Original Japanese Title: 灰鷹のサイケデリカ
Romanized: Haitaka no Psychedelica
Translation: Psychedelica of the AA Nisus (Eurasian Sparrowhawk)
This was definitely my most anticipated game for 2016 so I’m very happy I finally got to play it. Writing another non-spoiler review but I will have hidden (in white text) spoiler thoughts at the end of the post like in my Kokuchou review.
I found it difficult to not compare Haitaka to Kokuchou so most of my review commentary will include a comparison.
Eiar, or Jed, as she is more commonly referred to, is a girl who has the unfortunate trait of having a right eye that turns red (when she feels really strong emotions). Red eyes are considered to be a symbol of a witch, so she lives her life as a man to avoid persecution due to superstitions about a witch’s curse left on the village she lives in. For many years, the village has been in a state of perpetual snowy winter, which most villagers will attribute to this curse. There are two families that preside over this village: the Hawk clan and the Wolf clan. These two clans do not get along so the people who reside there are often caught up in their feud.
While Jed works as a handy man, she’s given the task of looking for a mysterious artifact called the Kaleido-via (I took the spelling from this sentence from the game: “Snowdrop and Via-Kaleido stories for children”), which she needs to find before the town’s annual masquerade. Of course, she finds out there’s more to the story than just that.
I’m going to admit that I feel like the plot is a bit expected. I think the set-up was interesting and they do a good job of going about explaining the plot, but personally I wasn’t blown away by it because I was able to predict a lot of the mysteries. Having said that, I still think it was a strong story and found it very enjoyable to play through. While playing, I was riveted to the story and wanted to keep progressing until I knew for sure what was happening even if I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. There’s a reason why they say the journey is just as important or sometimes, even more important, than the destination.
While they wrapped most of it up nicely, I do think there were a bunch of things that were not explained clearly at the end, but it wasn’t enough to make me feel like there were gaping plot holes. It was like they wanted to maintain a certain air of mystery so some things were either implied, not explicitly stated, or possibly purposefully left up in the air.
The romance I think was a little bit more this time because the characters already know each other and have a history. I think for me, one of the bigger issues is that, like Kokuchou, you spend most of the game trying to figure everything out so while there’s a decent amount of romance in between (some scenes were super <3), I felt like I didn’t have enough time with the characters. It didn’t help that I felt like most of the main character endings were cutoff. I could see why those they ended where they did, but it didn’t feel like enough to me most of the time. Part of this feeling could be attributed to the fact that I liked the characters all so much that I didn’t want it to end.
Often times when I buy a game, there are always some routes that I need to power through because the characters are just not my type and then I reward myself with the routes of characters that I’m pretty sure I’ll end up liking the most at the end as a motivational factor. I didn’t get that feeling in this game because I basically liked them all so I got something out of each route. It’s very rare when I find a game where I like playing through routes of non-bias characters, but Haitaka was one of them.
We need to talk a little about the heroine because Eiar/Jed is pretty badass. I don’t think it would’ve been the same if the game creators didn’t make the decision to have her voiced because it really helped to illustrate her personality. I liked that she was a character with her own conflicts and flaws because not all otome heroines are created with this type of care. She didn’t feel like a female character that was just thrown into the game to be wooed by the guys; she had just as much depth as they did and that’s something I wish was more common.
Not only was the main cast interesting, but a lot of the side characters were too. Characters like Tee have the possibility of being really annoying depending on how they’re written, but I actually found her pretty adorable.
I’m currently caught in an eternal conflict between Lavan and Lugus for best boy because somehow, neither of them surpassed the other to claim the bias spot. I feel like certain things about both their personalities and situations should be at a bias level for me, but I just can’t choose and it’s making me feel very conflicted. It feels wrong to say that I don’t like them enough because I like them both quite a lot. My theory is that there was one thing that really bothered me when I was playing Lavan’s route and it might have unintentionally colored how I felt about both Lavan and Lugus (I will explain this more in the Spoiler section). I made it on time for the character popularity poll, but it felt a little pointless because I hadn’t chosen one of them by the end so I ended up voting for both on different devices.
On a slightly different note, I’m not familiar with the seiyuu who voiced Eiar/Jed but I think she did a really awesome job switching between a male and female voice. I feel like this might be the first time I heard Furukawa Makoto in a mainstream role and besides the DwD anime, I’m not sure if I’ve actually heard Saitou Souma in a role yet either, so that was a treat. Hino’s yasashii oniisan Lavan voice has cleansed me of his last role in Moujuutachi (not that he did a bad job but just that game was not good lol).
