Getter Love!!

Getter Love is a bizarre, bizarre game. Well, unless you’re a perverted sake-drinking tiny middle-aged Japanese man; then it’s perfectly normal everyday life for you. Everywhere you look in the game you see demented looking pandas with sinister grins doing pelvic thrusts. If you can get past the intro without developing epilepsy, you’re ready to play a game that can only be described by:


Yes, Getter Love. I have spent hours upon hours struggling to discover its meaning not unlike how one ponders the meaning of life or the universe. Think about it for a spell with me. It’s not “Get ‘er love!” as in “Get her love!” nor as in “Get ‘er, Love!” No, that would actually make sense. What if we swap the words to get “Love Getter”? Nope... “getter” isn’t an actual word in the English language. So then what is a “getter”? Is it a verb? A noun? Perhaps even an adjective? Will we ever know? Probably not until we all reach that big panda in the sky, but the enlightened Japanese men who made Getter Love and represent their company with a stoned honeybee know perfectly well what it means. Or they were just drunk at the time.

Let’s look past the silliness, however, and simply see the game for what it is. Getter Love is one of several Japanese-only Hudson games released for the Nintendo 64. Some of which are excellent games and truly belong up there with the likes of Sin and Punishment and Wonder Project J2 as the best Nintendo 64 imports, while others... to put it as nicely as I can... should be avoided like the bubonic plague. Getter Love doesn’t fit in either grouping, though. It feels more like an “experience” than a game. Even among its brethren, Getter Love is the odd one out.

Getter Love is certainly an acquired taste, perhaps too much so. Seriously, what audience was Hudson aiming for when creating this game besides complete and utter fruits like myself? Board game video games are one of the least respected gaming genres in existence. While they’re quite prevalent on the Nintendo 64, only the mainstream titles like the Mario Party series reach true success. Getter Love is heavier on the dating simulation side, though, which goes virtually unknown in the western world. Even in Japan, only games like Tokimeki Memorial make the big bucks. Then there’s the fact that this is the Nintendo 64 we’re talking about. If you were some pubescent fourteen-year-old Japanese boy who enjoys pretending to date 2D anime girls because you can’t get any of those shy Japanese school girls to talk to you, would the Nintendo 64 be your system of choice? Of course not, you’d be better off with a PlayStation or Saturn.

Looks like an ordinary dating sim on the surface, but there's much more to be found in this game. Okay, so what if you do own a Nintendo 64, and you’re looking for some nice dating sim action? Getter Love is your best choice... not to mention your only. Even when going up against its competition on PlayStation, Saturn, and other systems, however, Getter Love holds its own.

Panda Love Unit

One thing that makes Getter Love stand out from the crowd is its girls. No irritating popular girls in sailor school uniforms singing J-Pop here. Instead we have... the Panda Love Unit. I know by now you may be questioning yourself on whether or not you’re reading everything in this review correctly, but yes... you did read right. The Panda Love Unit, arguably the best phrase ever invented by mankind, is the name for the group of seven girls in Getter Love (among others things such as the game’s unofficial subtitle and a nickname for the developers of the game).

While the Getter Love ladies are a bit cliché and stereotypical to some extent, it’s refreshing to not deal with the same boring bunch we all know too well. I’m sure you could name them off with me. The popular “Miss Perfect” girl, the overachieving class leader, the dedicated athlete, the shy brainy girl with spectacles, the “Girl Next Door”, the rich “too-good-for-you” girl, and the art student. Instead we have a motley crew consisting of an overzealous Chinese ball of fury, an extremely antisocial yet gorgeous young woman (me! hehehe), an excessively cutesy tomboy, a calm ill-stricken girl, a complete utter pothead, a classy yet seemingly middle class young lady, and well... the popular girl. We can’t escape every overused personality, now can we?

I left one girl out though... A girl that deserves a paragraph devoted solely to her... A girl who strikes fear into the hearts of men, women, children and the elderly alike... *gasp!* Dare I say the name in fear of holy retribution striking me down this very instant? I have to... I must... She is...

The Hose Beast.

