Sunday, July 15, 2018

Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk (PS Vita) Review

Finishing off Aksys' "Summer of Mystery" is the third Vita visual novel, Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk.  Like the others, it is an otome game, so you play as a female protagonist.  She is a witch, which the townspeople fear.  To avoid suspicion, she was raised as a boy alongside her two "brothers", her secret known only to a select few.  As the story progresses, she will learn to dress and act like a girl to help her locate the mysterious Kaleido-Via, all while trying to keep her secrets from being exposed.

I will definitely give the game credit for a unique premise.  I was interested to see where it would go, and what exactly they would do with it.  At first, though, I wasn't that impressed.  You quickly meet most of the characters, and most of them annoyed me instantly.  Not the best way to start a game.  However, as the story continued, the characters either changed, or the annoying elements were pushed into the background, ensuring I would enjoy it.  There are some twists that I did not see coming, and they were pulled off very well.  My opinions on at least two characters completely flipped.  That's not something I expected.  Some of the endings felt a little too random for my tastes, so it's not perfect.  While I won't spoil anything, there are some connections to the previous title, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly.  After I started, I didn't think there would be, but fans of that game should appreciate what's in Ashen Hawk.

At a few points in the game, you will have a simplified map of the town.  From here, you can select short stories, comments from townspeople, and the next main story section.  I would have liked a quick explanation as to what the icons meant, but there isn't one.  Thankfully it isn't too hard to figure it out.  The pink eyeglass icons are comments from townspeople, which will give you a point.  These points are used to purchase special items from the antique store, which will unlock short stories, other side story scenes, and some gallery pictures.  To unlock them all, you have to talk to everybody.  It's not the most interesting way to unlock the additional scenes, but it's much less intense than Black Butterfly's shooting mini-game.

Once you have the necessary items purchased, it is very easy to go back and view any scenes you have missed.  All because of the glorious flow chart!  It was my favorite thing about Black Butterfly, and I was overjoyed to see it back in Ashen Hawk.  It allows you to see where all the scenes and branches are, so you can quickly move back to grab them.  This makes it easier to get all the endings and explore the story.  It's also much easier to actually get on to the branches than it was in the previous game.

Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk was a fun visual novel.  After a rough beginning, the story and characters got a lot better.  Factoring in all the townspeople conversations and side stories, the main game is longer than most visual novels I have played.  The flip side is the "routes" tend to just be the endings.  Thankfully the awesome flow chart is back to make jumping to the relevant scenes quick and easy.  I definitely recommend this otome game to fans of visual novels, and especially fans of Black Butterfly.

The Good:
An interesting and unique story that pulled off some difficult plot twists very well.

The Bad:
The story is largely linear.  There are branches, but they are pretty much just the endings.

The SaHD:
I'm not a fan of the "character is abysmal at cooking" cliche.  It's not funny, and doesn't make sense.  It did have some small relevance in this game, but that doesn't really make it much better.

(Review code for Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk was received from the publisher)

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