This review was way harder than I thought it would be, and took me months longer than it should have. After all, I’m familiar with the story and have played several routes, usually at this point I have very strong opinions about a game! But Harutoki 6 is different. I can’t decide whether it’s good or just ok, and how much my own experience and biases play into my judgment. But first, an intro on the game itself:
Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 6 is the latest console otome game from Koei’s Neoromance line. As you can guess from the title number, Harutoki goes back a long way, and the last 4 games have all had RPG gameplay, making it one of the few otome games completely outside the visual novel genre.
The story is based on the ‘girl swept away to another world’ trope, and it’s always to a world similar to historical Japan, but with major differences (often the difference is that there’s magic / demons around). The girl is hailed as the priestess of the guardian dragon (Ryuu no Miko), and gets eight hachiyou, or guardians. There are two guardian dragaons, the White Dragon (Hakuryuu), and Black Dragon (Kokuryuu), with one priestess for each.
In the past, the heroine has always been the White Dragon Priestess, with the power to put demons at peace and purify objects/places. For the first time ever, in this game you play the Black Dragon Priestess, with the power to hear demons, control and quiet them, but not to fully exorcise them. This position has been there since the beginning, sometimes as an enemy, sometimes as an ally (can’t remember if #4 had it though…). It changes the dynamic a lot, since you can never really ‘save’ the demons. Also, you don’t get all your guardians until very late – for half the game you’re playing with four, and half you’re playing with the other four. Only near the very end can you choose from all your guardians (your party is you, and up to two of your guardians).
The gameplay is also changed. Harutoki is one of the few otome game series to have actual combat gameplay, though it’s always turn-based. It used to be straight RPG, but in 6 it includes some strategy RPG/cardgame features, like playing on a grid and having to be tactical about where your characters move. You can also use demons in combat as extra party members. Some gameplay is familiar though, such as choosing locations on a map to activate character events necessary to move forward in their routes. You only get a set number of moves in a day, and if there’s no specific event at a location, you gather up cards of certain elements to level up your characters, or battle monsters of a certain element (this is where you collect demon cards to deploy later).
And of course, through all this, you’re increasing your affection by fighting alongside your companions and completing their events successfully.
For an otome game, this is a fairly complex system, and it’s pretty fun to go around gathering cards and leveling up your characters. Not only are monsters cards, but your characters are as well – and after certain events (or getting an ending), you get pumped-up versions of your character cards with different specialties and elements. Based on the gameplay, I’d definitely recommend this to otome fans who are bored with visual novels.
But in terms of the story and romance, I’m not sure how I feel. The tradeoff from having lots of fun combat and choice in what you do is that the story doesn’t always flow smoothly. And depending on the character, events might feel very spaced out.
The story as well is on a smaller scale than previous games, which were set during famous wars or even mythic times. This is set in the Taisho era, which is really nice to have a different flavour than all the games set during the Bakumatsu (ahem #5), but it means the tensions are more political and less military, more below the surface. They did a good job making it suspenseful, but it’s a bit frustrating, once you know who the ‘bad guy’ is, to not be able to just go and beat him up to stop him. The story is fairly dark too, there’s a side character who dies which I was kind of upset that there’s no way to save him.
All of the combat and politics can make the romance feel marginalized. If you just came from a game like Amnesia, for example (BTW, I need to review that as soon as I’m finished it!), with a very intense, tight focus on the heroine and only a couple other characters and their interpersonal drama, Harutoki can feel overly broad. On the other hand, some of the routes are quite angsty when you pay attention to each scene. One thing I never worry about with Harutoki is feeling like the writers are just repeating things or explaining too much to pad the story. Also, there is an option to skip battles you’ve done before, so the only one you really need to get through is the final one.
The characters are:
Darius (CV: Suzumura Kenichi) – the head of the oni clan
Rudo Harne (CV: Tachibana Shinnosuke) – his right-hand man
Honjou Masatora (CV: Takemoto Eiji) – hired muscle, half oni/half human
Kohaku (CV: Abe Atsushi) – a human with amnesia and cursed markings
Arima Hajime (CV: Okiayu Ryoutarou) – the commander of the group fighting the demons
Katagiri Shuuhei (CV: Okamoto Nobuhiko) – his right-hand man
Hagio Kudan (CV: Shitanda Michael) – a seer who summoned the miko
Satoya Murasame (CV: Yasumoto Hiroki) – an author and detective
So far, my favourite route is the amoral, obnoxious goon on the right here:
Buut that’s probably just because he’s my type. Shuuhei was also very good!
So, with all of these features and caveats, in the end, can I recommend Harutoki 6? I did enjoy it a lot myself. I think my main reservation is that I wouldn’t recommend it for someone’s first Harutoki. The importance of the Hakuryuu, the frustration of not being able to purify demons, and the suspense of waiting to get hachiyou are all diminished if you’ve never played this series before. But I do recommend it for anyone who’s looking for a different kind of otome game in terms of gameplay, and definitely if you’ve played other Harutoki games, I think you’ll enjoy this one.
Since Vamwolf Cross was pushed back three weeks, I had to wait for my June games for what felt like forever. In the meantime, I ended up installing and playing FFXIV, Square-Enix’s rebooted MMORPG. It just got an expansion, named Heavensward, so I picked up both on Steam not realizing that Heavensward is useless before you get to level 50, lol.
FFXI was my first MMORPG way back in the day before I (re)started playing console games, and though I didn’t get that far (highest level was 37 I think?), it took over my life enough that I had to quit cold turkey. It was pretty unforgiving, and I was really afraid that FFXIV would be similar. I have enough to do without a third job on top of my day job and Chromatic!
Anyways, it seems Square-Enix really learned a lot from being marginalized by WoW and other MMOs, and FFXIV, at least in the early stages, is pretty easy to pick up and play at your own pace, and the story, while a little bland in the beginning, seems to get better and better. I haven’t had any bad run-ins with other players yet, though reading some reddit threads scares me a bit about dungeons. I’ve done a few which have been ok, but it seems people don’t like newbies watching the cutscenes while they have to wait? Seems kind of ridiculous to me. Anyways, just like other MMORPGs, it requires some grouping, so you have to have certain level of don’t give-a-fuck or it’s too stressful when you have jerks in a group or make a mistake.
There are tons of callbacks to previous FFs, from the classes and jobs to monsters, and there’s even a Gold Saucer casino with chocobo racing. It’s pretty great for FF fans just for nostalgia, but I’m enjoying it even apart from that. Right now I’m lost in the fun of gathering and crafting. One thing I love about FFXIV (FFXI had this too), is that one character/avatar can be any job. You start off in one of three main cities depending on which class you pick first, and all you have to do to get another class is visit that guild. They’re spread out among the three starter cities.
I’ve had no problem with having enough money since I’m leveling all my crafter/gatherer classes together. And one of the annoying things about FFXI, travel, is pretty much fixed here too. Towns and cities have a crystal which, once you attune yourself to them once, you can travel to them from anywhere just paying some money. SO MUCH better than FFXI where you had to beg or pay a mage to teleport you, or run out to the middle of a zone somewhere. It also makes crafting/gathering much easier, because zones each have their own crops which are fairly limited.
Overall, I recommend FFXIV for fans of FF who are thinking of an MMORPG. There’s a 30-day trial period which I’m still in myself, so you’d have to re-evaluate after that whether it’s worth subscribing for ~$15 monthly. I don’t know if I’ll continue, since I have just a few otome games waiting for me, but in the meantime it definitely scratches an RPG itch really well.
And speaking of otome games…I got both my June and July shipment-yay!! Now I’m drowning in new games, and it’s glorious. Can I brag and list all the games?? Since this is my blog, I’m gonna go ahead and do that.
[EDIT: I don’t seem to have these archive posts in order, but I don’t think it makes too much difference really. Reading over this one, it makes me laugh thinking I wondered which game would be more popular…spoiler, it’s Hakuoki! Though to be fair, Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi did surprisingly well when it first came out for the PC, considering the industry was in its infancy. It might be the grandmother of all otome Shinsengumi games!]
Yup, just got my August B’s Log and Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi (originally for the PS2 EDIT: Sorry, I think it was originally for PC, tecknikully[face_coffee] ) is being adapted for the DS by D3. I’ve played the game, and it’s great – pretty historically accurate as otome games go, lots of characters, and many emotional rollercoasters – especially for those of us who aren’t that familiar with the details of the Shinsengumi members. This is one game where you’ll likely cry as much as you’ll laugh.
There will be new events and conversations for this version, and the game will be voiced, but it might not be full-voice as it was for PS2.
Release date is set for Fall 2008, so keep an eye out! Ooh, I just realized that’s the same timeframe as Hakuouki, Otomate’s Shinsengumi game…[face_worried] Which one will reign supreme??
I am not dead, and I’m playing games! November was really busy at my day job and of course with Sparkler too, but I’ve been playing a bunch of games and want to do some posts!
First up will be a review of Exorcism of Maria Complete Edition (Danzai no Maria), but I want to fully complete it before I do a review – it takes a long time! Other posts I want to do:
I hope it will be a post-filled December!
Man, has it been so long since I posted? Anyways, I’m going to post a big list of news just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
I’ve finished all of Princess Arthur! Not the bad ends though, I might do those when I have extra time sometime, but I don’t like doing them too close to the true ends.
Anyways, I really liked it. It takes a while to get going, and I enjoyed the playthroughs better when I could skip all the common stuff, but that’s pretty standard. I played Gawain’s route first (Taniyama Kishou, who could resist?), but if I played it again, I think I’d go something like: Mordred, Galahad, Tristan, Lancelot, Gawain, and Merlin.
The game starts with Aru, who’s the daughter of a retired knight, practicing swordsmanship with someone – her father teaches people how to swordfight. Something is mentioned about her brother Kei, who’s a Knight of the Round Table, who hasn’t been around much lately. Aru feels bad because he’s been acting weird ever since he fought with her once and lost. At the castle there’s an event going on to decide the next king, since the last one, Uther, died a month (or so) ago. Aru goes up to the castle to watch.
Of course she gets lost, and ends up 1) being hit on by some weird dude in a purple robe open to his bellybutton (Merlin) and directed to the right place by a handsome knight (Lancelot.) When she finally reaches the courtyard, she sees Kei trying to pull the holy sword out of a big stone and failing in front of a big crowd. However, he won’t give up, and Aru gets upset and tries to convince him to stop. Somehow Aru’s hands end up on his, and he’s able to pull the sword out. Kei holds the sword up triumphantly and announces that he’s the king, but someone (Merlin IIRC) asks him to do it again. Once again he can’t do it until Aru helps him. Then Aru pulls the sword out all by herself, and amid the crowd’s astonishment, Merlin announces that the new king has been found, and it’s Aru. Kei leaves in a huff, and Aru’s father saw what happened as well, and though Aru tries to deny it, he accepts her fate and leaves her to Merlin’s care.
It takes Aru a while to accept that she is the next king, and that she has to work hard to be accepted by her subjects and by other countries. There’s also at least one person trying to intimidate and/or assassinate her, as she finds a poisonous snake in her bed one evening. Some people, such as Uther’s sister Morgos, are openly scornful of her, and soon there’s war brewing as other kingdoms don’t accept her as king. ONe of the most important points of the intro is when Aru has to decide whether she’s going to war with the knights – if you say you’ll wait for them, you get a bad end. If you go, you win the battle but Aru kills someone, her best friend’s fiance dies, and Aru has to learn how to deal with the emotional weight of war.
Once she’s recovered from that, there’s a ball held to celebrate. Depending on which character you have the highest affection with, around here (choosing who will escort you to the ball) will decide on the route you go into and change the rest of the plot.
Mordred (CV: Hosoya Yoshimasa): His story has little to do with the overarching plot of being accepted as king, but clears up a couple of incidents. I love his voice actor (any Tenipuri Shitenhouji fans out there?), and he’s not in many games. Hopefully this will change soon! His story was pretty bittersweet and I think his character is one of the most realistic and complex – he’s flawed and knows it, but can’t get past the problems his upbringing left him with until the very end. I also think his art, the CGs and tachie, are the most consistent, and his design is one of the most attractive.
Galahad(CV: Okamoto Nobuhiko): I thought in the intro that I wouldn’t like him much,but he was SUCH a classic tsundere and you don’t see them often anymore (now they’re all Do-S jerks), that I really enjoyed his route. He has a lot of really cute moments. And his story is pretty touching as well, he’s not used to feeling much so he’s awful at expressing how he feels. When he can’t hold it in anymore, it’s pretty intense and awesome. He’s also the youngest of the knights (younger than Aru even) so he’s a bit immature and that’s written well, including a bit of a complex about being young (and short).
Tristan’s (CV: Koyasu Takehito) route annoyed me, as Aru had to be not only naive and trusting, but also throw away her developing friendships with the other knights before Tristan even showed any romantic interest in her. To get his happy end Aru has to lie to all the knights, flat out deny their help, and pretty much become an outcast of her court by the end. And though I enjoyed all the scenes with Percival and Merlin to make up for Tristan being absent for 75% of the story, it didn’t really make for a good romance. They actually had to add vignettes into each chapter to go through his backstory etc. because it’s not explained in the story until the very end. I also really didn’t like Aru in this route. Tristan calls her actions stupid and she often agrees with him, but she just cant seem to help herself. And to top everything off, at one point Aru wears a disguise that’s even worse than the ‘ball gown’ worn before. This time its for a good reason, but the cg of it looks…like its from a galge. Did they really have to show it from a crotch up angle? And that’s obviously the point at which Tristan becomes interested in Aru as a woman, which makes me think of him as an old lech. But I had to get through it to get to Merlin’s route, so I used auto a lot and surfed the net.
Lancelot( CV: Ono Yuuki): Probably the most typical ‘shoujo’ route. I put him near the middle because while I really liked him, and there wasn’t as much Guinevere drama as I was afraid of, his route is not that sweet. He’s always polite and pretty much the ‘parfit gentil knight’, in addition to being the strongest of all the KotRT. Most of the emotional angst comes from Aru not knowing if he actually cares for her or whether he’s just doing his duty. Normally I would be annoyed by this, but he has a really really good reason to hide any romantic feelings. It was possibly the most dramatic at the very end, in a Sailor Moon kind of way. I don’t want to put spoilers in so you can judge for yourself if you agree, but I thought his was the best story in terms of integrating the character’s plot with Aru’s plot.
And I would put Gawain (CV: Taniyama Kishou (for some reason I mixed up his name with Tachibana Shinnosuke, why am I doing that??) last before Merlin, because his route is just really sweet – he’s already past the tsun stage by the time the intro’s over. But because he’s a not a ladykiller type (I affectionately call him a meathead), he’s awkwardly endearing most of the time as he unsubtly tries to spend time with Aru and impress her. The romance gets resolved before the climax, so there’s not as much tension, but after Tristan who has almost no romance, I think it works. Now if I could just figure out what thing he wears on his head is…
And last is Merlin (CV: Okiayu Ryoutarou) – you have to get an ending with each character before his route opens up. This is where you see the resolution of all the storylines (though it kind of contradicts a couple other plotlines, but oh well). Merlin is a total lech, flirting with Aru and making suggestive remarks, until she starts to take him seriously.
Then he backs off and starts treating her like a child (since he’s actually much older than he looks, I don’t think this is much of a spoiler).
This route is fun in that it’s a reversal of the usual pattern, with Arthur pursuing Merlin and him trying to brush her off lightly, and then trying to find other ways of discouraging her like treating her as a child and trying to scare her off. He goes back and forth between acting like he doesn’t care and showing that he does, but it’s obvious enough that I enjoyed it rather than was frustrated with it. Also, the Lady of the Lake, Nimue, plays a big role in this route and is pretty awesome. She sees right away that Aru loves Merlin and advises Aru, and she explains Merlin’s inconsistency as it happens as well. The climax leaves a little to be desired, as you don’t really get Merlin to admit how he feels until it’s all over, and in my biased opinion his confession could use some more passion, but looking at the route as a whole there are quite a few romantic moments.
So I really liked Princess Arthur, and I’m glad I got the limited edition. I’d say the story and characters were really good, but the climax of the plot wasn’t as dramatic as it could be in most cases. There was a lot going on (in addition to each of the knights’ problems), like Aru’s brother Kei’s subplot, Morgos and Medorauto, rebellions, a shadowy mercenary force, and a couple other things. The character routes weren’t always integrated well with the larger ‘being accepted as king’ plot, though they did try – nothing felt tacked on at the end, there was foreshadowing all the time, it just seemed weird that several of the same enemy characters would have completely different schemes, alliances and sometimes motives depending on which character route you were on. On the other hand, if they didn’t change things up, the same plotline would have to be recycled every time, just dropping a different hero into a blank slot.
Other stuff – I wasn’t sure about the art at first, as it’s not as ‘pretty’ as a lot of otome games, but in some ways I liked it even better – the characters look like real people, and the guys definitely look like they could be real knights (i.e. they have muscles! they wear armour!). Though there were some odd costume designs, I liked most of them barring Aru’s ‘trying too hard to look sexy’ ball’gown’. Of course the voices were great
The music is really good, especially the opening theme – it really amps up the suspense and feeling of epicness during the ‘king’ scenes.
I feel like there’s a lot that could be done with the other characters that were only in subplots or only had minor roles – Kei, Aru’s friend Elaine, Medorauto, Bowls (Bolls?), and Percival. I’d love to see bigger storylines of theirs in a fandisk. I really hope Princess Arthur does get a fandisk, as I’m not sure how well it did for sales.
I’m writing a big long post on Toki no Kizuna – right now the bad is outweighing the good – and thinking of Hiiro no Kakera. Thinking about things that didn’t make sense – and it occurred to me again (don’t think I ever mentioned it here) that it makes absolutely no sense for Tamaki to be chased after by you-know-who (minimum spoilers) to give up her life. If she dies, who’s going to be the next Tamayori-hime? Pretty short-term thinking there.
Toki no Kizuna post will be up by tomorrow! And I’m getting magazines this week so an update post on Kamigami no Asobi and other new games is coming.
Sorry for the long break! Things have been busy, but I should get B’s Log soon so lots of news coming. For now, a non-otome game post.
Recently, I did something very bad. I got into Bleach. After reading the whole manga in a very short time period, I came to a few conclusions:
I can see how people reading little by little might not see it, but when you read everything at once the plot holes and such are pretty obvious.
What does this mean? Apart from the mess that is Bleach canon, which I may still read in bursts just to keep up, but will never defend, it means opportunity for fantastic fandom. Why? Because along with the enormous base of interesting characters that Kubo Tite made and gives only hints of interesting backstory for, there is also a ton of foreshadowing and plot points that are never dealt with, or dealt with in such a cursory/stupid way that they beg for a better treatment from fan artists/writers.
Anyways, I don’t usually go against canon in my shipping, because it’s just frustrating rooting for a couple that will never get their canon ending. However, in Bleach relationships are so vague that you can pretty much pick whatever couple you like. For me, I always was kind of annoyed by Ichigo – I liked him and Orihime, but in the last half or more of the series that doesn’t seem likely (and even if it ends up that way, I don’t think it should), and his personality is underdeveloped in romance, so it almost feels weird to ship him with anyone. And anyways, there are much more interesting pairings to explore – my favourite are (don’t laugh) Orihime and Ulquiorra, and Orihime and Grimmjow. Two pairings that are almost totally impossible, yet I love them because before Tito Kube wrote the horrible (IMO) endings of their character arcs, I could totally see them developing a relationship with her in various shoujo/otome plotastic ways. So I’ve been having some fun exploring fanfic and fanart of these pairings, and can I just say, I’m so happy to live in a time when fandom is so big that almost everything has a niche fandom?
Anyways, for anyone strange enough to also enjoy Ulquihime, here are some good links:
Fanvid （fans of Utena will probably enjoy this too):
Hilarious vid if you can read Japanese:
Bittersweet fanvid, Japanese not needed but spoilers for the end of the arc
Gorgeous fanart (was missing this link before):
And yay, a picture that I would totally love to read/watch more of!
This artist does a bunch of great Ulquihime (ウル織) art.
Some fun 4-coma manga:
Sorry for the non-otome post, this pairing has just sucked me in recently. When I’m not playing FFVI (finally!) or Renai Banchou 2, I’m checking out pixiv and nicovideo and AO3 way too much. I think I’ve seen most of what’s out there – online at least, there is TONS of doujinshi.
As Ebi pointed out, I have had the wrong idea about Arcana Famiglia since the beginning – I thought the game came from a series of novels, but it seems like the only thing that came out before the game were some drama CDs, and those were specifically leading up to the game. Time for some geeky detective work(my favourite kind)!
Looking back at the magazines, the first time I saw anything was way back in the July 2010 Girl’s Style (released in June 2010!). It just had teaser pics of the guys (no Dante, guess he came after lol), with quotes – for some it seems a little different from their final personalities. It’s interesting because B’s Log doesn’t cover it at all until a year later, in their August 2011 (sold in June) issue! Although, they had it in their calendar for a few months before that. Maybe Girls’ Style had an exclusive deal or something.
Comfort was the actual creator although HuneX published it. Its vision was to be a combo of shounen manga (thus all the comic style speech bubbles and action) and otome game (with everything else). And it definitely succeeded – it will be an anime during the Summer 2012 season. It seems like the plot of the show is the same as the game, which I’m a little disappointed in – I thought they could have started it earlier and shown some history before getting into the tournament.
Just for funsies, here’s the first drama CD on Amazon.jp – Volume 1 Arcana Famiglia Piachure! La Primavera.
I haven’t finished Nova, who might be the last character I finish in Arcana for a while. Dante and Jory don’t interest me too much (although if I didn’t have such a backlog I’d totally finish it), but I’ve done everyone else. I find The Lovers ability pretty fun to use, I thought it was well done, and if you know where to look, I don’t find the fighting to be very difficult.
And after poring through magazines for an hour looking for it, I always forget how much is in them. Though I do the news monthly when I get them, it’s mostly just highlights – new games and ports/adaptations. There’s so much other stuff, including some fun little gag comics – I should put them on tumblr or something.
I just read an interesting article on otome games which focuses a bit on Hakuoki and asks whether otome games could be successful in Western markets. (It’s a month old, I wish I had seen it before!) The author, Anne Lee, doesn’t really think the market will work, but I disagree for a few reasons.
First of all, even in Japan otome games are really fairly new. Though Angelique came out in 1994, it wasn’t until around 2005 that otome games started to come out regularly, with established brands and creators. That means that even though we as otome gamers might wonder why a breakout could happen now, the genre is really just maturing now.
Also, I feel like otome games are not just for women who want romance, but also women who just want something made for them – with the female gaze in mind. And recently the female gaze has been getting a lot of attention, growing from BL and shoujo and the slash community into anime, and now into Western mainstream film and TV. A lot of otome games aren’t heavy-handed with the romance (part of this is due to the young target audience and characters, but whatever), and I could easily see women, who are still a growing share of the gaming market in general, embracing otome games not only for the romance but for the overall atmosphere that they’re made for them.
One of the points brought up in the article was that bishoujo games(1 male/many females harem games) had a few localizations that didn’t do very well, so otome games might not either. To rebut this, let me throw a few stats at you:
From RWA – Romance Writers of America – Industry Statistics:
2010 Romance Fiction Sales in Comparison (ed: this is as a share of all fiction)
(source: Simba Information)
I got into otome gaming not only because I love playing videogames, but because I love romance and am used to buying romance novels. Culturally, women are about a thousand times more likely to buy a piece of romantic fiction, whether it’s a novel, movie, or a game, than men. In 2010, romance as a genre sold almost TWICE as much as its closest competitor, and overall was 36% of the fiction market. That is a huge number yo! And most romance is bought by women. So…I really believe that otome games might succeed where bishoujo didn’t.
And to finish, I checked out Hakuoki’s Amazon.com rankings. The first thing that surprised me was that the limited edition is doing better than the regular edition! Aksys definitely hit the right price point there, I think. And it’s currently in the top spot for Adventure PSP games!! However, looking at the other games in the category, there’s not much new there. In total videogames it’s #784. Now that sounds really low, but taking a look at the top 100, a lot of those are actually accessories >.>;; Hard to tell what it really means.
Anyways, of course I want Hakuoki to do well so more otome games are localized, and so I’m inclined to be optimistic, but I really feel otome games have a chance in the Western market. Now I have to go and plan my Hakuoki party!