Review Visual Novel

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei – Review | Embers of Passion

Set during the final decade of the Heian period, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is a historical fantasy otome visual novel developed by Otomate, Idea Factory, and RED Entertainment. Originally released as Birushana Senki ~Genpei Hika Musou~ in September 2020, the game was localized into English by publisher Idea Factory International in June 2022. Available for the Nintendo Switch, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei invites players on a heart-stirring 65-hour journey where romance blooms unwaveringly against the fires of war.

Synopsis: Tale of the Shining Samurai

The story of Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei begins 15 years after the civil war known as the Heiji Rebellion, wherein the Taira clan (also called the Heike) defeated the Minamoto clan (also called the Genji). You play as Shanao who, later in the story, will be given another name — Yoshitsune. Being the youngest surviving child to the Genji name, Shanao has been raised as a man even though she is actually not a son. This is a secret only a few know, including the monk from Kurama Temple who took her in when she was orphaned as a baby.

Outside of Kurama Temple, in the imperial capital city Kyōto, civilians and the Imperial Family members alike are getting increasingly displeased with the Taira clan who was behaving more tyrannically as they amassed more power. Much as she wishes to live quietly in peace, Shanao soon finds herself in a precarious political situation where she can no longer ignore the Genji name she is bound to. But little does the protagonist know what fate has in store for her throughout the ensuing critical Genpei War, which historically marked the end of the Heian period.

Gameplay: A Tactical Warfare

Typical of an Otomate title, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei features five male love interests, each with his own main route. In the sequence of the developers’ official recommended play order, the five love interests are as follows: Noritsune, Benkei, Shungen, Yoritomo, and Tomomori.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - Characters

It is technically possible to play the routes in a different order; I didn’t follow the above play order myself. Apart from Yoritomo and Tomomori whose routes will remain locked until one of the three starter routes is completed, there are no additional route restrictions enforced in Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei. Moreover, all five routes go through the same significant historical events under the same timeline, with just one or two more events recounted additionally in specific routes. Nevertheless, I fully agree with the recommended route order as the story was obviously hacking away at the central plot mystery through that arrangement. If a smooth unraveling of mysteries is important to you, then the official play order is definitely recommended for the best experience.

The five main routes of Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei are evidently written with a specific play order in mind. However, they are also crafted carefully so as to minimize any negative impact that alternative play orders might bring to one’s experience. For example, I went for Tomomori’s route as early as my second playthrough yet doing so did not spoil the other, albeit smaller, bits of the mystery that were addressed exclusively in other routes. One thing I regretted, though, was not clearing Noritsune’s route first for it has the least connection to the central mystery. As a result, there was a noticeable pause to the story’s momentum in uncovering the central mystery when I played Noritsune’s route in between Shungen’s and Yoritomo’s.

Such flexibility for players to play in various orders in spite of an existing pre-planned play order turns out to be a rather important game design point for this otome visual novel. After all, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei has a slightly more layered gameplay system than most which is unfortunately not very self-explanatory. Even if I had wanted to play Noritsune’s route first, I wouldn’t have obtained it without multiple attempts of trial and error; in my attempt to get Noritstune’s route on my third playthrough, I first got a Shared Route Bad Ending, and I then got onto Shungen’s route instead.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - Information Screen

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei’s story is divided into a Shared Route of three chapters followed by the individual love interest’s route spanning across nine chapters. Choices made during the Shared Route determine the love interest’s route you get at the end of Chapter 3. And choices made during the main route steer the story towards one of the following: a Bad Ending that is usually just one of the few hidden within the route, the Tragic Love Ending that has its own CG, or the Happy Ending that includes an epilogue. Besides the usual increment of the love interests’ relationship points, several choices also raise one of Shanao’s three character abilities, namely Strength, Knowledge, and Kindness. Thus, story branches in this otome visual novel are decided based on a combination of choices, relationship points, and Shanao’s ability levels.