Like the serpent she will deceive you into thinking she is but a mere mortal high school girl of the name Reika Kongouji... but no, do not be fooled. If you have the misfortune of coming across this hideous beast, your Getter Love life will be thrown into jeopardy. This girl of no morals or compassion will relentlessly hunt you down, stalking your every move. She will steal from your pockets, make you weary and dirty, and she will maliciously lie to everyone you hold dear to shatter your precious relationships. The only thing that can possibly deter this demon girl is to pretend that you are a homosexual. O_o

Thankfully your school chum Alfonso Roberto Martini (come back here, you don’t need a new eye prescription!) will happily ham it up with the lovey-dovey eyes to send the Hose Beast scampering off to find another victim. Alfonso, being the typical class president, wants to get involved in everything, so when a few of your buddies proposed the idea of a competition to see who can get a girlfriend first, he insisted on hosting it. Thus Getter Love was born. It may not be too much of a plot, but it sure as heck beats the typical dating simulation in which the story doesn’t extend beyond “you’re a male high school student; get a girlfriend within a certain preset length of time”.What just happened here? We got hosed, Tommy. We got hosed. Oh Davey...

Hey... um... uh... will you go out with me on Tuesday night to Panda Burger?

In most dating simulation games, the gameplay involves little more than being in the right places at the right times and being nice only to the girl you want. Sometimes you also need to build up the proper statistics of your character that correspond with the personality of the particular lady you want to end up with. Is this the case in Getter Love? If you’re expecting a “no!”, well, you’re not getting one! It’s the right answer, though. Getter Love isn’t as shallow as most dating sims.

The Love Love Point chart knows all. The basics of Getter Love consist of picking out a young lady you want to woo and visiting her favorite locales in hopes of “accidentally” bumping into her. Give her a little time to become familiar with you (Ano... Player-kun...), and then ask her out. If you answer to her every beck and call, she may just fall in love with you. Beating the game is sort of like Clue in that you can try your luck and win at the very second the girl reaches the point when she’s interested in going steady with you or you can wait until you have full confidence in your proposed victory. If you let the relationship linger on until she loves you so much that she can no longer contain it, she will profess her intimate feelings for her pursuer, thus beating the game for you.

One of the main sources of the game’s complexity is the Simultaneous Activity Map System, or SAMS as Hudson likes to call it. Hudson made a huge deal about the system as if it was something truly revolutionary. Well, it is new to the dating simulation genre, but it’s really not something to sit on the edge of your seat about. To put it simply, it’s just a tiny 3D map of Panda Town, where all the action takes place. You select a location on the map when each turn of the day comes up and off you go. The brilliance of it lies in the simultaneous activity. Not only do you view yourself walk from your home to your destination, but everyone else, rival players and girls alike, head to their destinations as well. You and the other players have the ability to brake or dash to affect the speed at which you move. This makes a huge difference in the game when you’re getting down to the minute details of weaseling a win away from a leading rival. And while you always return to your home after at night or after a date, in all other situations your next turn begins at the location you previously visited.

While reading through the previous paragraph, did a question pop into your mind? “Rivals?” Other dating simulations may be a one-man show, but not Getter Love. As you already know, Getter Love is, to some extent, part board game. If you dare to attempt it (and have three friends geeky enough to join you), you can participate in some wild four-player Getter Love action. Be prepared because the sparks are going to fly. Perhaps in a devious plan to reduce the world’s overpopulation, Hudson added buttons that trigger a booing voice and a cheering voice. If you want to still have both your thumbs in order to play Getter Love another day, stay away from that cheering button when your rivals are getting “hosed”.They may look happy and innocent now, but these rivals are heartless.

As a board game, Getter Love is no Monopoly or Risk. You won’t have to battle for days attempting to squeeze the last little breath of life out of your opponent only to have an angry Ukrainian smash your game to pieces. Getter Love is designed to be a fast-paced multiplayer game with no “filler” turns. Try whooping the game out on some intoxicated night of insomnia when you and your friends fear the eighth straight hour of Duck Hunt may finally push you all over the edge. Just don’t sue me when the Andy Warhol dancing pandas send you into delusional trip in which you’re an orange and you try to peel yourself...

