I do a pretty fair amount of reviewing here at Popzara, and it’s not always games I’m especially into. Barbie and Her Sisters: Puppy Rescue was certainly not something I was crying out for at the time, trust me. Still, it’s worthwhile to check out every facet of the gaming landscape if you want to keep on top of the industry. That’s what I tell myself, anyway, as I play yet another otome game – that’s a visual novel intended for women; imagine an interactive romance novel and you’re in the ballpark. Today’s otome adventure: Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds.
Here, you control Chizuru, the daughter of a doctor who goes on a search for her missing father. After a close encounter with some nastiness of the supernatural variety, she’s saved by the members of the Shinsengumi, essentially the Samurai Cops. Coincidentally they’re also looking for Chizuru’s father, so she ends up spending more time with the Shinsengumi than she’d initially bargained for. Also they’re all so handsome and they do brave things and sometimes they seem like they’re bad guys but they actually have hearts of gold and you just need to work to get to the real person deep inside. I’ve been playing these games for awhile.
In other words, Chizuru’s time with the Shinsengumi proceeds in the usual otome fashion. You’ve got several paths, each of which will lead her to interact more with one of the members of the Samurai Cops. You’re able to go back to pretty much any decision you’ve made and take a different path instead of playing through the entire game again, which is a nice touch that suggests a greater level of respect for the player’s time than some other visual novels. The branches are varied and interesting enough to make Kyoto Winds worth sticking with; that’s something that should be expected given that this is a premium visual novel, but it’s still appreciated.
We also expect premium visual novels to look nice and to be localized respectfully. Few things are worse than a poorly-translated visual novel, after all, since at least other games might have great gameplay to distract you from stilted or awkward dialogue – see Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana for an example of this in action. Thankfully, Kyoto Winds nails both of these, with appealing character designs and writing that won’t immediately turn you off if you’re sensitive to questionable prose. As you might expect, despite playing an otome game every other week or so, I still can’t say the content is my cup of tea…but for what it is, Kyoto Winds works.
That’s about it, really! No need to go into a massive thousand-page review about a visual novel. If you’re interested in the idea of a samurai-themed otome game, then it’s likely that Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds will slash all the right bamboo shoots for you. It’s well-made, nicely illustrated and, perhaps most significantly, I really, really wish that the ability to remake decisions without replaying the entire game was a standard visual novel feature.