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Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku (The Roses Bloom on the Rose Tree)
Company: Cyc Rose
It is the early Showa era, during the early stages of World War II. In Japan many prestigious boys' boarding schools exist, where students study mathematics, science, philosophy, and German language, hoping to make a future for themselves, while indulging in women and alcohol in their free time.
Hyuuga Kaname works as a handyman at such a school, Riotsu. One day he is cleaning up under the large rose tree in the garden of the school and visiting with Amano Junya, a first year student who is friendly with him, when he discovers the corpse of a dead bird. He tells Junya that he will return later that night to bury the bird beneath the rose tree. That night when Kaname returns, he finds the bird corpse missing; suddenly his nostrils are filled with a medicinal smell and he faints. He regains consciousness to find himself tied up and blindfolded, and he is raped beneath the rose tree.
The next day, Kaname is delivering the mail to the teachers at the school, and stops in to see Tsukimura Mikihiko, one of the professors on campus who is his closest association. One of the letters sent to Tsukimura is addressed from "Hanakuihidori," and when Tsukimura opens the letter, inside is a photo of Kaname sprawled out under the rose tree, unconscious and covered in semen from the brutal rape. Kaname is horrified, and Tsukimura advises him to investigate around campus to discover who the "Hanakuihidori" is that has committed this crime against him.
Taking Tsukimura's advice, Kaname notices that the attitudes of several of the students around campus have changed towards him suddenly after the event, and his friend Junya suddenly disappears. How many people have witnessed the violation under the rose tree, and what will it take to keep them from leaking this information? What has happened to Junya? And just who is the Hanakuihidori, the mysterious man that raped Kaname that night under the rose tree?
Birthday: August 20th
Kaname is a handyman at Riotsu. Though he actually passed the Riotsu entrance exams with top marks, due to financial problems he was unable to attend, so he took a job there as a handyman until he could save up enough money to finance his own education. He studies in private with Tsukimura in his free time. He is a very friendly and cheerful person, who loves plants and animals. Because of his effeminate character, he is disliked by some of the students at Riotsu, and because he hates violence, he has a hard time standing up for himself. Seiyuu: Chiba Susumu.
Birthday: June 27th
Azusa is a first year student at Riotsu who is popular for his good looks, even attracting the admiration of two upperclassmen who act as his bodyguards. He is also typically in the company of Kinoshita Mayumi, who is usually seen quietly following Azusa around and carrying his things for him. Though Azusa appears as a cheerful and personable person on the outside, he is actually fastidious, haughty, and when he dislikes someone, he hates them from the bottom of his heart. He is also very gullable and often believes in other's superficial appearances, never thinking that they may also be two-sided like he is, giving him a sort of childish innocence to his personality. He idolizes Kaneko Mitsunobu, his upperclassman, and tries to find excuses to be around him. Seiyuu: Satou Isamu.
Birthday: September 18th
Mayumi, a first year student at Riotsu, is a seemingly obedient boy who is usually seen quietly standing in Azusa's shadow. His parents died in a boating accident when he was young, and he was raised by Azusa's parents, who were friends with parents, and he grew up beside Azusa and his older sister Ayumi. He has a dark past associated with growing up in the Hiura household, and his relationship with his childhood friend Azusa is a complex one that seems to mix envy, hatred, and yearning. Seiyuu: Kakehashi Atsuji.
Birthday: October 16th
Hougetsu first introduces himself to Kaname as the "Hanakuihidori," but he is a very strange person who goes by many names. He is of mixed Japanese and British blood, and is an author of detective novels ("Mizukawa Hougetsu" is the penname he uses on his literary works). Though he does not work for Riotsu, he is often found hanging around in the school garden beneath the rose tree, while procrastinating on his writing. He attended Riotsu back when he was in high school, and was classmates with Tsukimura at that time, so he knows much concerning Tsukimura's elusive past. Seiyuu: Morikawa Toshiyuki.
