Developers: Saga Planets & Entergram (Port)
Release Date: 23rd March 2017
Length: ~16 Hours
Links: Official Site, VNDB
Hatsuyuki is a delinquent 3rd year student who reluctantly attends Shirosaki Academy. He spends most evenings wandering the old part of town & one day runs into a beautiful girl wearing a white dress. She’s searching for her pet rabbit Nemu & Hatsuyuki reluctantly agrees to help her. They eventually find Nemu & part ways, never to meet again. Or, so he thought. The girl (Sakura) transfers into Hatsuyuki’s class a few days later and promises to help him make it to graduation. This is a tale from the first snows of winter, to the fluttering of cherry blossoms at graduation…
Hatsuyuki is a sharp-tongued delinquent who attends school only when absolutely necessary. He lives in a run-down apartment with his mysterious caretaker Ran, whom often scolds him for his behaviour. He has a reputation for being mean & picking fights so most people tend to avoid him. He has a habit of making jokes at other’s expense.
Tamaki Sakura (CV Shimizu Ai)
Sakura is the mysterious girl Hatsuyuki found wandering the streets. Her rabbit Nemu, whom Sakura claims to be her “guardian” is always found by her side. Sakura is interested in hunting ghosts, specifically the “Ghost Child” – or the king of all ghosts. She’s a complete airhead but is very friendly & talkative.
Shinonome Nozomu (CV Kadowaki Mai)
Nozomu is the younger sister of Shirosaki Academy’s current school council president & is a first year at the academy. Due to the fact she had no friends, one of the school’s councilors asked her to chair a committee to help out the school’s students alongside a reluctant Hatsuyuki. Nozomu acts in a very tomboyish way & looks up to Hatsuyuki a lot, almost like a puppy. She is genuinely a kind person though and tries her best to help the students that come to her committee for advice.
Azuma Yoru (CV Tanezaki Atsumi)
Yoru is a second-year student at Shirasaki academy and is a talented ice-skater whom can often be seen practicing after school. She entered a lot of pair ice-dancing competitions but due to her partners all being injured coincidentally, she has gained a reputation for being cursed and no-one will skate alongside her. Yoru is a tsundere & won’t hesitate to tell someone her opinion. She’s not the biggest fan of Hatsuyuki.
Kozaki Aya (CV Yuimoto Michiru)
Aya is the former student-council president of Shirosaki Academy but who graduated the year before the story starts. She failed her University entrance exams so is currently working alongside Hatsuyuki in the doll-filled cafe Cantella. Despite only being co-workers, she acts as through she’s very close to Hatsuyuki.
Shirokuma (CV Suzumiya Sui)
Shirokuma is a mysterious young girl who turns up at the cafe Cantella one day. She claims to have come to Japan from Russia & says that any info on her past is confidential. She’s currently studying for the Shirosaki Academy entrance exams while helping out at the cafe. When flustered, she often speaks in her own language, consisting of squeaks and growls that only Hatsuyuki can interpret.
Artwork for this game was mainly handled by Chimaro, Hontani Kanae & Toranosuke. All three are well-known for working on some of Saga-Planet’s other games.
First Opening: Hesitation Snow – Fripside
Second Opening: Presto – KOTOKO
First Ending: Kazehana – Tsukiko
Grand Ending: GHOST x GRADUATION – Monet
Insert Song 1: Freak of Nature: Start – Ayana
Insert Song 2: Merry Go Round wo Bukkowase – Yuina
The music for this game was composed by Mizutsuki Ryou – a very prolific composer for galge, including many of Saga-Planet’s previous releases. There are 34 BGM tracks in total.
As you can see from the above screenshot of the title screen, there are 3 “parts” to Hatsuyuki Sakura. The prologue is the only option when you begin the game & when you’ve finished it the “start” option takes you to the beginning of the route selection portion of the game. After you’ve finished all of those routes, the final “graduation” option opens, which includes the game’s true ending.
