The Bakumatsu period, a gap between the past splendor of the Shogunate era and the modern glamour of the Meiji period, is one of the most violent and intriguing places to start a romance.
Chizuru Yukimura has set off for Kyoto to find her missing father, but accidentally gets herself wrapped up in the intrigues of the Shinsengumi, a group of warriors who defends the fading powers of the shogunate.
The men in Shinsengumi are not merely fighting Emperor Meiji’s forces and the strange demons, they are also hiding a terrible secret. They are hiding something among them.
Please note that I will not accept any sort of comments saying that Hakuoki is a cashcow, “being milked”, or anything pertaining to Chizuru being “weak, useless, or stupid” — that is your personal opinion and this is mine. I will not have people digging up old issues about the game that have been talked about for years, unless it is constructive criticism all comments that pertain to the above will be deleted.
I finished Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds back in June and decided to write my overall thoughts of the game. Since I haven’t reviewed the original Hakuoki outside of the LE’s, this will be centered around reflecting on the original game while looking into what has changed within the story, the new characters, and what will happen next.
** Please note that this isn’t a spoiler free reflection.
The Dawn of a New Era: Story + New Changes
It should be noted that the game follows the same path as previous Hakuoki games with Chizuru entering Kyoto to look her father and ends up getting saved from a mysterious creature by the Shinsengumi. Due to her connection to Dr. Kondou, she ends up be watched over by the Shinsengumi in the disguise of Hijikata’s page since they also want to reconnect with her father for unknown reasons. From that point on, Chizuru watches the fall of the Bakumatsu era unfold, as the Shinsengumi struggle to fight the current of change, even if everything slowly turns against them. Through her years with the Shinsengumi and the player’s choices, Chizuru can find herself getting close to a certain captain or find her life going a completely different direction.
One of the main differences with Kyoto Winds is that it only reaches the Battle of Toga-Fushimi, which is just the common route for the game and it makes the story seems more historical than romantic since these emotions are barely taking root. However, there are now 12 possible romances with nearly all the captains of the Shinsegumi and some important players of the era. Extra scenes have also been added to the routes from previous games, which add some cute moments to the game that players might have not seen before. The game has also had an update when it comes to music, animation, and its aesthetics which give it a more polished and beautiful look with upgraded motions that make good of the PSVita’s graphic potential. The characters have also received updated colors and designs, though for some it might not be the same as Kazuki Yone’s original art for the first game.
A Certain Type of Woman: Chizuru Yukimura
As the heroine of the game, Chizuru Yukimura hasn’t changed much in this new version of the game. She starts as a young woman dressing in men’s clothes in order to look for her missing father in Kyoto. She ends up living with the Shinsengumi in the same disguise for the next 4 years, however she ends up displaying different aspects of her personality depending on which route is chosen, though there are somethings that don’t change. While, Chizuru has always been given some minor medic position within the older, it seems like there is more of an importance placed on this during the major battles and she is almost the head of medicine whenever Yamazaki isn’t around, as shown in his route and Okita’s.
However, what I really like about Chizuru is how she grows throughout the game, even in small ways. In the beginning, she starts of as a timid young girl that is afraid of the Shinsengumi and the reputation that proceeds them, but as time passes on she becomes friends with them and unknowingly becomes devoted to one depending on the choices made. There are numerous times where she could have run away, but she takes everything with stride. She is still aware that there are things that she cannot do, but there are other things that she is incredibly stubborn on, such as trying to make sure that certain people get adequate enough rest to treat their wounds. There are shades of Chizuru that people might not like, such as how she views herself in Harada’s route later on, but she is a very active heroine within the game. However, one thing that really surprised is that in some routes she is willing to go after her father and Kaoru in order to stop their plans. Before where she would hesitate, she doesn’t now and plans to move forward and stop from, sometimes in the name of her clan!
Dedicated to the Shogunate: Shinsengumi
Before moving onto the new routes added to the game, I want to briefly touch upon the original routes of the Hakuoki game and some of the little changes that have been added to them and which ones of my favorites moving onto the 2nd game. The original 5 Shinsengumi routes were: Harada Sanosuke, Todou Heisuke, Saito Hajime, Okita Souji, and Hijikata Toshizou. This are only the first half of each story, but there is still new scenes to look forward to and the development seems a bit more clear in some of the routes.