Birthday: December 10th
Mitsunobu is from a distinguished family of viscounts, and his father is a member of the House of Lords with the Diet. A second-year student who appears to be a top student and a gleaming example with a prominent future ahead of him, his true nature is very different: he ditches class whenever he gets a chance, and he slips out of the dormitory every night to indulge in the clubs of the redlight district. He is adored by Azusa, who only sees the "honor student" side of him and isn't aware of his true nature. He is also a huge fan of Mizukawa Hougetsu's novels. Seiyuu: Kawada Shinji.
Birthday: May 9th
Norizane is the second son in a large family that descended from samurai. He is a second year student at Riotsu and an expert at kendo, and after graduation plans to go to the naval forces academy. He is a very quiet person with little expression, but truly is an honest person with a strong sense of justice. He is one of the few people at Riotsu who is kind to Kaname, and he often worries about Kaname's present state. Seiyuu: Amada Masato.
Birthday: November 4th
Mikihiko is the Biology teacher at Riotsu, and is in charge of the student dormitory, living on campus. Mikihiko is a rational person who rarely shows emotion, and has few relations with others. The exception is Kaname, who he is very kind to, and takes extra time to tutor and visit with in his free time. He receives a photograph of Kaname's violation by the Hanakuihidori, and becomes Kaname's ally in searching for the criminal. Little is known about Mikihiko's past; he does not lie, but apparently keeps many secrets. Seiyuu: Ichijou Kazuya.
Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku is an ADV game, but is a little different than the standard playability of following a single protagonist through a series of story options. Instead, Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku allows all of the main characters (except Mikihiko) to interact with each other, and the story unravels around each of these different interactions.
Two characters have a scene together by placing one character's card on top of another character's card at the beginning of each day. You have a total of ten points to use each day, and each character has an initial amount of points it uses up if they are visited by another character. Their point values change if they are consistently visited by one person, and whoever has the higher point value is seme during the sex scenes. Therefore, not only can any of the six main characters be paired with any of the others, also any can be made seme or uke in those pairings.
The storyline of Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku also follows a very different set up than most ADV games. The game actually only features only one option in the game, and that option determines whether you play on a Love Route or a Humiliation Route. Therefore the game features lots of variety, both pure love and humiliation scenerios, but kept on completely separate paths, so players can choose what content they prefer. Once on the Love Route or Humiliate Route it is just a matter of watch scenes between the characters to see the outcome of the story; there is no selecting of correct or incorrect options to lead to different outcomes.
The game plays in 800x600 resolution, and can be set to either a full-screen or window mode. There are many configuration options available, such as message speed, different volume toggles for voice, sound effects, and music, and different available text-skipping modes, which are all available from a drop-down menu rather than from the dialogue box. The game uses CD-DA audio, which means it uses a standard audio CD for the music, so Disk 1 must be in your first listed CDROM drive (such as D:) to hear the music, and the music volume will need to be set fairly low and the voices volume set very high to hear them well over the music in the volume settings. The game is only partially voiced, so there is nothing wrong with your game if you do not have voice in all scenes: that is actually perfectly normal. There are 120 save slots available in the game, which show a small screencap of the save, give the day in the game, and the date and time the save was made.
The Gallery section has three sections, which appear as a row of butterflies. The top takes you to the CG gallery, where all the CGs are arranged by each character in the game, and clicking on a character will take you to their page to browse their gallery of CGs. The middle butterfly is the Scene gallery, which leads to a grid which shows the percentages of all the scenes collected between each pairing of characters, and clicking on a particular percentage will open up the Scene gallery for that particular pairing, where you can replay any scene between those two characters again (story scenes, sex scenes, and endings). The final butterfly is the Music gallery and will let you listen to any of the musics from the game (as long as you have Disk 1 in your first listed CDROM drive). If you have completed one Love Route, a fourth butterfly will appear here in the bottom right corner, which will let you view Tsukimura's Diary, a bonus story which also unlocks an extra CG in his CG gallery.
Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku has a correction patch released by Cyc Rose, which makes many corrections to the game (including events, CG capture, and playability functions). It is very important to apply this patch directly after you install the game to avoid any unnecessary issues!
As far as technical issues, I found no problems playing Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku on a Windows XP machine with the default non-unicode language set to Japanese language and the correction patch applied. Be aware that the game uses CD-DA audio and requires Disk 1 to be in the drive for the background music to function. It also won't read the audio CD unless it is in the first listed disk drive (such as the D: drive, as opposed to a virtual drive using a later drive letter).
