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.
[EDIT: Boy was I excited for this, it was the first Harutoki game (I think the first otome game) that I got as soon as it came out. It wasn’t as good as #3, but I still loved it, and I still think it’s underrated. Can’t believe it’s been six years!]
Well, technically about 14 hours ago, since Japan is a day ahead. But YEAH, I have been counting down since February and even earlier when it was expected in March.
Cannot WAIT, I am planning some serious hermit time at home while I play through it a couple times – maybe the weather will continue to be crappy so I don’t feel guilty about not going outside.
I should get my copy next week sometime…hopefully on Friday so I can play right through Canada Day weekend! Woot!
Man, I’ve been horrible at the news lately! I just read the August entry (really July news) and noticed it cuts off after three items >.>;; . My only excuse is work, that thing I do to be able to afford buying all those magazines and otome games. Keeping up with my day job and Chromatic has been so busy that I have no energy to blog even when I have time.
So, what did I miss between then and now? Well, sit down, because there is lots of news to tell!
And now the September news:
I’m not sure why, but Koei is releasing ‘best edition’ (read: cheap) versions of two of the most popular Harutoki games this month for the PSP.
The first is Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3 with Izayoiki Aizo Ban (best edition), one of the most enduringly popular otome games as rated by fans. I’m thinking of getting this, as I only have it on PS2, and as Izayoiki was a fandisk that you had to swap in and out with the original game to play, is a right pain, especially since my Japanese PS2 went kaput. In this version Izayoiki is one the same PSP cartridge as the original game, so NO swapping is needed! Yay! Plus, at only Y2800 this is pretty cheap. It’s an RPG (nothing too hardcore), so you get quite a few hours of playtime. And Shirogane was before his time as the sexy psycho who ends up being more popular than the main characters (I love him too, I can’t help it).
The other is the sequel/2nd fandisk for Harutoki 3, Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3Unmei no Labyrinth Aizo Ban (best edition). It’s also new to the PSP and Y2800. It’s set after the ‘normal’, happy but not romantic, ending of #3, and is in the heroine’s world. The plot is totally unrelated to history in this one.
So if you’ve never played a Harutoki, and/or you’re interested in otome RPGs, I’d recommend getting the first game.
They’re also releasing Harutoki, the original game Hachiyousho (OK the original was on PS1, but Hachiyousho is the PS2 adaptation) for the PSP, but for some reason it’s more expensive. I don’t think it’s really worth it. Plus i just like #3 much better.
Not a ton of news this month, but definitely some things to watch out for:
L.G.S – Shinsetsu Houshin Engi, another classical Chinese novel adaptation. I don’t know anything about the source material, but the setup is that in ancient China, there’s the human world, and then the ascetic world. In the human world, the good king Chuuou was made to do evil things by the machinations of Sotatsuki, so the ascetics decided to seal her. Because of her skill, Yousen was nominated to do this.
Yousen, the heroine, is regarded as a genius ascetic (sennin is hard to translate, I always think of them as wise men but obviously she’s not a man, and they seem to have special powers pretty often) and lives on Mt. Konron. She’s not very sociable, but is meek when talking to her teacher, Gyokutei Shinjin. She was also turned into a youkai somehow by her father as a young child. Apparently depending on your choices during the game, Yousen will either remain a sennin (light ending) or become a true youkai (shadow ending). I’ll do the characters once the seiyuu are announced.
Arabian’s Lost: Quinrose is redoing this for the PSP! I’m kind of excited for this, because I really liked this game way back when it was released for the PS2. It was my first Quinrose game and I loved the non-standard characters. You might recognize Curtis Nile from Crimson Empire, here you can actually get him! The art’s all updated too, which is good, although I’m not sure about Shark’s redesign. Tyrone definitely looks better though. The article in B’s Log doesn’t show Maisen at all, so perhaps his parts are being removed?
Also, the seiyuu for Abunai Koi no Sousashitsu (scheduled for May 31 release on the PSP) are announced:
Mikechi Masaomi (CV: Maeno Tomoaki)
Fujimori Kenji (CV: Kondou Takashi)
Kisaragi Kouhei (CV: Tachibana Shinnosuke)
Ogasawara Ryou (CV: Suganuma Hisayoshi)
Onose Aoi (CV: Morikawa Toshiyuki)
Hozumi Rui (CV: Miki Shinichirou)
Fujimori Takashi (CV: Narita Ken)
And there are screenshots of the different areas in Bakudan Handan which SOUND like they’re different types of minigames, which would be great. However I still can’t find any description of gameplay in articles or on the website, so I’m not going to assume anything.
That’s about it that I can see, of course there’s more info on several fandisks and upcoming games, but mostly just scene descriptions. Oh, and a new character in Jyuuzaengi, Bachou (CV: Sugita Tomokazu)
Boo, my B’s Log didn’t come today, but I really didn’t have time to read it anyways.
I did find THIS: Japan Otome Festival 2, happening late February.
