Being Shinsengumi is suffering
|Well, here I am again. This time with a review of the first ever (official) English released otome game, Hakuoki. This is my first time playing this all the way through since the last time I attempted this was a couple years ago back when I was still “AAAAAH WHAT DOES 一章 MEAN?!?! щ(゜ロ゜щ) I CAN’T HANDLE THIS LEVEL OF JAPANESE!“, but I’m glad this is in English nonetheless since this took me 1 week to finish 100% when UtaPri took me 15. …Though this game is shorter as well. As always, spoilers follow.|
1864 in Kyoto, Chizuru Yukimura (I might as well put the names in western order or else people will get confused) is a young girl who is looking for her doctor father who disappeared. She crossdresses as a boy since being a woman alone wandering in ye olde Japan is just asking for trouble, but trouble finds her anyways when she’s attacked, saved, attacked by her oddly bloodthirsty saviors and then subsequently saved by the Shinsengumi. However, the people who attacked her the second time have something to do with a secret of the Shinsengumi, so she’s taken to their base. There, they threaten to kill her to keep her mouth shut about what she saw until they find out that she’s actually a girl/looking for Kodo Yukimura (her father), a man that they were told to search for as well since he’s on their side of this complicated government struggle for power that’s going on and he disappeared. By the way, this game is roughly based on the end of the Shogunate Period, so if you know what that is, great! You probably have a rough idea about what I’m talking about. If not, you’ll be as lost as I was on my first playthrough.
Hijikata is the next in command behind Kondo (the leader of the Shinsengumi) and also known as ‘the demon’ since he’s pretty strict and harsh. Chizuru is assigned to be his helper of sorts at the beginning, but she doesn’t really do much for him. This is the longest route in the game and arguably the most depressing.
So Chizuru joins the Shinsengumi and continues her crossdressing routine since having a lone girl in with them probably isn’t a great idea. After a long time of doing nothing, Hijikata allows her to go out with the men and even then nothing much happens until 3 guys show up wanting to kidnap Chizuru and claim to be demons. Hijikata drives them off though and then a whole bunch of plot is explained. Basically, the guys who attacked her at the beginning of the game are Rasetsu (I know the English version calls them furies, but I keep reading that as ‘furries’, so yeah, not calling them that), aka the Shogunate version of vampires. They’re faster, stronger and more durable than humans, but they don’t function well in daylight, and occasionally turn albino/get the urge to drink blood (and then some go crazy from it). Oh, and Chizuru’s father was the one who created them by developing something called Ochimizu (English version= Water of Life, if I kept Rasetsu, I might as well keep this). However, the problem with Rasetsu (the urge to kill people aside) is that becoming one drastically shortens one’s lifespan depending on how much of their power they use. Sanan becomes one so that he can fight again after being injured, Heisuke becomes one to avoid dying and Hijikata eventually becomes one too to fight against Kazuma.
I should probably also mention that somewhere in all of this, Chizuru saves a girl named Sen, who becomes somewhat plot important. Sen eventually comes to the Shinsengumi and reveals that Chizuru is actually a demon (Sen is one too) and Kodo isn’t actually her real father. Humans screwed demons over since they were afraid of their power and so they killed them all and now Kazuma wants Chizuru so he can revive the demon clans and kill everyone.
Anyways, back to Hijikata, Kondo keeps losing a bunch of fights, so the Shinsengumi decide that a wardrobe change might help them fight better. …Not that it works, but damn does the new western clothing look good. Hijikata also experiences the urge to drink blood now and again, but Chizuru continually offers her blood to him to be useful.
So if you’re looking for an accurate account of what went on battle-wise in this game, I am the wrong person to ask since they all blended into one for me at this point. So from what I remember: battles are lost, Sano and Shinpachi leave, more battles are lost, Kondo surrenders by himself (and eventually dies by execution), even more battles are lost and then Sanan (he redeems himself by being loyal to Hijikata the whole time(I say ‘redeems himself’ here since he’s an insane SOB in most of the other routes)), Heisuke AND Chizuru’s father all die. Saito dies elsewhere and by this point and Okita has died from disease. Hijikata gets depressed, but eventually gets through it.
