Long story, no romance
For the price, each story is certainly long, but the first 4 chapters are almost exactly the same, at least for the two character stories I read. I felt I was more reading a book about the conflict and impending war than anything having to do with romance. The history of the many groups involved is boring, and it was tedious to keep track of who was siding with who. However, I would have looked passed that had the story contained more romance. In Kazuya’s story, they don’t even realize they love each other until chapter 11 out of 12 chapters! There is no romantic tension or romantic focus to the story. I had liked Shin’s story because it was a little more playful but, again, not much romance or even physical contact between the two. The most they do in both storylines is kiss. I read all that for a kiss at the end. I liked the characters themselves, but was disappointed in the romantic interaction since that’s why I had wanted to read the story to begin with. My recommendation is save your money and skip this game if it’s a love story you are after, because you won’t find it here.
Part of me wishes Aksys had gotten it instead
I'm a big fan of the Hakuoki franchise and all its spin-offs, but why did Idea Factory/Design Factory and Otomate go with NTT Solmare? Yes, they're well-known for bringing otome games to English-speaking audiences, but their overall track record isn't as good as companies like Voltage or Aksys (even though Aksys doesn't usually do iOS games).
Here are my problems with this localization of the game:
(1) You can't see the full relationship map. The game claims to be designed for both iPhone and iPad, but you can't rotate the screen, save images, zoom, or anything. If it's cut off, it's cut off: too bad. This normally wouldn't be too big of an issue, but...
(2) Many of your choices are made for you. In the original Hakuoki game (and, I imagine, the original Japanese release of this game, Toki no Kizuna), you don't know who you're going to end up with, or what ending you'll get. In this game, you pre-pay for a given character's story ($5 for about 12 chapters), but you barely know anything about them outside of a "highlight reel" from their story, a brief image with some text describing their character, and the cut-off relationship map. As a result, everything in the game is slanted toward pairing the main character off with your chosen guy, and one of their several endings. So at least your choices matter a LITTLE... but not as much as they would in the original game. The game has little replay value, since the routes don't make the other characters the least bit intriguing or characterized.
(3) On that note, $5 for a story with no free chapters at all!? Even Voltage is moving away from the per-story paid route, for better or for worse. I would rather pay for a whole game and get all the content, or pay for freemium "bonus" content (like DLCs, similar to the PS3 release of Hakuoki) than this model.
(4) The translation is weak. Yes, it's way better than other NTT Solmare games, but it's not great. As a result, the main character comes across as simultaneously blunt and formal, which results in an awkward "read." Some words are outright untranslated, like Shura (Berserker? Like an early version of the Furies of Hakuoki?). Others are translated differently from the other games in this universe, e.g. Sage's Elixir instead of the Water of Life... though I suppose that could be "on purpose," even though there's clearly meant to be a connection between this game and Hakuoki.
Oh, and the grammar! It's especially evident when the game unexpectedly switches POV from the main character, Yukina (you cannot change the name, but somewhat ironically, they give an in-story reason for it) to other characters. Let's say you switch to one of the guys' POV. His name will still appear in the dialogue boxes, but you won't see him (as a reader). The dialogue will say something like "and he stepped into the room," making you think it's talking about the guy stepping into the room. But then the POV will suddenly say stuff like "I listened carefully..." and you're wondering... WHO THE HECK'S POV IS THIS?! Worse is the tense shift: past to present (asked/asks) within a single sentence!
NTT Solmare: HIRE A SCRIPT EDITOR WITH ENGLISH AS THEIR FIRST LANGUAGE. Ideally someone with an English degree, or who demonstrates they really care about grammar and readability in otome games and visual novels. Heck, HIRE ME. I adore the concepts behind your stories, but I can't read them because the translations are often too painful to get through.
(5) The fast forwarding is too slow. With limited "bookmark" spots and no indication when text changes after a choice, it's frustrating. On top of that, if you have fast forward enabled, the screen still dims (and can shut off) before you get to the next choice point. When I re-wake my phone, I often have to re-open the app entirely, because it's frozen on a transition screen!
(6) There are no voices?! What the heck?! I know this would have added a lot of size to the file, but in this day and age, voices are a big selling point for games, especially those that were made originally WITH voice acting, as opposed to being added later.
What's good: the storyline itself is interesting, and adds a lot to the Hakuoki world. The art is beautiful, and not too over-the-top (there are some anachronisms though, like modern glasses or blonde hair on Japanese historical figures). The music is interesting and pumps up the emotion, but it's not repetitive or recycled.
Overall, it's good: worth one playthrough of a character you find interesting, and trying to get all their endings, but I don't know if I'd shell out $25 for all the routes with this interface and translation quality. It could be so much better, NTT Solmare. Please give me multiple good reasons to support you by demonstrating you really care about and listen to your English-speaking audiences.