You really learn a lot about games and gaming history by reading Hi Score Girl. Like in this volume alone I learned Gals Panic was something you could stick somewhere in the arcades for boys and girls to see and play. I have a feeling not American ones though.
…Take that as a warning in case you search for this at work. Anywho…
Volume 4 of Hi Score Girl brings us to 1995. This is where consoles are powerful enough to port over arcade games, the Playstation and Sega Saturn battle would begin in earnest, and Haruo “Mighty Fingers” Yaguchi has retired from gaming. Well, arcade games at least. After not getting into Joran High School with Akira, he’s now at his backup choice, but outside of that, he’s gaming at home. Unwilling to face her after his failure, he’s not willing to go to the arcades anymore.
Sucks for him since there are so many new games out there, and Hidaka’s gotten good at all of them! Like, so good she’s able to embarrass him (and others). But she’s harboring her feelings to the oblivious Haruo, and it somewhat comes to a head when she runs into Akira at an arcade, who has her own troubles, and not just with Haruo. Maybe games won’t be able to help out this time.
Ok, you can figure games will eventually play a role — it is all three of our leads’ shared passion — but this volume continues to have reality set in for them. And for Haruo, it just sinks in by the day. Work for a couple hours, go to school, avoid thinking too much about Akira and his future, and play games. However, his fear of seeing her ends up making him lose touch for games in a way he didn’t expect. That’s what happens when you grow up, and ultimately, he needs to stop being ignorant to it all — which he’ll have no choice to based on how volume 4 ends!
Meanwhile Hidaka finds herself trying to get great at games in order to get Haruo to pay attention to her, but she realizes this isn’t going to work. And this is despite her playing arcade games when he wasn’t there — even playing right next to boys playing Gals Panic — and getting good. Now she’s at a level above him, but all it takes is her talking (well, interacting is more appropriate) to Akira for the first time for things to change. Or at least, where she realizes it’ll take something drastic for her relationship with Haruo to change.
The most compelling part about this volume though is Akira. Not able to see Haruo or go to arcades, getting strict teaching from Goda as part of the Oono family training, and her encounter with Hidaka ends up reaching a breaking point for her. This obviously isn’t the first time she ran away, but that’s a lot for one person to take, so it’s understandable why she’d rebel. From there Rensuke Oshikiri brings forth the comedic hilarity but also understandable emotions for high schoolers, just that it may or may not involve video game characters going on a journey with Haruo all across town.
From that to the extra chapter where Haruo and Oono did some arcade hopping back in middle school in order to find all the hidden moves for the Darkstalkers characters, and this is a pretty strong volume of Hi Score Girl. Art is still spotty but it’s less and less noticeable as actual fighting game characters are shown and Hidaka absolutely crushes Haruo in a game…multiple games actually. Can’t wait to discover what arcade game would be unlikely to be in America next time.