Much like the cowboys of the Americas and the Knights of Europe, the Samurai holds one of those 'badass' pedestals in Japan. Warriors, philosophers and all points in between, they can fit a number of roles without being less awesome. Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds, the latest in the Hakuoki series, brings us back to this time period with a new visual novel. And the result? Let's find out!
This is a visual novel, so of course story is going to be a big part. You are CHOOSE FIRST NAME Yukimura. You're in Kyoto to look for your father, but forces that will don't want that. Because your dad is a respected person, a bunch of Samurai agree to help, and you're on your way back, all the while fighting/talking off people and starting to fall for a few of the samurai around you. Honestly, with some modern pop culture references and a ton more violence, this could have been a Quentin Tarantino movie, er, game. 'Looking for your lost dad' isn't exactly a new story to tell, but having parts of the Seven Samurai, Kill Bill, and classic John Wayne movie plots really helps this.
It's also historical, and pre-1900 Japan (1863) isn't often seen in most media, so playing through it here adds to the story so much. I actually got some of the historical references, so the plot really makes you pay attention whether you like action, romance or history. Some dialogue is predictable, but hey, surrounded by everything else, it's great.
Not too, too much to say about the controls. This is the Vita, and you're reading most of the time, so it's about as complicated as you expect. It's intuitive, so nothing confusing – there's simply not that many actions to control with.
Gameplay is also straight forward. Choose what you want to say or do, and hit X to keep going through the story. This can get tiresome, and it can leave you begging for something different at times, but it meshes well with everything else Kyoto Winds offers.
The graphics are good, but not great. Not a whole lot of moving, so it's mostly stills and such. They're great, a mix of Western and anime styles, and everything looks period appropriate. Nothing really made me go “wow” however. It might be due to the game type, but it felt more like a book than most graphic novels. It's not bad, but it could have been more. Points for accuracy though.
The music in the game was pretty generic old-Japanese style. When things got tense, the music got tense and so on, but it all held the style and didn't leave a lot of room for variance. Fit the time period (when modern riffs didn't come in) but unspectacular. The sounds were mostly voice acting, and it was hit or miss. Some sounded sleepy, others sounded constantly angry and others didn't seem to know their lines. Others were spot on, and looked like the personification of their voice. All together – not bad, but I wanted so much more here.
Besides some lip syncing issues from their movable mouths being way off (at times, I felt like there was a 3 second delay between speaking and mouth movement), nothing really screwy happened. The frame rate was good, there were no bugs and it all was clearly tested to perfection.
Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds is the kind of visual novel that would have been much better as a movie or TV show. The story and characters are strong, the time period is great and it does a lot right. But below average sounds, average visuals and long drags of not much going on bog it down. It's worth it for the story, but it could have been more.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
A copy of this game software was provided for the purpose of review.