Hakuoki has gotten prolific in its releases since it was first brought over here on the PSP. It also got a 3DS version and PS3 version (the latter of which I considered the definitive version until Kyoto Winds), and even a Musou-like spinoff. While I’m a huge fan of the series, I’ll admit when I heard there was going to be a fourth release of this game, I had thought it seemed a bit excessive (especially when there were so many other titles that haven’t gotten a release). Though when I heard there was going to be twice as many routes as the previous versions, my interest was piqued, and to Idea Factory’s credit, they have added new content to each port of this game, and this version is no exception.
The premise of the game, as per the description from my review of the PS3 version, is as follows:
The story is the same as it was in the PSP (and 3DS and PS3) versions of the game. You play as Chizuru Yukimura (you can change her given name), whose father leaves for a trip and goes missing. After letters from him stop coming, Chizuru heads out to try and search for him, but ends up tangled with the Shinsengumi after being at the wrong place at the wrong time. She gradually develops a place with them and eventually a relationship with one of them (unless you go with Kazama). It takes place during the Bakamatsu, and major battles and political intrigue (the conflict between imperial nationalists and the shogunate forces, attitudes towards foreign influence) feature heavily in the plot. While some events are true to history, there’s also creative liberties taken to fit Chizuru and supernatural elements like the demons into things (and also to explain how certain people who should’ve been dead stay around after the event they died at in real life). Although you can get with one of the guys, the relationship aspect mostly takes a backseat to everything else going on and develops gradually. Some of the choices you make don’t seem directly related to getting closer with a guy, but they do develop Chizuru as a character and can end up impressing one of them. The romantic aspects develop gradually and come more into focus towards the end of a guy’s route, so that part is there for those looking for that.
In Kyoto Winds, another six routes have been added, three existing characters and three new characters. The three existing characters you can pursue are Shinpachi Nakagura (finally), Keisuke Sanan, and Susumu Yamazaki. One new character, Ryouma Sakamoto, was mentioned in passing in previous versions of the game, but is also a potential love interest in this game (Kyoto Winds marks the first time he’s more than a name). In addition, two other characters were created for this version, Kazue Souma and Iba Hachiro (interestingly enough these two also have real life historical counterparts). For an otome, having more romance options is always nice, but the fact that the number of eligible pretty boys doubled (for a total of 12) is even better. With these new routes, side characters are fleshed out, and new characters provide more background for existing characters (as well as a chance for other historical events to be incorporated). There’s even references to Reimeiroku, though naturally they won’t mean anything people not familiar with Reimeiroku, either though watching the anime (the easier option since it’s on Crunchyroll) or importing the game. New characters besides the new potential love interests were also added, as well as new choices added to some scenes to compensate for the new routes.
The Zuisouroku fandisc content added to the PS3 version (in the Memories of Love section) was incorporated into the main game rather than being in a separate section. It felt more natural to see everything in chronological order rather than play through a route and then play through those extra scenes separately (though those scenes did have a brief description of where it fell chronologically). The Kazama route also had new scenes added even beyond the fandisc content, which was good to see considering how anemic Kazama’s route felt in comparison to the others in the previous versions.
The game ends at chapter 5 for all routes. Having played through the other versions of this game, it feels strange to have the game cut off at what would be the halfway point in those versions. The endings felt like cliffhangers as a result. If you’ve played any of the previous versions, you know how the original routes end, but no such luck for the new ones. The primary antagonist and conflict for each route is set up, and you see at least one major confrontation. However, you’ll have to wait for the second part to see how it’s all resolved. Same for the romance front in that any kissing (on the lips at least) also has to wait until the second part (except Harada because he’s saucy like that). Still, there are least some warm and fuzzy moments, and a lot does happen that sets up events for the second part.
The UI got an overhaul, and it looks rather nice, especially with the new dark theme. The effect that appears when you’ve raised someone’s affection also got a revamp – instead of just cherry blossom petals, there’s butterfly fluttering over a full moon with a small cascade of petals (you do have the option of turning this effect off if you prefer). While the moving mouths and blinking portraits were kept from the PS3 version, there’s no “breathing” effect, which I didn’t really miss much. Like with the PS3 version, sometimes the mouths look OK, but sometimes it seems like they’re talking through clenched teeth, or the mouths barely move at all. There were also effects like snow falling that were not present in the other versions. In some scenes there’s also a different (white) uniform, and I also noticed Harada’s outfit had more red on the sleeves. There’s also new music tracks, and it was an interesting experience to read through scenes I’d seen in prior versions and go “hey, that’s not the music that played here before.” The new tracks are nice additions, as are the new opening and closing songs.
I did notice some typos e.g. “An entire world danger” should be “an entire world of danger” and “He had no clue I was a man” is supposed to be “He had no clue I wasn’t a man” (as well as things like “Such thoughts entered by mind”, “obtain infromation”, and “he was able lose us”). There was also occasionally missing quotation marks around dialogue. A couple things I noticed in the previous versions of the game still apply. There’s a part where the character discuss a retreat to Edo, but later refers to it as a move to Kyoto (when at that point in the story – and much of the game – they are in Kyoto). A place is originally translated as “Ikeda Inn”, but at one point there’s a mention of “Ikedaya”. While none of these affected readability, they did stand out when they came up. The only potentially confusing one is the “He had no clue I was a man” quote (because Chizuru is the one saying it, and she’s a women disguising herself as a man), but even that one wasn’t difficult to sort out.
The inclusion of 12 routes and the game being half as long means it’s even trickier to figure out what choices lead to which route without a guide, especially for the new ones since some of them barely appear unless you make the right set of choices. While some are obvious (at least in being able to see affection going up), it’s easy to miss a choice you needed to make to end up with the character you’re aiming for. Between keeping in the stuff added to the PS3 version and adding another six routes, I can see why the game would have needed to be split into two parts, but I still have mixed feelings about the split. Without the second part, it doesn’t feel like a complete experience, especially coming off of having played the previous versions. Plus each part is full price, which may not sit well with some people. That being said, I enjoyed going through the new content (and there is still a lot to see even if this is only part 1), and I am looking forward to the second part.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds includes a bunch of new content, including double the number of routes that were in previous versions of the game. The interface also received a revamp and looks more polished. This is part 1, but there is a lot of new content even if you played the previous versions. If you haven’t played any of the prior versions of Hakuoki, this would be the version to get. Even in comparison to the PS3 version, heretofore the most content heavy version, it does feel like there was a lot added even with the split. If you can deal with waiting for the second part (though I’d argue it’s still worth playing now), this is worth playing through.