AGTH Compatibility - Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku is completely compatible with Anime Games Text Hooker. The in-game text speed must be set to instant display in the game settings, and the /kf parameter needs to be used with AGTH. Optionally, you can add the /w449F25 parameter to automatically select the capture thread by default (make sure you have patched the game first, or this address may not work).
Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku Capture Guide - A capture guide in English made by myself for getting all the CGs and scenes in the game.
Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku Full CG Capture Save File - A save file that unlocks all the CGs and scenes in the game.
Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku Version 1.10 Patch [3.90 MB] - An update patch for the game. It is very important to apply this patch after installing the game, to fix issues related to events, CG capture, and playability functions.
Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku Spoiler Information - Some additional information on the main storyline and the characters in the game that is SPOILER HEAVY. Please do not look at this document unless you want to be spoiled about important plot points of the game!
Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku is a game that originally caught my attention for several reasons: the dark, mysterious atmosphere, the ability to create multiple pairings among the cast members and mixed seme/uke positionings, and the inclusion of both pure love and humiliation story routes. Additionally, back when I had first started this website, I had received a letter of encouragement from a Japanese BL gamer and she had highly recommended the title. And though the game took me a long time to complete (several years), I have to say I was not disappointed: it is definitely one of the best boys' love games I've played to date.
Definitely the strongest point in the game is the elaborate story. Though Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku takes place at a private boys' high school like so many other boys love games, it takes a completely different approach: for one, the setting is the early Showa period instead of the present, giving a glimpse of Japan during that period of time during early World War II, when the young were still hopeful for the future of their country, studying science and German at prestigious boys' schools while enjoying alcohol and geisha in their free time. Second, rather than simply following the day-to-day activities of a high school boy main character who finds love along the way, as so many boys love games do, again the story of Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku takes a completely different approach: on the most basic level, it is a mystery story, following Kaname as he tries to find out the identity of the Hanakuihidori, the mysterious person who raped him under the rose tree. However, it is much more than that: the game allows any of the six main characters (Kaname, Azusa, Mayumi, Hougetsu, Mitsunobu, and Norizane) to be paired with each other (for up to three pairings per game), and stories about these characters unfold as you see the relationships develop between them. To make this even more complex, the game features two different story routes: the Love Route and the Humiliation Route, and depending on which route you are on, different relationships are developed and revealed.
The fact that the story is a mystery is very nice in that, for once, it isn't yet another fluffy romantic comedy. However, fans of mystery stories may be a bit disappointed in the quality of the mystery itself; it is not difficult to solve the mystery at all, and you'll probably have it figured out by the end of the prologue (heck, you may have it figured out by the end of reading this review). However, try not to let that hold you back from enjoying the amazing story in Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku. Try to remember to follow the story from Kaname's perspective, and just sit back and enjoy how the different scenerios piece together; even though you may have it all figured out, remember the oh-too-innocent characters in-game don't, and just let it develop, you'll truly enjoy it more that way. If you become too hung up on it being too easy to tell whodunit, you may not enjoy it. And the other character's background stories more than make up for the fact that the main mystery is pretty easy to piece together; pretty much every character is a lot more than they initially seem.
The art is the game is also very nice. The character stills are decent, and the backgrounds especially do a very nice job of recreating the early Showa period Japan setting. The real skill is in the nicely done CGs, of which there are 115 images to collect in the game. Fans of ero content rejoice: nearly all of those CGs are H scenes, and they include a wide variety of scenes, since they span over both Pure Love and Humiliation routes, so you can expect to find everything from innocent cuddling to forced blowjobs to threesomes to bondage. Part of the reason for such a large assortment of content can be attributed to the fact that any of the six main characters can be paired together, and any of them can be made seme or uke in their respected pairings, making for lots of nice possibilities, which Kusaka Matsuri certainly took advantage of when illustrating this game. The most upsetting part about the art in this game is that there were very few non-ero event CGs; as nice as the sex CGs were, I would have also liked some other CGs illustrating the events in the game as well.