Adding to the complexity is how different routes favor different abilities, but the story does not always hint at the specific primary and secondary abilities required for securing a particular route. Some of the Shared Route Bad Endings have contextual clues pointing players to the character ability they should improve to avoid the same Bad Ending again. However, within the Shared Route itself, there is hardly any indication from the narrative about which abilities of Shanao’s are important to whose route. Instead, the indirect indication came primarily from a separate Love Catch screen, which encodes information purely in colors and can therefore be complex to interpret for new players.

If the Love Catch system in Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is enabled, every time after you select a choice that alters the game stats, an overlay screen with color-coded information will appear for a mere three seconds. Basically, it reveals the abilities and relationships that have been strengthened from the previously selected choice. During the Shared Route especially, the information is relayed through two visual elements:

  • The overlay screen border, if present, indicates Shanao’s abilities raised, with red, blue, and green tinted borders corresponding to her Strength, Knowledge, and Kindness respectively.
  • If the choice has altered relationship points, a ring of five differently colored lotus flowers — each of which is tagged to a love interest — will be shown at the center of the overlay screen. Starting from the bottom and going in a clockwise direction, the lotus flowers are arranged in the colors of purple for Yoritomo, blue for Tomomori, green for Benkei, yellow for Shungen, and orange for Noritsune. Furthermore, the amount of relationship points increased (none, low, or high) is illustrated by the blooming of the corresponding lotus flower.

Although the Love Catch system is meant to be helpful, it actually left me more confused than enlightened. As there was no strong association of the respective love interests with their assigned colors, I always ended up forgetting which flower represents whom. Other than the Information screen where the love interests’ names were displayed in their assigned colors, there was barely any connection found elsewhere. Due to the poor implementation of this purely color-based visual cue system, I found myself misinterpreting the Love Catch screen often. In particular, I kept associating Noritsune erroneously with the purple lotus flower, which looked pretty pink on my Switch screen, simply because he has pink hair.

Since the Love Catch screen was not very intuitive to read from the get-go, keeping track of the different choices’ impact on various stats and using that information to navigate to a specific route became less straightforward. Even the Information screen, which summarizes Shanao’s ability and relationship points at the moment of checking, was largely unhelpful as the bar levels looked barely changed if the stats increment had been low.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - Flowchart

Fortunately, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei has a Flowchart system that doubles as a quick cheat for overcoming Bad Endings and getting to a specific route. You can find the Flowchart from the in-game pause menu during your first playthrough. However, the real Flowchart with its full capabilities unlocked can only be accessed after you have completed your first route, at which point the menu button for it will show up on the Title Screen as well. Through the Flowchart, not only can you choose to start playing from any previously read segment, but you can also set Shanao’s relationship and character ability levels before heading into the story. It is an incredibly convenient time-saver since there is no need to start all the way from Chapter 1 again to obtain a different ending or route. Should you obtain the Happy Ending on a main route, for instance, you can simply select that route’s final chapter from the Flowchart, set the relationship points with the corresponding love interest to “low”, and collect the Tragic Love Ending’s CG without breaking a sweat. In a similar vein, you can easily pass a previous Bad Ending by tweaking Shanao’s ability stats accordingly before re-entering the very segment where the Bad Ending occurred.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei’s Flowchart may not have a highly memorable or informative visual presentation, but it certainly ranks high in terms of having the most helpful and easy-to-use functionalities. That said, it was a pity that its nifty functions were not advertised at all in-game. At first, I did not even notice I could find side characters’ sub-stories through the Flowchart on the Title Screen since the pause menu’s Flowchart did not have them. A timely pop-up informing players regarding the extra functions and content unlocked would have been favorable.

