Since Idea Factory International got back into the otome visual novel world, fans have been watching to see how their releases turn out. The latest title in their catalog is Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei. This historically-based game brings with it an intense plot set during Japan’s Heian period as well as impactful romances between protagonist Shanao and five potential suitors. There’s a lot going on in this game, so let’s dig into it.
Players are brought straight into the world of ancient Japan where rival factions are deep in the midst of war. Protagonist Shanao is the sole remaining male heir to the Genji clan name and every warrior knows of their existence. The thing is, the heir is keeping a massive secret. Shanao has been living out her days disguised as a male, but is actually a woman. Regardless of her gender, she’s still an extremely skilled combatant — and in true anime-style fashion — has some seriously superpowered abilities which are activated during dangerous encounters.
It’s exciting to have such a powerful protagonist in an otome game. Shanao is more than willing to wield her blade and destroy any enemies in her path. Not only that, but she speaks her mind without any filter. The only downside is that Shanao didn’t get a voice actor because that would have added even more to the experience. The thing about this plot point is that the male leads initially fall for her facade. So the characters recognizing their romantic feelings for each other doesn’t happen quite as fast, or as obviously, as it might in some other otome titles. Even so, players build their meter with the different men right from the get go. The majority of choices in Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei occur during the common route which lasts for just three chapters. It’s a relatively fast common route and players can opt to track or not track their affection meter. By default, the “Love Catch” system is enabled. This displays a ring of different-colored flowers. Once a choice is made, one or multiple of the flowers blooms. This is just a means to represent which guy liked each specific choice. It’s a good idea to utilize this in combination with the official route suggestions to have the best playthrough.
As for the men themselves, expect to have a wide variety of personality types to choose from between the five. All routes are worth playing as you’ll eventually learn a lot more about the storyline by doing so. With that said, some gamers will likely take issue with the fact that one of the romance routes is with Shanao’s brother. The game does its best to make this less creepy than it could be, but some would rather skip this route entirely. Some might also take issue with a more villainous route, but it’s all a matter of personal taste. In an exciting move, there are additional ending routes for side characters. They’re not full on routes or anything, but it’s fun for a developer to recognize that sometimes an otome fan wants to simply spend more time with an intriguing side character.
The first time playing through Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is full of exciting twists and turns regardless if you know anything about this period of Japanese history. Granted, if you know a lot about the timeframe, then you’ll likely already know how some of these battles play out, which might make it slightly less dramatic. The only downside about the historical nature is that you’ll be seeing these same battles play out multiple times. Although cool in their first run-through, subsequent playthroughs reveal how long these battles really are. Rather than using the fast forward functionality, skipping to the next new dialogue or choice automatically is probably a better decision here.
With that said, this visual novel is dynamic in its presentation. The visuals, while not fully animated, still include a lot of great visual flourish during battles. Expect the sound design to follow appropriately, with it feeling like you’re in the middle of an intense fight. Speaking of audio, the voice acting is top notch. It’s just a shame the protagonist wasn’t also voiced, but again that’s a matter of personal preference. The music fits in perfectly with this historical era and the high-stakes nature of the plot. Those who have ever played Nightshade will feel similarities with this title, so if you like that one, check this game out.
Where the game could use more polish is in the reader experience. There are a few typos here and there, and confusion with the dictionary system. Why are there times when words are written in English, but other times written in Japanese? Most likely this is because some of the terms don’t have a true English equivalent, but sometimes it felt like translating the terms wouldn’t have been too challenging. At least the Japanese terms include descriptions to assist players who aren’t familiar with some of the more obscure terminology.
Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is an action-packed visual novel sure to capture the attention and hearts of otome fans. While some may bristle over one romanceable route or some of the darker content, it’s a title with a lot going for it. Whether players opt into just one route, or go for a full completion, they’ll be on quite a journey from anywhere between ten to sixty hours. Anyone with a taste for Japanese historical fiction owes it to themselves to dive into Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei.