The Adventures of Hourai High (SNES)

Pub: J-Wing | Dev: Dynamite | April '96 | 8 MEGS
Pub: J-Wing | Dev: Dynamite | April ’96 | 8 MEGS

I fell in love with EarthBound after playing it for the first time back in November 2012. It was one of the best RPGs that I ever played. Wanting more, I searched online for similar titles. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered there was one on the SNES called The Adventures of Hourai High. It’s an obscure Japanese only RPG that can best be described as a mix of EarthBound and Final Fantasy V. Say no more. Take my money! Thankfully, the game’s dialogue has long since been fan translated from Japanese to English. Thanks to the effort of these good men, Westerners can now enjoy a visit to the wacky and nutty Hourai High School…

20 YEAR REUNION

Earthbound fans will appreciate Hourai High's humor
EarthBound fans will appreciate Hourai High‘s humor

Just yesterday the Nintendo 64 and Mario 64 celebrated 20 years since both were first released in Japan. Dude, that just blows my mind. Where does the time go? Speaking of 20th Anniversaries, a couple months ago The Adventures of Hourai High turned 20 years old itself. I guess them crazy cats had their 20 year class reunion somewhere in Japan. Thinking about that makes me reminisce about my high school years. I just crossed the 15 year mark myself. Damn I’m getting old…

Its Final Fantasy V job system lets you join various clubs
Its Final Fantasy V job system lets you join many clubs

MEMORIES OF SENIOR YEAR

Ah, high school -- the formative years of our youth
Ah, high school — the formative years of our youth

Who doesn’t remember high school? From getting your driver’s license, your first job, or perhaps even your first girlfriend [or boyfriend -Ed.], those were the days of our youth. We formed friendships and learned life lessons. We also learned a little bit more about who we were going to be. Senior Prom, Grad Night, crappy group projects, the Senior Prank, cliques, clubs, crushes, awful school lunches, crappy teachers, cool teachers, and a whole lot of posturing to be cool and hip, especially with the “in-crowd.” High school now feels like ancient history to me, and while I feel college was a lot more important, it’s impossible to deny that high school has its place too. I was sort of a regular kid in high school. I wasn’t part of the “cool kids” group, but I wasn’t one of the dweebs that got bullied, either. I was good old Steve, the nice guy the girls liked (as their friend only, of course) and I hung out with other regular Joes who were right in the middle of the pecking order, so to speak. We had a good time, forged some good memories but when all was said and done, we sailed out into the sunset, never looking back sans the odd nostalgic moment here and there.

I'll never forget Judy -- my biggest high school crush
I’ll never forget Judy — my biggest high school crush

In terms of pecking order, I hit my peak during senior year. I started branching out from my friends, taking classes that interested me (such as creative writing and acting) which helped to develop my confidence. I also landed my first job at the local Blockbuster, and my employee perk of being able to get 5 free movies a week suddenly made little ole me a man in demand. Many nights I would see a lot of my cute senior classmates stroll in and I would take advantage of the opportunity by chatting with them as I rung them up. My biggest crush was easily Judy. She was the prom queen of our school. The girl was smoking hot. I always felt like we shared a great rapport. Somehow Lady Luck had it that we sat next to each other in a couple classes. I’d call Judy many nights to exchange class notes before talking about random topics for a little bit. This was back in the day when cell phones had yet to explode in popularity, so I had Judy’s house number. I wanted her email so I could directly connect with her — sometimes it felt a little awkward to have to talk to her mom or dad first. Unfortunately she was dating a jock at the time and so I was left daydreaming.

Steph was cool but jeez, I was quite the homework helper
Steph was cool. Hope she’s well wherever she is

Yearbooks were passed out the week of our Graduation. I remember that last week of my senior year fondly. Passing yearbooks around, signing them for your buddies and everyone feeling excited about the future. Many felt as though we had the world at the tip of our fingers. That youthful optimism that only comes when you’re 17 almost ready to graduate and head off to college. I had never told Judy how much I enjoyed our friendship. I decided to tell her in my yearbook signing. We exchanged yearbooks at lunch and I went to work. I hoped she’d somehow include her email in my yearbook. Finally, we exchanged again and I walked home anxious to read what she had wrote. I’ll never forget the feeling of butterflies soaring in the pit of my stomach when I cracked my yearbook open to read what Judy had written. Was she going to pour out her soul to me as well?

*fist pump*
*fist pump*

I never felt so high and light in my life before. My biggest high school crush read my mind. She not only gave me her email address but asked me to hang out with her as well. Life was good. Thanks for the memories, Judy.

TIMEWALK TRIBUTE

I was lucky to buy these two just months before Timewalk folded
Their work was high quality indeed

Timewalk was a famous little fan company within the retro gaming community. They once sold beautiful repro games and some of them even had gorgeous boxes and manuals. Before they closed shop in early 2014 I was fortunate enough to buy the boxes and manuals of Gunman’s Proof and The Adventures of Hourai High. Man I’m glad I did. I always meant to buy more of their SNES box/manual sets but sadly never got around to it before they unexpectedly closed. Timewalk boxes nowadays go for a pretty penny as they’re now officially a limited quantity.

This "diary" manual was a bit... creepy
This diary manual was a bit… creepy

Timewalk’s products are amazing but the manual to Adventures of Hourai High deserves a special shout-out. Designed by member JM, this 44-page booklet was written in composition notebook form. It’s written from the perspective of the female protagonist. Recall that you can play as either a male or female. It makes sense that they chose to write the manual from a female perspective since high school girls are more prone to journaling. There are no how-to instructions in this diary. Instead, it’s a full-blown account of her times at Hourai High from the moment she arrives, April 1st, to nearly a year later on March 25th. The entries are written from a 16 year old female’s point of view — all of the dairy entries are downright emo. It totally fits and I commend JM for the incredible effort. Even more impressive, JM used actual facts from the game that players will quickly pick up on. It sort of adds another layer to the whole experience.

That drawing reminds me of something...
That drawing reminds me of something…

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As does this...
As does this…

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There's even a touch of the occult at Hourai High. Heebie-jeebies!
There’s even a touch of the occult at Hourai High
Kinda gives one the heebie-jeebies!
Kinda gives one the heebie-jeebies!

THE WACKY STORY GOES…

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Richard Vernon from the 1985 classic The Breakfast Club
Richard Vernon from The Breakfast Club (1985)

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Best subtitle ever
Best subtitle ever
Choose between using a guy or girl
Choose between using a guy or girl
Here's a tip noob: Roku is the type to hold grudges
Here’s a tip: Roku is the type to hold grudges
[Hmm, I notice you do a lot of "research" -Ed.]
[Hmm, I notice you do a lot of “research” -Ed.]
The modern setting helps differentiate it from fantasy RPGs
The modern setting helps set it apart from most RPGs
What did I say about Roku eh?

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He should be more upset about that stupid haircut!
He should be more upset about that stupid haircut!
It even apes EarthBound's font. A lovely touch indeed
It even apes EarthBound‘s font. A lovely touch indeed
Meet Daichi, your fellow comrade. At times a little TOO loyal
Meet your super loyal comrade, Daichi
High school urban legends? Check
High school urban legends? Check

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And I shall call it... hmm, ah yes, WEIRD SCIENCE...
And I shall call it… hmm, ah yes, WEIRD SCIENCE

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Dude, we just escaped an infested sewer!
Dude, we just barely escaped an infested sewer!
UM NO, nope... I h-haven't s-seen a-any gh-ghosts around here...
“Uh, I haven’t s-seen any gh-ghosts around here…”

[Lemme guess. Research again, right? -Ed.]
[Lemme guess. Research again, right? -Ed.]
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You an carry guns and knives at Hourai High
You can carry guns and knives at Hourai High
I" said CRIPES. Jeez, just coz I'm black!"
“I said CRIPES. Jeez, just coz I’m black…”
Do NOT want to backtrack here. TRUST ME
Do NOT want to backtrack here. TRUST ME
Sure, why not. Robots at Hourai High too
Sure, why not. Robots at Hourai High too

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Shin means new right? Good, coz you need a new haircut
Shin means new — good coz ya need a new haircut
The only SNES RPG to feature an African American
The only SNES RPG to feature an African American
[Chihaya, you're not the first lady to say that... -Ed.]
[You’re not the first lady to say that… -Ed.]
So girls can go to boys' dorm but not vice versa? Oh it's Hinako
Hinako is that girl you love to hate

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OK, NOW I have officially seen it all
OK, NOW I have officially seen it all

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"We're tryin' to attract 'em, not scare 'em away!"
“We’re tryin’ to attract ‘em, not scare ‘em away!”

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Poor Hinako. She's such a good sport...
Poor Hinako. She’s such a good sport…
“Way to put me on the spot. Well, let’s see…”
Good call, Steve. Good call
Good call, Steve. Good call

What other SNES RPG celebrates your birthday eh?
What other SNES RPG celebrates your birthday eh?
Get a little BDAY boost!
Get a little BDAY boost!
"Stop coming into my room. It was only ONE night Hinako!"
“Quit barging in. It was only ONE night OK!”
Wait, is that same bitch who threw you out?
Wait, is that same bitch who threw you out?

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Yeah, sometimes Daichi is TOO loyal...
Yeah, sometimes Daichi is TOO loyal…
Great idea! Let's split up. It always works in scary movies
Let’s split up. It always works in scary movies
[I need that tree -Ed.]
[I need that tree -Ed.]
Miss Adachi, your homeroom teacher, is quite the looker
Ms. Adachi, the homeroom teacher, is quite a looker
"Do you have a bridge I can buy too?"
“Do you have a bridge I can buy too?”
Whoa, some creepazoid be watching you sleep...
Whoa, some creepazoid watchin’ you sleep…
Well that escalated quickly
Well that escalated quickly

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Save this unkempt savage and he'll join your team
Save this little savage and he’ll join the team
If you thought Mitsurin was odd, check out this guy!
Thought Mitsurin was odd? Check out this guy
He has a name and he also talks. OK...
He has a name and he also talks. OK…
There are no words to describe this
There are no words to describe this

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Love the feeling of finding keys in an RPG
Love the feeling of finding keys in an RPG
What evil lies behind this door? Play it to find out
What evil lies beyond? Play it to find out…
Remember how satisfying it was gliding down these ropes?
The jungle chapter reminded me of this
A case of deja vu
Talk about a case of deja vu

The jungle is probably my favorite chapter in the game. I love how Hourai High uses a modern backdrop, but throws in more exotic locales such as this wild jungle. It’s similar to what EarthBound did to keep the journey fresh as well as exciting. Here in the jungle you’ll encounter all sorts of untamed savages ready to devour your party whole. I enjoyed all chapters of Hourai High but I like the jungle one most because it captures what the FIELD TRIP FROM HELL would be like. Good times. Or rather, bad times? Ah you get my drift.

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Its sense of humor is sure to make you smile
Its sense of humor is sure to make you smile
New amusingly strict rules are declared every so often
New amusingly strict rules are posted every so often
I know we bonded on that Africa trip, but come on!
“I know we bonded on that Africa trip, but c’mon!”

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Roku ain't letting it go
Roku ain’t letting it go

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This robot reminds me of the one from Breath of Fire

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Each new rule get crazier and crazier
Each new rule get crazier and crazier
Poor Daichi and his weak bladder. Kid is screwed
Poor Daichi and his weak bladder. Kid is screwed
"Ah sorry! Sometimes I take things literally..."
“Ah sorry! Sometimes I take things literally…”
In terms of oddness, only EarthBound can rival it
In terms of oddness, only EarthBound can rival it

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Quit laughing! Don't you see this isn't funny. It's sick!
“Quit laughing! This isn’t funny — this is sick!”
Hell yeah, Hourai High shows that you can stick it to the man!
Hell yeah, stick it to the man!

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Alright let's all calm down now
“Alright pal, let’s all calm down now…”
What the ...
What the …
Light-colored text reveals people's real thoughts
Light color text reveals people’s real thoughts
Ugh, you don't leave without getting an answer!
Ugh, you don’t leave without getting an answer!
Is that scotch I smell there, Santa?
Is that scotch I smell there, Santa?
There are many Santa workers; you have to suss out the right one
Imposters galore. But only one real Santa
I love how she loses her sanity more day by day, week by week...
Slowly losing her sanity day by day, week by week…

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Secret of Mana (1993)
Secret of Mana (1993)
This is NOT how you treat a starfish! It is extremely unbecoming!
“NOT cool. It’s extremely unbecoming!”
What attending Hourai High for 6 months will do to ya
Yep, she’s lost it now
"BAH HUMBUG!"
“BAH HUMBUG!”
Ninjas... always ruining Christmas
Ninjas… always ruining Christmas
Click like, comment, subscribe, donate...
Click like, comment, subscribe, donate…
WHAT!?!  No, he doesn't. I mean, no, we've never.... YOU KNOW!
“WHAT!?! I have no recollection of this…”
Each month (chapter) ends with an interesting newspaper article
Each month ends with a newspaper article
On second thought, being with you kids... make that any second!
“Being with you kids… make that any second!”
Who knows what strange beasts dwell in these deadly caves?
What strange beasts dwell in these deadly caves?

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That's just... wrong
That’s just… wrong

Looks serious. Could be a revolt!  [Or lunch -Ed.]
Looks serious. Could be a revolt! [Or lunch -Ed.]
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"Uhhh guys... I have a bad feeling about this..."
“Uhhh guys… I have a bad feeling about this…”

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Street Fighter II (1991)
Street Fighter II (1991)

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Gamera vs. Zigra (1971)
Gamera vs. Zigra (1971)

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Trilogy of Terror (1975)
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
The game's art style is loaded with character
The game’s art style is loaded with character
"There's a reason why we call you HIGH-nako..."
“There’s a reason we call you HIGH-nako…”

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[Oops. But it’s OK, only like 6 people read this site -Ed.]
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SIDEWAY STORIES AT HOURAI HIGH

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A childhood classic
A childhood classic

One of the best things about elementary school was receiving the latest book order. Remember circling all the book titles you wanted and getting your parents to buy most of them? It was a much easier sales pitch than a video game on account of being far cheaper and educational. Best of all, that magical morning you come into the classroom and find a stack of brand new books sitting atop your desk! Sure, it might not have been as wondrous as getting a video game on Christmas morning, but then again, as a kid what was? Seeing new books on your desk was still pretty damn cool. And while my love for the Goosebumps series has been well documented, one of my absolute favorites was easily Sideway Stories From Wayside School. It told the wacky tales of a zany school that was constructed 30 stories high! Featuring an evil teacher, Mrs. Gorf, each chapter highlighted a different student. The stories were beyond bizarre. My favorite was the chapter “Stephen.” Because it had my name (well, close enough) AND it was based on my favorite holiday as a kid: Halloween. Stephen also gets the best of Mrs. Gorf. I remember living vicariously through him. It was a reminder that even a little brave kid could stand up to a big mean adult.

As a kid I believed that Louis Sachar wrote this chapter for me
Louis Sachar clearly wrote this chapter for me
Subsequent inferior sequels followed and uh, 'jumped the shark'
Inferior sequels followed and jumped the shark…

GLARING FLAWS

Far from a perfect 4.0 GPA...
Far from a perfect 4.0 GPA…

There’s no denying the game’s humor and charm. However, a few key flaws keep it from being great. The biggest flaw? Equipping better armor and weapons seem to make NO difference at all. How Dynamite missed this is baffling, but this was the only game they ever developed, so take that for what it’s worth. So then this game is super hard right? Wrong. It’s actually very easy, even with this flaw. Your characters do level up, so their strength does increase, and that helps. You just can’t increase your strength by equipping a stronger weapon, so it makes armor and weapon buying useless, which is a shame as that’s part of the fun. So even though you can earn a variety of cool skills from all the various clubs you’ll join, it really doesn’t make a dent in the gameplay much in the end, as battles are so easy the only strategy consists of spamming the attack button (or use auto battle). The next major flaw: there are some game crashing bugs. I’ll highlight some below. Fortunately, on my playthrough, I avoided the bugs and thus was able to see the game through. Finally, the enemy encounter rate is ridiculously high. Sometimes you can’t take 4 steps it seems without a random battle occurring. Thus, it can drag the game down a bit. Thank God for that auto battle option.