The voice-acting in the game was very good, especially Ichijou Kazuya's role for Tsukimura; they just simply could not have cast a better person for that role, and sometimes it literally left chills down my spine. However, one of the biggest downfalls with the game, in my opinion, was the fact that it was only partially voiced, which is one of my biggest pet-peeves. It is very annoying to have a wonderfully acted scene, and then the next scene between the characters is pure silence. And while most of the scenes on the Love Route are voiced, pretty much all the scenes on the Humiliation Route (yes, including all the sex scenes) on the Humiliation Route are not. It pains me that there was never a full voice version of this game released, and the fact that this game was not full voice is pretty much the only thing that kept it from being considered perfect in my book. However, the story was still so fascinating that even though only some of the scenes were voiced and not all of them, it is still definitely worth playing -- and the scenes that ARE voiced are wonderfully done, the seiyuu fit their roles wonderfully and do a skillful job.
The playability for the game is game is both a treat and a curse. The wonderful thing about the game is that you can pair any of the main characters (and you can even decide on who is seme and who is uke in those pairings by having who you want to be seme consistently visit who you want to be uke), so there is a lot of customization and replay value. But this also means that there is a lot of time spent on skip mode to uncover all the CGs and scenes. In addition, there are also two different routes you can take with the game, a pure love route, or a humiliation route. The game does not feature any "options" like your typical ADV game, except for one, known as the "crossroads": to agree to take blackmail to keep mouths shut about what happened to Kaname, which leads to the Humiliation Route (bondage, rape, etc.), or to not do this, which leads to the Pure Love Route, in which romantic relationships can then be developed between the characters. Therefore you can also decide what kind of content you want in the game, romantic relationships, or something a bit darker (though be warned that overall the game does have a more dark, angsty atmosphere than many boys' love games, even on the love route, so you may want to avoid it if this bothers you). Therefore the game provides a wide variety of pairings and content to keep the player entertained, but it is also text heavy with lots of reading and little player involvement, having no option selections other than the crossroad selection. The good thing for foreign players who have little to no Japanese language skills is that the game is compatible with AGTH, which is pretty much a necessity to fully enjoy the complexities of the story; playing without it would be pointless. To fully play the entirety of the story of the game is a large investment of time: 16 possible pairings, mixed seme/uke possibilities for those possible pairings, and both love and humiliation routes makes fully playing the game quite a feat! The use of a capture guide is pretty much a must, especially if 100% of the scenes is your goal: just to be extra sadistic, the creators of the game made some of the scenes nearly impossible to figure out how to unlock, changing certain scenes by only a few lines of text and making them unlock only when other scenes have been played in a particular order.
Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku is a great game that should be on every BL gamers playlist -- as long as you have some time available on your gaming plate for it, because it does require a decent amount of time for a playthrough. With an intriguing dark storyline, interesting characters, and beautiful ero CGs, it is definitely one of the great titles among boys' love games. The multiple pairings and wide variety of ero content are added bonuses. The only downsides to this otherwise wonderful game is that it is only partially voiced, the lack of non-ero event CGs, and the large amount of time it takes to truly play through all the possible routes and pairings. If you are not opposed a somewhat darker-themed boys' love game and have the time, definitely give Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku a look; it is a wonderful game that shows a complex period in Japan's history, and how the dark pasts of several characters play into their present, their future, and their relationships with each other.
Cyc Rose's Official Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku Site (Japanese) - The company's site with information on the game.
Gendouki (Japanese) - Personal website of Kusaka Matsuri, the artist and scenerio writer of Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku.
Half Adder's Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku Capture Guide (Japanese) - A CG and ending capture guide for Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku.
Ameno Shouten's Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku Capture Guide (Japanese) - A CG and ending capture guide for Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku.
Succession of Visitor's Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku Capture Guide (Japanese) - The definitive source for looking up how to unlock all of the scenes in the game.
Disclaimer: All written text and capture guides © Boys' Love Games Headquarters. All pictures and downloads are copyright of their respective companies and artists and are for promotional use only. I am in no way claiming the art as my own, nor am I trying to infringe upon the company's rights. I am trying to promote these games by allowing a foreign audience to see some artwork from the game.