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!
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.
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.
I finally got Harutoki 5!
Two hours sounds like a fair bit for the average game, at least enough to know most of the plot points, but as with most RPGs, it’s barely scratching the surface in Harutoki 5. So far I have:
* been in a plane crash;
* travelled to historical Japan (around 1863??);
* almost got killed by Takasugi Shinsaku (CV: Yasumoto Hiroki), who should end up being one my guardians, and tried to save Genbu (one of the four Guardian Beasts);
* travelled back to modern Japan and found out that Japan (and maybe the world?) has apparently been annihilated except for my house and my cousin’s (there are also no people left);
* fought two onryou (monsters);
* got sucked back to historical Japan again;
* tried to free Suzaku during a battle and then fought it;
* and got sent back to modern Japan.
All I want to know is, when is something *exciting* going to happen?? Heh.
I’ve encountered five hachiyou, but only one, my adopted brother Shun (CV: Terajima Takuma), has been with me for (almost) the whole time. The rest were one-time meetings. It just went from full-voice to non-voiced (boo!), and the heroine even had some lines (only when she was alone and reflecting on her situation, it was a bit strange).
Right now it seems like there are hachiyou on either side of this war, those supporting the existing shogun (Okita Souji （CV: Okamoto Nobuhiko), maybe Ernest （CV: Shitanda Michael), and those trying to reinstate the emperor (Takasugi, Chinami (CV: Abe Atsushi). It’s a little bit like Harutoki 2 that way. Will I have to choose a side? Will things end up the way they did in our world? (Since the other world is similar to ours but not the same, they theoretically could).
I don’t know much yet, although I think I’d like to get going and stop switching worlds for a while. I want to get into the character’s stories! So, not much else to say right now, but I’ll update soon-ish.
Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 5 is only a month away now (only??), ok, still a month away, and since the gameplay seems to be quite different, I’m laying out what’s been explained so far in the otome mags.
The background story is that the heroine is on a plane returning to Japan after studying abroad. She’s with her cousin Miyako (CV:Saiga Mitsuki), and her adopted brotherｓ Shun (CV: Terajima Takuma) and Sou, but the plane malfunctions in the air. They brace themselves for the crash, but when they next regain consciousness, the heroine, Miyako, and Shun are in a different world.
This is the alternate world of Bakumatsu-era Japan, and the heroine has been chosen as the Priestess of the White Dragon. Miyako is the Black Dragon Priestess, and seems to fulfill a similar ‘older sister’ role to Saku from Harutoki 3. A high-ranking member of the Bakufuu government, Amami (CV: Suwabe Junichi), gives the heroine an hourglass and tells her to use it. When she does, she finds she returns to her own world.
The heroine has to save the Bakumatasu world within a limited amount of time – when she is in that world, her hourglass empties constantly (top right in screenshot). To refill it, she has to return to her own world, but there’s a cost to that as well. Each time she returns to her world, one of her ‘life fragments’ is used up(top left in screenshot). If all of them are used before doing what you have to, it’s game over. And apparently some events will automatically use one, so you can’t totally control it.
The heroine can fight with up to three party members. At the beginning of each turn you choose to do moves (including attacks) or abilities (like healing) for each member. As in previous Harutokis, you can choose to do special attacks with multiple characters that are especially effective when their element is one that the enemy is weak against.
There are a couple of new features to this system as well. A special attack seems to only hit one enemy, but if you combine special attacks in a certain order, you can do a ‘chain tactic’ (renkinjutsu), where even characters that aren’t in the battle party can join in the attack if your bond with them is strong enough . These attacks hit all enemies and can be very powerful.
There is also an experience system, but I’m not sure if it’s as detailed as before, where you can choose to get new abilities, or if your stats just increase.
If you beat an onryou with an element attack it’s weak against, it turns into a ‘tamashii’ (soul) and you can seal it in your weapons. This improves your weapon, and once you’ve improved it a certain amount, the weapon will change into a different weapon, eventually becoming a legendary weapon.
A couple other notes: The Four Gods show up in human form in Harutoki 5! They are all voiced by previous hachiyou, of course corresponding to their old parts – Seiryuu (Seki Tomokazu), Suzaku (Takahashi Naozumi), Byakko (Inoue Kazuhiko), and Genbu (Hoshi Souichirou). Also, the March B’s Log has pics of all the hachiyou in modern clothing, so perhaps they can come with you when you travel to your own world??
Even though the battle system and some other important parts of the game have been revealed, the overall plot is still kind of mysterious. Some of the teasers seemed pretty ominous, and Ruby Party says that the hourglass is the symbol of the whole game, so who knows what will happen to the heroine when her time runs out?
With Harukanaru Toki no Naka de Ukihashi showcasing Harutoki 1-3, you may be interested in the original games. Though I have both Harukanaru Toki no Naka de Hachiyousho (the PS2 version of the first game) and Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 2, I always thought they were just okay compared to Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3, which is one of my favourite otome games. I played #3 first, and I think it spoiled me a bit, because Hachiyousho and #2 weren’t set up the same way, and I found them a little too restrictive. But going back now and playing them, I appreciate that they’re actually more strategic than #3, as well as doing a great job establishing the story of the Ryuujin no Miko and the hachiyou.
For anyone who doesn’t have the games yet, or if you’ve tried one but were kind of confused about the setup, I thought I’d post about the basic storyline, timeline, and how gameplay works.
Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 1 and 2 have a lot in common with each other, so most of this will cover both games.
Story: A high school student from Japan (Akane in #1, Karin in #2) is leading a normal life when one day, she’s transported to another world which resembles historical Heian Japan (around 900-1100AD). She’s dumped in Kyou (Kyoto), and is declared to be the Dragon God Priestess, or Ryuujin no Miko, by a young girl from the Star Family, or Hoshi no Ichizoku. The Hoshi no Ichizoku are an aristocratic family who are the keepers of eight dragon globes (gyoku), and who use their psychic ability to help the Ryuujin no Miko.
Kyou has a legend that in times of crisis, a girl from another world will appear as the Ryuujin no Miko. Her job is to summon the Dragon God who watches over Kyou, and save it from whatever is endangering Kyou. She has eight hachiyou, or guardians, to protect her and help her do this, and the gyoku give the hachiyou special powers.
Game Timeline: Both #1 and #2 follow the same basic timeline. First the heroine is transported to Kyou, where she has to meet all the hachiyou. Each hachiyou has a certain element (fire, water, earth, tree, or crystal), as do all the monsters you have to fight and the locations you can visit. Each element is strong against one element and weak against another, so if you know what kind of monster you’re fighting, you can pick the hachiyou with the element that’s strong against it. The heroine also has an element, but that doesn’t affect fights so much as minigames.
Once you’ve met all the hachiyou, you choose what to do each day. You have three slots of time in each day, and each morning you pick one or two hachiyou to travel and fight with. Then you pick where to go, and if there’s a monster there, you fight it. If not, sometimes an event will happen, otherwise you’ll get a mini-game to get items. Sometimes not all the hachiyou are available in the morning, and sometimes locations in the east, west, north, or south are unavailable because of the flow of ki. When you beat monsters of a certain element, you gain that element’s power, which you can then use in special attacks of the hachiyou. For example, Yasuaki in #1 is an earth element, so if you have some earth element power, you can use his special attacks.
Your first assignment is to obtain the help of the four sacred beasts (seijuu) that are under the control of the Dragon God – Seiryuu, Byakko, Genbu, and Suzaku. Each seijuu has two hachiyou, so for example Yorihisa and Tenma in #1 are the two Seiryuu hachiyou. This usually means that you travel with these hachiyou to a certain location, listen to the seijuu, and do what it tells you to prove your worth. You only have a few days to obtain the help of each seijuu, and of course there’s always a bad guy who tries to stop you from getting it.
Once you have all four seijuu, you gain the ability to seal monsters, instead of just temporarily beating them. When you seal a monster, you gain that seal (a fuda) which you can then equip to improve the heroine’s or a hachiyou’s stats.
After getting all four seiyuu, you need to get special attacks for each pair of hachiyou. These attacks come from spirits called ‘myouou’, and the process of obtaining them is similar to the seijuu.
Once you have all the myouou (though I think you can fail in this and still continue the game), you are strong enough to fight the final boss.
Does this sound complicated? It isn’t bad once you’re used to the whole element system and how to seal and everything, but it can take a while to figure out. Also, because your time is limited, it’s easy to fool around and not get things done on time if you’re not sure where to go or what to do. And I haven’t even gotten into character events or love routes yet!
