By: Jeff Cater
Aksys Games has been known to release an anime game or two (or all of them!), and Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi fits right in. It’s a tale about a young woman, Raven Yukimura, in the middle of the samurai struggles of the 1800s. Through reading along, you will be with Raven every step of the way as she unravels the truth behind the disappearance of her father. While it isn’t a game that everyone can get into, anime and manga fans may have something to look forward to.
Developer Idea Factory really nailed down how to press the X button, as that single input will take you from beginning to end. Every now and then you will have to make a directional input in order to make a dialogue choice, but that is the most complicated the controls will get.
The backdrops to the game-long dialogue sequence range from forest paths, market avenues and various homes that are rendered nicely and are full of emotive detail. Characters are drawn well but are completely lifeless save for their eyes that blink, so don’t expect much more of an immersive experience than a traditional manga book contains.
The soundtrack fits the mood well for every set scene, but it tends to loop fairly quickly depending on how fast you decide to progress through the dialogue, and there’s no voice acting to support it. Clocking in at about 25 hours, the musical selection simply can’t fill up the game the whole time.
It’s hard to break down this experience as I’m holding a controller but not really doing anything with it. In the traditional sense, this is NOT a game. This is a lightly (very lightly) interactive story about a woman named Raven told via a first-person account of the mysterious happenings that resulted in her father going missing.
This game takes place in 1856, the tail-end of the Tokugawa Shogunate over Japan, and in the middle of this chaos you accompany Raven on her quest to solve her tale with the help of the Shinsengumi Samurai; inexplicably young, famed Samurai. While you can get extra details about certain subjects, characters and events by selecting different dialogue choices, that’s really about as far as the interactivity goes.
Otherwise, the game is largely just a “press X” fest with an overly emotional female lead getting hit on at every turn. It’s definitely not for everybody. The lack of animation makes it hard to fathom why this game wasn’t just made into another manga or even an anime.
Odds are the market for Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi is going to be extremely limited. It doesn’t offer much more flair than a printed manga title and doesn’t contain enough animation to be comparable to even the most simply rendered anime out there. The story is definitely geared toward female gamers, with every character treating you like a pretty but helpless woman to an almost condescending level.
While the writing is full of detail and provides a powerful grip on our main character, the “gameplay” contained within is of the most casual you can imagine. If you have been considering an anime-esque purchase you can find better and more interactive titles for less than the price of admission to Hakuoki.