Then in the last chapter, Otomate finally realises that “OH SHIT! This is supposed to be a romance game!” and suddenly Hijikata is suddenly deredere and starts going on about how he needs Chizuru in his life (Chizuru also turns awesome at this point and Hijikata just can’t argue with her anymore xDD). In the end, it’s some final battle that Hijikata knows that he’s going to lose, but before he gets there, he finds Kazuma randomly in this field of sakura trees. Kazuma dubs Hijikata ‘Hakuoki’ (‘demon of the fleeting blossom’ (meh, close enough), so I guess the English title of this game is extremely redundant) and finally recognises his worth. Hijikata kills him with one stab, what’s left of the Shinsengumi surrenders peacefully and, Hijikata and Chizuru send the rest of their lives together. …Or what’s left of their lives (but let’s not dwell on that).
I’m glad I got this out of the way early BEFORE I got attached to the other characters. Everyone dies and Hijikata will be dead soon due to the whole rasetsu thing. Really, the only other Shinsengumi who is maybe alive is Sano (…and Shinpachi) and lord knows where they went. Isn’t this game cheery? Anyways, Hijikata was cute in the last chapter, but I’m not sure if that makes up for a whole game without romance before that… Though the blood thing was kind of adorable as well.
Another one of the Shinsengumi’s captains and one of their best swordsmen …Which is sad since he’s forgotten about in pretty much every route until one of the other members goes, “Oh by the way, Souji is dead”. He’s a pretty nice guy though when he’s not threatening to kill Chizuru …Which is all of the time because he’s also kind of a sadist.
Okita is diagnosed with tuberculosis near the start, so that screws him over fairly early on in the game and he’s not really allowed to go out and fight with everyone else. Before that though, while on patrol, the Okita and Chizuru save a girl named Kaoru and suspiciously, she looks a lot like Chizuru. The becomes important later, after the demons led by Kazuma attack and all of that other plot stuff happens that Okita’s not allowed to participate in. During one of the many attacks on the Shinsengumi, Kaoru appears dressed as a man and gives Souji Ochimizu so that he can cure his disease and become part of the plot again. Souji takes it, kills the attackers and it turns out that Kaoru is just trolling them since his goal in life is to make Chizuru suffer. Kaoru explains that he’s angry at life since he was treated badly since he wasn’t a female demon like his dear imouto and she hasn’t felt PAAAAAAAIN like he has. So now the person she cares about is a bloodthirsty monster, but Okita tells Chizuru not to worry about it.
So while the rest of the plot is happening, Kaoru injures Okita really badly using silver bullets (…apparently they work well against Rasetsu) and once again, he can’t participate in battles. He gets better using Chizuru’s blood, but obviously things are going too well, so Kaoru comes along to make them all suffer again. He force feeds Chizuru Ochimizu, and she turns Rasetsu as well. Yaaaaay. …Oh and becoming a Rasetsu actually didn’t do anything for Okita’s disease other than extend his life.
By this time, it’s already at the point where Kondo sacrifices himself for Hijikata to escape and on their travels, Okita and Chizuru hear about it. Then suddenly (or at least I thought it was suddenly), Okita has this obsession with Kondo and gets very pissed at Hijikata for letting him surrender by himself. The rest of the route is Okita focused on revenge and Kaoru trying to screw Chizuru over as much as possible since he’s a psychotic yandere of an aniki. …This is also where Okita admits that he loves Chizuru and embraces her admitting that he doesn’t know what to do with these feelings.
Okita has his shouting match confrontation with Hijikata, and the two run into Kaoru again. Only this time, Chizuru has remembered the day the humans killed them all, and Kaoru thinks that Chizuru has finally suffered the same amount he has. Kodo is working with him and he invites Okita and Chizuru to join them in killing all of the humans. Okita is willing to follow Chizuru in whatever, but she wants to stop them. So the two go to the place in the mountains that Kodo is hiding, Kodo shields Chizuru from a killing blow from Kaoru, Okita kills Kaoru and in his dying breath, Kodo tells them that the purity of the mountain can take away some of the effects of being a Rasetsu.
So the two decide to live in the purified area and the final scene is the two of them laying in the grass. Okita tells Chizuru that even if he dies, his heart will always belong to her. He then falls asleep.
O-Okita! Why were you talking like you were dying?! …What can I say? The bad end had me in tears, the good end had me in tears (apparently he really did just fall asleep, so he’s not dead… yet). Okita is without a doubt my favourite character (ド、ドMじゃないよ!), but why is his route so depressing? If it wasn’t him dying of being a Rasetsu, it’s him dying because of tuberculous. WHERE IS HIS HAPPY ENDING? Is it that hard to add in a few extra words like: “the purity of the area cures diseases too”? So sad… Though I don’t regret playing it at all.