ART / CGs / ANIMATION
I LOVE THE ART. LOOK AT ALL THOSE AMAZING CGS (*screams extra about the Lugus masquerade CG*). I basically liked all the CGs in this game. I think there were only a handful where something felt a little off about them (awkward positioning of say, a hand, or someone’s face looking weird, etc), but even so, for the most part, there were other good qualities about those CGs that would counteract what was wrong with them. There was also a high consistency between sprite and CG portrayal of characters, which I always appreciate because one of my pet peeves in games is when the CGs look super different (read: uglier) from the game sprites. It makes it feel like the scenes don’t represent the characters and I’d rather not have a CG than have one that looks awful. I never really got that feeling in Haitaka because of the consistency.
It could be because it’s a short game, but I actually feel like there were quite a lot of CGs overall. Since the game centered on certain events/scenes, there were times when a lot of CGs would pop up at once. This wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was interesting.
One minor complaint I had is that the Gallery section doesn’t divide the CGs by characters like most games do. They’re kind of all just clumped together in this one area so scrolling through it is a little bothersome but it’s not too bad.
I feel like the Haitaka team made a lot of cool decisions with the programming of the sprites and animations from this game. In more detail:
- The game sprites moved A LOT. This was one of the first things I noticed about the game. This was pretty neat because it makes them feel more like they’re interacting with each other. I think I actually prefer the sprites being animated this way more than the blinking/mouth-moving sprites (even though I like those too) because the movement helps illustrate the scenes much better. There were a lot of background animations too, like the snow falling or a mist that would sometimes fall over certain areas in the town.
- The heroine had a sprite and not only did she appear in the bottom right corner of the text box (when most games put the heroine on the left if she has a sprite) when she spoke, but she sometimes appeared on the main screen as well. When discussing this decision with other gamers, there were several theories we came up with of why the creators chose to do this (to better illustrate action scenes that include the heroine, to clearly show when she’s dressed as a man vs. as a woman, etc.) but I thought this was a cool quirk since most games don’t do this.
- Still on the topic of sprites, something that I thought was really interesting about Haitaka is that they gave all the villagers sprites! So instead of having a bunch of discombobulated voices, or feet, or faceless/eyeless sprites, the sprites looked like actual people. Villagers speaking would appear on the left side of the text box where the heroine sprite would usually appear, so I’m thinking that might be one of the reasons Jed/Eiar’s sprite appeared on the right side.
I really liked the music, but I also feel like it didn’t hit me as hard as Kokuchou’s did. I remember wracking my brains out over why Otomate hadn’t released an OST for Kokuchou at that time I played it. Such strong feelings did not happen this time. I still liked it enough that I plan to buy it once it’s available. I’m very excited that on top of giving us a Haitaka OST, they’re finally releasing an OST for Kokuchou as well so I’m planning to get both at the same time!
I felt like the music really matched the setting of the game, which is a definitely plus for me. There are some OSTs that are really nice but you feel like you can hear that music in really any game, but this music felt tied to the setting so it would’ve felt out of place somewhere else, which I think is a nice quirk because it makes it feel like a unique part of the game rather than just an added extra.
GAME STRUCTURE / EXECUTION
Flowchart: It honestly didn’t change much from Kokuchou, except that the short stories are located on the maps instead of on the side. I still stand by what I said from my Kokuchou review that being able to see a more zoomed out view of the flowchart would’ve been nice to see the whole picture.
To my disappointment, they did not fix the flowchart issue I mentioned Kokuchou had with accessing the flowchart from the main menu. As a recap, this means if you access the flowchart from the Album menu from the main menu, you can only play the actual scene and it would not progress in the story afterwards. In order to actually continue playing from a flowchart scene, you need to access the flowchart while you’re already playing the game so there’s basically no reason to access the flowchart from the main menu.
They did fix part of the Auto-play issue I had in Kokuchou though. This time, if I played in the Auto mode, the screen didn’t dim so I didn’t have to worry about that problem. However, the back touchscreen was still useless and you cannot use both Auto mode and progress in the story manually at the same time. I’ve noticed lately that I prefer doing this when it’s possible because then the game will progress without me doing anything, but if I finish reading faster than the Auto mode, then I can touch the screen to go a little faster. In Haitaka, you cannot do this because touching the screen or any other button while in Auto mode would turn it off.
Also like in Kokuchou, after playing any Short Episode (or Interview), the game would ask if I want to update my system data. For some reason, I did not find it as annoying this time, but it still applied.
Map: Something different that they implemented in Haitaka is the use of a town map. Here, you could view Short Episodes (S) and read comments/short interviews (magnifying glass) with townspeople from an outside point of view. After a certain point in time, you can also choose whether Jed goes out in her normal male clothing or whether she goes around town in her female clothing. Make sure that you check this because otherwise you’ll miss a bunch of short stories from wearing female clothes. I say just the female stories because Jed will always start as her male outfit by default, even if you just read a story in her female clothing. This is actually something that bothered me because it made me have to keep changing her clothes back to the female version so I could play through all the scenes, which I found a little frustrating. I think it would’ve been better if instead, after the system updates that you read a story, they left it on the last outfit she was wearing, at least within the same map. That way, I wouldn’t have had to keep changing her clothes. In fact, I missed a bunch of episodes at some point because I had forgotten to change her outfit so I didn’t read them at the right time and it affected how I felt about a few of the earlier routes I played.
