Hana Yori Dango -Koi Seyo Onago- is clearly a game designed with the fans in mind. Its as though the whole Hana Yori Dango storyline established in the manga, anime, movie and tv dramas has been rewritten to allow the player to experience it all as the main character.
The game starts from the very beginning of the Hana Yori Dango series. Tsukushi is still there, but she's more of a minor character and you're in her place as the star. So you'll be the one getting the red tag from the F4 (and thus temporarily become a target of school-wide harassment), you'll be the one who befriends Shizuka and sees her and Rui off, you'll be the one Sakurako picks on and tries to turn everyone against, and so on.
As such, its something of a visual novel and an otome (girl's dating sim). So while you're trying to win the heart of one of the four F4 guys or become Tsukushi's best friend, you're also trying to trigger events from the series. This may sound tricky, especially if you're a fan who doesn't speak Japanese, but the game does a good job of guiding you in the right direction. For example, once Sakurako starts harassing you, the game will offer little prompts before you head to school or go to bed, suggesting you need to confront her.
The "dating" portion is also a bit more complex than typical otome games, and is somewhat reminiscent of the Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side DS games (also by Konami). Guys not only want to hear what they want, you also have to dress appropriately, touch them in the right manner and create the right lunches for them. Before each date, you have to create a lunch (from recipes you can buy in town) and dress appropriately for the season (indicated by a bar on the top of the screen). Then, while on the date, there'll be several opportunities to suggest date spots and initiate conversations. There'll also be two chances where you can touch the guy (above the waist only). The touching portion is pressure sensitive, as indicated by a bar on the top screen, and its only appropriate to touch a certain way at certain times.
Hana Yori Dango -Koi Seyo Onago- is also one of those games that is somewhat import friendly. If you're a major Hana Yori Dango fan, then you could probably import and enjoy it, since the character name prompts in pink keep you on track story-wise and basic choices are represented with icons and images. Plus there's a handy function in the form of a flower stem – during a period where you have to make a decision, you can tap it. It will then narrow down your choices for you by blacking out an answer which will lead to disaster. However, it has limited uses.
The best tip though, if you want to import and play it and don't have stellar Japanese language skills, is to also pick up an Action Replay DS. The Japanese Datel site has two codes for the game. One gives you 999 coins, so you can buy all the clothes and recipes you need and not have to worry about working. The other will allow that extra chance stem to constantly reset if you press select, so whenever you come to a choice section you can press it and narrow down your answers. Both of these will allow players of any skill level to enjoy and successfully complete the game.
Images courtesy of Konami.