Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is a visual novel developed and published by Idea Factory. It is available right now on the Nintendo Switch eShop. It was released on June 28th 2022. I would like to thank Idea Factory for the review code.
Birushana Rising Flower of Genpei is a visual novel that tells a story set in ancient Japan. The main protagonist in this story is the last heir to the Genji clan. They have secrets, and one of those you will likely figure out right from the start, but the other secret won’t be even hinted at until the story gets underway for a bit. This visual novel is of the Otome variety. If you have no clue what that means, you play as a female character and you develop relationships with the male characters in the game. During this play-through I have ended up on the Benkei route.
This game is a visual novel, and visual novel games don’t have a lot of interactivity so you won’t be moving your character around the screen or anything like that. A visual novel tells a story, and you digest the story as it is displayed on the screen, and occasionally you will be asked to make a decision. In this way visual novels have a choose your own adventure feel to them.
Your decisions mostly contribute to your stats, and relationships. Rarely did my decisions make huge impact on the story, unless the scenario would lead to my death. Then I would have to load a previous save and make better decisions.
The main menu and all of the character designs are very well done, in sort of a hand drawn style. THe menus are like watercolors. The backgrounds of the towns or any activity in the game are pretty lackluster. Fortunately the beautifully created characters make the background less important. Otherwise the game looks brilliant, and the visuals make sure you pulled in, and engaged.
The sound in the game is very minimal, but it serves the atmosphere of the game very well. The voice acting (all in Japanese) is very well done, and sounds very clear. The voice actors did a great job bringing the characters to life, and giving them enough depth for you to become quite attached.
The story is where this game really shines. After all it is a visual novel, and doesn’t really have much in the way of interactivity aside from choosing options on occasion. Instead you follow Shanao and her comrades as her story unfolds. The story is very compelling, and I have become very attached to it.
You start out in a Buddhist Temple where you and your childhood friend have been hiding out for many years. Shanao is the last heir to the Genji clan, also the last “son”. She runs into Noritsune in the forest after you vanquish some samurai his cousins sent to kill you. Shanao is challenged to find and neutralize a monk who is terrorizing Heiki samurai by either killing them or taking their swords. (which might be worse)
The story is full of conflict between the two families, also with the Heike and the Emperor. It also deals with the politics of the area. The game even has a whole dictionary full of key people, places, and things. The story while fictional will reference real locations in Japan.
The bad guys in the story are very bad (but in a good way). The two pervasive bad guys, two brothers, Shigahira and Tomomori Taira, who are sons of Kigomori, the leader of the Heiki clan, are especially well written. Tomomori has on more than one occasion made my hair stand on end with the things he says to Shanao.
The game also writes bad guys who are bad, but not all bad. One of the best examples of this is the nephew of the head of the Heiki clan, Noritsune. He is definitely not a good guy but compared to his brothers, he has the potential to be redeemable.
There is really only one complaint I have about it. The choices that they offer you all seem superficial unless the wrong answer will kill you. There are times for sure that you can tell that a decision has made a significant impact usually in service of the progression of the main story line.
The controls are very good, and responsive. That is important because controls have the potential of tearing you out of the story. There isn’t much in the way of a tutorial, mainly because the controls are intuitive, and in most cases you don’t need to interact with the menu at all. If you are used to playing visual novels, then you will already know what buttons do what in this game.
The game does give you the option to backtrack without loading an older save file. If you press up on the analog stick, you will get a review of the recent conversations. I found this to be very useful if I hit the “A” button once to many or if I wanted to re-read something.
Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is on the Nintendo eShop, and retails for 49.99. The big question is how big into narrative driven games are you? Do you frequently pick up Visual Novels? If any of those things sounds compelling then this game is worth it. The game itself has several branching paths depending who you make your love interest. So at minimum you will get a 9-12 hour game. Then of course you can play it through multiple times to play through the different branches of the story.
Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is a game that I thought I might like, but had no idea how engrossed in the story and characters that I would become. If you are ready for an experience that will tell a story of samurai, monks, family politics, royalty, treason and of course love, then I don’t think you can do anything else except play this game. The game really immersed me into a world that was very different from my own. The experience is well worth the cost of admission. You can pick this game up on the Nintendo eShop. I would like to thank the publisher Idea Factory for the review code!