Okay, transparency time. I never played Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds. If you feel that makes my opinion invalid then feel free to stop reading. For those who aren’t aware Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms is a direct continuation of the story from Kyoto Winds. Both are visual novels set in Japan in the 1860s and put you in control of Chizuru Yukimura. With Edo Blossoms there is a very quick recap of the first game’s story, where Chizuru searches for her father and becomes a page to the leader of the Shinsengumi, a military unit created to counteract anti-shogunate forces and who actually existed. Then it drops you straight into the rest of the tale.
You can choose to continue one of thirteen stories, each concentrating on a different character. They all follow the same basic plot but are different lengths and will diverge, sometimes drastically, depending on who you’ve chosen and the choices you make as they’re presented to you. Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms is an otome game; a romance game where you play as a female. For the good end you need to make the right choices to both make it through the story and get your man.
I don’t want to go too much into the details of the story for worry of spoiling either game but know that Edo Blossoms does conclude each story for those looking for the endings they weren’t given in Kyoto Winds. Although each individual plot is much, much shorter than your average visual novel, altogether the thirteen different story threads add up to a decent length. Some characters get more game time than others but that just means they’re involved in more important set pieces.
You can quick save at any time, do a full save or even rewind to a specific part of the conversation to ensure you pick the correct choice when they do come up. If your story does come to a premature end then you can quickly fast forward through the parts you’ve already read. All these options are very welcome and actually encourage you to seek out the different endings and fail states if you become invested.
How likely are you to become invested? Maybe it’s to sync up with real life events (though there are supernatural elements to the story that shows they aren’t sticking to things that closely) but it often feels like you’re witnessing an important battle (just for example) one minute, then the game jumps forward a month or two and you’re at the next story critical moment. Even as someone who feels visual novels drag on a bit and have long periods of time where nothing happens I found that there was never enough time spent simply getting to know characters or truly digesting what had just happened. It also makes it feel like Chizuru is a passenger and that the majority of these events would happen whether she was there or not. Maybe considered as one full title it’s better but the pacing just felt off enough for me to not care as much as the game wanted me to, about the romance or the overarching story.
The overall package is well presented however. The 2D artwork is well drawn, with each character having a few different poses. Important scenes have their own illustrations to add weight and the voice work seems fine but is only in Japanese. The music didn’t draw too much attention away from the scene, but supported it successfully. An encyclopedia offers information about characters, concepts and jargon if you find yourself unsure of a word’s meaning or just needing a reminder. I can’t fault this aspect of the game at all.
If you were a fan of Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds then you should probably check out Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms to finish the story and finally land the man of your dreams. If you’ve not played either but are interested then definitely start with Kyoto Winds, Edo Blossoms as a stand alone game is tough to recommend and unless you’re reviewing it for a website there is no need to skip ahead. There is a decent amount of content and variety to each character’s story, although there is some overlap, and it’s all well presented but, probably because I was coming in half way through, I struggled to get invested in most aspects.
+ Well presented
+ Thirteen different characters to follow
- Pacing could be better
- Not all characters get the same attention