I know there are lots of events for otome games in Japan, though I’ve never been to one. This one though, is a collaboration between Neoromance and Otomate and B’s Log, so it’s pretty big. It’s basically a two-day stage show, with a HUGE number of seiyuu doing live sketches in character, songs, and some discussion (in their own personas).
Here’s the list of seiyuu (and the characters they’ll be performing as underneath):
伊藤健太郎 Kentaro Ito
井上和彦 Kazuhiko Inoue
橘 友雅（遙かなる時空の中で）/ 梶原景時（遙かなる時空の中で３）
岡野浩介 Kousuke Okano
置鮎龍太郎 Ryotaro Okiayu
下野 紘 Hiro Shimono
桐生 祟（遙かなる時空の中で５）/ ルシア（猛獣使いと王子様）
関 智一 Tomokazu Seki
高橋直純 Naozumi Takahashi
高橋広樹 Hiroki Takahashi
津田健次郎 Kenjiro Tsuda
風間千景（薄桜鬼）/ 無責任番長（ビーズログTV 恋愛番長）
寺島拓篤 Takuma Terashima
桐生 瞬（遙かなる時空の中で５）/ シルビオ（猛獣使いと王子様）/ ヤス（恋愛番長 命短し、恋せよ乙女! Love is Power）/ 貴樹（闇の皇太子）
鳥海浩輔 Kohsuke Toriumi
藤原泰衡（遙かなる時空の中で３）/ 英 円／ビショップ（CLOCK ZERO〜終焉の一秒〜）/ 斎藤 一（薄桜鬼）/ セクシー番長（恋愛番長 命短し、恋せよ乙女! Love is Power）
浪川大輔 Daisuke Namikawa
成田 剣 Ken Narita
アリオス（アンジェリーク）/ レヴィアス（アンジェリーク 魔恋の六騎士）
野宮一範 Kazunori Nomiya
平川大輔 Daisuke Hirakawa
ベルナール（ネオ アンジェリーク）/ 大蛇 卓（緋色の欠片）
堀内賢雄 Kenyu Horiuchi
前野智昭 Tomoaki Maeno
不動翔麻（100万人の金色のコルダ）/ ヨハネ（アンジェリーク 魔恋の六騎士）/ 加納理一郎／放浪者（CLOCK ZERO〜終焉の一秒〜）
森川智之 Toshiyuki Morikawa
エルンスト（アンジェリーク）/ カイン（アンジェリーク 魔恋の六騎士）/ ホスト番長（恋愛番長２ MidnightLesson!!!）/ 安倍晴明（闇の皇太子）
森久保祥太郎 Showtaro Morikubo
沖田総司（薄桜鬼）/ ジョヴァンニ（アンジェリーク 魔恋の六騎士）/ 恋愛番長（恋愛番長 命短し、恋せよ乙女! Love is Power）
森田成一 Masakazu Morita
吉野裕行 Hiroyuki Yoshino
藤堂平助（薄桜鬼）/ ヤンキー番長（恋愛番長２ MidnightLesson!!!）
代永 翼 Tsubasa Yonaga
Huge, right? For this event, they do 4 shows, 2 each day, and each one focuses on different titles. Tickets range from Y4800 to Y8800, holy expensive! But I guess for something that’s so rare, maybe it’s worth it. I’ve seen DVDs of these events as well, I wish I’d gotten them when I saw them. I wonder if they sometimes use the sketches later in drama CDs or something – it seems like a waste not to.
Anyways, I just saw this while I was lamenting the delay of B’s Log and thought I’d introduce one more thing we miss out on outside of Japan
I finally got Angelique Six Knights, and have been playing a fair bit, but really haven’t gotten too far – apparently the first time around you have to do the non-romance route, and I haven’t even finished that yet. I’m still getting acquainted with all the knight captains, and the battle and bad guy(s?) haven’t shown up yet. Here are my impressions of the knight captains.
Kain (CV: Morikawa Toshiyuki) – the oldest knight captain, he’s the defacto leader when Leviath isn’t around. He’s mature and intelligent, and his company is the Dark Crown Knights.
Kiefer (CV: Hirata Hiroaki)- a snobby jerk, although he does have a point when he complains about the unfitting behaviour of Giovanni and Gerhart. His company is the Sharp Ice Knights, and he actually keeps them in line by whipping whoever comes in last during sparring.
Gerhart (CV: Hiyama Nobuyuki) – a big sweetheart, his company the Sea Dragon Knights are apparently former pirates, and one of them is his sister Maria, who becomes friends with Theresa as the only other young woman at the fortress. He’s often drinking and gambling with Giovanni, though he always loses.
Giovanni (CV: Morikubo Shoutarou) – a casual flirt, he always wins when Gerhart gambles with him. He likes it when the heroine puts herself in the middle of things like trying to stop a fight. His company are the Shining Light Knights (or something like that).
Eugene (CV: Ono Daisuke) – the knight captain who likes the heroine the least at first – Kiefer treats her with contempt but Eugene almost kills her and definitely wants her out of the fortress, his company is the Moonlight Knights who focus more on magic than fighting. After a while it seems that it’s more that he doesn’t like new people, and he warms up to Theresa faster than Kiefer.
