We’ve heard this story before. Girl’s doctor-father disappears. She dons the clothing of a man, picks up a sword, and heads to his last known location to search for him. Her first night in Kyoto, she’s attacked by ruffians, who are in turn attacked by monsters in Shinsengumi garb. More level-headed members of the group find her and bring her in. While debating what to do with her, they learn their goal is the same. She then becomes the group mascot, while also finding love with one of its members.
Did you have Angela Lansbury’s version of “Beauty and the Beast” running through your head while you read that? Because it was going through mine when I wrote it. Go ahead, reread it and keep it in mind when you do. It kinda fits, doesn’t it?
Since you’re here at Siliconera, I’m going to take a wild guess that you’re familiar with Aksys Games, Idea Factory, and the Hakuoki tale. For those who aren’t, the girl in question above is Chizuru Yukimura, the star of Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi. She’s looking for her father, Koudou, a relatively famous doctor who practices Western medicine. His last known location was Kyoto, so she decided to man-up and see if she could save the day. The Shinsengumi has need of his services as well, which means the group and the girl share a common goal. Naturally, they team up to find him.
Except, things get sticky. Mainly because certain members of the Shinsengumi have become Rasetsu. These are supernatural creatures with great power, but also a surprising hunger. Not to mention, a lot of people are taking an interest in Chizuru, and it isn’t just because she’s adorable.
Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi should look and feel familiar to anyone who enjoyed Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom, because it’s the exact same game. Aksys’ fantastic translation and localization of one of Idea Factory’s most popular visual novels is amazing as always, offering equal parts excitement, intrigue, and of course romance. It’s actually better than the original Hakuoki translation, as Aksys took a bit of liberty to make Chizuru a more likeable heroine. A welcome addition, as this variation of her is much more interesting and stronger than the more wishy-washy version I encountered in the original Japanese, PSP release.
The visual quality does suffer a bit. I’m used to playing Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom on my PSP and Vita, with a wide-screen presentation that’s a bit more detailed. It’s a bit of a transition, seeing it on the smaller 3DS screens in Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi. It still looks good, but I felt like I was missing out on some of the more finer details of the character art.
Given this is a 3DS retelling of Hakuoki‘s now famous tale, 3D visuals have naturally been implemented into Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi. However, their inclusion really isn’t worth mentioning. It does give a slight sense of depth, but seeing as how we’re dealing with 2D character portraits against 2D backgrounds, it isn’t very impressive. The most noticeable change is that the text box appears to be floating above the character portraits.
While Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi is a wonderful otome visual novel, I have to admit there’s not much point in owning it if you already own Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom. Unless you have cash to spare and just want to support Aksys, in which case I can wholeheartedly endorse a second purchase. The main storyline content is identical, as far as I can tell. I haven’t completed a second Okita runthrough to confirm, but the common events remained the same with no new content. (I went for Hijikata for the first time with this playthrough instead.)
The only new features I saw were outside of the story mode. One is the Memories, for which Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi is named. These are brief story snippets with no new character art, backgrounds, or CGs that let players briefly experience a bit of the story from one of the elligible bachelor’s points of view. Each one is only about 10-20 minutes long, depending on how fast you read. It’s an interesting extra, and I especially enjoyed Kazama’s special moment. The insights aren’t incredible, but if you have a favorite character, you’d probably enjoy seeing some segments from his point of view.
The other feature is basically a Hakuoki Purikura app. You can either take or import pictures into the game, decorate them with Shinsengumi backgrounds, characters, and novelties, and save the new picture to the SD card. As you can see, I decided to send the Shinsengumi up against their most fearsome foe yet.
Those who have always wondered about Hakuoki, but couldn’t experience Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom due to lack of a PSP or Vita, should definitely look into Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi. It provides another wonderful, portable opportunity to enjoy a fine otome game that isn’t just for girls. If you have already walked in Chizuru’s shoes and fallen in love with a warrior, then I’d say wait for Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi before double-dipping. Still, I do recommend anyone with a 3DS, PSP, Vita, or PS3 and interest in visual novels investigate the version of Hakuoki that’s playable on their system. It’s an amazing, supernatural tale that anyone, regardless of gender, can enjoy.
Food for Thought:
1. The 3DS version doesn’t allow you to take screenshots, like the PSP version did.
2. You may want to play with headphones, as I find the speakers on the 3DS aren’t as good as those on the Vita.
3. Toshizo Hijikata is one of the most adorable tsundere ever.