It's a shame that buying new weapons and armor is not necessary
No need to buy new weapons and armor
Use Hinako's GUST skill at your own discretion...
Don’t use Hinako’s GUST skill. Just don’t
If you leave here and come back, the game may crash
If you leave here and come back, the game crashes
You get ridiculously bombarded by bad guys constantly
The enemy encounter rate is ridiculously high
Hmmm, I got a Senior Prank in mind...
Hmmm, I got a Senior Prank in mind…
Love the Lego Duplo look of the characters
Love the Lego Duplo look of the characters

Like I said, there are some flaws that one just cannot overlook. Having said that, now let’s talk about the positives. Visually, it’s got a very clean and unique look. The characters look great. Enemies and the various locales have a good deal of detail. The music is surprisingly well done for a company who only made one game. Lots of catchy tunes that range from frenetic and upbeat to soothing and relaxing, like a cool summertime breeze. There are many friends to make, many playable characters to try and many different clubs you can join to earn a myriad of offensive and defensive skills. You can partake in up to 3 clubs at once and you are free to switch out whenever you like.

There are so many people you can recruit!
There are so many people you can recruit!
The "Friend Point" was a neat little system
The “Friend Point” was a neat little system

You also earn Friend Points after a fight. Distribute it as you wish. After maxing out one’s Friend Points, that character becomes your best bud. You then unlock certain special skills and moves. Pretty cool stuff.

If you love (zany) RPGs, Hourai High is worth a visit
If you love (zany) RPGs, Hourai High is worth a visit

FAST TIMES AT HOURAI HIGH

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[Touché -Ed.]
[Touché -Ed.]
It took me 30 hours to beat this game. I will definitely play through it a second time at some point down the road, and use the female protagonist next time. I’d like to thank the translating crew over at Aeon Genesis, who made this fan translation possible. A job well done, AG!

EarthBound fans will likely enjoy this too
EarthBound fans will likely enjoy this game too

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Not exactly a welcome mat, is it?"
“Not exactly a welcome mat now, is it?”

Adventures of Hourai High will take you back to high school in some ways, but it’s also far beyond anything anyone ever experienced in high school. Yes, you’ll make buddies (even to varying degrees), join clubs and learn different skills, and even forge a few enemies but if it stopped there it’d be boring. Here, you’ll go on the adventure of a lifetime. Everywhere from rancid sewers to wild jungles to spooky demonic temples. Along the journey there’s plenty of charm thanks in large part to its amusing dialogue and all the wacky characters who inhabit its kooky world. It’s like high school, only taken to the very extreme, with a very peculiar Japanese touch that ONLY the Japanese can offer. If that sounds like a good time to you then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it — warts and all — like I have!

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Adventures of Hourai High exudes charm and humor in spades. And that’s the best quality it has going for it. Where it falls short in execution, it excels in charming the pants off ya. All the strange characters that you meet, the diverse locales you’ll travel to and all the weird enemies you battle, not to mention the amusing dialogue, makes you press on in spite of its flaws. It’s one of the most endearing video games I’ve ever experienced. If you’re willing to look beyond the rough edges (high enemy encounter rate and broken weapon system), there’s a wonderful adventure lying underneath. This game made me smile constantly. It’s loaded with personality and heart. It’s too bad Dynamite didn’t iron out the kinks because this could have been a real gem. Still, it’s one of those rare games where in spite of its glaring flaws there’s something about it compels you forward. Who knew an RPG based around high school teenage life could be so addicting? If you can bear its missteps, this is one high school definitely worth visiting.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 7
Longevity: 7

AwardOverall: 7.5
Bronze Award

2 thoughts on “The Adventures of Hourai High (SNES)”

  1. One of my favorite reviews of yours (even on the old site), RVGSteve! =) The more I read (and think about) it the more I want to play it because it sounds like a crazy fun time (and hearing of the jobs system in it is cool ’cause I love Final Fantasy V–most people prefer IV or VI but I like V the most, but that’s just me) and it sounds humorous (in fact many of the in-game quotes were humorous). XD Every now and then I check on eBay to see if there’s a repro cart of Hourai High but sadly from what I noticed it’s not common (and when it does show up it’s expensive). =( I have been meaning to get another SNES repro cart for awhile anyway (I only have four at the moment) but lately I strictly focused on SFC purchases. I love this review!

    Also, two ’80s John Hughes movie references for the price of one review? Awesome! =D

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Heh, thanks StarBoy! It’s one of my personal favorites too; I had a lot of fun putting this review together. It was nice to reminisce a bit about my old high school days as well. I hope you can find this game for cheap. If you Google “SNES repros” you will find some sites selling Hourai High for under $50.

      Glad you appreciated the two ’80s John Hughes movie references :)

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