Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds (Vita) Review
Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds is the remaster of the first entry of the Hakuoki series which came out 9 years ago in Japan. Since then, the Hakuoki franchise has released numerous games and spin-offs including an anime television series. Kyoto Winds includes extra characters, an extended plot and improved graphics from the original game. Fans of the otome genre are likely already familiar with this title and know exactly what to expect.
For those unfamiliar with Hakuouki, the main protagonist, by the default name of Chizuru Yukimura, travels to Kyoto in search of her father who had mysteriously disappeared. By chance, Chizuru becomes involved in a whirlwind of incidents which hurled her into the world of the Shinsengumi. Hakuouki is not exactly the lovey-dovey, sappy type of visual novel as you would expect. Instead, there is a lot of historical references, some accurate but most of it fiction of course, tied together by an engaging storyline and in-depth characters. The secondary portion of the game is to build a romantic relationship with one of the character of your choosing. This is entirely optional; though, I am not sure why anyone would play a visual novel otherwise.
Gameplay is as straightforward as expected from a visual novel. For those that are not familiar with the genre, they are basically a digital version of a choose-your-own-adventure book with superb voice overs. Each romanceable character has a ‘route’ and pursuing these routes will depend on how you interact with them. The romance meter will increase based on the the rapport you build with them. Each decision you make contributes to the ending. If you play like me, there is a lot backtracking to get the perfect answer for the correct route. Luckily, there is a quick save and quick load button to help with this. With numerous playable routes, games like these generally have high replayability, and Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds boast over 12 possible paths to explore. After the first playthrough, an option becomes available that allows you to start a route from any location of choice. This encourages replayability as it cuts out the unnecessary sections of the game and allows you to skip right to the action.
The graphics and artwork found within the game are simply stunning for visual novel standards. Kyoto Winds uses the standard visual novel type graphics with stills and text boxes. However, there are moving effects which accompany the stills; making the visuals more interesting to look at and less bland. These subtle effects in the foreground give a breath of life to the aesthetics. As for the updated UI, it adds a rather unique freshness to this remake, but I found some minor quirks when trying to save. Although the quick save/load option is readily available with just a press of the L1 and R1 buttons, I had to poke around the UI until I was able to access a way to properly save my game. In addition, the quick save/load button does not actually save the game but allows you to return to a previous save state. You have to hard save the game to retain your progress. This is something I found out the hard way; losing about an hour of gameplay.
Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds is a great title to start for fans that are new to the series or to the otome genre overall. The rich story can provide hours of entertainment as you try to romance each character and unlock every beautiful piece of art. The additional visuals and overhauled UI give the game a more refined and updated look from its predecessor. I have played quite a few otome visual novels, and the Hakuoki series has always been among my favorites. Kyoto Winds was a pleasure to play and exceeded my expectations of a remastered 9 year old game.
Review copy courtesy of Idea Factory International