Just as a precaution to any fans of the Hakuoki series, I’ve never played any of the titles previously made and have no idea who these characters are. Despite that, I was interested to play in the pure interest of an anime-lover and also having a fondness for samurai. Hakuoki, to those who don’t know about it, is an otome (targeted for women) anime series of visual novel titles that revolve around the real-telling of the Bakumatsu era story of a female protagonist — with a name of your choice but defaulted to Chizuru Yukimura — reluctantly thrown into cahoots with the Shinsengumi. This Shinsengumi incorporates samurai that work for the shogunate across the country that is very well-organized into Divisions with a strict Code of Conduct. You, as Chizuru (or, as I prefer, Cheezuru), follow them while venturing in Edo and learn more about the world while romancing a warrior of your choosing. I’ve played a similar otome title called Code: Realize — which you can find the review here — so I’m not a stranger to the view of a female lead. This is a continuation of the Kyoto Winds game and is, thus, a remastered telling of the visual novel from
Interesting story with supernatural elements – Throughout the story that spans the Edo region of the shogunate we see various depictions of battles between the various Division leaders and enemies. As they are samurai they have swords equipped on them but they also use weaponry like rifles, pistol revolvers, cannons, and other firearms when on the battlefield. Not only this, but the story incorporates supernatural or science-fiction elements like the Furies who are transformed humans using a serum called the Water of Life. They’re immortal, heal quickly, and can only be killed by piercing the heart or cutting off the head; not only that but they also possess a blood-lust that must be sedated by either medication or, of course, drinking blood. These add great variety to the story that often detracts the player from the romance aspect of it more into the coolness of how the supernatural creatures react to certain triggers and what makes them so special.
Many endings for all 12 males – Throughout conversations and story-line the protagonist Chizuru is given options for action in order to change the story. This leads to either becoming closer or not to the warrior in the chapter and gives different endings depending on your level of affection for one another. There are romantic sequences that play out when you’re close enough to them and some are more touching than others that are more sensual. I haven’t yet reached all 30 endings for the title but it’s safe to say that, from the few unlocked so far and without revealing too much, that each romantic event is quite unique and raunchy to behold. Many are sincere and contain many typical tropes that you might see in romancing- or otome-class media but it’s delivered with a refreshing take as you unlock more information the more you replay through the story.
As you venture through the different stories of all the possible bachelors you’ll notice that main plot points are pretty similar throughout but you view them from the different perspectives of all the members of the Shinsengumi, or at least from how Chizumi views it when with them. You craft more of the world as you talk and take different choices in dialogue, unlocking more points of interest and endings as you go along. This makes you want to actually go through all the 12 choices and their different endings to see the entire world that’s so well crafted from real history.
Fantastic art for characters and background – From the outfit designs to the backgrounds everything in Hakuoki is beautifully crafted and meticulously drawn. This is, in artwork, anime at its best with clean lines and a depth to tones in color. Often enough I would be appreciating an artwork for longer than what I’m sure anyone else would just because every scene looks great and there’s little details that would go unnoticed to anyone not into costume design. Backgrounds aren’t stale, either, as whatever castle, fort, forest, or other scenery you visit looks spectacular. There were no shortcuts for anything and the animation for the moving mouths, facial expressions, and shifts in stance more than make-up for the lack of animated sequences.
Stellar voice work, soundtrack & sound effects – Soft- and hard-spoken personalities are presented remarkably with this cast of voice actors. Personalities are represented amazingly and, more than often, the actors understand the character perfectly to bring them to life. This pulls the player even more into the conversations and emotions that are flying around in the well-written story and sequences between the protagonist and samurai. We also have the soundtrack which, with many traditional woodwind and string instruments, each track is beautiful to listen to while playing through different areas of the game. It does well to add to the immersive nature of the world and may even feel like its touching a few heartstrings when you enter sad or touching moments of the tale. Finally, to solidify the amazing audio of the title, we have the sound effects which do fight scenes and ambiance the proper justice it deserves
Simple trophies to unlock – While they may seem time-consuming it’ll be almost natural to unlock all of them as they entail going through all the different endings. They’re not that easy to unlock, however, as many require getting all Game Overs possible or unlocking the entire Encyclopedia of the title. Therefore, you’ll have your fair share of time spent going through this list of trophy hunting (if that’s what you’re into) but it’ll actually be fun as you’ll learn the complete and unfettered details of the world.
Lack of English voice cast – This might be nitpicking but it would be nice to have this feature. Often enough these games don’t hire English voice actors when getting Westernized so that they can be pumped out quicker but it makes all the more difference when they do. The Japanese voice actors are so extraordinary, however, that it makes up for the lack of the English option but having this would have been a plus. At least the subtitles were done well in translation with only a few minor mistakes in spelling or grammar.
Nothing innovative as far as visual novels go – If you’re looking for something that stands out from other visual novels in terms of controls or any new game-play elements then there’s nothing here that changes the standard. It allows you to return to previous choices, enter logs to see dialogue you might have missed, fast forward, auto-play, skip scenes, and contain a record of all key words that comes across in the script. This isn’t really a downside, per se, but there’s definitely nothing that stands out as groundbreaking when utilizing controls playing this. You can, at least, use the touchscreen to progress dialogue but it isn’t a new thing for visual novels on the Vita system.
At the end of the day you experience visual novel games for the story and experience. Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms hits all the right notes when it comes to romancing and anime tropes that are typically seen. I wish there was animated action sequences from time to time for fight scenes instead of ending movies but the occasional piece of artwork depicting a scene is pretty great to behold as the artists at Idea Factory are top notch. If you want to experience a romantic plot with supernatural elements and a great story that’s good to play over and over again while venturing with Chizuru and sexy bachelor ronin then this is the game for you. If you’re wondering if it’s worth spending typical Vita title price then just keep in mind that you’ll be getting your money’s worth as there’s many different endings to go through that will take you quite a bit of time but have you absorbed all the way.
- Graphics - 90%90%
- Gameplay - 90%90%
- Controls - 75%75%
- Audio - 90%90%
- Value for Money - 70%70%
- Achievements/Trophies - 80%80%
Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms was developed by Idea Factory and Design Factory and published by Idea Factory International. It was released for PlayStation Vita [reviewed] and PC via Steam on March 13th, 2018 in North America and March 16th in Europe. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.