Title: Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei
Developer: Idea Factory (Otomate), RED
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel, Otome
Whoa, another Japanese historical game review? What are the odds? Well, sit down and grab some popcorn, because we will be going back to Ancient Japan and taking a look at Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei, which is a visual novel game from Idea Factory, originally released in Japan on September 17, 2020 as Birushana Senki.
Now Western fans will get to enjoy the first game, experiencing the aftermath of the Heiji Rebellion and the civil war that then led to the Genpei War, all thanks to Idea Factory International. So let’s find out just how the story intersects in this convoluted battle between love and duty.
Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei starts you off by introducing you to Shanao, the protagonist of this game. Shanao is the last hope if the Genji clan ever wishes to revive, but there is one major issue with that: Shanao is actually a woman. But because of the era the game takes place, she needs to keep her true identity a secret and pretend she’s male, as having a woman heir was still seen as … problematic in this era of Japanese history.
As her long days of peace at the Kurama Temple come to an abrupt end by the Heike, she must come to terms with a very heavy decision: To uphold her duty of maintaining the Genji name or discarding all that for the sake of peace. You’ll meet lots of unique characters, including childhood friend Shungen, her brother in exile Yoritomo, and even Noritsune Taira, who’s very keen on winning a one-on-one duel against Shanao, and many others.
The story has its ups and downs. Sometimes, I really felt it getting good, but then some random character would just blast in uninvited and change the tone of the story all of a sudden. This happened so many times that I honestly questioned at first if I was playing an otome game because there is a severe lack of knowledge of the characters until way later in the story.
From my fourth playthrough and beyond, I felt the story events were getting rather repetitive. The only element that changed was the perspective of who Shanao was in love with, but the locations and text in certain parts were identical in some cases. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if someone just lost interest in the game after seeing the same cutscene for the fifth time, with little to no changes in the dialogue or expressions.
Now let’s get to the part I really like talking about, and that is the localization. Given that the story frequently references names from the Japanese story, it’s very convenient to be able to consult these names at any moment, because I won’t deny that a lot of Japanese historical names can’t really roll off the tongue too easily, even for myself. One of the good things is that even after showing them once, they will still get highlighted. With that said, some of the dictionary terms feel like they don’t really need to be there.
One such example is at a certain point of a route I was in, where the translators left the term as it is called in Japanese, with the dictionary entry being just one simple line. I mean, I enjoy learning new Japanese words at any time, so I wasn’t personally bothered by it. But statistically speaking, most people are definitely not me, and so, I feel the dictionary should not be something you need to consult at all times, because the immersion is broken the moment you have to press down on the D-pad just to read a definition that’s barely a line long when the English word for it could’ve sufficed just fine. Still, the translation work is pretty well done, save a few typos and text line-breaking mistakes, all of which I assume will be fixed.
In each of the choices you’ll make, the classic Love Catch mechanic will trigger, with five flowers appearing. Depending on how many are open, that’s your signal as to which of the routes you’re more likely to veer to. Nothing impactful to see here. I mean, you see that mechanic on all otome game titles, and they all serve the exact purpose, which is to gauge how good was your response. It’s not like there’s a lot to talk about the mechanic, even if it’s really beautiful to look at.
Alongside the Love Catch mechanic, however, Shanao’s strength, kindness, and wisdom are also represented by red, green, and blue stats, and the choices you make will also affect them. Truthfully, they don’t seem to affect the outcome of the story that much once you’ve settled in a given route, especially since New Game+ will allow you to max out all those stats. You can also, of course, turn both of the options I mentioned off and try and measure your outcome yourself based on the character’s wording and reaction.
Compared to other Japanese-themed visual novels I’ve played, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei didn’t impress me as much. The story did manage to find a middle ground with its visuals and cutscenes. but I left yearning for more character development, which is something its contemporaries in the genre are generally known for. However, if you’re the type that prefers a more bittersweet fantasy-style story, you might be able to look past its imperfections and see it as not an otome game, but a very-well made visual novel.
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