Like all Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side games, 3rd Story starts with a heroine who is just starting school at Habataki High. She used to live in the area, but moved when she was younger. After stopping by the church in the back of the school, where she used to play with two children from the area, she runs into Ruka Sakurai – this game’s "prince" character. Then the following day she runs into his older brother (literally) Kouichi Sakurai. She finds they’re going to the same school together, and will be classmates.
Much of the gameplay remains the same in Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side: 3rd Story. You have three years to boost your stats and build relationships. You can search for love with one (or even two!) guys. You could also even go for lifelong friendship with one of the two girl friends. You spend weekdays attending classes, hanging out with friends, visiting a club, working or so on. Weekends can be spent doing any of that, shopping, calling guys or going on dates. After building relationships, you can see special events which unlock new CG images for your gallery.
The biggest addition to Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side: 3rd Story is the double dates. If you alternate when dating the brothers or close friends (the sets are the Sakurai brothers, the senpai Tamao and Seiji and the athletes Junpei and Arashi), then you may get the option to start going on double dates with them. Since the double dates yield loads of event images, you’re going to eventually start undertaking the challenge to fill up your oOmake section’s galleries.
Double dates typically end with Love Mode, which means you walk home with the two guys and have to start tapping and touching their faces and shoulders to make them like you more. The key is balance here. If you focus too much on one of the guys, the other will get upset and leave. Not switching between the guys and giving equal attention to both means the love triangle mode will end.
Then there’s Pride vs. Pride mode. This is the one where you get to rip happy friends apart. (You homewrecker!) Remember those sets I mentioned before? Let’s use the Sakurai brothers Ruka and Kou for an example. If you end up getting both of them to the highest possible state of affection, Tokimeki, then they will turn on each other and fight over you. What will happen is you’ll encounter the two of them fighting, and then they will be quite mad at each other and start fighting over who gets you.
From there, you have to make a choice over which guy you want. And then you have to be very careful and choose the right answers. The goal is to get the guy you like less to give up on you and give you to the guy he wants. But! If you choose the wrong answers on dates with the guy you want when he asks about the other guy, he might start feeling guilty about monopolizing you.
The girl friends are also much different. Instead of having four supposed "friends" who will only be nice to you until they learn you like the guy you like, you have two friends, Miyo and Karen. These two feel more like real friends. Miyo helps you find information on the guys (a role the younger brother/neighbor fulfilled in earlier games) and Karen helps you find out what clothing styles they like. They also help boost your stats when you talk to them, invite you to slumber parties and generally act like real (virtual) friends.
You can also unlock little stories. There are ADVs for each guy which offer a little extra perspective on who they are. You can see scenes from their past or present, and sometimes even see another side of a situation you experienced in the game. They’re a nice little extra, but those who import may not be able to understand everything that’s said.
Then there’s the clothing system. Clothes have undergone quite a change in Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side: 3rd Story.They’re not only much more stylish, they have a leveling system surrounding them. Basically, you start out at 1 star. Big deal. You can make outfits that fall into the Cute, Vivid, Sexy, Active, Natural or Chic categories, and can only build up to three bars in each one. As you acquire more clothes, Karen will appear to tell you that you’ve leveled up. Leveling up means you have more fashion options. At level two, you can fill each bar up to six. So if you get six bars of Active, your clothing will then be Ultra Active. At level three, you can mix and match styles if you have five bars of each category represented. For example, Kouichi Sakurai loves the Sexy Vivid style, achieved by putting together an outfit that has five bars of Sexy and Vivid.
The mini-games have been tweaked as well. The only returning ones are the three-legged race for the sports festival and the pillow fight for the school trip. The two new sports festival games include one where you push a giant ball, and one where you toss beanbags into a basket. The beanbag one is quite difficult (I would give up and toss them at the opposing team), but the giant ball one is an easy-win.
The most trying mini-game, making Valentines’ chocolates, has changed. Instead of trying to remember the kanji for left and right, and turning the proper directions, you decorate a chocolate. Depending on how you decorate, your chocolate will come out in different styles, like Cool, Cute, Natural and so on. Each guy likes certain kinds of chocolates more, so you essentially have a handful of tries to make a chocolate he will like.
Honestly, if you don’t want to mess with the clothing leveling system, you don’t really have to. Most of the guys will like your character if you wear one of the initial styles available. So if you want to just stick with Cute clothing, for example, you can make it.
There are fewer guys in Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side: 3rd Story – only six main chaseable guys. Both of the previous games had eight. Also, all six of those characters are fellow students, and there are no main older men characters. But, those six also each offer three love triangles. So that helps a bit. Also, this time around there are four secret characters. The original Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side: 1st Love DS game had two and 2nd Kiss had three.
The four secret characters seem to be geared towards those who like shota characters, or younger guys. One character, Kasuga Taiyou, is in junior high school, which is sort of going the opposite direction from previous games, where teachers, the principle and a college student were available. Your character’s homeroom teacher, Osaka-sensei, is also an option, but again he looks like a grade schooler. Thankfully the two remaining secret characters, constant background classmate Kenta Taira and novelist Kengo Aizawa, are much more appropriate.
As always, Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side is one of the best dating simulations out there. Especially if you’re looking for a game where there’s interaction, and not just selecting occasional responses to shape a story. Yes, 3rd Story doesn’t have as many guy options, but the love triangle and pride versus pride modes make up for it. And while Konami broke a lot of players hearts by not having a true dateable teacher or making Tsukushi (from 1st Love) an available option, overall the characters that are available make it worthwhile. If you want a DS otome game, or even a little life simulation, Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side: 3rd Story is your best bet.
Food for Thought
- Many room options, and your "boyfriend’s" picture appears in your room.
- No opening movie, sadly.
- You have to be careful, because it can be quite easy to slip into the double date mode if you aren’t paying attention.
- I recommend going for a normal ending the first two times, then experiment with the double date endings or more complicated endings that stem from love triangles.
- No Tsukushi. While you can see the little brother (all grown up) in one of Tamao’s ADVs, you can’t date him.
- There are lots of save slots available.
- Full voice acting!
- Special icons appear on the opening menu when you load up the game on certain days. For example, on July 7, 2010 there was an icon for the Tanabata Festival.