Even when you’re playing by yourself, you’ll still have to face three computer-controlled opponents. These guys are no chumps either. The main challenge from Getter Love comes from beating these guys to the finish. Each day in Getter Love only consists of three turns (morning, afternoon, and evening), but these guys can pull off a victory in as little as four days. All the while seducing your woman, the players challenge each other to duels, use items to help themselves or hinder others, and gang up on girls so you can barely squeeze in a date for yourself. If that wasn’t enough to ruin all your hopeful dreams and plans with your sweetie, the girl herself won’t be easy to please either. She wants your full, undivided attention, and if you foul up a question of hers or get caught seen with another woman, it’s the doghouse for you. If you’re trying to unlock special events and the best endings, you gotta be speedy, smart, and employ every strategy you got. Heaven forbid you actually do well in the game or the computer will gang up on you using every nasty dirty trick in the book, and just when you think things can’t get any worse, here comes the Hose Beast merrily skipping your way.

Player 3 got it good. >) If all the dating simulation aspects become a bit too much for you, a few simple 3D action games pop up now and then to cleanse your palette, so you can get back into the nitty-gritty details of the game with a new sense of vigor. The four games are very simple in design, ranging from a quiz, a keep-away game, a paintball first-person shooter, and a one against three battle royale... with giant baka-hammers! While the games are fun as a minor addition to a love simulation game, by themselves they can’t hold their own. In particular, the keep-away game has a flaw in design so great that it can pin a character down ruining the entire battle.

Since the single player mode can be quite short, Hudson has added a lot of secrets to unlock. Altogether, there are 115 things that can be permanently saved to the cartridge in the Memories menu IF, and only if, you also beat the game after acquiring them in story mode. I can honestly say that I’ve beaten the game around fifty times, and I still don’t have them all. They vary from simple to unlock dialogue topics and endings you’ll receive with the bare minimum amount of love a girl can feel for you to special events and endings only a master can unlock with a flawless play-through of Getter Love.

The highpoint of Getter Love’s gameplay is that it’s always a dynamic ever-changing experience. You never know what the computer (or your human opponents) may throw at you, so a huge repertoire of intelligent strategies is a must. Unlike replaying most video games, you aren’t just going through the same motions over and over. Getter Love is the thinking, scheming man’s dating simulation.What are these guys planning...?

There should be an I Spy version of Getter Love where you try to find as many pandas as you can.

The proof is in the pudding. Nintendo 64 can do beautiful 2D graphics. It’s so saddening to see Yoshi’s Story, a game so devoid of... anything that makes a game interesting, representing to most Nintendo 64 players what the system can do graphically with 2D. Thankfully, for those willing to import, a whole world of 2D Nintendo 64 gaming opens up, and Getter Love is one of the best examples.

Every character has a large hand-drawn anime portrait that fills the screen, and each of the locations has a painted landscape that covers the background. Some of the locations even have several different pictures to represent the three main times of day such as the park and the school grounds. Even though Getter Love may make you believe otherwise, the Nintendo 64 is still doesn’t have a very powerful 2D graphic engine, so to keep things from overloading, the animation is kept to a minimum. None of the area pictures contain any animation, and the characters are limited to eye blinking. Instead, emotion and movement is expressed by “flipping” between photos. Every girl has several portraits, so as a conversation moves along and her expression changes, the current picture fades out and a new one pops in. In some cases, an entire picture change isn’t necessary, so only a facial feature will be replaced to reflect her feelings. All of this is pulled off seamlessly, so despite that you don’t see the girls hopping all over the place, they still feel quite alive.

The ONLY attractive picture of Ayumi. More impressive, however, is the sheer volume of fully drawn scenes that you can collect in a virtual photo album. During special events, you’ll see girls engage in their favorite hobbies or simply running around and giggling as Japanese schoolgirls tend to do. Some of these images have a “fan service” feel to them. In particular, the beach always gives an excuse to show off the girls’ bodies in bikinis. The quality of the pictures varies. Sometimes the ladies look lovely, other times the angles or features used appear awkward, and a few are downright unflattering. As someone who was once a collector of anime cels, I find amassing all the snapshots hopelessly addictive.

