Birushana has a surprising plot that keeps adding to the mystery the more you read.
Fifteen years after the Heiji Rebellion, the Heike clan has reached the height of its power, while the Genji clan remains devastated by defeat. Hidden deep within the mountains of Kurama lives Shanao, the youngest surviving male heir to the Genji name. However, Shanao harbors a deep secret known by very few.
The youngest heir to the Genji name is no man.
Her adventure leads her to find new cherished relationships, as well as something deeper than the feud between the rivaling clans.
Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is the newest English Nintendo Switch otome game release by Idea Factory International. It is based on the characters and historical moments during the Genpei War between the Genji and Heike clans, which took place between 1180-1185 in Japan. Most of the characters in this visual novel are based on real people that existed making it interesting to see where this is going, even if one only has base knowledge about the war. There is one small exception to the actual events; the main character Shanao, an heir to the Genji clan and who becomes Yoshisune Minamoto in the story, is a girl. (I will be using Shanao and Yoshisune interchangeably in this review.)
How this comes into play, you’ll have to read to find out. Even if you have zero knowledge about the war, you can still enjoy this story. I actually found myself reading up more about it after my first route. I would not recommend reading up on the events beforehand as it may ruin the excitement of the battles.
Shanao is probably the most open Main Character about her feelings as I have seen from an Otomate game. She is not afraid to speak her mind, something that is very much needed in this kind of game. Some interactions, which would be unbearable with most MCs, are easier digest because of this. She’s a great character if you have been wanting a MC who is not afraid to stand up for herself.
The love interests in Birushana are all players in the Genpei war. The first one you will meet is Shungen, Shanao’s childhood friend who grew up with her in the temple they were dropped off at. He is her confidant and the person she trusts the most, as he knows her secret.
Through a series of events that start the game off, you encounter Noritsune, a member of the Heike clan who is itching to fight Shanao every chance he gets. He’s a bit brash and takes pride as a samurai. He also thinks his cousins are out of their minds.
Tomomori is also a Heike who is the son and trusted advisor to his father, Kiyomori. He also seems to be okay with the idea of his whole clan being wiped out and feels a connection with Shanao that he’s never felt before. Thus, he wants Shanao for himself.
Benkei, a former monk, ends up pledging to become Shanao’s vassal. Despite being the oldest in the group, he is kind and gentle, with a side of anger towards the Heike.
And finally, there is Yoritomo, a Genji heir who has lived his life in exile after his father and older brothers were all killed by the Heike. He is a cold man, who has dedicated himself to restoring the Genji with himself as leader. Oh yeah, he’s also Shanao’s half-brother, but more on that later in the review.
Each character has something scratching at them below the surface and you will discover what is really going on with them with each route you play. While I enjoyed some routes more than others, I can’t say there wasn’t one love interest that, by the end of their route, I didn’t understand them nor not like them.
The way romances work in Birushana is the first handful of chapters, you are in a shared or common route. In this you are making choices that will later branch into a character’s route. However, through the shared route, you will still have small interactions with every character on an individual level. The different choices in the shared route may also take you to wildly different scenes, giving the game a bit of variety.
The system to choose which route you go into is fairly simple, certain choices will gain you affection with one or multiple characters. But, by the back half of chapter three, you will begin to branch into a route. This system, called “Love Catch,” can be turned off in the options screen if you don’t wish to see whom you are making choices for. There is also a secondary choice system involving Shanao’s abilities that I don’t quite understand the point of. I would need to mess around with it more to see what happens with it. I didn’t really have much time, unfortunately.
Ever looked at a secondary character and wondered why you couldn’t date them? Well, there is also a set of four If Endings where, upon completing certain characters’ routes, you can play an about one hour side story where you get some special time with a secondary character. While you don’t really get an END ending with them, you will get a cute scenario and an illustration to go with the If Ending. These four characters also have stories in the fan disk, that I can only hope we may get if Birushana does well.
There is also what I would consider a hard play order in Birushana, which I will list below. The first route is very straightforward from beginning to end. The second answers a question that I’m sure most will have playing the game, but then opens up a mystery. By the time, I started my third route, I thought I knew what I was in for going forward, only for the route to solve that mystery, then present more questions. Only for the last two to answer a little bit of the questions in each route.
