Visual novels don’t tend to get a lot of love these days. Sure, more and more of them are being released on Steam, iOS and Android, but they have to fight for attention against the massive amounts of Everything Else piling up on the various distribution services. I hate to admit this, since I’m all about gameplay and value for your money, but there are plenty of solid visual novels out there. That includes otome VNs – visual novels intended for a female demographic, like today’s title, Hakuoki for mobile.
Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi, as it was known when it was originally released here for the PSP (and later the PS3), was one of the first otome titles released in the West, and now it’s portable once again. You play as Chizuru Yukimura, a young woman new to Kyoto who gets mixed up with the historic Shinsengumi police force. You and your brave police heroes will deal with all sorts of adventure in both the romantic and traditional senses of the term. There are six romances to choose from, leading to a variety of endings, and in true visual novel style Hakuoki avoids being as awkwardly written as the average video game.
Without going too deeply into the plot, it’s easy to say that Hakuoki is one of the most well-known titles in this genre for a reason. The historic setting lends itself well to this sort of romantic storytelling; it’s interesting that visual novels set in the past aren’t more common, really. This is an otome game, so the demographic you find yourself in will probably have something to do with your enjoyment of the game – I don’t think I’d have chosen this one for myself, for instance, but female friends who are into gaming sing Hakuoki’s praises on a regular basis.
The gameplay-light style of the visual novel genre and the excellent choice of platform also means that this is a great choice for you readers out there, as well as those of you looking for a gift for someone who’d be into the concept and setting. The art, naturally, is gorgeous, and there’s Japanese voice acting that (as far as I can tell) is solid enough.
The price does merit mention, since it’s a pretty costly purchase by mobile standards at roughly $30. That’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow. For what it’s worth, there’s plenty of content available here, but that same $30 will get you several other high-quality apps – including many visual novels. Still, this newest edition of Hakuoki earns its reputation and price, so if you’re after some of the best VN-age on the market you can’t really go wrong with this version of Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi.