We began our Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom interview by discussing Aksys’ foray into the otome genre. We gradually switched towards the game’s characters where editor Ben Bateman and director of production Frank "Bo" deWindt II… got fired up talking about Chizuru’s potential lovers.
Ben, since you’ve been working on this since March, let’s talk about your localization role. What kind of jokes will we see? No more ladders, right?
Ben Bateman, Editor: Hakuoki doesn’t really have a lot of humor. It plays it straight, for the most part. What humor there is going to be is probably going to be a little bit of stuff like sarcasm and dry humor. You wouldn’t say 999 is a funny game either, but I would say there are probably a lot more jokes in 999 than there are in Hakuoki. I mean Hakuoki is straightforward like this is a romance/historical drama with… monsters. Not really monsters, but I couldn’t think of a better term.
Which character would you fall in love with Ben?
BB: Do you? Do you? Do you really know the answer to this?
FdW: [Toshizo] Hijikata, what are you talking about? (Hijikata pictured.)
BB: No, not Hijikata. Hijikata is a jerk! He’s a jerk for most of the game up until the very end.
FdW: Who do you like then? Every time he talks about Hakuoki he’s like [says in an adoring voice] Hijikata.
BB: That’s because I’ve been working with Hijikata for the past three months and only now I’ve started to see the other characters.
FdW: Personally, I like [Sanosuke] Harada’s story for various reasons.
Aileen Viray, Assistant Marketing Manager: But, [Hajime] Saito is the strong silent type and he’s pretty dreamy.
BB: It’s pretty hard to say because the way it’s broken up is for the first half of the game it’s basically the same. After that is when it breaks up and you go down the different paths. The only path I’ve completed is Hijikata’s. I don’t really know what happens in the other ones. I don’t know it’s hard to say, I love them all!
FdW:: The game has six bad endings and six good endings.
Hmm… but when you date someone you don’t know how it turns out in the end. You only know about the time you spent with them, just like the first part of Hakuoki.
AV: Is that how it is for you Spencer? [Laughs]
Hahaha. Well, you can’t predict the adventure of love! So, who would you fall in love with for the first half before the story branches off?
FdW: The fans love Hijikata.
BB: I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Hijikata. He and Saito are badasses, but I don’t think I can fall in love with them. I don’t think my heart is ready.
FdW: Saito he’s cool, calm, and collected. Like, you can fall for him easily.
BB: No, no! He’s the kind of guy that you think he’s so awesome and you think – maybe you can fall in love with him, but that is going to be an emotionally unhealthy relationship. I feel like Haruda has what it takes to have a real, meaningful relationship.
FdW: Well, that’s why I like his good ending. He’s a nice guy.
BB: I’m just saying Saito isn’t the kind of boy I would bring home to my mother. [Laughs.]
BB: Much less so.
FdW: I mean kind of in a joking way.
BB: Hijikata is actually an ass. Okita he’s afraid of getting hurt so he deflects any sort of overtures a relationship with jokes and that sort of thing.
FdW: It’s like those guys that meet a girl and are like "Oh, I hate you!", but they actually like them. Like they’re mean, but they actually like the person. It’s that weird love-hate relationship, male tsundere almost.
We need a female perspective to add her views on this, Aileen?
AV: I told you who my favorite character is, it’s Saito. The strong, silent type.
AV: I like badasses.
FdW: But, what about Shinpachi [Nagakura]? But, you can’t pick him, yeah that’s right.
BB: And I mean who would want to hook up with [Heisuke] Todo?
FdW: What about [Chikage] Kazama?
BB: Kazama is an asshole. [Laughs] We got to see some of the anime. In the anime, he’s sort of like, I don’t know how to put it, he’s a quasi-honorable antagonist. He’s not really evil, but he’s at odds with the protagonist.
In the anime he’s kind of like that and you know from the game he’s someone you can hook up with in the game. So, you think he’s alright. In Hijikata’s story he’s an evil bastard. He does some horrible things.
FdW: What about Heisuke [Todo]?
BB: He’s lame!
AV: He’s immature!
BB: He’s not really, he’s probably less immature than Okita.
BB: The problem is Heisuke is gone for a lot of the story in the beginning, but I’m sure they have all been scientifically designed to appeal to different people.
Of course, I think that’s a common theme in male and female romance games. That’s why I was curious who do you admire the most?
BB: It’s hard to say. [Laughs!] Some of the characters that I like the best are characters that are not romanc-able like Amagiri [Kyuju]. Amagiri is a badass.
FdW: Amagiri is pretty sweet.
BB: Amagiri is awesome. Except when he gets stupid, [Isami] Kondou is pretty loveable. You can’t not like Kondou.
Right about here is when we were distracted by an Anime Expo attendee bellowing a war cry and a Lightning cosplayer. We switched topics to Fate/Extra, which we’ll cover later this week.
While we discussed the "hot men" quite a bit, Hakuoki has a story outside of the dating. The game is set at the end of the Edo period where Japan is in political turmoil. Chizuru (well you can rename her anything but her last name is set in, it’s hardcoded) heads to Kyoto in search of her father. There she meets the Shinsengumi, a group that lives by the samurai code and act as a makeshift police force. The Shinsengumi are also looking for Chizuru’s father and you might run into some *ahem* supernatural creatures in the game.
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom is slated for release in Q1 2012.