By Rae and EyeSpyAlex
If you like quirky dating sims, chances are that Starcolt‘s Best Friend Forever has appeared on your radar at some point in time. Fancy living your best life, surrounded by puppies and good-looking, charismatic potential lovers? Best Friend Forever promises this fur-tastic dream to players, but how does it stack up against the wealth of dating games out there?
With a cute, colourful style, Best Friend Forever is really nice to look at. Its bright, almost pastel colour palettes are comfy and relaxing. It’s surprising that it doesn’t really offer much in the way of CGs, but the art is quite lovely, and the character designs are wonderful.
Storywise, Best Friend Forever is actually quite thin. You’ve moved to Rainbow Bay to look for a fresh start and a new life after seeing it on an advertisement. Upon arrival, you’re greeted by a cute neighbor and plenty of talk about dog adoption – maybe it’s time to get your own fluffy best friend! Like you, everyone in Rainbow Bay seems to have their own faithful companion, so each love interest comes in a pair with their dog. You’ll meet some truly diverse choices as you check out the city, from Anders the high-brow foodie to Astrid, the Olympic-level athlete. Don’t really fancy anyone? That’s okay – there’s also a neutral path in which you stay single and focus on your relationship with your dog and your budding photography career instead.
It’s strange because we both loved and wanted more from Best Friend Forever’s story and companions. The diversity in the game is actually fantastic – every companion is different, and the diversity is built in with plenty of respect (afterall, we’ve all played games before where character diversity felt like it was tacked on just to be present). It made it genuinely enjoyable to get to know the different characters, and it’s impressive how well the game handles subjects that might be difficult in other hands. However, it constantly felt like the stories of the love interests were the only interesting stories being told. Your own story isn’t very in-depth and it was a little hard to connect to anything.
The game is great about letting you choose who you want to be in terms of identity, but there’s very little customization – you’ve got a few preset characters to choose from. It could definitely benefit from a more in-depth character customizer (Dream Daddy is probably one of my favourites), but it’s hard to ding it too much for that when a staple of otome games has always been a one-design MC.
Best Friend Forever has more gameplay than most dating sims. You have to take care of your dog, spending time with them and raising them right. Even throughout dialogue, you’ll get quicktime events where you have to pet your pupper, stop them from digging, or clean up after them. Getting them on time improves your stats. These randomized events are a little frustrating in a VN setting – being able to take your time has always been one of the draws of visual novel-style games, but we constantly felt like we couldn’t look away from anything or we’d risk missing things. The game also could have benefitted from being able to skip dialogue – second playthroughs are a little tiring with constantly redoing the intro and the initial meetings.
You can choose different activities for your dog each week, and each one affects a core set of stats that are then checked at certain points. There isn’t really much reward for raising them, and it’s strangely hard to do so – even after following all the advice and keeping everything as balanced as possible it was still possible to walk away from the next check-in with a terrible rating.
Rae was pretty smitten by Sacha but unfortunately didn’t move fast enough and ended up spending the rest of the playthrough on a solo journey with her fluffy pup, Maxwell. Meanwhile, Alex fell head over heels for Astrid and Laika, and managed to score multiple dates before they found their forever in what’s probably an extremely overpriced apartment.
Downsides aside, we had fun!
Like other aspects of the game, the Nintendo Switch controls for Best Friend Forever feel incomplete. A cursor is still used to choose items, and the touchscreen options don’t seem to do much of anything.
Despite that, being able to play on the go is a huge upside of the Switch version. I really enjoy the mobility my Switch gives me, so being able to play Best Friend Forever while lounging with my own pets was perfect.
Is it worth?
Overall? Best Friend Forever is a pretty fun, cute little game, but maybe not a top recommendation for dating sims. As a newcomer to taking dating sims seriously, Alex had a great time, with a few small dings in gameplay. Rae enjoyed it as well, but probably won’t put much time into getting all the routes. Often the dating aspect seems to get lost in the dog-raising aspect, which isn’t as fully fleshed out or fun as it could be. A single playthrough can be quite short, and the replay value is dropped a bit by the lack of skip buttons and the struggle of raising your pup. However, it’s still definitely worth a playthrough if it seems up your alley – Best Friend Forever is a cute dating sim that perfectly encapsulates the millennial dating scene, awkward convos and all.