Which Hakuoki should you play?
Games get rereleased all the time. But the same getting almost back-to-back iterations over a six-year period? That might just seem crazy! No, wait, it is crazy! But that is exactly what has happened with Hakuoki, an otome visual novel series with new versions appearing on different platforms year after year. What’s going on?
What is Hakuoki?
Okay, back in 2008 Otomate released a visual novel called Hakuoki in Japan. It is an otome game where players follow a heroine who finds herself plopped into a harem of attractive men. Naturally, all of them are smitten with her. Players make decisions as they play, which puts them on the path to a romantic ending with one of the men.
Hakuoki found success for two reasons. One is because it appeals to Japanese history buffs. It is set during the Bakumatsu period, running from 1864-1869. The members of the Shinsengumi were a special force of warriors fighting in the name of the Tokugawa shogunate in Kyoto. Its leaders have been idealized and romanticized in popular culture, with idealized versions of them appearing as bachelors and NPCs in the visual novel. Specifically, Commander Isami Kondou, General Commander Keisuke Sanan, Vice Commander Toshizo Hijikata, Troop Captains Souji Okita, Hajime Saito, Heisuke Todo, Sanosuke Harada and Shinpachi Nagakura, and spy Yamazaki Susumu all appear in the game, with all but Kondou romanceable (so far).
The other is the supernatural element. Hakuoki capitalizes on the fad that involves vampiric creatures actually being lovable, rather than murderous monsters. Throughout the story, different bachelors may find themselves near death. (After all, many of the actual members of the Shinsengumi died for various reasons.) They then take the Ochimizu, the Water of Life, to become Rasetsu. This makes them bloodthirsty creatures who become wreckless warriors. Like vampires, they have a thirst for blood, can be halted by silver bullets and move under the cover of night. There is also a group of demons after the heroine, though you will need to play to find out why this otherworldly race is getting involved in human affairs.
How many times has Hakuoki been released in English?
Tons of times. Hakuoki is available on practically every platform. And in Japan, its reach goes even further, what with minigame collections and a spin-off series that takes the characters and places them in a modern high school setting. But for the purposes of this article, we are only focusing on the English releases of the main Hakuoki tale.
Since the game is almost identical on every platform and we’ll be getting into what might make one more or less appealing to you in the next section, we are now only going to offer a list of systems on which it is immediately available in English.
- Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom (PlayStation Portable, 2012)
- Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi (Nintendo 3DS, 2013)
- Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi (PlayStation 3, 2014)
- Hakuoki (Android and iOS, 2015)
- Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds (PlayStation Vita and PC, 2017)
- Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms (PlayStation Vita, 2018)
Since 2012, we have received nearly one Hakuoki game per year outside of Japan. Most are almost exactly the same. And, with Hakuoki Shinkai: Fuukadan, a PlayStation 4 game that bundles the 2017 and 2018 PlayStation Vita releases together, now available in Japan, it would not be crazy to think it could be localized and released in 2019.
Now, it is important to not get Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi mixed up in this when you start looking into the games. This is a spin-off along the lines of Koei Tecmo’s Musou series.
So which Hakuoki do I play?
This is the real question, isn’t it? There are a number of different right answers. It all depends on a number of factors.
If you want the cheapest possible copy of Hakuoki to play, perhaps because you are unsure whether or not you will like it, then take a look at the iOS version of the game. It is free to start, with purchases for separate routes. When it comes to physical copies, the PlayStation Portable version is available for $9.99 at GameStop.
Should you want the most complete and total package immediately available for the lowest possible price, then Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi is the best way to go. It has bonus features, side stories, and additional segments for characters. You find out exactly what happened in one place with no waiting.
Now, for people who want the be all, end all Hakuoki experience and do not mind paying more or waiting, then you need to invest in Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms. The previous games prior to these two installments had the entire storyline and Hijikata, Okita, Saito, Toudou, Harada and Chikage Kazama as bachelors. These latest two games split the storyline into two parts, the Kyoto and Edo segments, but add Nagakura, Sanan, Yamazaki, Hachiro Iba, Kazue Souma and Ryouma Sakamoto as bachelors. This will be expensive. The cheapest you can get Kyoto Winds right now is $29.99, and it was $39.99 at launch. You need to wait until sometime next year to get the other half of the story, which the other versions of the game already offer for the six main candidates. But for completionists, this is the only option to get the 100% complete (at the moment) version of Hakuoki.
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