If you or someone you love are suffering from FVN (Fear of Visual Novels), Idea Factory International has a great solution at an affordable price. Hakuōki: Kyoto Winds is a great introduction to otome games for Vita owners willing to try something different that’s well made and quite enjoyable.
Yes, longtime fans will recognize this as “only” an enhanced port of an older game they may have previously played. But they should also recognize the fact that every day someone might just want to try something out of their comfort zone they’ll probably like. Hey, an expanded fan base can be a good thing when all is said and done, right?
If you’re new to the visual novel scene, you’re getting exactly what it sounds like – a game with a healthy amount of text and some extremely nice art to go along with that text. The plot mixes in historical and fictional elements (emphasis on the fictional) with notes pointing to actual names and places when necessary. You play as Chizuru, a young girl passing for male as she heads from Edo to Kyoto in search of her missing father. She’s set upon by a few samurai who end up dead thanks to a strange creature. Right before she’s about to be killed, Chizuru is saved by a few Shinsengumi, young swordsmen who are part of a secret society. Chizuru is taken captive by them, but once it’s discovered she’s not a guy, she’s stuck living with the group at their hideout while things are figured out.
The Vita version adds a few new romance options, more character paths and other options that extend the game’s length over the previous versions. Gameplay is pure visual novel bliss with a lot of reading, gorgeous art and a few animated sequences that can be saved and viewed in a gallery format. The game uses a save system that allows for players to jump into alternate story paths in order to have possible romance options with other characters or you can more or less play unfettered and save when you feel like it. That said, once you “lock in” a certain route with a potential mate, you’re more or less stuck with that handsome dude for the rest of the game.
This is a case where the entire package is wrapped up as about as near-perfectly as possible. Great visuals, music and voice acting, a compelling plot and a large cast of mostly likable characters all await new players as well as those willing to double-dip for the extra content. The only sore spot here is the game ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and yep, if you’re hooked in, you’ll want more and soon. I think Idea Factory has an answer for that, but I’ll need to poke at my email inbox and see what’s shakin’ out thataway.
In any event, this one caught me by surprise and I enjoyed my time with it immensely and sure, I’d play a follow-up if it’s released. I guess that’s something I’d never thought I’d say about a “girl’s game”… but hey, you learn something new every damn day if you’re open to it.
Score: A- (90%)
Review code provided by the publisher