The other great swordsman of the Shinsengumi. Saito is pretty quiet and serious, but he cares deeply for his comrades. He also has this obsession with the samurai code and since they took him in despite him being left handed, Saito is extremely loyal to the Shinsengumi.
This route is pretty much the same as the main storyline, just with Chizuru following Saito around instead of Hijikata. He’s given the duty of protecting her and he does it with extreme seriousness. During all of this, Chizuru notices that despite how scary she thought he was at first, Saito cares more than he lets on. Amagiri from the demon group is who he seems to fight the most, but then midway, his main opponent switches to Kazuma. Eventually during battle, Saito is forced to drink Ochimizu to defeat him and thus, he becomes a Rasetsu as well. Like everyone else though, he doesn’t regret it and says that everything is for the good of the Shinsengumi.
Saito still works during the daytime though since he’s THAT devoted and eventually Kodo comes out of nowhere saying that he’s raised Chizuru her whole life to become Kazuma’s bride. Uh, what? Where was this in the other routes? Anyways, Saito splits from the Shinsengumi since he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life and Kodo suddenly has an entire army of Rasetsu.
Stuff that I don’t really remember (which is kind of sad considering that I finished this route like, 2 days before I wrote this) happens and Saito’s spot for drinking blood is Chizuru’s ear since a cut there is less noticeable. …Even though she heals quickly so it doesn’t matter where she’s cut in the first place. Well, whatever. Eventually he realises that if living as a samurai for the Shinsengumi isn’t his direction in life anymore, then he’ll dedicate his life to protecting Chizuru instead.
So in the end, Saito defeats Kazuma in an epic final battle and I stopped paying attention to Kodo at this point, but I assume he dies as well. In the end, wherever Saito is working for offers him a place up north, so he moves there with Chizuru. The two watch the snow together and I assume that it’s a happy ending from there.
A WORLD of difference from Cecil’s route (Saito and Cecil are both voiced by Toriyumi Kousuke). I like Saito as a character and all, but I’m not sure if I enjoyed his route or not since such a large portion of it was “I MUST FOLLOW MY WAY OF THE SWORD”. Ah, well, Saito was pretty badass anyways. Plus he had some cute moments like when he couldn’t do up the buttons on his western clothing properly.He’s cute when he’s embarassed (*´ω `*).
Heisuke is the youngest/shota of the group, but for once I don’t feel like a pedophile since he’s actually my age. He’s hot headed, doesn’t really think before he acts and HOLY CRAP he has long hair.
So stuff happens as usual until Heisuke gets himself fatally injured by Kazuma and co. and has to become a Rasestu in order to stay alive. He doesn’t act any differently from normal though and he’s somewhat assigned to watch Sanan since the man is on his way to losing it in this route. Things don’t go well for Heisuke either since he gets urges for blood on occasion and turns into an insane bloodthirsty killer. Chizuru calms him down though. Eventually, the two get separated from the rest of the Shinsengumi.
Sen has a rather large role in this route since during a Kazuma attack (that Heisuke just can’t win), she tells him that she’ll bear his child instead, so he should leave Chizuru alone. She’s perfectly okay with it too since it’s part of her duty as a princess demon. However, Sanan ruins everything by going batshit and creating a Rasetsu army that only obeys him. He then decides that Sen is going to lead his people and forces her into becoming one of his special Rasetsu as well. The rest of the route is focused on Chizuru and Heisuke fighting to stop Sanan. Surprisingly, Kazuma helps them since getting Sen back is in his interests. During all of this, Heisuke has a couple of episodes and in his frustration, says that it doesn’t matter if he burns his life out since technically he already died once. Chizuru then bitchslaps him to calm him down and LOL it works. Heisuke then tells Chizuru that he has her to keep him sane and everything is awwright again.
So they find Sen in some castle with Sanan acting like the final boss. Heisuke defeats him though and even though Kazuma lost interest in Chizuru after she became a Rasetsu in Okita’s route, he’s perfectly okay with Sen becoming one in this route. Yay continuity! Anyways, Kazuma and Heisuke kind of get along now and Kazuma tells them about a place in the mountain that slows down the Rasetsu thing (probably the same place as Okita’s route).
So the two go off into the mountains and live their lives in the sunlight. It would have been a somewhat happy ending if Chizuru didn’t go and mention that she had a dream of the Shinsengumi all hanging out together again (because they’re all dead at that point). Even the fact that she wakes up in Heisuke’s lap couldn’t cheer me up.
I don’t care if Heisuke is a giant idiot, he was adorable. Or at least he was after he got that hair cut. I don’t mind characters with long hair, but with Heisuke, it just looked ridiculous (when the bishie’s hair is longer than the heroine’s, there are problems). As for the route, wtf Sanan. Though it was amusing seeing Kazuma work with Chizuru for once as opposed to say, Saito’s route where he was just a giant prick.
A non-rapist Yusa Koji role. Actually (surprisingly), Sano is probably the sweetest guy in the game. He has some pretty old fashioned ideas that women should be protected, but hey, this IS back in 1864. Sano fights with a spear instead of a sword and also tried (and failed obviously) to kill himself a while back.
So once again, things progress as usual. Sano goes around protecting Chizuru and his main rival is Shiranui from Kazuma’s demon gang. However, Sano is pretty evenly matched with Shiranui (when he’s in non albino mode), even without becoming a Rasetsu.Sano and Chizuru get closer as the route goes on and Sano shares that he has a simple dream of living a stable life in peace with a waifu. Eventually Chizuru wishes that she could be that waifu, but doesn’t say anything since Sanan keeps going on about how she’s a monster and she believes him.
Sanan acts as the villain of this route (or at least until Kodo comes to screw things up) and so when Shinpachi leaves, Sano goes with him and brings Chizuru along to stop Sanan from doing any shifty experiments on her. So while the rest of the Shinsengumi goes off to die, Shinpachi, Sano and Chizuru go do other things. All of this time, Chizuru thinks that she can’t be with Sano since she’s a monster and the fact that Kodo comes in and tells her that she’s one too doesn’t help.
Chizuru sits around being miserable until Sano finally admits that he’s in love with her. After talking things out, Chizuru resolves her problems with herself and things go happily from there. …Or at least they do until Sano has to choose between staying and fighting with Shinpachi or going to Edo with Chizuru to stop her father. Chizuru doesn’t want to make him chose, so she tries going off on her own until Sano stops her. The two talk things out again and then this CG happens:
The CG that follows this scene is a close up of hands and in non-R-18 otome game world, that heavily implies that something went on ( ≖‿≖). So the two tell Shinpachi that they’re not going to fight anymore and after Sano beats him in battle, Shinpachi is pretty bro about the whole thing. However, the fighting isn’t over since Chizuru wants to stop her father and his Rasetsu army. So they track Kodo down and with Shiranui’s help, they kill them all. Sano does his whole gentleman act by killing Kodo himself, but Chizuru watches since she wants to share the burden. Shiranui and Sano bid farewell on good terms.
The two leave the country and Sano lives his dream of having a peaceful family. He even has a son with Chizuru and needless to say, the epilogue is adorable.
…At this point, I think I cried BECAUSE Sano had a happy ending. Yeah, I highly suggest doing this route as close to the end as possible since this is the happiest story right here. After all of that other stuff, Hakuoki NEEDED this route. No Rasetsu early death problem AND a child ending. Needless to say, this is my favourite route as well. Sano was just so sweet and Chizuru had some complicated emotional stuff going on or one rather than the usual “Hmm, I wonder if I should give –fill in blank here– blood or not”. Sure there was no hot blood drinking scene, but Sano got something better ( ≖‿≖).
The shortest route in the game. Kazuma is the evil guy who fights the Shinsengumi in pretty much every route. However, in his own route, he’s actually a pretty okay guy. He’s certainly the most badass on the list here.
So Kazuma comes in when the Shinsengumi are attacked and Chizuru runs into a group of soldiers that betrayed the Shinsengumi. Kazuma saves her, tells her how humans are stupid, and then Sen and Amagiri show up telling Kazuma to leave Chizuru alone. However, Chizuru asks Kazuma to escort her to where the Shinsengumi are causing everyone to go “（ಠ_ಠ） …seriously? Why him?” (even Kazuma himself lolol).
So the two keep barely missing the Shinsengumi as they all die off fighting. After missing them for about the 10th time, Chizuru goes back to her house alone and finds her father there. She’s happy of course, but in this route, he has the whole Rasetsu obsession thing going on and long past lost it. He wants her to become one as well, but luckily, Kazuma comes and kills him. Kazuma comforts Chizuru and then the two go off to find the Shinsengumi again.
