Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms review for PS Vita, PC

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PC
Publisher: Idea Factory
Developer: Otomate
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
Players: 1
Online: No

Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms could have gone horribly wrong very easily. As you?d expect from a visual novel by Otomate, it?s a love story, and the end goal is to have the game?s heroine end up with one of the game?s samurai hunks. Complicating matters is the fact that several of those hunks have come down with something that sounds suspiciously like vampirism.

In other words, in the wrong hands, give it a few tweaks, and you?ve basically got a Japanese version of Twilight.

That it doesn?t can be attributed to a couple of things. First, there?s the overarching story. Much like its predecessor, Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds, this game takes place against the backdrop of Japan?s tumultuous Shinsengumi era, and it devotes a lot of time having the various characters talk battle tactics. Obviously, there?s nothing preventing a war from becoming the setting of a maudlin love story, but Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms seems set on having its love story play out within the context of war, rather than allowing its love story to overshadow those events.

Equally importantly, much like the previous game, Edo Blossoms works hard to make its characters moderately likeable. This may not sound like much, but given that so many other visual novels seem to be exclusively populated by enormous jerks, it constitutes an noteworthy achievement.

That said, as much as I appreciate the plot and character development, there are certainly times where you kind of wish they?d just focus on the monsters. After all, not only do you have vampires — sorry, samurai possessed by “bloodlust” — trying to (and occasionally failing at) fighting off their thirst for blood, you also have enemies who are literal demons. Between the two, you have the ingredients of a pretty epic battle, but instead, Otomate try and keep proceedings relatively grounded. I get why they?d do that: ultimately, this is a romance-focused visual novel, so its target audience probably doesn?t want giant monster fights. Still?I want giant monster fights.

But just because they?re not there doesn?t meant that Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms is any less of an achievement. Its predecessor set a pretty high bar as one of the finest visual novels you?re likely to read/play, and this game follows firmly in those footsteps.

Idea Factory provided us with a Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: A-