Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms is a visual novel otome game and a direct sequel to last year’s Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds. The main character Chizuru Yukimura is still trying to find her missing father and is still hanging out with the Shinsengumi, a military police unit made up of hunky ronin. The game tells of a time between the waning fragments of the old Shogunate and the rising tide of Imperial Nationalism.
When you start the game you can select one of thirteen different routes and each one has a very different story to experience. Each route has a unique prologue tailored towards what happened between you and your chosen man in the previous game. Whilst this does a reasonable job of summing up what happened in past events, we’d still recommend that you start off with Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds before diving into this one.
Hakuoki is a visual novel with the main aim being to develop a relationship with one of the many eligible bachelors, but it's so much more than just a romance game. It’s set in a fascinating era of Japanese history, with members of the Shinsengumi struggling to uphold their principles in a period of rapid social change.
Japan is beginning to open it’s doors to the rest of the world and this brings with it plenty of new things, ranging from simple changes like Western fashions beginning to make an appearance through to more complex things involving science, military tactics, politics, and social attitudes. It’s against this backdrop of turmoil that our protagonist and their chosen love are trying to survive and it means that they are influenced by much more than just their love for each other.
That said, the game isn’t completely historically accurate and there is a healthy dollop of fantasy thrown in to the mix with things like demons making an appearance. However, the historical and fantasy elements actually gel together quite well to create a really compelling story with plenty of political intrigue, bloody battles, and, obviously, a lot of romance.
Regardless of which good-looking man you choose to pursue, your journey is likely to be an exhilarating one. All of the men have their own unique personality and narratives, but there are common plot points that take place in each story. Viewing these from different perspectives will add layers and depth to the narrative as you play. At certain points in the story, you’ll get to make dialogue choices and these will drastically influence how events pan out. There are a lot of different endings to experience, and the game is interesting enough that you'll want to see them all.
As this is a visual novel, all the typical things you’d expect to be able to do are here, such as being able to skip text you’ve already read, which is very handy when you’re replaying storylines to see different endings. You can also rewind time, so if you pick a dialogue option which doesn’t give the response you wanted, then you can jump back and pick a different option to try to get a different reaction.
As for visuals, the game looks beautiful on the PS Vita. The backgrounds are detailed and do a great job of showing off a historical Japan, while the character designs are appealing with plenty of alluring and charming looking men. The voice acting is all in Japanese and it’s extremely well done. All the voice actors used fit the characters they’re playing perfectly, and they really bring them to life. The game's music also deserves plenty of praise as it produces an incredibly fitting ambience and really aids your immersion in the story.
Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms offers a very satisfying conclusion to the Hakuoki tale. Boasting a fascinating narrative filled with bloody battles and political intrigue that's topped off with plenty of alluring characters and romances that feel deep and meaningful, this is an easy game to recommend to those who love a good story.