Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom [Review]
How many of you have sat in history class with drool dripping down your chin staring impatiently at the clock waiting for the bell to ring so you could gtfo and spend the rest of your evening ogling bishies on your computer screen?
Okay, that might not describe most people at all, but the point is: wouldn’t history be more fun if the people you were learning about were pretty, sparkly bishounen? And actually, wouldn’t it be nice if the history was overshadowed by supernatural blood-thirsty vampire creatures and demons trying to take over the world? If you agree, then Hakuoki might just be the perfect game to play under your desk when the teacher isn’t looking! (*Note: Sekijitsu does not condone playing otome games in class.)
The story starts out with your typical self-insert protagonist devoid of any personality traveling to Kyoto in search of her father, a doctor who has recently gone missing. Once there, she finds herself being attacked by two men, only to be saved by a bunch of crazy albinos who cut down the assailants, then turn around and attack her. She is then rescued for the second time in three minutes by a group of warriors known as the Shinsengumi, who take her back to their lair and debate killing her since those crazy albinos are linked to a dark secret that they don’t want anyone to know. Thankfully, she’s spared when they realize that her father is, coincidentally, the same man they’re looking for too.
From there, the story branches out with multiple routes, and the direction it takes depends on what choices you make (like any otome game.) One wrong move could mean the death of you and your love interest, so it’s imperative that you choose wisely (or use a walkthrough.) To be honest though, I didn’t think getting the good ends were too terribly difficult without a walkthrough as long as you know which guy you’re going after. One thing you absolutely do not want to do is try to play through the game unsure of what you want, because that will more than likely lead you to a bad end.
For an otome game, Hakuoki is considerably tame when it comes to the lovey dovey stuff. The romance is a big part of it, obviously, but it isn’t all that defines Hakuoki, and I can understand why: as one of the first otome games to be released in English, it stands to reason that they would choose to bring over something that could still appeal to a wider spectrum of people. That being said though, I couldn’t help but feel as though the romance is really the main selling point, and by shying away from that it feels kind of like it wasn’t quite as satisfying as it could have been, especially since many of the romantic scenarios felt a bit too contrived, almost as if they were only adding them in because they had to.
Another thing to note is that if you like your otome games cute and fluffy, look elsewhere, because your kokoro will shatter right after it’s done dokidoki-ing. Even most of the “good” endings are still tragic, though I’m not going to get too into why, lest I spoil any of the endings.
Hakuoki is unique in that it actually has a very well-written, historically inspired script, unlike most otome games that thrive off of pretty art and cute scenes. Historical accuracy is….errrrrrr not something you should expect to be perfect, but the story is compelling and engrossing, sucking you into a dark and dangerous world of intrigue and suspense and making you eager to play each and every route to have a complete story. Admittedly, some of the supernatural elements are a bit hokey, but it did make the story a lot more interesting, so I didn’t particularly mind them.
The characters are, surprisingly, one of the best aspects of the game. They’re much more than the same tired tropes we’ve come to expect from otome games, and each one is given a lot of depth in their respective routes. I found myself having to take long breaks between routes because I was too attached to one character to move on to another (this was especially true with Okita for me.)
The art is gorgeous, although I was a bit disappointed with how limited some of the background art was. You will see the same few pieces of scenery throughout the entire game, but I suppose, in contrast, it makes the CG stand out more. And don’t get me wrong: the CG is absolutely stunning at times, and the characters look as pretty as one would expect from an otome game.
Aside from the art, the acting is really spectacular. Thankfully, they decided not to dub over the original Japanese voices, so we’re treated to some ear candy by Toriumi Kousuke, Miki Shinichiro, and various other respectable seiyuu who all manage to breathe life into their characters.
Should you play it?
Overall, playing Hakuoki is an interesting experience. It’s different from the usual otome game, which may please some and turn others off. Considering the fact that otome games in English are so rare, I would definitely recommend trying it out, even if it isn’t the best of the genre.
I wholeheartedly recommend that any otome game fans go buy the game and prove that there is a market for this stuff, because it would be really nice if we could get more translations in the future! It’s only like $30, and it comes with a fancy art book and soundtrack, so it’s definitely worth it!!
Oh, and just on a side note, you might have noticed that I’m back from the ridiculously long hiatus I unintentionally ended up taking, and I look forward to writing again! I really missed all of you!! ;A; So, now that I’m back: Should I review more otome/BL games? Is anyone interested in seeing that on Sekijitsu? Please vote and let me know!!