Clicking the little icon of the heroine in the top right corner is how you change her outfit.
One thing I wish they implemented was a way you could save while on the map. You could only save while in a Short Episode scene but you could not save while on the map. I think you also couldn’t save if you were in an interview, but they were very short so I didn’t find that to be a huge problem.
Short Episodes: The short episodes were interesting and really added a lot of content to the story. I think because they were tied to certain maps which took place in set times in the story line, it helped time when they occurred in the regular story progression better than Kokuchou. You can play them in whatever order though, so it gives you some freedom. I would’ve liked to know who was going to be participating in each one in advance because then I could’ve coordinated by character. That’s something else they didn’t change from Kokuchou because I feel like I voiced that same complaint last time.
Interviews with the Villagers: I have to admit that I didn’t really like the interviews that much. I could see the point of them as the attitude of the townspeople could be gauged from these at certain points in time, but even though they were short, they kind of bored me because most people were saying the same things. I couldn’t even say that the ones featuring main characters were interesting because I feel like most of that content you actually learned from playing the game. I don’t know, they were just tiring to me.
Storybook Stories: There’s one place in the Common Route where you can access these “stories.” You buy them from the old man at the tavern. The currency used to buy these stories are obtained from completing the Short Episodes and Interviews. These stories are kind of like extra background stuff that you didn’t get while playing the regular story.
I thought this was a really cool touch, but the start screen would change depending on the last ending you got! I was really excited when I found out about this from people who played the game before me, but it actually worked a little differently than I expected it to. I thought each guy would be added on to the heart like you’re collecting their sprites, but there’s always only one of them there at a time. I didn’t post all the variations in case of minor spoilers but here are the main guys:
I started off playing this game guide-less, but I ended up using one after I got my first ending because I really wanted to get all the ends in an order that made sense. For those curious, I used Choro’s guide. Initially it seems like it doesn’t have all the ends, but it does. Most of the ends show up on the guide for Lavan’s route.
The play order that was recommended to me was (thanks, Yssa!): People (Happy End I) –> Heroes (Happy End II) –> Bad End –> Lavan –> Levi –> Wolg –> (Tower) Lord –> Lugus –> Hugh –> A girl –> Traveler –> Links
The order I actually played in because I forgot part of the recommended order was: People (Happy End I) –> Heroes (Happy End II) –> Bad End –> Lavan –> Wolg –> Levi –> (Tower) Lord –> Lugus –> A girl –> Hugh –> Traveler –> Links
You could mix up the order in the parts I italicized because I don’t think it changes much whatever you end up doing there. I can kind of see why Wolg would be better to do after Lavan and Levi’s Ends though. The Traveler and Links Ends can only be accessed after you finish all the other ends for plot revelation reasons.
I want to stress that even if it doesn’t lead to a CG or scene, you want to go back and choose all the choices so you get all the text variations. If you do not, you might have problems accessing the Traveler route and also completing the Flowchart. I had some blips in both these cases and they were both because I had forgotten to do something. For the Traveler route problem, it was because I had missed one interview, which also meant I was short the currency that was needed to buy the last storybook story so both of those issues were solved by reading the interview. The Flowchart problem I had was because I had not chosen the second option on one of the choices in the last Map, so even though I had gotten all the Ends and CGs, the game didn’t register my completion because of that one variation. Thanks to Suri for bringing this to my attention when I was getting all flustered from trying to find out what was wrong.
OVERALL CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
I really enjoyed playing this game a lot and would definitely recommend it for people who played Kokuchou. It wasn’t a perfect game, but I thought it was a good game that was worth playing. Even if I had my guesses about the plot and game mysteries, I still wanted to keep playing in order to find out the truth. The mysteries themselves were pretty logical too, which is important to me because I really don’t like it when things are explained or solved by some inexplicable force that comes out of nowhere.
For people who haven’t played Kokuchou, I would still recommend the game. You can probably play Haitaka without having played Kokuchou at all, but some of the connections won’t have as much meaning if you play it as a standalone. Also, Haitaka has some Kokuchou spoilers so if you’re interested in both games, definitely play Kokuchou first.
As expected, finishing Moujuutachi before playing Haitaka was a wise decision because if I took a break to start Haitaka and had to go back that would’ve sucked lol.