Noritsune the Steadfast Opponent

A member of the Taira clan, Noritsune (voiced by Kawanishi Kengo) is an earnest young man who takes immense pride in being a samurai. Rather than engaging in a frivolous lifestyle like most of the aristocratic Heike, he has set his sights on being the best samurai. The first time Noritsune appears in front of Shanao, he comes prepared with a challenge in hopes to determine who is stronger. Since Noritsune is the nephew of Kiyomori, the head of the Taira clan, Shanao is naturally concerned about his single-minded desire to duel her. After all, a simple competition between them can be deemed as an act of hostility, enough to escalate things between the two rival clans who already share a bitter history.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - Noritsune Taira

Even though Noritsune’s route has little to do with the central mystery of Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei, it still managed to become my number one favorite route. Indeed, no other route in this otome visual novel has brought me the same amount of satisfaction. It is the only route that kept me consistently engaged from beginning to end; not only is the tension in the whole story crafted well through a series of eventful twists and turns, Noritsune’s character growth is also a sight to behold. Furthermore, the storyline in Noritsune’s route has a certain depth, looking further into the topic of war that was not as apparent in the other routes.

In regard to their romance, I enjoyed the numerous sparks that flew between Noritsune and the protagonist. They are dazzling to see just like the sparks flying off their crossed swords during battles. Although Noritsune is not my type of love interest, I cannot help but gain respect for him after witnessing his pure dedication and strong sense of honor in his route. Shanao herself is a great counterpart too, making their dynamics especially exciting to watch. Towards the final chapters, I was deeply invested in the pair’s relationship, so much so that getting anything but the Happy Ending made me want to throw my console away. Overall, Noritsune’s route is a spectacular journey that puts the rest pretty much to shame. 

Benkei the Trustworthy Vassal

Until his fateful run-in with the Heike, Musashibo Benkei (voiced by Umehara Yūichirō) was a warrior monk from Mount Hiei. After getting expelled from the temple, Benkei soon begins to roam the streets of Kyōto every night, seeking Heike warriors out to duel. His condition for the duel is peculiar for he wants only their sword, though he will also take their life if he must. Everyone in the capital city is wary of this giant man who has since gathered hundreds of swords through his nightly quest. But apart from rumors describing him as a terrifying thief stealing swords from the Heike samurai, nobody knows why he is intent on hoarding so many swords.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - Benkei

Benkei first met Shanao on the Gojō Bridge, where they fought and the former was defeated. Despite the two having such an epic initial meeting, Benkei’s route was disappointingly bland. The route did not lack its share of dramatic turns of events, but Benkei’s relationship with Shanao was generally mellow and lackluster throughout. For sure, Benkei is a great vassal: his loyalty to Shanao is uncontested from the moment he pledged himself to follow and serve her, and he also actively encourages the protagonist through both good and bad times. The way he stays by Shanao’s side, enthusiastically awaiting any opportunity to be of help to her, gave me an endearing mental image of a gleeful big dog guarding his little master proudly.

Benkei’s unwavering devotion towards Shanao is indeed heartwarming, but it was also ironically what dampened the romance between this lord and vassal pair. Since Benkei prides himself as Shanao’s vassal, he takes his role utterly seriously — sometimes to the detriment of any budding romantic development between the two. Furthermore, Benkei had less chemistry with Shanao than he had with Shungen. I actually enjoyed the interactions between Benkei and Shungen more than those between Benkei and the protagonist! Sadly for Benkei, he was never quite the spotlight in his own route; even as I reached the Happy Ending, my mind was lingering elsewhere on a certain duo in the story because they, compared to Benkei, had left me with a much stronger emotional impact.

