Ouran Koukou Host-Bu DS (also known as Ouran High School Host Host Club DS) is incredibly easy to navigate and play, especially if you’ve played other Idea Factory visual novels like Hiiro no Kakera DS. This, combined with the fact that the game is fully voiced, makes it an ideal game for importers with a general understanding of spoken Japanese who’ve always wanted to try an otome game.
The main menu is very easy to navigate. One of the six members of the Host Club will appear on the top screen, greeting you. There are five options on the bottom – New Game, Continue, Options, Gallery and the extra stories. The gallery contains galleries of the CG images and anime segments unlocked throughout the game, and the last option contains one brief, extra story for each character that includes 2 extra CGs.
When you start playing, you’ll find the Ouran DS touch screen looks nearly identical to the one in Hiiro no Kakera DS. The center button advances the text. The upper left button can be pressed to make a quick save, the top middle button brings up a menu and the upper right button is for loading the quick save. The bottom line of buttons includes one that lets you view and hear past dialogue, toggle the speed of text should you start the auto-play feature and a button to start/stop the auto-play options.
You can also use the face buttons to access these controls. The L and R buttons correspond to the quick save and load buttons. Y starts the auto-play feature, X brings up the menu, A makes the story advance or confirms a choice and the B button makes the text box on the above screen disappear.
The in-game menu brings up four options when you access it. The upper left button in this menu lets you save your game, and the button next to it lets you load a game save. The bottom right button lets you return to the main menu, and the button next to it brings up the options menu.
There’s one other interesting menu that will pop up one or two times during each “day” in the game, and that’s the host menu. Since Haruhi is a member of the Host Club, trying to repay a debt, she’ll often have to entertain hosts. When this happens, the quick save, menu and quick load buttons will appear on top. Directly below will be six icons with different images on there. You choose one to interact with the guest. If there’s one guest you’re entertaining, the goal is to pick the option that makes a heart pop up next to the guest so you’ll make the best impression. If there’s a guest and a host, the goal is to pick the icon that makes a musical note pop up next to both characters. A good idea is to quick save before making a choice, so if you don’t pick the best option you can quick load and try again.
At the end of each “day” Haruhi will return home and see how the day went. The top screen will display how popular Haruhi is compared to the other six hosts, and the bottom screen will show how much Tamaki, Kyoya, Hikaru, Kaoru, Hani and Mori like Haruhi.
Since the controls for Ouran DS are so simple, there’s full voice acting (all the voice actors from the Ouran anime return to voice their characters) and the DS is region-free, it makes a great choice for someone with beginning/intermediate knowledge of Japanese who wants to try a visual novel.