Archive for August, 2012

Katawa Shoujo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2012 by caseystorton

-Before we begin, let me just say that I’m having trouble when it comes to classifying exactly what Katawa Shoujo (loosely translated to “Disability Girls”) really is. You see, this blog is specially designated to review games, and I’m having trouble accepting that Katawa Shoujo is truly a game. Okay, yes, it has player input used to advance the plot, an options menu, a save function, most things that generally come with a video game, but it doesn’t really have any gameplay strictly speaking. The entire experience is communicated through scrolling text that you click through with some very rare choices that you have to make as a player that can and will have lasting effects on the story. If I were to call it a game, I’ve often heard it classified as a visual novel, which makes me want to classify it more as a sort-of choose your own adventure story. But whatever you choose to call it, Katawa Shoujo is not an experience that you want to miss.

-Basically, you “control” a high school boy by the name of Hisao Nakai who is diagnosed with a heart problem that the doctors call Arrhymia, meaning that his heart has a tendency to beat irregularly if he overexerts himself. With this new revelation his parents decide to transfer him to Yamaku Academy, a private high school designed to accommodate students with physical disabilities. As the story unfolds, the player is given a number of different choices that affect various things in the game. Basically, you see those girls in the picture up top? After about an hour or two of playtime you will be on your way to a serious relationship with one of these girls. Each one has their own unique reason for being at Yamaku, but the game emphasizes not simply judging them based on their disability.

-There’s Hanako, the very shy girl that likes to read a lot. She has burn scars on about 50% of her body.

-Emi, the peppy, happy, and athletic girl that has prosthetic legs.

-Rin, the cynical girl who’s much more confrontational about her disability than others who has no arms.

-Shizune, the competitive and hard-working student council representative who’s deaf and uses her quirky interpreter Misha to communicate with others.

-And finally there’s Lilly, the proper and sophisticated girl that has a measure of thoughtfulness to her every move and the only friend Hanako has, who is blind. As of this writing, I’ve only played through the game once. In this first playthrough I answered all of the questions throughout the course of the game as I would if I were in Hisao’s position. After the first couple of acts or so, the game decided to match me up with Lilly. Suffice it to say, they made the right choice.

-The rest of the game from here on out is like a sort-of anime high school dating sim the likes of which the world has never seen. Much more-so than in any other game that I have ever played, I genuinely cared about Lilly and Hisao and really wanted to see how everything would turn out. According to a friend of mine that played the shit out of this game when it was new, there are 8 endings per girl, and the whole way through I really wanted to make sure that Hisao and Lilly had a happy ending. I won’t spoil what I ended up getting, but I’ll have you know that I was crying like a little girl by the end of it all, and I am not ashamed to admit it. Katawa Shoujo absolutely blows every other game that I’ve ever played out of the water in terms of how well it got me attached to the characters and how deeply invested I was in the game’s story. Sure, I’ve played a few games that had their moments, but I’ve never played a game that made me feel for it nearly as much as Katawa Shoujo did.

-Katawa Shoujo works so well as a written work that it seems like the visual end of this visual novel would suffer at the hands of all the work that went into making the story so complex and engaging. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All the way through, the animation is absolutely beautiful, with amazingly well drawn characters and backgrounds that have just enough detail to make you take a second look without distracting from the game. The soundtrack is also top-notch with just the right music always coming in at just the right times to create just the right effect. When it all comes together, it’s a downright amazing experience.

-Basically, I’ve never experienced anything like Katawa Shoujo ever in my life and I doubt that I ever will again, at least not for a long long time. As I said, this being difficult to even classify as a game, I’m having difficulty figuring out just how to critique such a thing. So, here’s my solution, I won’t. Like it or not, this game will get no rating from me. You may call it a cop-out, but once you play the game, you’ll understand why. And if you somehow haven’t caught my drift yet, you need to experience Katawa Shoujo. Seriously, here’s the link: you’ll need to download Utorrent first, but come on. It’s completely free, there’s nothing else like it, and it’s just downright amazing. Go download it. RIGHT NOW.

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