I've been following the Hakuoki otome visual novel series since it first made its western debut on the PlayStation Portable. It's been six years since Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom debuted in English by way of Aksys Games, and since then there have been several iterations of the game available for newly-minted Hakuoki fans. The games are typical, but well-written fare for the genre, but they're still part of a fairly niche series, so it's quite surprising that Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms ended up making its way to the PlayStation Vita. The second part of a remake of the original Hakuoki game, it's a continuation of the story that wraps up the two-part series that began with Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds. While it's part of the same interesting story that started up in the last title, it doesn't quite keep up with the story woven by Kyoto Winds.
Dad's Still Missing
Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds found you playing as a young girl named Chizuru, who ended up enlisting the help of the famous samurai of the Shinsengumi to find her father. He's gone missing, and the best alternative to waiting around fretting and hoping he returns safely, is to leave the safety of home, dress up as a male to avoid conflicts, and seek him out herself. The Shinsengumi get mixed up in Chizuru's plight, a secret society that exists within the shogunate. As it turns out, they're looking for Chizuru's father too. Under the Shinsengumi’s protection, Chizuru embarks on an even bigger adventure to find her father and get to the bottom of a politically-charged puzzle rife with supernatural occurrences and mysterious circumstances.
This half of the story finds things having advanced at a pretty rapid pace, especially since it's revealed that Chizuru actually possesses some particularly important supernatural traits. That's good, because the Shinsengumi have been imbued with some supernatural weirdness, too. They're now half-vampire, half-human hybrids named Furies, and you can probably guess how those two facts about Chizuru and her potential boyfriends reconcile themselves. From there, Chizuru also still has to find her father. As you can imagine, this half of the story gets considerably weirder.
You'll be reading a lot (I mean, a whole lot, as that's the crux of the series) so if visual novels aren't your thing, you may as well turn back now and start heading back to shore. It's about as traditional as it gets in that department, with gorgeous artwork and lots (and lots and lots) of text to pore over as the story progresses. Plus, as the story hurtles toward a resolution, you'll be faced with some tough decisions to make.
Suck It and See
But that's not to say a girl can't find love along the way. Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms is all about finding the perfect man for Chizuru while she works to realize her goal and bring her father home safely. While the first half of the story in Kyoto Winds was more about setting up the foundation for later relationships, you'll see your hard work come to fruition in this half. Depending on which character's route you decide you really want to push, you'l start seeing some real payoff, and these vamps like it rough. When I say rough, I'm talking sucking blood. From necks, mouths, wherever they can get it. If you don't find any of that enticing, hey, play the game. You probably will then.
It's not all steamy, sexy vampire action, though. A large amount of it is romance in the traditional sense, which is well-written and believable, especially if you played the first half of the game. It actually was all released as one story back on the PlayStation 3, so you're meant to experience everything all at once, which does make things feel a bit shorter and rushed in the scheme of things with Kyoto Winds offering a lengthy experience and Edo Blossoms feeling like the tail-end of a movie with all the juicy details in it. These two games really should have been released together, and it shows.
Boys, Boys, Boys
Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms is a great cap to Kyoto Winds, even though the two games being released so far apart and as two packages does tend to cheapen things. It's a little on the short side too, but it's got everything a great visual novel needs and then some. If you're interested in wooing samurai vampire boys or just in the mood for something a little less on the nose than other current visual novels, this should make for a great weekend play. Just make sure you enjoy those vampirism scenes in private, you hear?
This review is based on an PlayStation Vita download code provided by the publisher. Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms is available now on Steam for $14.99.