By Chris Melchin / June 1st, 2018
The character designs show their age to some extent, clearly early-2000’s visual novel character designs, but they’ve aged better than some other games from that era. Interestingly the game uses a full-screen text box, similar to the first To Heart and Leaf’s other early games, as opposed to the smaller box at the bottom of the screen more commonly seen these days. It also has the player choosing where to go on a town map after school each day, along with which girl(s) are at each location. Even if you choose the girl you like on the map screen each day, there are some times when it’s weirdly difficult to actually initiate the route properly, and I had particular difficulty getting Manaka’s good ending without a walkthrough since there are some counter-intuitive choices you need to make.
The music for the most part is pleasant and fitting for the game, although none of it stands out as being particularly fantastic. Each character’s theme suits them well, but none of the music seemed like it would stick with me after finishing the game and moving on, the same way some really amazing soundtracks have. The voice acting seems well-done, and though the voices seem well-matched none of them stood out particularly to me as a non-speaker.
To Heart 2 was initially released as an all-ages game, and that’s made clear by the way the H-scenes are implemented. Each route has one, and for the most part they’re isolated in post-credits scenes. I don’t object to this way of including them; if the alternative was awkwardly shoehorning them into a place where they didn’t belong (like in some games), this is a fine way of doing it. I also complained when it was done in certain routes in the Da Capo games since it made the H-scene seem unnecessary and tacked-on, but the main difference is that the Da Capo games were 18+ first, meaning there was no reason for the H-scene to appear as an afterthought as opposed to being more worked into the main body of the route. Meanwhile, that’s literally the case with To Heart 2, so their options for smoothly incorporating H-scenes were more limited without altering the flow of the story. As for the H-scenes themselves, they generally follow pretty naturally from the routes’ endings, and though not much would be lost if they weren’t included they provide some nice extra payoff for finishing the route. As a whole, To Heart 2 strikes me as one of those games that works well with or without 18+ content.
To Heart 2 earns its title as one of Aquaplus/Leaf’s most well-known and respected games. There’s a spin-off known as To Heart 2 Another Days, which acts as a sequel assuming Takaaki became friends but didn’t romance all of the original heroines. Another Days adds new girls for Takaaki to pursue, and was released in 18+ form on PC in 2008 with an all-ages version included with the main game’s 2011 PS3 release. There’s also the dungeon crawler spin-off Dungeon Travelers, which evolved into its own series with the sequels, as well as several of the game’s characters appearing in EXAMU’s Aquaplus crossover fighter AquaPazza.
To Heart 2 X-Rated is an example of how to properly turn an all-ages visual novel into an 18+ one. Even if the H-scenes aren’t strictly necessary to the story, they still fit well enough and don’t feel unnatural. The game as a whole is an enjoyable read, with fun characters and satisfying story and development arcs. While it may not be the best visual novel – or even the best romance – I’ve ever played, it’s still worth checking out in its own right. Unfortunately while it’s still not particularly difficult to find console copies of To Heart 2, the PC version seems to actually be somewhat hard to come by at this point, since it was apparently never officially released in downloadable form. The going rate for the game I’ve found varies wildly, from around $40 USD up to over $100. The PC version is what you need for the fan translation, so if you can track it down one way or another it’ll be worth your time.
Review copy purchased by author; fan translation used
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