Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
If you’re looking for a game that’ll make you weak in the knees and have you swooning at every corner, then Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds is the game for you.
Visual novels have a slower pace, and they rely heavily on text and largely still images to help inspire certain emotions in those who play them. The payoff comes in those emotional stories or attachments to characters, often making the experiences something of a slow burn. That being said, different visual novels have varying degrees of interaction, and that can help them separate one another from the sea of them that have finally begun to make their way to North America over the last couple of years.
Hakuoki is a dating sim visual novel game that takes place in the 1860’s, smack-dab in the middle of Kyoto, Japan. You play as the main heroine Chizuru, who is on a quest to find answers about her missing father. Unfortunately fate has other plans in store for her. She manages to tangle herself in a nasty situation, terrified and scared she flees, only to be saved by a group of samurai bachelors that each has their own specific appeal.
Having the chance to play the original version of this game back when it came out for the 3DS, I was pleased with the added features. New music, extra characters, bonus scenes and all the heart pounding fluff you can get. In particular the Vita’s nicer screen helps to improve the visual presentation when compared to the smaller, lower resolution one found on the Nintendo handheld unit.
The game still follows the same basic objective centered around a generically neutral female protagonist who essentially meets male harem. One of the improvements comes from the cast of characters, because instead of only having the option of the main cast to woo, the game has expended its rooster of eligible bachelors, from enticing the bad guys to enchanting the side characters. Each character has their own story routes, making them unique with each interaction, giving the player more time to indulge in a romantic atmosphere with their sweetheart. Like the butterfly effect, your decision will change the course of the story. No two endings are the same. Will you choose to stay safe by sticking to the heroes, or will you be daring and tempt to seduce the villains? The choice is yours, and as a result the story is more ‘yours’ as well in the end.
One particularly strong aspect of Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds is the soundtrack, with a score that is often charming, but also capable of delivering dramatic tension as well. Whether you’re fighting through a serious crisis or a silly situation, the game will put you right in that moment with is selection of music.
Titles like this, especially ones steeped in other cultures, can be somewhat challenging for players who are unfamiliar with the source material. One of the better design choices in Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds is an incredibly helpful text box to help you understand the terminology of Japanese culture and meanings, highlighting the words of interest for an easier recognition. For a genre that is not known for being the most approachable out there, this was a good decision.