SPOILER SECTION THOUGHTS / QUESTIONS
In the following part under this paragraph, I’m going to leave all my leftover questions and spoiler commentary. You can ignore this section if you haven’t played the game. If you have and are interested, please feel free to talk to me about some of these things:
1) The game gave me the impression that Lugus x Eiar is the OTP, which bothered me a little. I’m not saying that because I didn’t like him or like them as a couple; it just made it feel weird when Eiar/Jed ended up with anyone else because her feelings seemed so inclined towards him as you progress in the game that I felt it undermined her romantic relationship development with the other characters. I really like Lavan for example, but when I was playing, his route felt less satisfying because it didn’t feel like it fit as well since I felt like the heroine was falling for Lugus throughout the game (see scene with Tee that she did mostly out of jealousy and how Lugus was the only one she told her real name to, etc). It didn’t make the rest of the game feel pointless, it just made it feel like a puzzle with the wrong pieces. Lavan’s feelings for the heroine were very clear but I couldn’t quite figure out when she fell for him. She did have some moments with him but because the moments with Lugus also happened, it put a damper on the Lavan x Jed scenes in my opinion. Plus I mean the A girl Ending. It even has Lugus featured in the Start menu after (which makes sense considering what happened).
I want to mention that while playing the Maps in my initial playthrough, I missed a whole bunch of scenes where the heroine dressed as a female. I feel like this greatly influenced my opinion on the game OTP because playing them at the wrong time probably tainted my view of Lugus and Lavan. Playing those extra Lavan scenes earlier while I was working on Lavan’s route would’ve helped me see more moments of her being partial to him, which adds to their relationship development. And if I didn’t feel this disconnect as strongly in the beginning, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so worked up over the Lugus x Eiar OTP being shoved in my face because it would’ve felt a little more balanced. This is just my guess though since I can’t go back and change what happened when I was playing.
2) On a similar note, I already mentioned it but my biggest pet peeve in the entire game is why on earth is Lugus the only one who knows/finds out her real name?? Lavan ends up marrying her in his route for crying out loud, but he and everyone else still calls her Jed. Sure that’s what he called her his whole life and who everyone recognized her as, but not calling her by her real name made it seem like Lavan hadn’t reached that deeper part of her that she hid from everyone else. He hadn’t reached the “real” her. That just didn’t feel right to me, and even more so pushed point #1 that she was meant to end up with Lugus. You might think that’s a little petty of me but I was very bothered by this.
3) I don’t feel like they explained enough about the witch (Aria’s mother?). The whole deal with the writing of stories related to butterflies was interesting but it was kind of mentioned and then left alone. Obviously this is connected to the whole Psychedelica thing in both games but I don’t know, I must’ve missed the whole point of this because I was kind of just like okay cool but what now?
4) If Hugh is the hawk that April (how the hell do you spell his name in such a way that doesn’t sound feminine?) unintentionally killed as a child, why was he brought back as a human? What other connection did he have to the witch? Why is he able to do what he does (travel through different worlds, change his appearance, etc)? Is he continuing the witch’s work? What is the significance behind the snowflakes on his arms?
5) Did the children’s story about the witch and beasts have more bearing on the game’s story than I caught? In the storybook, the witch was actually “bad” but I’m not sure if she was actually bad and had bad intentions or if it was one of those perspective things where the witch isn’t actually bad, it was just that the animals didn’t want to pay the price for their wish. Was the witch made to be bad like Jed/Eiar did in the A girl end in order to make the story “right” with the whole antagonist/hero thing? The butterfly story was more explicitly tied to Koukuchou’s story in my opinion than this story was to Haitaka’s story. Did I miss something?
6) I would’ve liked to know more about the “heart of the beast” idea that came up with both Levi and April. I’m guessing Olga had it too because he went on that killing rampage after Aria’s death and he’s from the other animal-based clan, but they never really explain it. Does it apply to everyone in the clans? Are they actually the beasts from the storybook? April tried to hide it so he could be human and Hugh had said that the magic stone only brought out Levi’s killing instinct; it didn’t create it. It’s kind of like this extra supernatural element that I never really quite understood.
7) They never really explain Lawrence and Elric’s presence in the game. You know who they are because of the seiyuu, personalities, and memories (however slight that is) of the characters, but what are they doing in this town/a second Psychedelica? Did something happen after Kokuchou that we don’t know? It makes me wonder if they’re planning on making a third Psychedelica game because it was just left so open.
8) I’m also really confused about the scene where Jed, Lavan, Levi, and Lugus meet up as kids with the four stones and almost complete the Kaleido-via. It sounded like Beniyuri/Ai was the one who called out to them, telling them not to come, but I was just like ??? I thought they would explain this more later but they never did.
Anyone who decides to read this please feel free to add anything. I feel like I had more questions and things I wanted to discuss with other people who played the game but I can’t think of them right now!