Game Review: Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom

Warning: This review has spoilers in it. I wrote them in white text so you won’t have to see them if you don’t want to. If you want to see them, go on and highlight away.

I’ll be honest and shameless: I could not put this game down once I got it on my PSP. Playing this game taught me that finishing all an otome game’s romance routes over the span of three days is a sign of addiction.

Back in 2010, Aksys Games conducted a survey to see how interested their customers were in otome games. Based on the survey’s results, they decided to release Idea Factory‘s Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom.

Bless you, Aksys Games. Bless you.

Hakuoki seems to be a popular series in Japan, with eight games, an anime series, and a bunch of OVAs. It’s basically about a girl (pretending to be a boy) who gets caught up with a fictional Shinsengumi’s mess. And I would like to stress the word fictional because the real Shinsengumi were probably not pretty boys who were susceptible to a reverse-trap’s wiles.

Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom cast
Harada Sanosuke, Heisuke Todou, Chikage Kazama, Okita Souji, Saitou Hajime, and Hijikata Toshizo

Oh, Japan. I’ll always be amazed by how much you can mess with your historical figures and not be flogged for it. I imagine making an otome game starring Jose Rizal and the rest of La Liga Filipina might give people a justifiable reason to murder you  in this country.

Oooh. There’s an idea. But I digress.

Hakuoki is a simple yet highly addictive and relatively well-written otome game. The game is a visual novel, which means you are given text options during certain points in the game, and what you choose determines your playthrough’s outcome. When you finish your first playthrough, you can pretty much skip or fast-forward scenes that you’ve already seen. That makes it a lot easier to play the other guys’ storylines and complete your gallery. The gallery allows you to view the beautiful cutscene artwork and play the associated scene any time.

You play as Yukimura Chizuru, a girl who comes to Kyoto in search of her father. The one thing I absolutely hated about Hakuoki was playing as this girl. She barely has any backbone, and is useless in a fight. That would be fine and dandy if only she weren’t [SPOILER]actually a demon with inhuman speed and healing powers, who could have spent her months/years with the Shinsengumi LEARNING HOW TO FIGHT rather than pretending to be a boy sitting around and making tea (which is a fantastic way to make sure EVERYONE KNOWS YOU’RE A GIRL)[/SPOILER].

Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom screenshot
Running to help the guys only to end up screaming in the sidelines is pretty much all she does in the game.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Having a lame protagonist who functions like a pair of  free-sized stretchpants is a norm in otome games, I guess, and she does have a little more character than the protagonist in the Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side series does. Still, that little spoiler up there makes her lameness a little more annoying.

There are only six guys to woo in Hakuoki, which was kind of depressing for me since I got so used to TMGS games with at least ten romance-able guys. The good thing is none of them struck me as unattractive. Aside from Kazuki Yone‘s amazing artwork, the writing and voice acting made me want to go:

Let Me Love You gifStill, I kind of wish they made a few other guys romance-able, like megane Sannan-san or ninja Yamazaki.

Hakuoki Art Book: Sannan Keisuke and Yamazaki Susumu
Nope, these scenes aren’t in the game, but they’re in the art book, complete with unused dialogue.

Final Verdict

Hakuoki is definitely worth a try if you’re a fan of otome games, pretty artwork, and handsome men with fantastic voices. While it isn’t exactly a dating sim where you give your chosen guy gifts or go on dates with him, the storyline and beautiful artwork will definitely tickle any fangirl’s fancy. Plus, picking up this game will probably show Aksys (and other gaming companies) that there really is a market for English-language otome games!

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