In terms of Harada‘s route, his concern towards Chizuru’s emotions is made clear early on especially when he brings Sen to her cheer her up. Chizuru’s attraction is also made a little bit more apparent, especially during the newly added scene with Sen. However, there are echoes of Chizuru doubting that she can be happy or be with the person that she loves because she isn’t “human”. To be honest, I have never fully played Heisuke‘s route, so I was pleasantly surprised by it and just how easily he and Chizuru “click” with each other, though that might be because of their close personalities and ages. It is actually kind of sad that they cannot see each other while Heisuke is away, though the extra scene of them being able to meet under different circumstances is really sweet. Heisuke’s story seems to go a completely different way than the rest of the routes, so it will be nice to see how it is handled.
In Okita’s route, it seems more prominent that Chizuru is the one mainly watching over him as the Boshin War starts, but she is also the one that gets a lot of his teasing and stubborn attitude as a result. In the extra scene, Chizuru also gets to see a more somber Okita who worries about his usefulness to Kondou and what he can really do. In a similar fashion to Heisuke, Saito’s route mostly deals with them apart for a majority of the route, but while he is still with the Shinsengumi, she is able to get him to open up a bit. This is shown with the extra snow scene where Chizuru teaches the hardened warrior of lot of things, but Saito is still entranced by simple things, like snow bunnies!
Since Hijikata’s route is the longest, there is a real lack of romance in the beginning, but he does seem to built trust towards Chizuru and what she can do. Personally, it was a struggle at times going through the same story over and over again 12 times, but it as nice to see the new scenes and how they add a little extra for what is yet to come.
Familiar Faces, New Memories: Sannan, Shinpachi, and Yamazaki
Now, some of the newest routes deal with other important figures within the Shinsengumi that weren’t romance-able in the first couple of the games. The three new routes are: Yamanami Keisuke, Nagakura Shinpanchi, and Yamazaki Susumu. Each of the has their own distinct story and while some people having been waiting years to date one of these guys, the way their stories start off and how they interact with Chizuru might be surprising to some.
Sannan’s route starts off with Chizuru trying to help Sannan and getting to know more about what her father was trying to do. However, things get a little more complicated once Sannan becomes a fury and starts his own experimentation and sets his eyes on Chizuru, especially when realizing that she isn’t human. However, Chizuru stills seems to want to help him, but Kondou comes in and tries to get Chizuru back while also tempting Sannan into learning more about the fury by joining him. After the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, it seems that Kondou will be waiting for his answer, even if it seems like Sannan is dedicated to the Shinsengumi. To be honest, it felt like there wasn’t really any romance between Sannan and Chizuru since he pushes her away after his injuries only to be focus on her once more when finding out that she is a demon — it’s kind of creepy. I was expecting the route to take a weird/strange turn due to the role Sannan plays when it comes to the fury corps in other routes, but it doesn’t seem like while happen…or at least not yet.
In Shinpachi’s route, he takes the “big brother” route when dealing with Chizuru and tries his hardest in keeping her happy and safe. He does his best in trying to help find her father and making sure that she is alright when living with the Shinsengumi. However, there is some strife between them for awhile when it comes to what each of them thinks about the water of life and why certain samurai decides to take it, something that Shinpachi never wants to do. However, that doesn’t seem like it will be up to Shinpachi to decide since during the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, he is seriously injured while protecting Chizuru from some soldiers and a dying Genzaburou Inoue gives the critically injured Shinpachi the elixir thus turning him into a fury. Chizuru now tries her best to cheer up Shinpachi and make him see the brighter side of things when it comes to being a fury, though he still seems to hold some resentment towards the whole situation. Personally, I was really excited to see Shinpachi’s route and was really frustrated early on since he only sees Chizuru as a “younger sister” and while there were sweet moments, he only seems them in a certain way. It is intersting to see that Shinpachi turned into something that he seems to detest, but everything is out of his control, so I am excited to see how he will handle his new powers and how it connects or changes his persona beliefs.
In Yamazaki’s route, Chizuru sort of becomes his right-hand woman when it comes to all the medical stuff within the Shinsengumi and she is there to take care of everyone when he is away. Yamazaki does his best in trying to find any information about Kondou and Chizuru seems to build her medical knowledge and trust in the process. However, she also comes to realize that he wants to fight alongside the rest of the Shinsegumi (and by extension protect her), but can’t due to his primary job of collecting information and always being in the shadows. His feelings are pushed to the brink when he sees Hijikata deciding to drink the elixir, instead Yamazaki gives an compassionate speech of what the vice-commander’s role truly is to the Shinsengumi and decides to drink it instead. Though critically wounded, Yamazaki finally survives the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. Personally, I really enjoyed seeing how Yamazaki and Chizuru support each other through different ways and seem to see each other as equals within their friendship. It takes some time, but each of them finds it easy to talk to the other and there are early signs of Yamazaki falling for her. Since Yamazaki has always died on the way to Edo, it will be intersting to see him in a different environment and how exactly his new powers will help him and if it will cause problems with Chizuru due to her personal thoughts on the elixir.
Men at a Crossroads: Iba, Souma, and Sakamoto
The routes that are new to the series deal with men that seem to be looking for something more from the current positions that they have, but in varying ways. Some are looking to change how they view their roles as samurai and another is looking to change the central system of their country. However, the majority of them are from outside the Shinsengumi and Chizuru finds herself traveling a varying path from the people she has stayed with for the past 4 years. These new men are: Iba Hachirou, Souma Kazue, and Sakamoto Ryouma.
In Iba’s route, he is the mysterious stranger that shares a past with Chizuru (and is always there to save her) and has a deep connection to the Shinsengumi, even though he is on a completely different level as them. As a member of the Shogunate’s guard, there are certain things that he has to do, but he seems to question them more and more as the route moves forward. However, his devotion towards Chizuru never seems to waver, as she realizes that Iba used to be her childhood friend from Edo and is well-aware of her unique abilities. He promises to keep protecting her, but there are certain people whose dislike Iba for the position he has and it ends up transforming into a bitter rivalry, especially when the elixir becomes involved. In the end, Iba ends up giving both his arm and his life in order to protect Chizuru and promises Sen to go after Takeda. Chizuru only hopes that everything will be all right as they make their separate ways towards Edo. Iba is super sweet and it is really intersting to see a childhood friend route in Hakuoki, especially when Chizuru doesn’t seem to remember him at first — it’s kind of sad and cute to see Iba so bothered by that aspect of her memory as well! At the same time, Iba is from a completely different social status than the rest of the Shinsegumi and with a different set of responsibilities, but he also seems to care about Chizuru a lot! It will be interesting to see how all those separate aspects of his life are handled and what he will end up doing since he isn’t human anymore.
In Souma’s route, he is one of the newer members of the Shinsengumi (who meets them under tense circumstances at first) who ends up looking up to Chizuru as his senior, completely unaware of her true gender. Souma tries his hardest to understand the ways of the Shinsengumi and why they do certain things, in the process he ends up really close to Chizuru to the point that he knows her secret and wants to protect her from the demons. This leads to him crossing swords with Chikage numerous times and lamenting that he isn’t strong enough. However, protecting Chizuru ends with him drinking that elixir and while he doesn’t regret it, he is still getting used to the side effects as they head to Edo. I really enjoyed Souma’s route because he just seems like a cute puppy, he is always looking for Chizuru’s approval and gets advice from her, but that slowly changes to him trying to protect her yet that doesn’t seem to change the respect he has given her. They are both very supportive of each other and share a strong belief for the Shinsengumi, so it will be intersting to see how that is challenged in the next half of the story.
In Sakamoto’s route, Chizuru ends up meeting a mysterious man when searching for information on where her father could be, but this man is quick to see through her disguise. Through several meetings, Chizuru ends up connecting with Sakamoto and learning what he is really doing, but also she realizes that his position in current political battles is the opposite to the Shinsengumi. Chizuru struggles with her budding friendship with Sakamoto and what is asked of her by the Shinsengumi, but she always seems to help Sakamoto when he needs saving. As the political dynamics begin to change, Sakamoto and his friend Nakaoka are attacked and killed, only to be given the elixir by Kaoru. Chizuru is held captive by her brother and father, but Sakamoto ends up helping her and though he is considered “deceased” now, he moves forward with trying to stop Kaoru (and Nakaoka) with Chizuru by his side. It was intersting to see the opposing side of the conflict (and even more history as a result!) and that he still seems very carefree of everything that might happen to him. He and the Shinsengumi seem to have a complex relationship as they are trying to get different things from each other, but look over Chizuru in their own ways. Sakamoto seems to be happy to let go of some of his obligations, but he also seem excited to be traveling with Chizuru. I would really love to see how their relationship develops in the next game and how much Shiranui is going to be part of it as well.