In #1, each hachiyou has had an important memory stolen from them. In #2, it’s only the four hachiyou on ‘your’ side when you start (emperor or retired emperor). To go through the ‘true love’ route for each hachiyou, you must find all four pieces of their heart (kokoro no kakera) and get through the accompanying events successfully. Besides the true love route, there’s also the ‘rush’ route (in #1) or the ‘obstacled’ (shougai no aru) route (in #2), where you don’t have to gather kokoro no kakera, and it depends on raising the hachiyou’s affection and belief levels only.
Belief (the green stars in the character pane) can be built by beating monsters, healing the hachiyou, winning minigames, and acting like a strong miko. Affection (orange/red stars) is harder to gain – it’s also built by beating monsters and winning minigames, but much more slowly than belief. You can also gain affection by successfully navigating character events, and a couple other methods involving the ‘monoomi no hi’ and incense.
Finally, once all this is done, you choose who to go with to fight the final boss, and if you’re successful, you get an epilogue. I believe in Hachiyousho there are 3 endings for each character (staying in Kyou, going to your world, and a ‘hachiyousho’-added ending), and in #2 there are two (staying or going back).
Yikes! Explaining this took up so much space, and I don’t even have any pics to go with it! Well, hopefully it will be useful to somebody.
Well, now that winter vacation is over (not that I meant to take any…), there was some news in the mags this month:
New games – one each for the PC and PS2, and I can’t remember which is which – one looks to be set in a kind of alternate history. It’s in an imaginary country, but it’s about pilots and the planes look to be circa 1920, give or take a decade. It has an interesting artstyle that I haven’t seen before in an otome game. Some more info on Souten no Kanata, Wand of Fortune and Arco Baleno from Otomate, and a new R18 game from Mirai.
Other news – Garnet Cradle is scheduled for March 27 – so much for winter 2008 Some other things we knew already, like Will o’ Wisp being ported to both Nintendo DS and PSP with Easter no Kiseki – they’re both planned to be the same price, which is nice for PSP users. Harutoki Ukihashi is being adapted to the PS2, with extra scenes overall and material for Akuram, Shirogane, and Tomomori.
There’s a lot of scanning I want to do for the new games, hopefully I can do that soon!
A little gaming ‘journal entry’ tonight, I’ve been playing Harutoki Ukihashi some more and finished once. I got three dreamboxes for RizVaan so I got a little scene with him at the end, but I think (not sure) you might be able to get four for each character and get a bigger epilogue. After you finish once, you can continue from right before the last battle, so it’s good – you can do all the characters from one game quickly. I didn’t get all the characters last time, but this time I will.
Also, after I continued my game, a dreambox with Tomomori appeared! So maybe you can get him too, I’ll have to see…
I’ve had a chance to play Ukihashi now (though not much). The first thing you do is choose which miko you’ll be, and from then, which hachiyou you’ll start the story with. I chose Nozomi from #3 and Liz Vaan :D. The story begins in the middle of each game, so the miko are already in their own stories and need to get back to save Kyouto.
You start off being lost in a maze with your hachiyou, the one you picked and their partner. Then you come upon two other pairs from the other two games and together you try to find the exit. You unknowingly enter the North Palace and meet Hokutoseikun, the ruler of this world. He says that he brought you here because onryou have appeared here and it’s your fault. Escaping, you meet his brother Nantoseikun, who says that this world is like a dream to you, so while you’re here, your body in the real world is wasting away, so you can’t stay too long. He tells you to released the other miko to get back to your own world and timeline.
The world is divided in a circle shape, with Heaven’s Garden in the middle which includes the North and South Palace. There are a series of smaller structures in each of 12 directions, and then gates at the edge of each of those areas. The first hachiyou that I released were in one of the small structures. Outside the gates are the areas of the Four Sacred Beasts, but until you have the right hachiyou for a certain gate, you can’t pass through it. Once you’re outside the gates, you need to gain the assistance of the Beast. And then even further out, is the towers where the other miko are held.
Similar to Harutoki 3, when you’re supposed to go somewhere for the story it will glow blue. Love events are also shown, with pink dots. But unlike the other games, onryou are shown by purple clouds that move around the map as you move, so it’s harder to avoid them. However, you can blow into the DS and sometimes make them move away.
I found the battles to be a simpler version of #3’s, with each person having a couple special moves and a basic fight command, and the elements are all the same.
There are three types of endings. One is where you get through the game with only some of the hachiyou. The second is where you released all the hachiyou, and the last is a love ending. You can only get love endings with the hachiyou from your timeline though (too bad!).
That’s about it for now, I haven’t gotten any love events yet, hopefully tomorrow!