Shungen the Understanding Friend

Growing up together with Shanao in Kurama Temple ever since they were both babies, Shungen (voiced by Saitō Sōma) is the protagonist’s trusted confidant. From the kind of person she is to the way she thinks, there is much Shungen knows and understands about Shanao. He may not be the strongest-looking guy around, but he is absolutely resolute in protecting Shanao even if it means sacrificing his life in the process.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - Shungen

Compared to the other love interests, Shungen is not one who draws a lot of attention. He has a soft appearance and calming personality that make him blend and disappear into the background of the group without difficulty. I’m guilty to point out I frequently forgot he was still there in the scene until he began talking. Moreover, as he is always by Shanao’s side right from the beginning, it was easy to take his presence for granted. Thus, for the first half of his route, Shungen did not leave much impression on me. By the latter half of his route, however, this childhood friend of Shanao’s has proved himself not only as a courageous and sharp-witted tactician, but also as someone who loves the protagonist deeply.

Shungen’s love for Shanao is akin to his own presence: always there, low-key and attentive. Making use of the fact that the two grew up together, the story wastes no time in showing their rapport. Shungen is constantly depicted to be caring and thoughtful towards Shanao, but his love for her only truly touched my heart towards the finale. And when I got to his Tragic Love Ending, a shiver went down my spine. It is the only Tragic Love Ending in Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei that made me really feel something.

Yoritomo the Distant Family

Yoritomo (voiced by Furukawa Makoto), the eldest surviving heir to the Minamoto clan, has been living in exile ever since the Genji’s defeat in the Heiji Rebellion. He is the older half-brother Shanao has heard about but never once met. A man with a piercing gaze and few words, Yoritomo carries an intimidating aura. While such a bearing is befitting of him who has a quiet yet fiery ambition to restore the Minamoto clan, his insurmountable distance was not what Shanao expected to feel during the first meeting between long-lost brothers. One can only wonder what is going through Yoritomo’s mind as he scrutinizes Shanao who presents herself as his younger half-brother.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - Yoritomo

From my perspective, Yoritomo’s route flopped. I imagine a general non-romance route would have been more stimulating to play than this half-baked romance route. To be fair, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei has considered and planned everything for its story carefully. Unfortunately, the execution of this route was not great. Various important moments in the pair’s relationship development outlined a gradual and generally natural bonding of the two, but the approach towards the end was poor with the route concluding the most significant events skimpily. Without a well-developed romantic connection between Yoritomo and Shanao present as an anchor, their Happy Ending therefore felt flimsy.

Based on his appearance and personality, Yoritomo falls under the type of character I normally like. However, I did not find myself liking him at any point during his route. I did not dislike him either, though there were twice when his coldhearted decisions made me grimace. Or perhaps make that three times because Yoritomo’s worst sides also notably manifested in his Tragic Love Ending. All in all, my impression of Yoritomo was as lukewarm as the romance in his route, and I wish it had not been so since this is the route of the man who led his clan to victory!

Tomomori the Smooth-Tongued Enemy

Like Noritsune, Tomomori (voiced by Fukuyama Jun) is part of the Taira clan. He is Kiyomori’s fourth son, and despite being a child of the head of the Taira clan, Tomomori is generally nonchalant about matters related to the Heike. He believes their clan, who is currently at the pinnacle of power, will soon have to face their inevitable downfall just as how everything is bound to perish one day. Instead of proactively fighting with all his might for the Heike like Noritsune does, Tomomori prefers to simply let nature take its course.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - Tomomori

When Tomomori met Shanao for the first time under a moonlit sky, he was enraptured by her. Funnily enough, that is the same moment I was captivated by this foxy love interest. The seductive and almost scandalous way he interacts with Shanao is terrifying but also swoony, enough to make my heart skip a beat. In addition, Fukuyama Jun’s performance of Tomomori’s dialogue lines — especially those of a more questionable nature — is perfect and greatly heightens the allure of Tomomori’s darker side. Since I love several dark and villainous characters in fiction, it is no surprise Tomomori swiftly caught my attention. Alas, his initial powerful grip on my heart did not last.

