Koihime Musou has been a real treat for me. I watched the anime for it way back when and thought it was pretty neat, so when I found that it had come from a visual novel, I had wanted to try it.
Of course, at the time, I was young and naive, not knowing that I could buy a digital version instead of a physical one in stores. Time passed, and my interest waned. Now, though, the game sort of fell in my lap, so I was excited to try it. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Let’s begin by talking about the gameplay. Yes, the gameplay. Koihime is one of the few visual novels that actually includes gameplay. However, I am hard pressed to say that it’s great. Ultimately, the gameplay is incredibly easy as long as you understand it.
You take the role of a commander and command your units. Each day (turn) during a battle, you pick a formation and an attack type. You can charge with your light infantry, intercept the enemy with your heavy infantry, or fire with your archers. The game sort of takes on a larger version of rock, paper, scissors.
Each formation has a bonus to one attack type and a defense bonus to one attack type, so it’s simply a matter of picking the right formation. Battles in the beginning take virtually no strategy at all, and is just a matter of clicking through it, while some of the later battles become a harder game of attacking and defending while trying to find patterns in your opponent.
In addition to all of this, you’re made to pick a general and a strategist from the girls available to you at that point in the story. The general has a special move (Ougi) that they can activate every so often, and the strategist will dictate which formations you can utilize well.
Once you learn how the system works, it’s actually rather easy to get through. Unfortunately, that can likely be attributed to the fact that people playing an H-game like this don’t want too much challenge.
Now, as for the story, I was impressed. It follows the basics of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms of China. Many of us know the basics of this story from the Dynasty Warriors series, so many probably know the story well enough to recognize characters in Koihime as they are introduced.
Unfortunately for people like us, the characters go by their Japanese names, so for example, Guan Yu becomes Kan’u, and Zhang Fei becomes Chouhi. Of course, this works out great for the story because it separates the characters from their Chinese counterparts a bit more and throws off the oppressive feeling of following an already written famous story.
In fact, Koihime only really uses the Romance of the Three Kingdoms as a springboard of sorts. The game begins, for example, during the Yellow Turban rebellion, but from there the story derails some in favor of using an original story focusing more on the characters they have rather than the characters they are all based upon.
This is especially noticeable in the lack of deaths among the main cast (those of you who know the RoTK know it’s filled with death). Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t many problems that come up. For example, the main character Kazuto doesn’t know how he ended up in this alternate version of the past, and is therefore unsure of how, when, or why he may be sent back. This plays on his mind a number of times, as well as whether or not he feels worthy of his position and such. The story certainly does add a number of complications to balance out the removal of others.
One thing to be aware of, though – this game is an eroge at heart. There’s no doubt about it. The H-scenes are aplenty once you reach a certain point, and it’s clear (as per the norm) that the focus was there. Again, that’s not to say the story lacked, but it’s clear where the focus was. In fact, there’s even very little effort put into conquering any of the girls, even the main three.
And that brings me to the only true complaint I have. Despite the abundance of characters you gain access to, only three are actually available for endings/dating. This, coupled with the girls they allow, was my biggest gripe with this game. I would’ve liked to see Cho’un and Bachou as heroines at least (especially since Bachou is my favorite here).
Instead, you’re given the choice of three routes – Kan’u, Chouhi, and Shokatsuryou. I went with Kan’u for my playthrough before writing this, and plan to do Shokatsuryou’s next. However, there are a number of route I would have liked to see implemented, especially with the large roster that becomes available over the course of the game. However, based upon a little research, it seems that route for many of the other girls were added in the ps2 release, so at least they did add them at some point.
To wrap this up, I just want to touch on the art and music. First off, I loved the art in the game. The CGs are fantastically done, and the character portraits and art great. The designs are fitting of the characters and the setting, and they are stylized to a degree even – it would be easy to pick out a Koihime character from a lineup because of it’s style. There were a number of times that the art just perfectly complimented what was happening in the story, and it was a great thing to see.
As for the music, it was catchy and hard not to enjoy. During many of the scenes, I found myself humming or whistling along. Although (thankfully) it never got to the point where it was stuck in my head during the day. The music is great for background music that way – it’s not infectious, but not bland either.
Overall, I would say that Koihime Musou is a great Visual Novel just for what it does in it’s gameplay. It makes you actually participate some, which is great. Overall, I would have to say that, really, Koihime is worth your time if you like Visual Novels. And if you don’t, there’s plenty else here…like H-scenes.
Koihime Musou was reviewed on PC using a code provided by Manga Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.