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.
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.
Even though Harutoki 5 tied last year in an unofficial poll for the worst otome game of the year, I liked it enough to get the fandisk, and I’m playing it now. However, the problems with the first game have only partially been fixed.
One of the main problems was fixed, or at least it seems like it – I’m not going to explain fully because it’s a spoiler, but in the main game when you save the world, almost always a few particular people are sacrificed, there’s no way around it. And this problem is totally glossed over in the epilogues, which makes the heroine seem pretty jerky (unless you have magic disbelief-suspension abilities like me, or just assume that the writers screwed up and forgive the heroine). In the fandisk, it seems like the main plot is about how to prevent this, which actually makes me like the original game better as well.
But some of the other problems remain, not least of which is Neoromance’s continual refusal to provide full-voice, or even voiced scenes when it’s important. I can’t believe all the character-specific scenes aren’t voiced, it’s just ridiculous at this point. It makes me not want to buy their games. If they’d just provide more voices, I would be so much more willing to buy the overpriced special editions; instead I always buy the regular editions.
And my other problem with this Harutoki in particular is that in the CG’s, the heroine often looks emotionless, or non-human. Part of it is Mizuno Tooko’s artstyle – the huge eyes without pupils that she always gives heroines tend to look blank, but I swear she did better in #3 and #4.
Anyways, I’m just finishing up (hopefully) Ryouma’s route, then I’m going to stop in order to start either Brothers Conflict or Jyuzaengi, both of which I recently got. High school contemporary or Three Kingdoms catboys, hmmm…
Tokimemo 3 is coming to the PSP next spring! It’s called Girl’s Side Premium 3rd Story, and it has some additional features on top of what’s in the DS version.
First, there’s the “kimagure play”. Your dialogue choices and how you approach guys are separated into tenshi (angel) and koakuma (little devil). Your rating on this scale changes their feelings for you, and will even change their dialogue, and which events will happen. So yay, not only do we get to play many times, now we play each character twice! Heh, if I ever had to bring just one otome game with me for a long trip, it would probably be Tokimemo. It can be played for ssooooo long.
The skinship mode in the DS has been adapted into the approach mode. It works by using the analog stick to move over and choose whether to ‘look’ or ‘touch’ different parts of…the guys (ok, that sounds really pervy, but if you’ve played Tokimemo on the DS you know what I mean).
They’ve also added animation to the existing character portraits, calling it Live 2D.
And a third new feature of this version is that you can visit the guys’ rooms, totally separate from playing the game. The creators have made rooms for each in 3D, and when you don’t have much time to play or just want to check things out, you can go in them and see what’s up. The guys do things in the room in realtime (according to the PSP’s internal clock), and not only that, the room changes with the seasons.
I already have Tokimemo 3 on the DS, but…this really makes me want the PSP version too!
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.
I finally got the Harutoki 4 PSP with the Harutoki 5 demo included in it (thanks YesAsia, even though I paid extra to get it Fedexed it was sent a week late, grr), and have a few thoughts!
1. The beginning feels like Corda, probably because of the music and the modern setting. The heroine’s cousin Miyako is female, though she looks and sounds like a guy…her CV is Saiga Mitsuki, whom I’ve always heard playing male roles, that might be it (including Kuranosuke in my new favourite anime Kuragehime!!) Anyways, I’ll get used to it, though it doesn’t help that she gets jealous of the heroine’s male friends in a ‘childhood friend who loves the heroine’ kind of way.
1a (forgot to write this before): Sakamoto Ryouma (the guy with wavy brown hair) (CV: Suzumura Kenichi)…all I can hear in my head is him playing Okita in Gintama…must remember not to watch any Gintama before I play this.
4. The heroine seems extremely absentminded and kind of dense, but this is hopefully due to the scenes shown in the demo. And she seems to have never heard of the Shinsengumi or Okita Souji – though she grew up in Japan. Odd.
5. I think I’m going to laugh whenever Ernest (blonde guy) says something in English – not because of his pronunciation, which is perfect (though American/Canadian accented, not English), but because of the dialogue – “Gosh”, “My Dear Savior” being a couple examples. Then again, I’ve read some pretty cheesy romance novel dialogue, I’m sure I can handle it.
All in all, this demo does a pretty good job in making me impatient to play Harutoki 5! Thank god I have lots of other games to pass the time with until then, including replaying Harutoki 4 with all its new scenes, which I’m off to do now!
Drat, I had this ready last week but was holding out, hoping that a Nise no Chigiri fandisk would be announced (it will happen I swear!!) and then forgot to publish this Anyhow, there is a new Angelique game coming out! But it’s a ‘social game’. Love Love Tenshi-sama Angelique is scheduled for Spring 2011. All that’s up now is a little movie showing some of the characters (done by Yura Kairi), five of which have seiyuu already: Sugita Tomokazu, Narita Ken, Namikawa Daisuke, Fukuda Kenji and Horiuchi Kenyuu. Anyone have any idea what this will be?
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And good things come to those who wait! Garnet Cradle is coming out on the PSP from Otomate, yay!! I hope there’s new stuff added in, but really I’m just happy to be able to play it. I’ve heard the story is not amazing, but that art…I can’t wait to see it on my PSP!
I also noticed a new R18 game coming out from Aromarie, Chou no Doku, Hana no Kusari (Butterfly Poison, Chain of Flowers), set in the Taisho era. It’s planned for Spring 2011.
Yup, I just saw on Dengeki Online that Harutoki 4 PSP will have a trial version of Harutoki 5…Damn you Koei, how do you know how to tempt me to spend all my money!!! AND apparently there are 20 scenes added to Harutoki 4 (including the new epilogues) YAY!
B’s Log also had mini posters of all the H5 hachiyou as furoku *dies*. They’re pretty much the same pics as in the DOL article here. As well as a 20-PAGE ad – mainly showing the characters again, and a couple scenes. The first looks like the inside of a huge ruined building in a Western style, with a long silver-haired guy taking the hand of a girl in a high school-looking uniform on a half-gone staircase, and text which says,
“Choose. Which world will be destroyed?”
“Will he be the one to disappear…or will you?”
Then all the hachiyou have their own 2-page spreads, with a line of dialogue and a short description.
And then another scene where the girl in the foreground watches as a firebird erupts from a row of houses, and a group of people in Bakumatsu period clothes stare. The text here says “Time, long sleeping, is moving.”
So excited! XD
Harutoki 4 Perfect Edition for the PSP and Harutoki 5!!!!!! for the PSP have been announced at the Tokyo Game Show! Harutoki 5 is scheduled for next spring. Aagh, I might just have to buy Harutoki 4 PSP, I loved the PS2 version but wanted more, and apparently they’re adding stuff – hopefully new scenes (or voices!!) in the new edition.
It’s set in the Bakumatsu!! I really don’t know how to feel about that, there have been so many games set there I’m almost tired of it But since Harutoki has been heavily fantasy-based, I’ll hope that they bring a fresh look at the period (some of the characters are the usual suspects, Sakamoto Ryouma and Okita Souji, but there are some I don’t immediately recognize. AND! They are finally changing the seiyuu!! Very mixed feelings about this too. After playing several games with the same cast I can see why they’d want change, but man, it will be weird not hearing the normal hachiyou. On the other hand, Suwabe Junichi in Harutoki? I’m down with that Other seiyuu announced are Suzumura Kenichi, Okamoto Nobuhiko, Tachibana Shinnosuke, and Yasumoto Hiroki.
That’s all I have time for, this weekend was so busy I just saw the news now on Nari Nari!
There are pics up at Dengeki Online and Famitsu.
Oh, and Venuseclipse from Unbroken Hours let me know that my comments are broken, so I will try and fix that ASAP! And here I was sad that no one was commenting