Cheer on our Japanese-language reporter Ikuna in her quest to bag a fictional boyfriend!

Tokimeki Memorial is a landmark of gaming that sadly never got a chance to be appreciated in the West—in no small part because translating and localizing its gargantuan amount of text was a tall order, and especially so for a Western audience where dating sims didn’t have such a voracious audience. The games are simple in concept: you are a freshman at high school, and the goal is to have your preferred romantic option profess their love to you at graduation.

Though many popular dating franchises zero in on otaku of a single gender, Tokimeki Memorial has been catering to men and women for a long time. The first Tokimeki Memorial: Girl’s Side, which lines up a gallery of attractive boys for a female high school freshman, was released in 2002. Our Japanese-language reporter Ikuna Kamezawa has been playing all of the Tokimeki games since the first game was released in 1994, but she admits that the Girl’s Side games get her heart pounding just a little bit more—those boys are very pretty, you know.

Tokimeki Memorial: Girl’s Side 4th Heart was released at midnight on October 28 in Japan, but Ikuna was actually in France at the time. She was able to download it to her Nintendo Switch at 5 p.m. on October 27, halfway across the world! Technology is truly amazing.

▼ Here’s the title screen!

Let’s get one thing clear: Ikuna is a die-hard classic Tokimemo fan, and she’s stubborn about not messing with a formula that works. The games from the ’90s and early ’00s are the blueprint to follow, and thankfully TokiMemo: Girl’s Side 4th Heart sticks with the time-honored pattern set by those early games. It practically feels like one of those early games, but with improved graphics and quality-of-life tweaks.

In typical Tokimeki Memorial fashion, we start out with a childhood flashback.

“We made this pinwheel the same way, so maybe it’ll make our dreams come true?”

It’s also relatively common for the protagonist to come back to their hometown after a long stint, so they can meet up with their fated childhood friend when they start high school. This time, though, your childhood friend Ryota Kazama is the one who left and returns in time for you to be freshmen together.

“I guess that Ryota is back in town… It’s been nine years since he left for the U.K.”

And of course, you get some lavish CGs where you see that childhood friend in full glory. For those unfamiliar with Tokimeki Memorial, the childhood friend route is usually the one with the most attention given to it, the one that feels the most romantically rewarding—and in turn, they are usually ridiculously difficult to court.

“Geez, so we’re even in the same class as each other?”

It’s almost an exact recreation of the formula from the early games! Ikuna remembered that the TokiMemo series has tried to jazz up the formula in some entries, but this style is her favorite. She was delighted!

Now that the game had started, it was time for Ikuna to set about her three years of high school life. She would have to balance self-improvement and socializing in order to have a fulfilling school life, while also trying to court the boy of her dreams. Ikuna decided to go big or go home: her heart was set on Ryota, the childhood friend.

“(Ryota really loves the color white. I’d better remember that!)”

Yes, it’s a given that the childhood friend will be a tough option. But why settle for any less?

In actuality, Ikuna already had selected a favorite from the pre-release materials: an underclassman called Inori Himuro. She didn’t want to try pursuing him right away, though; by trying to woo Ryota, she would have a better sense of the difficulty level of the game in general.

See, Ikuna is hard to please on this front. She wants the game to be difficult; that makes it all the more fun to win! She’s played several TokiMemo games where she won the lead’s heart on her first playthrough, and she found those experiences utterly forgettable. The legendary difficulty of childhood friend Shiori Fujisaki in the first game kept Ikuna entranced, and even the relative ease with which she courted the other first-game girls felt immersive.

With her target in sight, Ikuna began her virtual school life. The series of little mini-games and scheduling will be very familiar to any longtime fans, and the series’ typical chibi-styled animations are extremely adorable in this latest entry.

▼ Stats such as popularity, charm, stress level, creativity, and physical prowess are tracked throughout the year.

Alongside doing activities to boost her abilities and keep her stress down, Ikuna’s in-game avatar would schedule dates with her fictional beaus.

“Okay, I’ll be waiting at the park gate on May 16!”

She also took part in school activities, studied for exams, and joined a club, like any good student…

“We have an all-hands practice on the third Sunday of every month, so please make sure you participate.”

And celebrated a tragically lonely birthday.

“Right, it’s my birthday today…but I didn’t get any gifts from anyone…”

With all the fun she was having she made some slip-ups here and there, with consequences. She was dismissed from her club without ceremony for not attending enough practices.

“We have no need for a club manager who doesn’t ever show up. You’re out of the club. Bye.”

The game is also bursting with the typical TokiMemo charm mentioned earlier, with mini-games like a pillow fight during a school trip, plenty of fun scenes with great soundtracks, as well as plenty of cameos from beloved characters from earlier entries in the series.

As a series regular, Ikuna blasted through the entirety of her first playthrough in six hours and reached her graduation ceremony. Time for the moment of truth. Would she win Ryota’s heart? Would he confess?


▼ She was awarded a final stats scene, but no one confessed to her.

Ikuna assumes the problem lies in the game’s extremely tricky “stats system” which sorts your compatibility with a given boy alongside an aggregate result of your character’s stats. Ikuna thinks she might have needed to pay a little more attention to her athletics and academics rather than the social aspect… But she’d been mostly focused on those social sections due to writing her report about the game. Alas!

Still, even though he didn’t confess, Ryota seemed pretty smitten. Ikuna was kind of charmed by how earnestly he flirted with her character, despite clearly not actually feeling enough of a connection to confess.

“My feelings for you are more genuine than for anything or anyone else. Just…don’t forget that.” Sure, buddy.

The ending that Ikuna actually got was one of the less impressive “Friendship” endings, where the game assigned her female side character Michiru as her best friend. So, you know, at least she didn’t end her high school life as a complete loner.

The game is filled with content, with many characters not appearing until much later on in the calendar. Ikuna thinks this game actually makes for a decent entry point into the series…so hey, Konami, how about an English translation? Huh? Let more of us try to win Ryota’s fickle heart! There are dozens of us out here who want to re-live our high school lives as a dating sim, right? Dozens!

Related: Konami Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side 4th Heart
Images © Konami Digital Entertainment (taken from Nintendo Switch edition of Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side 4th Heart)
[ Read in Japanese ]