I am not exactly new to Visual Novels or Otomate games, but Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds is the first title I have picked up in the Hakuoki series, so I can’t really compare and contrast to the previous entries of the series. I have played a few visual novels before, so this round I came in with a bit more experience and was able to make the best of this game. Once I figured out the pattern, I wasn’t able to put the game down.
Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds will be released by Idea Factory May 16, 2017 for the PlayStation Vita/ PlayStation TV. You can pre-order the special edition bundle for $72.99 or pick it up for the game for $39.99.
You play as Chizuru Yukimura who travels from Edo to Kyoto in order to find her father. Your first day in Kyoto not fruitful and, to make matters worse, you’re attacked by a group of ronin! If that wasn’t bad enough, you encounter the Shinsengumi. Sure, they save your life, but they take you hostage and threaten to kill you because you accidentally stumbled on one of their secrets. And so your journey begins! Will you find out why your father disappeared? Who will you fall in love with at the Shinsengumi headquarters?
The story itself is fun to play through. There’s a nice balance between action, historic drama, romance, and humor. Depending on the choices you make within the game, the story can drastically change. Core elements still remain the same. For example,the battles in Kyoto will still happen. How involved you are in each scenario depends on the choices you make throughout the game. And of course, there’s no shortage on endings.
While visual novels are hardly similar to triple A titles in graphics or game play, Kyoto Winds looks beautiful. There are a variety of back drops that take you to different places the protagonist encounters. Action is portrayed very well with sword slashes and splatters of blood where necessary. Another interesting plus is the lip flap, gestures, and expressions characters make. While not on a huge scale of variety, it’s enough to bring the characters to life. Of course, we all know the reason anyone really wants to pick up this game is the handsomely drawn men. When you encounter intimate moments between the protagonist and the Shinsengumi men, you get a beautiful cut scene to emphasize the moment.
The game has an amazing soundtrack and is used to create the tone of each scene ranging from cheerful to melancholic, and even utilizing silence where necessary. All audio is based on the classic Japanese sound and puts you in mid/late 1860’s Kyoto; or at least our imaginings of it. The only major sound effects are footsteps, blood spurts, the clash of swords, and some other minor effects here and there. Sound effects are used to a minimum, but I appreciate it that way. I think I would have lost my mind if I heard a pouring sound effect each time tea was poured. Mostly because the sound makes me cringe (but that’s a personal problem).
If you have never played a visual novel before, you’re basically just pressing X until you are prompted to make a decision either regarding what to say or the next action you want to take. This is where the “Save” option is your best friend. Saving every time a prompt comes up lets you go back and Load if you didn’t like the outcome of your choice. There are plenty of save slots (99 of them!) so you can drop off and resume when and wherever you want to. Or, you can use the Quick Save option. However, I prefer the old fashion method of saving since I like to jump around the story to check out all possible outcomes.
This title was incredibly fun because there are so many routes that you can take. The more you play, save, and go back the easier it is to find the paths you want to take. Normally, I pick up visual novels after all the walk-through’s have been put up, but not having the resources that lead me in the right direction made the experience that much better. Of course, I got about 3 bad endings but it helped me start to pick and choose the paths I wanted to take and where they would lead me. I have managed three good endings so far, working on my fourth.
Another enjoyable feature about the game is the quick read/auto read options. They are available if you want to just sit back and read, or just skip through all the stuff you’ve already read before. One plus about the game is that if you unlock a new scene, the game won’t let you fast forward through it. This has kept me from passing through multiple scenes on accident and works for the player’s benefit.
PROS: Once you get a feel for the game, you really start to have fun with it. You can predict the actions you need to take to woo over the samurai of your choice, but it isn’t always easy. The graphics are beautiful, the background music brings the story to life, and the overall story is so much fun. This isn’t a game you can only play through once; you have to pick it up again, and again.. While the core story remains the same through each play through, there are so many side paths to take that the game feels new each time you encounter them.
CONS: I might be nit-picking. Yes, I guess I am nit picking. And here I go: Chizuru has to pretend to be a boy in order to stay with the Shinsengumi. Only the captains know about her gender and to spare her from bad rumors so it is decided she must continue the facade. Chizuru tries to hide her gender, however, sometimes it’s obvious to most characters around her. Now, I don’t know Japanese, but I know enough about the language to understand what certain words imply. I smacked my head multiple times when characters referred to her as “chan” upon first meeting her and then about five minutes later reveal that they knew she was a girl, and then my character is… surprised? They knew five minutes ago, specifically calling you by the female honorific. I’m not sure if this is a translation issue, or writing from the developers end, or if I completely misinterpreted how –chan can be used. If anyone has some insight, let me know.
I guess while I’m nit-picking, some translation of character paths are a little bit off. “Okita” was accidentally referred to as “Okida”, and during Iba’s ending, there were a few places that didn’t make much sense. But, not enough to ruin the context of the scene/story.
Aside from my nit-picking, I think the only major con of this game is it can get repetitive. If you get two bad endings, it’s pretty easy to feel disheartened and uninterested in the game.
I had so much fun playing through the story and even though I got a bad endings I wasn’t so upset because the samurai action was so much fun. The down side of the game is that it certainly can feel repetitive when you play it through for the nth time, but the fast read options make it easier to skip through so you can make it to the juicy parts. Getting a good ending is somewhat difficult, but rewarding when you get them. Otomate fans, visual novel enthusiasts, and anyone who likes a good story should pick up this game.
Will you be picking up this title? Are you a fan of the Hakuoki series? Who is your favorite character? Let me know in the comments!
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