The art is very nice quality, as is expected of an Otomate game, backgrounds are vivid as well. I am excited to see that Otomate is becoming more comfortable with having their characters’ sprites move. The fighting in this game has character sprites lunging at each other, changing their stances, and swooping down, with sound effects too. It’s probably the most action-packed visual novel I have seen!
Birushana has a dictionary that refers mostly to where scenes take place as names have changed over time in Japan. There are instances where Japanese words are in the English text then explained what that word means in the dictionary. I am unsure if this is because the word that was used is an old word or not. Sometimes there is an English word and we know what that word means, but it’s in the dictionary anyway. Also, a word now being in your dictionary doesn’t stop the game from constantly red highlighting the word. This made me think I hadn’t seen it before when I had more than once.
My biggest issue with Birushana came down to how the plot plays out in different route. Because the game contains historical events, you will be seeing the same scenes more than once. But since you are in someone’s route, the dialogue and/or setup will be different and thus is not skippable. Once you have completed your first route, these scenes, usually battles, become repetitive, minus the slight variations, and the excitement of who will win is removed. So, you know the outcome, but are looking for the smallest bit of something different to read.
The romances themselves are very slow burn, probably due to the fact that most of the love interests think Shanao is a boy. Shanao seems to have either never thought of others in a romantic sense or has never been able to put her feelings into words. So, once she is outed as a girl, it still takes times to come to term with her feelings. Even with this in mind, the turn to being more romantic made a lot of sense for me that I wasn’t too bothered by it.
I must also point out that there are punctuation errors here and there. I saw one line run off the screen, but was able to read it in the history. Birushana is fairly big, so these things do happen from time to time. And, without knowing what is going on behind the scene, it’s really hard to say who’s fault it is that these things were miss. The roll out of this game seems to be much better than Cupid Parasite which came out last year, so this is a big plus.
And now, for the elephant in the room, Yoritomo Minamoto. I feel that anything I could possibly say about Yoshisune’s half-brother will be a spoiler. In fact, just putting a spotlight on this I feel is already giving too much information.
Yes, Yoshisune and Yoritomo are half-siblings. I understand immediately if reading that makes you want to never play this game, I am also uncomfortable with incest. One thing that made me feel less icky about the pairing was that Yoritomo went into exile when Shanao was still a baby. They did not grow up together and only knew of each other’s name. Yoritomo is very cold to Shanao, and it’s obvious from the get go that he knows that something isn’t right. But, is it because he suspects she’s a woman?
There is also the fact that Birushana is a historical game. Nightshade, another historical otome game, had a love interest that was the Main Character’s cousin and, many have said they will never play because of this. I enjoyed that game a lot despite this. There were a lot of things a long time ago that were okay that we do not view as okay with our current sensibilities. I did find out that in modern Japan, it is still very much legal to marry your first-cousin. Heck, there are many places in the modern world that still allow it regardless of it being not popular. This helped me come to some terms when such love interest connections happen in certain games.
Despite this and the scene repetitivness, I was very satisfied with this game. I found something to like about all the characters and wasn’t prepared for how the plot would play out. By the third route, I was desperate to know the answer to all the mysteries that had come up. If you are wanting something that, on the surface, looks very straightforward that will then throw you for a loop, I cannot recommend Birushana enough for your otome game collection.
- Plot heavy, slow burn romance with an MC would isn’t afraid to say what she means.
- Mystery after mystery to keep you engaged and excited to read the next character route.
- If Endings are a fun addition to anyone who maybe wishing they could have a scene with non-romanceable characters.
- Romances are very slow burn.
- Repetitive battles due to the nature of the game being based on historical events.
- The incest plotline, that I can’t go into detail about but think it shouldn’t stop you from playing the game, will not be for everyone.
Final Comments: Birushana is a great game for those who are heavily invested in historical dramas with unexpected twists. While plot heavy, slow burn romances are usually not my thing, but I’m happy I stuck with it!
Suggested Play Order: Highly suggest you follow the official route play order. The routes start off standard and the story unravels slowly in the following routes only for everything to be revealed in the final route.
Trigger/Content Warnings: As a historical game about war, be prepared for the sort of things you should expect in a war plot.
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher.
To find out more about where to purchase this game, and route guides, please visit the game page.
Game: Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Developer: Idea Factory & RED
Publisher: Idea Factory
System: Nintendo Switch
Text Language: English
Official Website: http://ideafintl.com/birushana/
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