There tends to be a general theme around the games that I enjoy and I’m usually the first to admit that I get a massive nerd boner from simulation games and anything Japanese related. I’m not entirely sure why that is if I’m honest, but anything involving swords, elements, kung fu fighting or anything just insanely wacky like summoning a giant skull dragon to do your bidding whilst tossing shurikens out of your mouth is enough to give me general satisfaction in life.
That said, Hakuoki is a new kind of Japanese game, and one that I’m probably not overly familiar with. The game is a Japanese based visual novel dating sim, it’s probably got more of an emphasis on the visual novel part, however there are aspects surrounding your character and romance based options involving about 20 different samurai guys, which does make things a little bit awkward for me and my penis, however I’m willing to abandon the trim and give Hakuoki a try for the interesting prospects that it has to offer.
Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds is a remaster of the 2008 version which was originally released. It’s due for a PlayStation Vita release on May 19th (or 16th for all of those NA gamers out there) and has been lovingly developed by Idea Factory and Design Factory, and if that combination didn’t inspire you, then throw in Idea Factory International as the publisher (so many factories!)
Those of you who consider yourself to be somewhat similar to Sherlock Holmes will probably have already deduced that the name of the game sounds a little bit archaic, and if you haven’t then “Boo!”. If you have, then you gain a +1 logic (boom!), as the game is set in the Edo Period of Japan, towards the latter end around the 1863/1864 timeline. Those historical buffs have probably realised that it was around this time that Samurais, Ronins and the entire population of Japan were practicing how effeciently they can chop sausages with a katana the size of a surfing board.
The game begins with you controlling Chizuru Yukimura (although you can change that first name) and wandering around the streets of Kyoto attempting to find someone or something. It’s shortly revealed you’re looking for Dr. Matsumoto in order to track down your father. Your father is a educated doctor who is currently in service of the shogunate and has been missing shortly after he arrived in the Kyoto area. Unfortunately your search is stopped pretty quickly by three ronin who are attempting to steal your family heirloom blade. Luckily, or unluckily, they’re soon hacked to pieces by a mysterious entity, which is then revealed to be… Zombie Samurai!
If that’s not enough to tingle your plot tastebuds, then by all means the story continues with you meeting some very shady characters, being pretty much kidnapped, almost being slaughtered, showing off your sweet blade skills and making lots of friends and possibly nabbing some samurai pokey sword fun. In all seriousness though, Hakuoki is a visual novel, so if the plot line is bad then it doesn’t really stand up as a game. With all honesty though, the game is interesting and before long I found myself immersed in a land of Samurai’s and thinking about which hot stud I was going to brand with my virtual lady parts.
The plot line is pretty fascinating and follows the journey of Chizuru through the main aspects of the game, from attempting to find her father and understanding the world of the Samurai to investigating those strange zombie ronin, there’s plot twists and more information around every single corner. It would be a tad boring if you just kept hitting ‘X’ constantly though, so the game will throw up some prompts in order to keep you progressing throughout the game and provide you with some nice social interaction, plus of course, the romance points.
Hakuoki really finds it’s wings when considering the giant amount of history and lore that the game has to offer. Not only does the game go into an obscene amount of detail regarding the state of Kyoto and Japan at that time, but also dives into copious amounts of information surrounding Samurai culture, if that feels a bit too much for you then one great aspect of the game is that certain lore or historical based jargon is prompted with a down button display pop up, which when pushed will open up a text box that will explain what the terminology is about. This gets really useful when coming across specific characters or words that need some further explaining in order to give them meaning and provide much needed emphasis on the situation.
Furthermore, the amount of character detail within the game is astounding. Not only does the protagonist have an incredibly detailed and well rounded plot line and backstory, but the characters that she meets along the way all have their own unique personalities and traits which really adds to the ambience of the game. It’s hard not to pick favorites and you will soon begin to familiarize yourself with the natures that each of the characters offers up, that said, some of their personalities can begin to surprise you as time progresses, and they will begin to open up to you, with the hope that you will do the same (cheeky!)
From a visual and sound perspective, the game passes with flying colors. Each of the backgrounds in the game has been beautifully designed, the characters have an incredible amount of detail within them, not only to burn them into your mind but also detail within their clothing, their movements and the way that they speak just adds to the ambience that each character portrays. The sound really offers to the atmosphere in the game. Mysterious moments offer up mysterious music, which is both entertaining and culturally correct as of that time, where as exciting times offer… well you know how it goes. That said, there were no negatives that I could pick up on either of these two sections.
Features wise, the game really doesn’t have much to offer, but then again it’s a visual novel so don’t much. There’s no real movement in the game, so you will be offered prompts and choices to dictate what happens to your character. This is where the quick save function comes in really handy, especially when your torn between a couple of different decisions and really want to know if either of them will have a really heavy impact on the story line or the way that the game is played. It’s also assigned to one of the easiest buttons to press on the console (left trigger) so feel free to quick save as much as you could possibly want.
All in all, I actually really enjoyed Hakuoki. Granted it’s probably not a game that I would normally play, and in all honesty it’s probably not even one that I would have bought had I seen it, but in fairness to the game I am actually very pleased with it. Most gamers have a negative stigma when it comes to visual novels, but Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds actually offers up a fantastic storyline, offers some interesting choices for your character to decide from, and some really amazing cutscenes.
Whether you’re a hardcore fan of the genre or just contemplating a first time buy, you won’t be disappointed with what the game has to offer. Whether you