[PSP] Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan

Okita Souji of Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan

A couple of years ago, I purchased a preowned PSP so that I could play JRPGs, as in those days, barely anything was released on the Nintendo DS, and most Japanese games were released on the Play Station platform. After playing for a few months however, life took over again, and the console was relegated to a space in my desk drawer as I turned to more ‘important’ things.

Last week however, on a whim (and because of cajoling to get a Nintendo 3DS from my colleagues) I yanked out all my consoles from the long-forgotten pile of things in my desk drawer, and plugged them in to charge.

Unfortunately, this also meant I started to play Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan which I’d purchased off my friend Emong around two years ago, back when it was originally released although I never got around to playing it. An Otome gemu, or “girls’ game”, it is a dating sim made specifically for females in a market saturated by dating sims made for males, and was the first to be localised into English! (on PSP?)

As a long time fan of Rurouni Kenshin, Shinsengumi and other Bakumatsu related things (though still fairly ignorant of a lot of the history), it really was little wonder as to why I wanted to get this game.

Okita and Hijikata

The first path

The first path you obtain in a visual novel is important, in my experience. This first path is not only your first playthrough, but most likely the path you take the most honestly — for me anyway.

The first path is where I take care to read all of the story and not miss a single detail, and am most anxious about the decisions I make, trying to understand the story’s nuances and to which character it may lead me.

You don’t know the full story, yet, so you’re anxious as to how it might end — will it be a good end? A bad end? You form a connection to the first character whose path you end up taking.

This happened, of sorts, when I played Katawa Shoujo, despite it being a dating sim for guys; and this certainly happened this time when I played Hakuouki.

Chizuru is thrown into a room on top of Okita

As luck would have it, the first character I played a complete walkthrough of was Okita Souji, as he slowly won me over with his laconic smiles, and his courage in the face of his impending death. Not that strange in those times admittedly, with bushi behind every corner, ready to kill you for your allegiance.

I managed to obtain a ‘Happy End’ and the final CG, which elevated my experience of the game into seventh heaven. Talk about positive first impressions! But the one spoiler (see what I did there…) is that the ending is depressingly unclear about whether Okita lives… or dies. The English makes an attempt to emphasise he breathes still, as he is asleep; but other sources merely say he closes his eyes.

Connections to the real Okita

As a largely historically accurate game, although with vampiric elements thrown in inexplicably, you can only conclude the worst despite whatever you may wish. If you look at history, you will know that the real Okita Souji (likely not as good looking as his CG rendition) contracted tuberculosis and died at the age of 24 (as we would calculate it, and 25 as they would have).

On the one hand, it’s sad that he perished while only a couple of years older than myself and in such a painful way, but on the other he managed such great achievements at a young age that he is remembered in history and in games for effectively forever - romanticised and fictionalised, but remembered all the same.

As a founding member of the Shinsengumi at around 19… in today’s terms you could almost say he was a founding member of a startup. Who knows what other things he would have achieved if he had not been ill. Everyone did things younger back then. Why is it so strange now?

Final thoughts

Despite the fact that originally Saitou Hajime was my favourite character before really understanding Hakuouki’s full story, I find myself unable to fully engage in his route recently, as I still stop to listen whenever I hear Okita begin to speak in his velvety smooth tones. I’m hoping collecting the missing CGs I still have for Okita will offer a measure of closure.

This is the first Otome game I have finished, so by no means do I know if it’s unique amongst its equals, but to me it’s a particularly special game because of how it drew me into the story and managed to weave in a romantic story skillfully where there, in truth, was none.

My preoccupation with Okita aside, Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan, or Hakuouki ~Demon of the Fleeting Blossom~ is an excellently delivered game, with beautiful CGs and skillful voice over work. Blessedly, the audio is left in the original Japanese with localised English everywhere else, it somehow just adds a whole extra dimension. Masterfully, the seiyuu manage to avoid ever mentioning the character’s name (as this can be elected by the player) even as they address you directly.

Unfortunately though, for my pocket and any free time I might have, this only makes me want to purchase the rest of the Hakuouki games, just to see what other scenes I can get with Okita, since I’ve come across a lot of CGs out there that I don’t think are in this game. Well, this is where it all begins…