There are both normal choices & map-based choices in this game, but at the start only Sakura is unlocked, the others become available as you progress through the game.
I believe that Hatsuyuki Sakura is considered to be one of the best “modern” galge to have come out so I was excited to try it. Did it live up to the hype?
One thing I will say is that this game is really hard to get into at the start – the writing is kinda unsual and the pacing is very slow & weird since the game is very strict on following a “day” system so there is some filler to begin with. That being said, once you do get used to the game (and Hatsuyuki) the prologue (aka common route) really gets good and by the end I was stunned & left wanting for more!
Then, you begin the worst section of the game – the other character’s routes. I don’t mean to hate on anyone who did like these but in my opinion they felt almost like after-thoughts and were mostly in the way of me getting to the true ending of the story.
I’ll speak a bit about the characters & their routes – first up is Hatsuyuki whom I wasn’t the biggest fan of at first but once I got into the game, I grew to love him & his sharp quips. He’s one of the only tsukkomi in the game & he’s definitely needed! He’s proactive too – pretty much everything you would want in a VN protagonist!
I wasn’t sure what to make of Aya at first but after playing her route I really liked her. Her route was easily the best outside of “Graduation” / Sakura’s route. I want to write more on her but pretty much anything would be a spoiler.
Nozomu was my favourite character in the beginning, with her puppy-like antics absolutely adorable & hilarious in equal measure! However, her route was kinda boring. Sorry!
Despite being a tsundere, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Yoru from the beginning & her route never really managed to change my mind. I actually like her little introductory chapter in the prologue best.
Shirokuma is downright adorable and I loved the interactions between her & Hatsuyuki! Her route was really /unusual/ due to the pacing & presentation of the story but it was one of the better ones. It just felt kind of short.
It’s pretty clear from the cover & promo material that Sakura is the true heroine of this game and the whole “Graduation” part of the game is essentially her route. She has the complete opposite personality to Hatsuyuki so the pair of them are hilarious together. Her route is clearly the best & is truly something exceptional.
The game also has quite a few sub-characters, whom all play their part in the story. Ran was my personal favourite (kind of wish there was a mini-route for her or something).
(Sorry that I didn’t write too much about the above characters but I want to avoid spoilers since this game is very plot-heavy)
The sound department of the game is truly excellent, with one of the best OSTs I’ve come across lately. Seriously, Dead’s Dream is one of the best & most emotive tracks I’ve heard in a long time – go listen! Literally there’s so many other individual tracks that I could praise. I’m definitely adding the OST to my to-buy list. The vocal songs are also numerous & varied, with all of them being nice and fitting. You can tell that they spent a lot of the game’s budget on ensuring that the music enhanced the reading experience.
The game’s artwork was also nice, with there being quite a lot of CGs, especially when you consider the length of the game. The artwork is in Saga-Planet’s typical style. There’s actually quite a few images which are only cut-ins and aren’t in the main CG gallery (which I didn’t figure out until I was quite far into the game so that was annoying) so make sure to screenshot them as you go!
The one downside to this particular version of the game is that there is an integrated screenshot system that you need to use if you want to take screenshots of the CGs without all of the system controls in the way. However, this actually causes the game to freeze for maybe ~5 seconds each time while the image saves so it makes taking screenshots a real pain.
My Score: 8.5/10
While the prologue + aya’s route + graduation would be a perfect score of “10”, the other heroine routes were a tad disappointing. However, that shouldn’t put you off playing & I would highly recommend Hatsuyuki Sakura to everyone looking for a funny yet plot-heavy visual novel. You never know, maybe graduation will have you fondly reminiscing over your own school days (even if you hated high school like me haha).
I’m glad to have finally got this review up & posted – it’s been waiting a long time! I was actually meant to post a dialovers review this week but after writing half of my post I realised that I forgot to transfer the screenshots from my Vita to PC so finished off this post instead…
Thanks for reading!