As it turns out, after the wild encounters with him in the Shared Route (and other love interests’ routes), there is nothing as contentious happening in the bulk of Tomomori’s route itself. No doubt it is a good thing for Shanao and Tomomori when their unlikely relationship matures into a mutual and healthy one. But it felt as though Tomomori had settled into another version of himself too fast and his earlier baddie traits that piqued my interest in him just vanished into thin air, which was quite disappointing. The pacing towards the end of Tomomori’s route was also rushed with major plot information disclosed hurriedly during the penultimate chapter’s closing scene. Rather than a sense of satisfaction normally evoked after a huge revelation, what the abrupt influx of information caused me was confusion. Putting the pacing issues aside, Tomomori’s character growth and the pair’s lovey-dovey romance are both nonetheless a delight to watch.

Shanao the Adept Warrior

Trained in martial arts, military strategy, and everything else in between, Shanao (not voiced) is a skilled fighter who has no problem holding her own even during the fiercest fights. She does not have as much brute strength as her male counterparts, but she does understand her capabilities and limits, and will study her opponents closely in order to devise the best way to tackle them. Besides honing her fighting skills, Shanao also spends her time reading and transcribing Buddhist scriptures. And in spite of her internal conflict over the path she wants to pursue in her life, she still attends to her duties as an heir of the Genji diligently. If not for her background forcing her to disguise herself as a male samurai, Shanao could easily be acknowledged as a highly capable onna-musha (female warrior).

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - Shanao

As mentioned in an earlier section, Shanao has three character abilities and these ability levels are different for different routes. Yet the protagonist portrayed across the five routes is still nicely consistent at the core. Most notably, Shanao always has a kind heart and dreams of a peaceful life where she can live as herself. She may be more determined when her Strength is high, or more perceptive when her Knowledge is high, but these are basically attributes achievable without compromising her personal values. Even as the protagonist exchanges her childhood name (i.e. Shanao) for an adult name (defaulted to Yoshitsune but can be changed at the start of a New Game) in every storyline, it is unmistakable that she is still herself after the Genpuku coming-of-age ceremony, only that she has now officially embraced her ties to the Minamoto clan. That said, I find it baffling that Shanao was given a Kindness ability when she is already kind; it is not like Shanao behaves unkindly when her Kindness is low anyway.

With her cordial attitude towards her allies and her firm but humane stance against her foes, Shanao makes an earnest protagonist whose principles will be agreeable to many. However, I find her character growth to be lacking in most routes, particularly after the turning point where she decided on her path in life. Furthermore, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei relied heavily on a rigid set of visual gimmicks to illustrate its action scenes, which did little justice to Shanao’s apparently excellent fighting skills.

Side Characters’ Sub-Stories

Much to my pleasant surprise, on top of the staple main storylines, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei includes short linear sub-stories for four of its side characters as well. These sub-stories are unlocked automatically once you get the Happy Ending for a corresponding main route. Except for Noritsune, everyone else’s route features a side character’s sub-story that can be accessed from the Flowchart on the Title Screen.

Each of these sub-stories explores an “If” ending with a specific side character. They all start somewhere in the middle of a love interest’s route and end on a broadly open-ended note. Put another way, they are greatly condensed versions of what could have been a full-fledged route. Thus, although they contain longer time skips and skim past various historical events, they tend to be more fluffy thanks to their sole focus on the given pair’s romantic development. What’s more, every sub-story has its own CG that captures the couple’s sweet budding love. The only regrettable thing for me was a certain foul-mouthed but good-looking jerk not having his “If” ending.

Birushana: A Historical and Cultural Showcase

Romance aside, the other highlight of Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is its presentation of the late Heian period. Of course, a fully accurate historical account should not be expected here. Nevertheless, this historical fantasy otome visual novel serves as a good primer to the general events of the Genpei War (1180 – 1185 CE) as well as various things symbolic of that period.