Demon in the Shadows: Chikage Kazama
While, Chikage received his own route in the original Hakuoki games, this time he seems to be getting some added plot lines and more interactions with Chizuru. He might want Chizuru to be his bride for one certain thing, but that seems to change throughout the first half presented in Kyoto Winds and there is more connections to the demon world shown as Sen, Amagiri, and Shiranui seem to add their own input on his current ambition, but there are also new sides to his personality.
Chikage’s route starts off like it previously did in the first Hakuoki game, by him and the Shinsengumi meeting during the Ikedaya Affair. At that point, he is only their enemy because he is associated to the Satsuma and has erred some of the captains with his abilities and rather strange talk about “humans and demons”. It isn’t until some time later that he realizes who Chizuru really is and sets his eyes on her becoming his bride. From that point on, he tries to take her away from the Shinsengumi, but there are also points in the story where he protects her and seems to value her opinion during the latter half, though he still looks down on humans. As the war begins, Chikage and Chizuru find out what Kaoru and Kondou have been doing, which leads to Sen calling all the demons to Yase village. Chizuru vows stop her family and Chikage is instructed to help her, though he would have done so anyways.
First off, it is good to see an explanation as to how Chikage realized who Chizuru really was, as I just assumed he finds out the first time that they met. It is also good to see that he has different sides to his personality besides thinking he is superior to humans and wanting Chizuru as his bride. He holds his lineage highly and won’t forgive others –even other demons– for showing it to humans and he seems to care little for human affairs. While, he is brutally honest of his opinions, he never really shuts down Chizuru for believing in the Shinsengumi and thinking differently about the nature of humans and their politics. It is also great to see that Chikage is given a more solid plot line and something more in-depth and connected to him personally, though I have to wonder whether Chizuru trying to reconnect with the remaining Shinsengumi members will make a comeback in the second half of the route. However, what I really loved about this new route was seeing the interactions between all the demons and seeing that Amagiri and Shiranui don’t exactly agree with everything that Chikage is trying to do — their interactions (along with Sen’s) to his current ambition are really funny too!
On both the website and during the Hakuoki FesCafe, there is an emphasis that the producer (Tsunekiyo Fujisawa) wanted this version of the game filled with things that couldn’t be added to the original game and using the latest technology. Personally, I think that they accomplish that. There is added material to all the routes, especially when it comes to Chikage, and the new routes delve into different historical and emotional aspects of each character. Yes, there is a lack of romance in the first half, but it can be seen developing in some routes –even just on Chizuru’s side– but the story does a good job in developing its exposition and the connections the between the chosen bachelor and Chizuru plus the reasoning behind their journey after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi.
One of the great things of the expansion of the game is the added character dynamics and relationships. Before you would think that the Shinsengumi men where on their own, but there are others that looked up and believed in them! Chizuru is also shown to have her own background and how she lived with her strange attributes through her friendship with Iba, even though she doesn’t remember at first. Chikage is also shown to have complex relationships with the rest of the demons, along with showing that Shiranui and Amagiri don’t just blindly follow him nor do they completely agree with what he is trying to do. Even Shiranui gets some more background info since he is shown to be connected to Sakamoto and they seem to have a friendly relationship. All of this is great to see, though it can be missed if a player constantly skipping through the game.
However, it can get boring to go through the same scenarios 12 times for subtle changes, so there is a lot of skipping through the game after playing a couple of routes. At the same time, there is a lot unanswered questions in some of the newer routes though a veteran to the Hakuoki series might already know what might happen through either guessing or viewing summaries of the 2nd half of the game. However, what a person might do really depends on how long they can wait, it is one option of many so is simply waiting for the 2nd game and then playing them back-to-back.
The music has been upgraded and changed, which adds a good ambiance to the scenes. The art might still be questionable, but it is great to see that the characters got upgrades to their artwork and that they are using animation to make the characters move when they talk! Needless to say, the seiyuu cast does an excellent job displaying the emotions of all the characters, especially when fighting or when dealing the intense emotions that comes with the war and the series just got an upgrade with the added voices of: Mamoru Miyano, Yuki Kaji, and Daisuke Hirakawa!
Hakuoki might be an overused game to some, but Kyoto Winds does add a lot extra goodies to those that love the series, if you’re one of those or a newcomer to otome games — consider checking it out!