Review: Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi for PSP

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Title: Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi
Price: $29.99
System(s): PSP
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Aksys (Idea Factory, Zerodiv)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood, Strong Language and Violence

Aksys is becoming quite the risk-taker, as of late. It’s the champion of adventure games and visual novels in North America, thanks to 999, Zero Escape, Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom and Sweet Fuse. One would almost consider its decision to localize Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi a “safe” choice. However, deciding to release a Dynasty Warrior-style game inspired by an otome game is still quite risky. I commend the company for trying, but the game is only about average and only appeals to people familiar with the series.

hakuoki warriors of the shinsengumi

Reliving and rewriting history

Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi actually offers players two story modes. The first is Shinsengumi Chronicle. It is not only an alternate retelling of the Shinsengumi’s history, but also of the Hakuoki tale in general. Without getting into spoilers, it offers opportunities for happier endings than either the real life or fictional account, granting the Shinsengumi warriors access to their supernatural Fury abilities while also giving players the chance to make their quest to help protect the shogunate, fighting against the Choushuu to protect Kyoto and the emperor.

The second storyline, Shinsengumi Memorial, is basically a retelling of Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom sans romance. The difference is, it’s going through the exact events of that game through the members of the Shinsengumi and Kazama’s eyes, rather than following events as Chizuru. The outcome is the same as the original game, only Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi lets people reach the resolution by beating the heck out of enemies, rather than making Choose-Your-Own-Adventure choices.

hakuoki warriors of the shinsengumi

Fighting the good (quick) fight.

As a Dynasty Warrior clone, Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi is a goal-based, beat’em up. Players pick a gameplay mode, be it one of the two aforementioned story modes or the short, one-level Skirmish mode, choose a character and then go through a handful of levels. In each level there is an objective, usually defeating a certain enemy on the field, and completing it ends the mission.

The downside is, each storyline is very short. One storyline is only about six levels long. It took me under three hours to go through Souji’s Shinsengumi Chronicle and Memorial storylines. On the plus side, the brevity did mean I was able to go through multiple characters’ full storylines in a short amount of time. I suppose some people may see this bevity as a positive, as it expedites unlocking extra characters, extra character art, movies and other content.

Sadly, cranking up the difficulty doesn’t add to the length as Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi is quite quick and manageable on any difficulty level. This also means the only way anyone will get a “bad” ending from overusing Fury mode is if they purposely seek it out. It also renders the accessory creation aspect moot. While players can collect items and combine them to create accessories that make the Shinsengumi warriors stronger, it’s unnecessary given how easy the game is.

Also, I would have appreciated more character variety, both in terms of playable characters and opponents. Enemies are all generic, so my characters were always fighting the same cannon fodder. I suppose that’s understandable. I mean, the Shinsengumi’s foes probably would be faceless mooks wearing the same uniforms. However, the Shinsengumi characters all tended to look and play alike as well. While stats and weapons are different, I didn’t feel like this was really noticeable unless I was playing on the hardest difficulty level, had a character donning a different outfit in Skirmish or using Sanosuke, whose reach is noticeably longer due to his spear.

Of course, Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi‘s failings are only to be expected. It is a Dynasty Warriors clone and those games aren’t known for their deep and gripping gameplay, large variety of enemies and revolutionary gameplay. At least this game surpasses expectations by offering a more interesting and engaging story. It isn’t Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom awesome, but it’s better than anything I’ve seen in Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors or Warriors Orochi.

Also, as a final note, Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi is only available for PSPs. Though a digital version is in the PlayStation Store, it can’t be played on the Vita.

hakuoki warriors of the shinsengumi

Hakuoki is mostly adequate, and a game only fans will love.

I wasn’t expecting an incredible video game experience that would change my life when I started playing Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi. I knew it would be a Dynasty Warriors clone. I guess I just expected a little more substance. The story isn’t terrible, but it isn’t as robust and vibrant as that of Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom. That, combined with the fact that all of the characters basically play the same, made it difficult for me to find the motivation to discover new endings in the alternate reality Shinsengumi Chronicle mode, let alone go back and replay Shinsengumi Memorial battles from the previous game. I applaud Aksys for their effort and support of otome series and wouldn’t say this game is terrible, but I don’t see people who aren’t ginormous anime or otome fans enjoying this average beat’em up.

Site [Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi]

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