So they arrive at the place where the Shinsengumi’s last stand happened but at that point, they’re all dead. Chizuru has a good cry and then agrees that humans are stupid, but some are actually good people. Since this is his route, Kazuma is suddenly like “By the way, I love you.” and he kisses Chizuru. He tells her to come find him when she’s ready (since Chizuru said that she was just going to wander for a bit since everyone she knew is dead) but if she takes too long, then he’ll come for her himself.
A short route, and everyone dies again but Kazuma has his full lifespan left and nothing bad happened to him. At this point, I’ll take it. AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED, THIS IS A HAPPY ENDING. But yeah, it was this route that I realised why this game depresses me so. The Shinsengumi were brave, but it was just a useless struggle.
This CG makes me tear up EVERY TIME. ｡･ﾟﾟ･(>д<;)･ﾟﾟ･｡
I’ll be completely honest here, OH MY GOD IS THIS GAME EVER DEPRESSING I DON’T THINK I’VE EVER CRIED THIS MUCH FOR ANYTHING BEFORE. I’m not lying when I say that I found myself tearing up in ever single route. I knew that the fate of the Shinsengumi was pretty sad and I’ve seen the anime, but it’s even more depressing when you have Chizuru’s account of it as well. Seriously, who thought that this was a good idea? Did the writers sit there and go “Yeah, let’s make an otome game about one of Japan’s most depressing organizations in history! Bitches love tragedy!” !? …Truth be told, I DO love tragedy, but I learned here that I like it separate from my otome game route endings ┐(‘～`;)┌. Hell, some of the good endings felt like normal ones to me. So if you want a list of most to least tragic routes, I’d just go in order (Hijikata, then Okita, then Saito, etc). Sano’s was the happiest, but according to the guide I was using, you can only play Kazuma’s route after you’ve done 2 of the others, so you might as well wait. That being said, aside from the extremely depressing topic, the game itself was actually really good. No wonder this was what they chose to bring overseas, the script was fantastic. While I didn’t pay attention to the battles (I was more worried for which character would die when), the characters were all pretty interesting despite all being archetypes. Otomate knows their stuff.
Kazuki Yone, marry me. Just look at those images that I used for each character and try telling me that this woman isn’t absolutely brilliant. Hell, all of the CGs in this game are beautiful. It makes me sad to know that she’s left Otomate now, but at least I can drool over her artwork here. The character sprites were amazing as well, of course and everything fit well art-wise. As for the music, it was nice as well. Once again, everything fit, but nothing really stood out for me. Despite the art book being about 90% just the game CGs, the limited edition version of this game also comes with the sound track (I don’t have a clue if all of the tracks are on there though since the CD drive in my computer died a very slow, painful death and has refused to work since) and it’s only about $10 more… Which is actually a REALLY good deal considering that most of the other limited edition games I’ve seen online are $100+ and come with pretty much the same things.
Lol Aksys, what’s with all of the swearing? It’s only about as frequent as I swear in my posts, but sometimes it worked with what the guys were saying and sometimes it was just so out of place that I wondered if Aksys just put it in there just because they could. Though I guess it helps point out that the Shinsengumi guys are rough around the edges since English doesn’t seem to have as many language variations as Japanese and they completely cut out any honorifics… The only other thing that felt off to me (the character’s need to bark and whimper like dogs aside) was the fact that the Rasetsu were called Furies (I had no problem with Ochimizu becoming “Water of Life”). I mean, they kept most of the other Japanese names for things (like the swords), what difference would one more make?
I think that North America’s main problem with the game is that they don’t (or can’t) read the game description properly. I have seen complaints that this has too many words (too many words in a visual novel. AHAHAHAHA), that there is no action, that it’s not historically accurate (EVERYONE DIES. HOW MUCH MORE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE DO YOU WANT THIS?! щ(゜ロ゜щ)) and I’ve even seen complaints about there being romance in here. Yes, complaints about there being romance in an otome game. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Excuse me while I go bash my head against the wall due to the stupidity. Maybe it’s Aksys’ fault for not explaining clear enough that this is a fictional romance game with many words, but honestly people. You’re lucky that you got to play this at all. I freaking learned Japanese so I could play these games (no really, that was my whole motivation to learn the language). Anyways, bottom line is, I’m pretty sure that the only people who truly appreciated this were the people who actually know what otome games are/want to play them and that’s a pretty small market, so I don’t know if we’ll be seeing more of this (as much as I’d love for otome games to take off here). As for me, I’m off to go add the fandisks to my giant ‘To Be Played’ list and hope that they’re not anywhere near as depressing.