The visual novel genre has had quite a rise in popularity in the west over the past few years, in particular the otome-focused portion of said genre that caters to the female gender segment of the market. One of the more popular successes in the genre would easily be the Hakuoki series, which has been released on both handhelds and home consoles. And now Idea Factory International is releasing a newly enhanced port entitled Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds on the Vita. So does it bring enough new to the table for fans to come back again to a familiar story?
For those who are new to the genre or the series, this is a game set in 1860s-era Japan where you play as a young girl named Chizuru Yukimura and can date several members of Japan’s legendary Shinsengumi. She travels to Kyoto to look for her missing father, but ends up encountering a pack of mysterious white-haired vampires and is put under police protection. And by who you ask? If you guessed the Shinsengumi, you’d be correct!
After this point is where the player’s actions take a role, as what choices you make end up affecting the different routes you’ll end up directing the story. The developers did a good job at making the choices obvious enough that it’s not tedious to figure out what choice causes a branching point, unlike some other visual novels I’ve played in the past, which is a huge plus. For those who played the prior iterations, there’s six new routes evenly split between new and old characters. One of the new ones in particular does the typical “childhood friend” arc trope, but in a different way than you’d expect which was a welcome surprise. Additionally, the game also adds in new story sequences elsewhere to spice things up in the routes that existed previously.
Of course, since this is loosely based on Japanese history, if you know about said history you’ll get a bit more out of the game since you’ll recognize certain events, characters, or landmarks. But that said, the game often tweaks or outright messes with history to serve the plot’s narrative, so if you want the actual history I’d very much suggest brushing up on it if you’re really interested in the history behind the game.
The major gripe with the game overall, though, is that currently Idea Factory International hasn’t announced a release date for the “sequel”, as the game ends around where after where the fourth chapter point would have naturally occurred in the original versions. So essentially the company is asking players to pay $39.99 twice to experience the full story. Added to this is the existence of a PS4 port that includes both Vita releases in one package and likely would be cheaper than buying the two individually, so Vita owners would get charged extra in the process. Granted this issue was due to how the Japanese release was handled and is largely out of the western publishing side’s hands, but it’s still a damper on what’s otherwise a great enhanced port.
If you are a diehard Vita fan and don’t mind possibly paying more for the luxury of playing on your preferred platform, this port of Hakuoki is excellent and is one of the best yet with its new routes and extra scenes.Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds was reviewed using a PS VIta Digital Code provided by Idea Factory International. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|New routes and story sequences are a welcome addition to the existing content from prior games.|
|The new "childhood friend" route takes the story in a way you wouldn't otherwise expect.|
|Vita owners are paying for half the content of prior games, which may sting especially with the possible release of the PS4 version containing both parts.|