Shona (CV: Kaji Yuuki) – not the most socially adept person but he’s quite perceptive. His company is the Fallen Angel Knights.
Leviath (CV: Narita Ken) – the leader of everyone, he seems cold but has shown some moments of warmth. He looks just like Renoux’s dead/missing brother.
And since this was pretty short, I thought I’d throw in some videos.
First up, Omochabako no Kuni no Alice, coming out this month:
Beyond the Future – I pre-ordered this one, probably won’t be playing it until after Christmas:
The newest game from Rejet, collaborating with the creators of Are You Alice:
Tiny x Machine Gun
A bunch of UtaPuri playing videos, this one is only one song on hard, but it brings up a bunch of other ones as well:
Black Wolves Saga, also from Rejet in 2012, which they’ve been tweeting about incessantly:
It’s about werewolves, and it seems pretty dark.
And Strobe Mania, which I TOTALLY forgot about, I think it’s out already:
Finally, for anyone who’s a Gintama fan (I know it’s 50% toilet humour, 30% meta, and only 20% amazing story arcs, but I just can’t quit it), here is something we would all love to see – don’t even pretend you wouldn’t buy this! (though the video is eight minutes long, the relevant part is only the first two)
Next week I’ll hopefully have a Gekkan post up, and perhaps a Peter Pan one as well!
A few new games this month!
On the first page of the new B’s Log, there’s an announcement of a new game from Poni Pachet, the theme of which is…the mafia and magicians in the land of Oz! What this game, Ozmafia, will be like, I have NO clue, but the art is very nice. There’ll be more info in the next B’s Log.
Otomate is working with Gust on a new Atelier title! If you’re not familiar with the Atelier series, it’s a series of games where you’re a young alchemist, and have to build up your abilities while making new items through alchemy . The Otomate Atelier title, Atelier Elkrone, will include romance along with the alchemy sim elements.
A new R18 game was announced, Kimi ga Tame, Koishi Midareshi Tsuki no Hana, for the PC. The main character is a female ninja (a kunoichi), and it’s set in the Edo era.
Exorcism of Maria, from Karin, is going to be re-released for the PSP.
A date is set for releasing Angelique -Maren no Rokukishi-. It will come out for the PSP on November 11.
Argh, I’m feeling so lazy lately, I really have to get going on so many games! Anyways, here’s the news from B’s Log and Girl’s Style:
This doesn’t cover the most recent B’s Log released last week, so there may well be even more games coming up soon. I’m having trouble keeping up with all these!
I’ve now played through several Harutoki 5 routes, and have some other general thoughts about the flow of the game:
Combat is easy after the first playthrough – I never ran out of life, though I did have to go back to my world a couple times to recharge. Almost as soon as you get chain attacks, you can always get the ‘fast battle’ bonus. Just pay attention to the elements, and try to power up your weapons as much as possible – note that if you allow members outside of the battle group to join your chain attack, you won’t get powerup orbs from the enemies that attack kills.
One thing I realized after a while, is that you can replace one powerup with the exact same one, and still get the weapon upgrade – useful when a lot of the earlier monsters just drop the same, not that useful, powerups.
Once your weapon gets to level 6, it will change to something new. I’m currently on weapon level 6+ for all characters, and around level 20-25 combat, and everything, including the last boss, is E-Z. I am 1337! (Only in Harutoki do I get to feel this way, maybe that’s why I love it so much?)
The story is the same no matter what route you do, but they show different parts of it in different routes. Also, what you and the route character do is different. I found that Yuki’s character is also different depending on the route you take, although in all of them she gets stronger and less fuzzy-headed than in the first part of the story (thankfully). That was a deliberate choice, I think, to make her development more obvious.
So far I have done Shun, Ryouma, Ouchi, Tatewaki, and Chinami (almost accidentally). My favourite was Ryouma, although Ouchi was good too. Shun’s is ok but kind of depressing in some ways, and Tatewaki, at one point in his story I really didn’t like him anymore, but by the end I liked him again. Chinami’s was ok as well, although part of his drama was resolved off-screen, and I’d rather have seen him deal with it with Yuki.
I’m looking forward to doing Ernest and Takasugi, but not really Okita – I know his route will probably have him making a breakthrough in getting his own willpower/conscience, but for some reason I’m not that interested.
I’m enjoying it, and the art and music is as high quality as ever, but I have to say that the lack of voice affects the game quite a bit. The whole intro is voiced, which is nice enough, but once you get into the meat of the game, each character only has a handful of voiced scenes (as well as being in other characters’ scenes). Since several characters aren’t with you the whole time, overall I’m having a hard time getting into the stories. Also, this is just my preference, but I felt that a lot of romantic scenes were whispered too much, especially for certain characters.
I still have several routes to finish though, and I might have just been in the wrong mood for it the last few days. So far my favourite route is Ryouma, but we shall see, I’m looking forward to Ernest and Takasugi a lot.