Although Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei does not recount every bit of the civil war, every storyline still goes through a number of its significant battles, e.g. the final Battle of Dan-no-ura. Overall, the story took liberties with the more mundane details, but momentous stuff such as the sequence of the battles, the military strategies deployed, and the battles’ eventual outcomes remained unchanged. Seemingly small details like the white and red military flags carried by the Genji and Heike soldiers respectively are also rooted in history. Even the modified kamon (family emblem) of the Minamoto and the Taira clans seen in the game are based directly on the actual ones.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei - War

One misstep Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei made, though, was not indicating the year and month when each political event occurred. Not only would the information have been educational, it would also have lent much support to every route’s developing romance. After all, an intense longing to see someone again that lasted for years would sound more sentimental than one that lasted for months, even if, mathematically, years could be expressed in months.

Another set of facts the writing has preserved is the different locations and their names at that time. The Dictionary in Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei contains multiple entries explaining, in plain words, where a certain place or region is located in the context of modern-day Japan. Unfortunately, for those unfamiliar with Japan’s geography to begin with, those written descriptions were effectively useless. Not to mention, the game reused several of its environmental background (BG) art, making most places look exactly the same, so it was even more challenging to connect the mentioned location to a meaningful image. A map would have been a great accompaniment to the game’s Dictionary system in this case.

While the Genpei War is the main historical event presented in this fantasy historical visual novel, there are numerous references about the Heian period weaved seamlessly into it as well. In particular, references to the Tendai Lotus School of Japanese Buddhism are sprinkled just about everywhere in the game — from the name of the Buddha “Birushana” in the title, to the “Asura realm” sung in the opening song’s lyrics, to the Kurama Temple the protagonist grew up at, and to the lotus flowers on the Love Catch screen. The next unmissable characteristic of the Heian period shown in Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is the political system, which the Imperial Court and three prominent clans (Minamoto, Taira, and Fujiwara) are all tied to. Last but not least, trade with Song dynasty China is mentioned a couple of times too.

Visuals: Dazzling Art, Dynamic Scenes

When it comes to the art, there is nothing much for me to complain about, especially if we are talking about its quality. Everyone in the main cast fights, and their crisp anime-style character sprites have a variety of fighting poses drawn in the front, three-quarter, and back views to boot. Moreover, they are animated meticulously, and you can watch the characters move closer to each other as they clash their weapons together or jump apart to evade an attack. Equally lively and refreshing are the eye-catching CG and BG art with their vivid colors and interesting compositions. In contrast, the user interface (UI) uses a limited but consistent palette of colors, giving the game a uniform look that is easy on the eyes too.

Unfortunately, some other aspects of the art were not as exemplary as its quality. First, the same BG art was often used for multiple locations, resulting in a dull homogenous look across the different places. Second, instead of acting as a supplement spicing up the narrative, the character sprite animations were used primarily as a cheap replacement for well-written action scenes. Third, the animations looked sluggish at times, and when I was playing on Auto mode, there were noticeable lags just as the animations were starting. The final issue was regarding the option to change the heroine’s portrait’s visibility. Just as how the game relied on the animations to enact its action scenes, it relied on the heroine’s portrait to convey additional information that was not completely accounted for in the writing itself. The option to hide the heroine’s portrait hence became more of a disservice to those who preferred it.

Audio: Vigorous Battle Cries, Sounds, and Music

On par with the other Otomate titles, the Japanese voice acting in Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is excellent. My favorites are Umehara Yūichirō’s hearty and powerful voice for Benkei, and (of course) Fukuyama Jun’s versatile and charming voice for Tomomori. The only character I had to lower the individual voice volume specifically for was Tokuko; compared to the rest, Tokuko’s voice was a tad sharper and louder. On the other hand, I had to increase the individual voice volume for Tomomori and Yoritomo as their softer lines were tougher to hear at the default volumes.

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is a noisy visual novel in the sense that there are plenty of battle cries and fighting sound effects (SFX) throughout. I did not mind the loud battles, which paired well with the equally intense-sounding background music (BGM). However, all the SFX were still played while on Skip mode, and the quick successions of loud clang soon became unbearable then.

