In all honesty, I think games like Honey Rose: Underdog Fighter Extraordinaire are what make the indie scene great. The game itself has a little ways to go before being ready for release and its difficult to say at this point whether a review would result in an actual recommendation, but the originality of the concept, and the developer’s freedom and drive to pursue that concept, are what the indie gaming scene is all about.
Honey Rose is a greenlit, in-development visual novel, a genre that is enjoying increased attention in the mainstream thanks to recent, and bizarre, titles like pigeon-person dating simulator Hatoful Boyfriend. Players of visual novels will recognize familiar territory in much of the game, which centers around a young, female protagonist attempting to make her way in academia. However, unlike other visual novel games I’ve played, Honey Rose throws in a dash of 2D competitive fighting. The plucky young heroine not only wants to ace her tests, she also wants to punch her way to the top of the her town’s increasingly popular underground masked fighting circuit. Players of Honey Rose will find themselves blending moral choice and relationship building with head butts and broken teeth.
The developer, Pehesse, released a demo last week for those who simply can’t wait to make friends, study for math tests, and crush the bones of their masked opponents. What’s on display so far seems pretty solid, and the game presents more branching choices, and presents them earlier on, than most visual novels I’ve played (which admittedly aren’t that many). The art is impressive and endearing, and it’s clear the game is dripping with personality. I wish the fighting system had just a tad more depth, but it’s intricate enough to be interesting and not feel tacked on. Hopefully, with a solid release, the unique approach of the game should invite curiosity about the format and hopefully continue the trend of bringing in players who would normally give the visual novel genre a pass.
Honey Rose is aiming for a Q4 2016 release.
Update 8/06/2016: We were contacted by the developer who wished to clarify that the fighting system is primarily influenced by brawlers, a la Bare Knuckle/Streets of Rage and Final Fight, rather than 2D 1v1 fighting games.