Yesterday, my friend Sherwin told me about the game 'Hakuoki: Demon
So I went over to my local Game Stop, telling myself that if that store didn't have a used PSP under $100 and the game, then I wasn't going to buy it. But they did so I bought both things to the amusement of the salesman since the title is so obscure and for such a niche audience (girls). He did ask that if I came back to the store (which I will since I now have a PSP and must have more games for it like KINGDOM HEARTS: BIRTH DEATH SOMETHING BY SLEEP), if I could tell him what my review of the game was. While I haven't finished the game (still making my way through), I do want to list some of my initial opinions so I have something to reflect upon later once I do beat it. I haven't played a dating sim before and most of the games I play are either puzzle, RPG or fighting games, so this is a completely new experience for me.
1. It's a completely text based story game, very similar to 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books. I'm used to having a little avatar to control and run around the town so this threw me for a loop.
2. The historical era in this game is pretty popular in anime and it's about the same group of special police that so many creators write about. What's slightly hilarious is that all the date-able characters in this game were all REAL HISTORICAL PEOPLE. Yes they were warriors but I doubt they had hair that amazing or actually were that handsome. (I have my own theories why so many creators love to write or draw about this period of history with this specific group, but that's another entry)
3. The game progression is all based on decisions the player makes as the heroine. However, I have yet to encounter a chance to make a really significant decision as the heroine that either affects the life or death of another character or significantly affects the plot. I'm also disappointed by the lack of action the player gets to do, the heroine gets a job as a messenger in the city for the Shinsengumi, however it's been pointed out in the plot that she's new to the city and spent a good chunk of time locked up in the compound. How is she able to navigate her way through the city to be a messenger?! I wish that was something that I could've played.
4. WTF VAMPIRE SAMURAI.
5. So far, the plot is fairly multi-layered. Aside from the romance part of the game, there is also some horror and fantasy elements going on with demons and vampire samurai. There is also the historical/political fiction elements of the story since it takes place during the Bakumatsu Era in Japanese history, a messy time of political upheaval between factions loyal to the Emperor, loyal to the Tokugawa shogunate, and when the isolationist foreign policy ended and other countries started trickling into Japan. Instead of just being all about the battles, certain decisions allow the heroine to witness moments of strategy, post battle analysis and compromise between the different factions which makes my nerdy heart very happy.
6. Okay, the heroine so far is ridiculously lame. I've named her 'Peanut' in my game and because of some plot, she's afraid of knives and sharp objects. The fact that she's such a wimp has actually changed my focus in the game because I'm no longer interested in trying to get with the Shinsengumi member of my choice, rather it's trying to actually get her to draw her goddamn sword and kick some vampire/demon/ronin ass. This is proving to be EXTREMELY difficult because even when I can make decisions for her to put her hand on her sword and stand and fight, SOMEONE ALWAYS SAVES HER AAUUUUGH. What's driving me even more nuts is that she states that she had been trained to fight and she does know how to wield her kodachi, but she has yet to actually do any of this and just wibbles when things start getting tense.
7. The male characters do fill the traditional character archetypes in otome dating games: leader character, serious character, flirty character, trickster character, and young boy character. However, since all of them are based on real people, their personalities are fairly well fleshed out and it's pretty cool to see how their decisions and actions move the plot forward. I sort of wish I was playing as one of them instead of as Peanut (or Chizuru which is her default name), which would make the dating part VERY interesting ho ho ho! Also, I'm already shipping a few of them with each other, they're definitely better off with each other than with a burden like Peanut anyway.
8. I'm definitely seeing potential replayability already. I'm so far playing this game as 'myself' which means I tend to choose options that make the girl be braver, but I'm curious to see what would happen if I chose options that would make her more cautious. And of course, there's always fun with choosing completely random options at any decision moment, or going for options that would make one or all the guys fall in love with Peanut. I can't wait to find out! XD
So far, game is really fun and I would recommend trying it out! I'll write more on it as I get farther into the game or when I finish it.