Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi takes place during the climatic end of the 260 year shogunate rule. Japan teeters on the brink of chaos as political and supernatural powers intervene in the Shinsengumi’s efforts to bring order back to society. As one of five Japanese warriors, the player must battle against overwhelming odds to rid Japan of its foes and restore the peace.
Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi by developer Idea Factory is a third-person hack ‘n slasher that plays like most games from the genre (the Dynasty Warriors series included). Despite reusing the same game mechanics of other titles, Warriors of the Shinsengumi offsets this by including a semi-comprehensive character leveling system and two story modes – Shinsengumi Chronicle and Shinsengumi Memorial.
As you start the game, you’re presented with a character select screen containing five Japanese warriors – Toshizo Hijikata, Souji Okita, Hajime Saito, Heisuke Toudou, and Sanosuke Harada. While these fighters possess the same basic attacks, they have combos and special attacks that make them all unique. After selecting your fighter, you are presented with a menu system that contains a multitude of features that are important to your fighter’s progression. Among the available features is a simple crafting system that combines items found during your adventure.
Luckily, the crafting system doesn’t have a failure rate like most role-playing games; all that is required are the materials to either enhance or create a new item. When you’re not playing the actual game, you are using the menu system to equip accessories and equipment; purchase items from PSN; and saving your in-game progress. There is even a tutorial called ‘Dojo’ to help gamers learn the intricacies of combat.
Gamers who have played any of the Dynasty Warrior games will be familiar with the gameplay – the player must battle countless enemies, complete level objectives and defeat a boss to move on to the next stage. Mission objectives include basic assignments such as killing a certain number of soldiers or assassinating an imperial captain (or mid-boss) before finally confronting the end level boss. Objectives aside, it’s pretty easy to avoid the clout of foot soldiers that bombard your warrior by simply running around them. The player can easily complete most levels in this fashion since the enemy AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a bit lacking.
A power gauge fills slowly as you battle your adversaries. Once the gauge is full, you can execute a special attack by pressing the Circle button. These special attacks vary per character, but the end result is a barrage of flashy sword swings that quickly devastate everything in your path. Your warrior also uses a basic set of moves such as slashes and thrusts, but you can perform combos by pressing the Square and Triangle buttons in succession. The combo system is somewhat flexible, so you can vary your attacks without too many restrictions.
Power ups are also an essential component to the gameplay. Defeated enemies will drop power ups such as health replenishers, skill enhancers (i.e. Attack Up, Defense, Up, etc.) and equipment to improve your warrior. You can also find power ups and other items inside red chests; these are usually guarded by multiple soldiers.
As mentioned earlier, any items that are collected during combat can be crafted into armor and useful trinkets that can restore health, among other things. From the ‘Combine’ menu (which can only be accessed before or after a mission), you can view the material already collected by your warrior from the item menu window. Instead of requiring crafting skills, each item is designated a ‘fund’ cost. Since generous amounts of ‘funds’ are awarded to the player at the end of each level, it doesn’t take long to have a large selection of useful items in your inventory.
What prevents Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi’s repetitive gameplay from going stale quickly is its intricate storyline and character development. Fellow clan members will converse with each other and even comment on your progress while being strangely absent from the battlefield. But aside from the story, Warriors of the Shinsengumi is an average hack ‘n slasher that caters primarily to fans of the graphic novel and Anime.
Gamers looking for a game on the same scale as Dynasty Warriors will be disappointed, but if you’re looking for a game with a solid crafting system and good story, Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi is the right game for you.
Platform: PSVita (PSP & PS Vita Compatible / Available on PSN)
Developer: Idea Factory
Publisher: Aksys Games
ESRB: M (Mature)
|Decent graphics for a PSP/PS Vita compatible release.|
|Great Japanese voice acting with English subtitles.|
|The crafting system and leveling mechanic help to balance out the repetitive gameplay.|
|Fans of the Anime and visual novel will enjoy this game.|