Review – Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops

There are lots of aspects of Japanese pop culture that I struggle to understand, but none of them puzzle me like the sheer popularity of the Hello Kitty brand. Sure, it’s cute, and anyone can doodle it, but for it to be worth eight billion dollars (2014 numbers), is just absolutely shocking. Befuddling, even. What’s even more confusing now, at least to me, is how this franchise, which in the past was known for just having bottom-of-the-barrel shovelware games associated to it, is now part of one of the most entertaining rhythm games I’ve played in recent memory. If you clicked on this review expecting for me to trash on Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This is actually a pretty good game.

Hello Kitty Perfect

Why is Hello Kitty so much taller than every other human being? Is she a kaiju?

In theory, Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops should have been crap. It is, in essence, a rhythm game where you’re told to march through a parade to the beat of the song being played, all while trying to collect as many coins as possible, and avoiding all obstacles thrown into this garbage-infested street they chose to schedule the parade on. Walking to a beat sounds excruciatingly boring, but somehow, the developers at Dabadu Games managed to craft a pretty interesting gameplay loop that does more than just be functional; it’s actually fun.

The playable street has three lanes. You need to march and change lanes according to the beat, always paying attention to collectable items and obstacles to avoid. The game features two different input methods. You can use traditional controls, with either the D-pad or the face buttons (except X) representing each lane. That, by itself, is already fun, especially if you decide to play the game on portable mode; Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops is actually stupidly fun as a “pick up and play experience”. The other method uses the Joy-Con’s motion controls, with each controller representing “move left” or “move right”. Shaking both of them at once keeps you in your lane. In essence, a pseudio Taiko no Tatsujin experience, when you stop and think about it.

Hello Kitty Photoshoot

The photoshoot sections give you extra points.

There’s more to this loop. Each character in your parade (you need to pick up three) has a special ability that can be unleashed every now and then, resulting in some buffs. You can also freely swap between those characters during a song; if you reach a specific section with a specific character (you’ll notice once you see one), you’ll partake in a bonus photoshoot minigame, giving you extra points.

Finally, the game actually functions as an arcade/pseudo-roguelike hybrid. You can’t just pick a song and play. You start off a new run, and have to progress through a series of levels, without losing out members on obstacles. Do so, and the run is over, go back to the beginning of it, but with the option of upgrading your characters with better health and improvements on their special abilities. It’s simple, but it’s just enough to keep you hooked for a next run. Of course, the game being well-made helps out in this regard as well.

Hello Kitty Bonus

Depending on how well you perform at a song, you’ll get a few additional seconds to mash the A button like crazy for some bonus points.

There are two important things that just NEED to be featured in a rhythm game: excellent performance and a killer soundtrack. To my surprise, Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops runs at a juicy 60fps at all times, with no hiccups, all while looking… fine. The source material isn’t known for being visually complex either, so I guess they did the best they could with what they were given.

The soundtrack is fully licensed, featuring a wide assortment of songs I have never heard of. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’d go as far as saying that the developers did a phenomenal job scavenging for some hidden gems. At first, I was expecting something akin to the soundtrack seen in the Hatsune Miku games. I expected a ton of vocaloid music, some J-Pop, and not a lot of variety. To my surprise (I know, I’m saying this a lot in this review), Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops features pop, electronic, indie rock, disco… it’s varied, and it’s good. Those tunes are catchy as hell. It’s the perfect icing on the cake.

Hello Kitty obstacles

Why would you put obstacles on a parade in my honor??

I couldn’t have been more surprised. Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops is a great rhythm game. It’s the perfect combination of great controls, great performance, an addictive gameplay loop, and an impressive library of stupidly catchy tunes. I never thought I’d end up playing a Hello Kitty game that did not suck, let alone playing a Hello Kitty game that would win me over, but this little gem did so. It’s an addictive music game that fits like a glove on the Nintendo Switch, and can be enjoyed by more than just fans of the franchise.


Graphics: 7.0

It runs at a juicy 60fps and it’s colorful, but it’s not exactly oozing with detail. That being said, the source material isn’t known for being visually complex either, so I guess they did the best they could with what they were given.

Gameplay: 8.0

At first, it sounds simplistic, as you’re basically walking according to the beat. The more you play, however, the more complex levels become, and the more engaging the loop becomes.

Sound: 9.0

A bunch of shockingly catchy licensed songs from a wide variety of genres. I unashamedly added a ton of them to my streaming library.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Part arcade rhythm game, part roguelike, the gameplay loop in Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops is actually pretty great. Even if the source material isn’t appealing to most, the soundtrack is way too catchy to be ignored.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops is available now on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Hello Kitty and Friends: Happiness Parade Hops was provided by the publisher.