The focus of the game and the player no doubt is the girls and locations of Panda Town, but the supplementary graphics deserve a bit of attention as well. The animated menus you’ll encounter throughout the game are simple and color-coded. If that didn’t make them easy enough to navigate, the buttons also have images that represent what the menu options are for, so even a novice in Japanese could figure it out. There is also some minor use of pre-rendered graphics in Getter Love such as all the super-deformed faces of the male characters. It’s got that same “fuzzy” look that the pre-rendered graphics in Ogre Battle 64 have, so it’s nothing to get too excited over. At all times in the game, behind the menus, girls, location backgrounds, etc., there is a scrolling background representing the time of day. It can get a bit dizzying, but with so many layers piled on top of it, you’ll rarely get a good long look at it.

In typical Hudson-style, it doesn’t end there. This is a Nintendo 64 game, so Hudson has to throw in 3D just for the sake of it being there. Getter Love only further proves Hudson’s tendency to believe “if it’s 3D, it’s good enough”. There is absolutely nothing special or outstanding about Getter Love’s 3D graphics. The highest praise I could give it is that it gets the job done. There were countless 3D games released in Getter Love’s time period that were infinitely more appealing looking. Getter Love’s 3D graphics show competency, not talent.The simple 3D map of Panda Town.

Perhaps we should feel blessed that Hudson didn’t put more effort into the 3D graphics, though. I can’t imagine how horrid sub-par realistic polygon forms of the girls would be. Hudson took the super-deformed root, so despite the simplicity and blocky-ness of the polygons, the girls are still clearly recognizable and even somewhat cute.

”Ladies and Gentlemen!”

Getter Love contains some of the most realistic sound samples I have ever heard in a Nintendo 64 game. The music and sound effects are crystal clear. Of course, this would mean absolutely nothing if the music was poorly composed, but thankfully we’re blessed with a very enjoyable soundtrack in Getter Love.

A wide array of musical styles are present in Getter Love, and the songs match the personalities of the girls and the feel of the game to a tee. The popular cute girls have peppy cheerful J-Pop tunes (luckily without the vocals). The classy girl has a smooth, jazzy piece, and Shizuku, whose name means “drop of water”, has a song that is serene like a trickling stream in the woods. My favorite song, belonging to my favorite girl Kiiro, has an almost Hindi feel to it complete with chanting melodic vocals. For those fond of Asian music, Meifa is stereotypically given a traditional Chinese song, gongs and all. Other than the ladies’ themes, the music for the rest of the games lands square in the category of “quirky Japanese-only game music”. While it can be fun to rock out to the heavy bass of the silly songs at first, they quickly become tiresome. You’ll only have to hear these tunes momentarily between girls popping up, however.

Battle Card! Getter Love contains many impressive life-like sound effects such as cats meowing, dogs barking, doors opening, and change clinging, but the unidentifiable sound effects are more of the typical goofy Japanese fare. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, though. What fruity Japanese game would be complete without strange sound effects to go along with your little chibi dude dressed in heart pajamas taking a nap, washing himself in the tub, using a jackhammer, and waving giant item cards?

”Show me the money!”

I know it, you know it; you’re just waiting for me to come out and say it. Yes, I know the question that lingers in your head. I bought Getter Love out of the same perverse curiosity that brought you to read this review. I’ll finally let the cat out of the bag. Getter Love is not a hentai game. As much as we’d all like to snicker at the concept of such a thing being created by Hudson and released on the Nintendo 64, the reality is that it’s just not going to happen. Getter Love contains no risqué material whatsoever.

As soon as I received the game, I realized that the “sexy” girl flipping her hair and striking a pose in her mini skirt on the cover was in fact the backside of the Hose Beast. That quirky sense of humor permeates the entire game resulting in a wacky experience that could only come from the nutcases of Hudson. If you’re looking for a game with nothing but pretty faces or a no-nonsense simulation, Getter Love isn’t for you; but if you dare to try a game that dances gleefully in an indescribable limbo candy land and laughs in the face of all that is normal and sane, you’ve found your panda.