the wait. (The commentary during it is hilarious.) However, I found that the experience was better for me if I played Hate Plus legitimately, the way Love intended.

Hate Plus picks up immediately after Analogue: A Hate Story leaves off. Players have recovered records from a multigenerational ship called the Mugunghwa. The ship left Earth over 600 years ago, with the intent of settling a colony. Except that never happened. The ship disappeared, and player was an investigator tasked with finding the ship and discovering what happened. Everyone on board died, and with the help of AIs named *Hyun-ae and *Mute, the player recovered the records.

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It’s on the return trip to Earth, which takes three days, that a new mystery surfaces. *Hyun-ae and *Mute are built on the same “core.” Hidden files are discovered within, dating from before year 0 in the Mugughwa’s logs. The thing is, there was an error made when transfering over a dictionary, so there’s a bit of a power issue. It will take three days to go through the files found within the core, extracting them so they can be read over with the AI of your choice. (Or AIs, if you happened to “cheat” in Analogue: A Hate Story.)

The result is a new adventure through history. Hate Plus provides mostly biased accounts of life before the Mugunghwa reverted to a societal structure inspired by the Joseon Dynasty, presented through letters, journal entries, meeting minutes, articles and other text-based accounts. Most shocking, however, is the existence of another *Mute, one who “died” during the rebellions and awoke with no memories as the current *Mute.

Like Analogue: A Hate Story, Hate Plus is a refreshing visual novel experience. The majority of the game is spent reading these incredible period texts created by Love. That each article truly seems written from a different viewpoint is a testament to her skill, not even mentioning the fact that even meeting minutes or dry, academic pieces somehow become enthralling. I found myself leaping through articles, never realizing how much time I had spent poring over documents.

hate plus

The AI interactions are perfectly handled in Hate Plus as well. With Analogue: A Hate Story, *Hyun-ae and *Mute (usually) had all the answers. They were guides. Here, the women are assistants, chiming in with commentary as a files is read, and occasionally asking for a moment to spend with the investigator, chatting about their own thoughts, feelings and takes on the material. It’s here that the traditional visual novel segments come up, with players able to choose certain responses to the AIs’ queries, increasing their affection or pushing them further away with responses. The dialogue feels natural, an accomplishment in the genre, and I found myself looking forward to any chance to chat with the girls.

While Hate Plus can be enjoyed without having played Analogue: A Hate Story, I strongly discourage it. Mostly because the original game was an amazing adventure in storytelling with a fantastic twist. Part of it, however, is because it’s the quickest way to not only get into the mood for the games, but also to get the glorious “harem” experience is by “cheating” in Analogue to acquire that save for Hate Plus. (Hate Plus must be beaten with *Hyun-ae and *Mute separately, first, otherwise.) While the writing is sublime as a whole, in Hate Plus, I feel the game really shines when Love gets *Hyun-ae and *Mute together. The subject matter is so serious, that the lighthearted banter and occasionally touching moments that come up when both AIs are present bring more balance to the game.

The harem route is like a piece of music, with *Hyun-ae and *Mute acting as counterpoints that perfectly blend together. The contrast between their sisterly moments and the often dramatic and serious text makes for a fuller Hate Plus experience. There is one moment, involving *Mute, that I can’t imaging experiencing without *Hyun-ae around.

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It’s fitting that the rest of the game is stark, in comparisons to these texts. The only color comes from the AIs and the outfits they wear. (Prepare for cosplay, to lighten the mood.) The rest is very clinical in its presentation. It’s effective, as I found it encourages imagination. The investigator is, after all, supposed to be in a single person spacecraft. It’s up to players to open their minds and create their own mental images to accompany the stories. While Hate Plus does often offer portraits for important figures, I found I enjoyed the game more when I relied on impressions gleaned from the text to envision my own views of the characters.

I came into Analogue: A Hate Story late, only picking it up during the winter 2012 Steam sale. It’s something I always regretted, as I considered the title one of my favorites of the year. I feel fortunate to come into Hate Plus the day of its launch, as now I have more time to enjoy and savor this adventure. My only regret is that I won’t be able to play through each of my completed save files immediately due to other commitments, and have only the time to go through my harem save from Analogue: A Hate Story. Love is a master storyteller, and Hate Plus continues to prove her prowess.

Site [Hate Plus]

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