Once unlocked, a total of 27 BGM tracks can be played from the Music screen under the Album menu. Like the UI design of the Music screen itself, where a Japanese makimono scroll unrolls horizontally to display the BGM titles and corresponding art, every track carries distinct Japanese elements via the musical instruments and style used. One of the tracks I enjoy listening to is “Homesick”, which paints a nostalgic yet calming imagery of one’s beloved waiting under the setting sun to welcome them back after a long journey. Another track that never fails to catch my attention is “Fate of Thousands” where the piano notes sprinkle down beautifully like a shower of crystals. Its overall style and energy resemble the elegantly epic “kyujukyu to ichi no mugen -arrange ver-” found in another of RED Entertainment’s otome visual novel, Nightshade/ Hyakka Hyakurou (published by D3Publisher). And the third favorite track of mine is “True Rivals”, whose fervorous melody reminds me of the underwater temple theme from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy.

Translation Quality

The translation quality of Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is good for the most part. I did not come across any jarringly unnatural sentences or strange word choices, though minor typos could still be spotted in every route. I also noticed one slight mistranslation that altered a dialogue line’s meaning entirely: a character was explaining to Shanao that another character suffered from lovesickness, but instead of referring to the other party with the third-person pronoun, he incorrectly said “I”. Another notable text bug was the Dictionary entry “Suonokuni”, which was given the wrong definition. There was also an instance of a dialogue line overflowing out of the text box area.

Content Rating and Accessibility Aspects

Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei has an ESRB rating of Teen, with content descriptors of blood, mild suggestive themes, language, and fantasy violence. Additional content warnings include ableism, death, incest, kidnapping, sexual assault, suicide, trauma, and war. The weapon strike visual effect, which may look similar to a bright flash, cannot be turned off and will still be visible during Skip mode.

The system functions included in this Otomate visual novel are standard fare. There are five segments under the Settings menu: General, Volume, Voice, Config, and Controls.

From the “General” segment, you may set your preferred Text Speed and the individual speeds for Auto, Skip Read, and Skip All modes. You may also alter the Message Window opacity, and choose a specific or random love interest’s voice for the System Voice, though these lines are not translated. As mentioned, the heroine’s portrait and the Love Catch screen can each be toggled on and off. Additionally, there is a toggle for Touch Effect, which when enabled, will show small colorful ripples whenever and wherever you touch the screen.

Individual volume sliders for BGM, SFX, Movie, and Voice are available under the “Volume” segment. And under the “Voice” segment, you may adjust the character voices one by one. Controller buttons can be remapped under the “Config” segment whilst the “Controls” segment shows you the default controls scheme in a pictorial format.

For the two Skip modes, I find their speeds kind of slow even when set to the maximum. Then, there is a “Skip to Next Choice” function that was not very user-friendly because it would skip to not only the next choice or unread section, but also the end of the chapter. Hence, instead of bringing players straight to the next choice or unread section in a later chapter, this “Skip to Next Choice” function will stop at the end of the current chapter, forcing them to advance to the next chapter manually before they can use the same function again.


Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei shines in many ways, from the impressive art and intricate animation to the immersive voice acting and impassioned music. Its story, which delves into the rich history and culture of the Heian period, has intrinsic educational value. Sadly, despite its lively retelling of Japan’s history, this otome visual novel felt more flashy than brilliant. In the end, of the five romance routes, only two led me on an enjoyable journey while the others bordered more or less on average that even the extra four side characters’ sub-stories could not help save. Thus, unless you are very interested in the history aspect, I would suggest to:


Platforms: Nintendo Switch

If you would like to see more Visual Novels, you may be interested in our review of Cupid ParasiteOr how about checking out some of the other top visual novels for this year on our Top Visual Novels of 2021 list.

Many thanks go to Reef Entertainment/Idea Factory for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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