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Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi (Vita) Review

June 4, 2013 | Posted by Stephen Randle

Title: Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Otomate, Zero Div
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Rated: Mature
Available for PSP and Vita via PSN

In ages past, ancient samurai warriors took on entire armies in service of their masters, using an array of weapons and tactics, including secret mystical powers, to wipe out hundreds of men like they were nothing. Before you get too excited, no, this isn’t a review of the latest Dynasty Warriors game. Instead, exclusively on PSN, it’s Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi, a recent localization of a game that was originally developed in Japan for the PSP. And while there are much worse franchises to emulate than Dynasty Warriors, unfortunately this game manages to provide an inferior product in almost every aspect.

Ah yes, the old “cluster around just out of reach and attack him one at a time” strategy. That never fails!

Combat in Hakuoki is, essentially, a two-button affair, consisting of a quick, light strike and a slow, heavy hit. By chaining together attacks, you can put together combos. It’s a simple concept, and one that makes this game easy to pick up and play. However, the AI of the waves of enemies (aka “cannon fodder”) is exceptionally poor, even on higher difficulties, and the result is clusters of enemies that often won’t close into melee range with you, and also attack incredibly slowly. I managed to complete entire levels without getting hit once, even by ranged attackers, and racked up several triple-digit combos as a result. And no, I wasn’t playing on Easy.

Enjoy that scenery, because you’ll be seeing it a lot.

Graphically, the game is entirely last generation, which shouldn’t be a shock given its origins as a PSP title. And even so, it’s clear that not much of the budget went towards the look of the game. Pixels and blurry graphics abound, and the environments consist of flat, repetitive backgrounds and featureless corridors. While the hand-drawn art style during the story scenes is nice, it’s all static images, and the actual gameplay sprites are far less impressive. This also carries over into the sound, and while there might be some decent tracks to be found, the only thing you’re really going to hear is the loud, angry Japanese phrases that trigger every single time you press an attack button! And no, there is no variety, it’s the same sound every time you hit, for example, light attack. So, for those keeping track, the combat requires you to wade through endless waves of enemies with hundreds of chained attacks, and the game plays the exact same sound bite every time you attack. Plus, somehow, by default, the “Speech” volume is set twice as loud as the “Music” and “SFX” sliders! Insanity-inducing levels of repetitive noise, aside, you shouldn’t have to play around in the Options menu just to make the game volume tolerable to human hearing.

On the bright side, there are multiple characters and two separate story modes for each one, so if you are obsessed with the genre, there’s a lot of content here for you. Plus, I did like the idea of a crafting system that uses the items you pick up from defeated enemies to create powerful accessories for your character, but then, I’m always a sucker for a crafting system. But the bright spots aren’t enough to make this game a really enjoyable experience by any means.

Possibly the most fun I had playing this game. That probably says a lot about my mental state.


– Easy to master
– Two story modes and multiple characters
– An interesting crafting system for creating skill-changing accessories


– Poor AI creates a lack of challenge in gameplay
– Repetitive combat
– Low quality graphics and sound effects
– There’s already a much better entry in this genre widely available

The 411

Hakuoki seems like it tries to be something similar to the long-running Dynasty Warriors series of games. Unfortunately, it falls short in almost every aspect. The game is simple to pick up and play, but a poor AI renders the game far too easy, and when combined with never-ending waves of enemies (and a limited number of sound bites that play after every single attack), renders combat repetitive and uninteresting. It’s not a terrible or broken game, so I can’t call it a true Worst Game of the Year Contender, but it is terribly bland and unimpressive. If you want to play an action game set in something resembling feudal Japan, there are much better choices than this.

Graphics4.0Designed for the PSP, it’s a generation behind on graphics, pixels and repetitive static environments abound. 
Gameplay4.5You won’t have any trouble picking it up and mastering it, because it’s far too simplistic and easy, even on harder difficulties,  
Sound4.0Incredibly repetitive guttural shouts every time you hit an attack button is not my idea of a good experience. 
Lasting Appeal6.0Several characters and two story modes to choose from, so the replay value is there if you want it. 
Fun Factor 4.5It’s pretty easy and repetitive, but if you like the genre, you might enjoy it. 
Overall4.5   [ Poor ]  legend

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Stephen Randle

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