An addition to the Half Past Fate series for the lovestruck of 2020, Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing follows a pair of star-crossed lovers trying to maintain a blossoming relationship during a pandemic. The game doesn’t explicitly state the name of the disease ravaging the world, but it’s hard not to notice the parallels between the story world and reality right now.
Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing takes the form of a visual novel that gives you opportunities to choose how the characters interact with each other and the world around them.
Although the game is short and inexpensive, it is clearly very well constructed and has made great use of the style established in the original Half Past Fate game. The art style is very cute, with a pixelated retro design and soft colours. The soundtrack is fun and, without using any copyrighted music, ties neatly into the characters’ shared interest in music.
The personalities of the two protagonists are established quickly and effectively. You first meet Steven in the street and Robin in a shop, but their comments about the world around them and the conversation they have with each other creates a clear image of the kind of individuals they are. This also allows you to learn more about them as they get to know each other and feel like you are more of a part of that process.
The pandemic hits just in time for their first date to get cancelled due to quarantine. Instead, Steven and Robin turn to video calling each other while it isn’t safe to spend time together in person. Steven lives with his elderly uncle, and concern for his health factors into his decision making.
Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to engage with the story. You click around each of the characters’ houses and there are a handful of dialogue options when they talk. But you can tell even when you do get those choices that they don’t have much of an impact on the direction of the game.
The story is brief and cute. Seeing Steven and Robin bond over their shared interests is sweet. It would be nice to have more involvement in this, though. For instance, choosing how to react to seeing Robin’s home-built PC or Steven’s album collection could have been a nice way for the player to feel like they had some input in the development of their relationship. Instead, you just watch it unfold.
The story touches on some concerns specifically raised by the pandemic. Steven worries about his uncle, who runs a shop that has to run at a lower capacity than usual. The conflict of the story is whether or not the couple should attempt a socially distant date in person as restrictions start to ease, even though Steven lives with a high-risk person.
Ultimately, you do not have a say in this decision. This is another pivotal moment that could have so much more impact. If you got to make the choice to go out and see the consequences of that decision on Steven, his uncle, their health, their relationship, this could have made for a much more profound climax.
If you’re looking for a nice love story to fill an hour, Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing will scratch exactly that itch. If you’re a fan of the original Half Past Fate game, it may be a great addition to that world. But, as a stand-alone piece, it could benefit from being more interactive and delving deeper into the emotional and moral conflict.
Review: Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing (Nintendo Switch)
Half Past Fate’s pandemic themed addition to its romantic series is a nice little love story, but it doesn’t have much in the way of player interaction and feels like it only scratches the surface of the emotional impact of looking for love in lockdown.