A little while ago I was placed in the shoes of a young girl named Chizuru as she found yourself in a dangerous situation – searching for her missing father in 19th century Kyoto all while avoiding roaming gangs and a mysterious threat from a realm beyond our own. Thankfully Chizuru was taken in by a group of (handsome) Shinsengumi who brought her into their HQ and taught her the ways of the sword… and love. This was the setup in Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds, an otome visual novel which, while offering a pretty strong story… is not something I find myself gravitating to naturally, though when the opportunity came to review the sequel (and conclusion) to the story, I jumped at the chance. Guess these guys have something over me after all.

The story picks up shortly after the events of the first game and sees Chizuru and the Shinsengumi starting over in a new city, attempting to recruit new members to their cause and right away I would say that if you didn’t play the first game to stop and go check that one out as the story in Edo Blossoms references the events of Kyoto Winds quite heavily. From the beginning you can choose which of the game’s 13 suitors stories you want to experience and, after a brief prologue recapping the what happened if you chose that Shinsengumi to romance in the original game before jumping into the main story.

Like the original game, Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms includes a lot of quality of life features that make flipping through the virtual pages a breeze. You can save at any time, rewind, skip and set bookmarks as you go through the game’s 13 main stories. And that’s really one of the most impressive features of Edo Blossoms, is that there’s so much for you to read through. The game even features a handy guide for terms and characters so that you can reference just who everyone is and what everything is about at any time. But all of that considered this is still a visual novel meaning you won’t find too much gameplay here outside of a few story choices (choose your own adventure style) that can influence just how ‘into you’ your man of choice is, which is really all you should expect from a game like this.

Of course the most important of any visual novel is the story and I can truly say the Edo Blossoms is a marked improvement over Kyoto Winds, which may seem a bit odd to say since the games are so similar but I really did appreciate how the sequel just jumps into the story without so much of the preamble that set up the original. And yes, while I may not be this game’s target audience I have to say that I really like Chizuru as a character, especially since you can guide her actions to suite your own personal feelings towards her crush. It still feels a bit strange being romanced by all these hunky-anime dudes but I do appreciate that this is a well crafted, romantic story with a lot of twists and turns.

Like I mentioned earlier, Edo Blossoms features 13 main stories that, while intertwined, all take the story in a different direction and give you a chance to have different experiences based on your mood. I will say, I do recommend either catching up on the story from Kyoto Winds or visiting the game’s website before choosing a story path since, if you don’t know the character you’re following all that well you might find yourself reading through a scenario that is just not that interesting to you. Of course if that’s the case the game offers plenty of other options to choose from so you’re bound to find a story thread that is more your style. Just like the original, the game is priced at $39.99, which for the sheer amount of content you get is a pretty solid price and a no-brainer for someone looking for an engaging, exciting and honestly – sexy visual novel.

Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms shares the exact same design and art style as its predecessor (even the menus are the exact same) which lends itself well to a sense of continuity from the original. Like I mentioned in my review of Kyoto Winds, the visual style and graphics are top-notch and look really great, especially on the PS Vita’s bright and clear screen. The game even features a fair bit of voice acting (all in Japanese) which makes it easier to assign a voice to the characters you’ll be meeting. Really the only improvement I could find in the game’s presentation over the original is in the quality of the story which of course is totally subjective, so if you liked the original you’ll probably like this one too.

While very much a continuation of Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds with little core changes I do have to say I preferred reading through Edo Blossoms. The story was more engaging and got to the heart of the matter much quicker which when paired with the convenient features on display that make the game a breeze to read through makes this the superior Hakuoki experience. Now I won’t pretend to be the person this game was written for, so I have to say take my opinions here with a grain of salt but if you are looking for a romance novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat with a story filled with intrigue, historical context, fantasy elements and honestly – just plain good-looking guys – then I recommend check this series out.

A copy of Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms was provided to Link-Cable by the publisher for the purpose of this review.