Author Topic: Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi Review  (Read 991 times)

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Offline Daan

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Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi Review
« on: November 19, 2013, 11:58:26 AM »

Because there are times when just the story keeps you going.

Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi is a weird game to review, mostly because it doesn't qualify to be in a regular game genre. It is a visual novel known as an otome, where you try to befriend one of the characters which ultimately ends up in some kind of romantic scenario. These games are quite common in Japan and released on a variety of platforms including Nintendo handhelds and Sony's PSP. Rising Star Games saw the chance to give gamers in Europe our first try at the genre. The results are actually quite positive, which gives certain hope for the future of otome titles in the European market.

Set in feudal Japan, you will be placed in the shoes of Chizuru Yukimura who is on a mission to find her father in Kyoto. He is a well known doctor and would send letters to Chizuru everyday to comfort her. One day, however, the letters stop pouring in and she became worried that some kind of tragedy befell the man. She decides to dress herself like a man and roam the streets with the hope of finding him. Things go sour pretty fast as she finds herself followed by some thugs who have taken a special interest in her blade. She is saved by the Shinsengumi, who are quite violent group of warriors dressed in blue. They try to safe-keep the streets of Kyoto, as they are overrun with terrible folk during the night. They take her with them and this is where the story truly begins. They soon find out that Chizuru is actually a woman and that they are searching for the exact same person.

The game isn't quite for everyone, but if you are really into Japan, there is a lot to like along the way. There are political elements, historical parts, conflicts and other things that many can really appreciate. It is not quite realistic, but the bits all come together to make something truly special.  You will be possibly asking yourself how the romantic elements are presented and the answer is more straightforward. They are not played for laughs and getting to know these warriors is an essential part of the experience. By doing the correct things, you will get to know the inner workings of these people, which for me was the most interesting component of the game.  

The gameplay is what you pretty much expect from a visual novel and it mostly has players reading various dialogue trees. While these are mostly fine, there are moments where the story talks way too much or doesn’t tell you enough to grasp what’s happening. There isn't always a correct balance in the way it represents itself, but overall you can still enjoy it. It doesn't help that you feel eager to press the B-button, so you will have to reread some of the dialogue. The game also offers an encyclopedia where you can find the meaning of various terms. The problem here is that the text sometimes stops mid-sentence, which can be a bit annoying.

You also make decisions once in a while that decide what will happen to Chizuru in the end. Exploring the various outcomes is made easier thanks to load and save functions which allows for saving on the fly. By using these options, it is easy to revisit earlier parts if you don't like the outcome. While it seems weird to replay Hakuoki many times, the game keeps it interesting and doesn't halt you in boring ways. If you come across something that you have read in the past, you can skip it so that you don't have to go through the same wall of text again.

The Nintendo 3DS version of Hakuoki has some extra content added to it, which makes the dip on the handheld more interesting. There is now a brand new Memories mode, where you will find stories about the Shinsengumi themselves. It gives you additional background on the characters, their motivations and are certainly a fun read. You also have the weird option of taking photos with some Hakuoki templates, which are at least quite interesting looking.

For a visual novel, the game shines brightly on the screens of the Nintendo 3DS. The colorful world and larger than life character designs make it all even better and look great. Something I wouldn't have expected to be so good were the 3D effects, which don’t seem quite essential, but are there nonetheless. There are some nice visual elements added between the dialogue and the characters. The backgrounds and the layering are also really top notch. The music is also nice, but it isn't really memorable.

I didn't expect Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi to impress as much as it did, but it was fun with a mostly interesting story. The dialogue between the characters warrants the various play-throughs it asks for from the player and if there is something you don't like, you can quickly reload your last quick save. The decisions do however really matter and it is better to see how it all fully plays out in the end. Sometimes though, the wall of text is a bit unbalanced and that makes it a bit dull in just a few spots. The text is also not really well positioned in the encyclopedia, but this is extremely minor. I don't know if you would like Hakuoki, but if your interest in Japanese culture is huge, it might be worth a shot.

Offline SyrenneMcN

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Re: Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi Review
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2013, 01:17:58 PM »
You know better than anyone that I don't ordinarily say this, but I told you so, Daan ;)

Glad to see you got to play it, and that you enjoyed the game!!