Nice big review Aki.
Although I have yet to play Katawa Shoujo, but after reading your review it seems like quite a cool game. And since it's free maybe I should try it out ;)
Thanks for the review Aki :)
Katawa Shoujo game Review
Katawa Shoujo is a romance-centered visual novel with a unique twist on the genre.
Following an episode triggered by his congenital heart defect, Hisao Nakai is forced to change schools. His new school caters specifically to young people with various disabilities, and it is here that he meets not only new friends, but also potential lovers...
The visual novel was developed by Four Leaf Studios, a collective comprised mainly of members of /b/, one of the most popular boards of the Internet forum 4chan. The source of inspiration was a bonus page included by Raita Honjou at the end of one of his doujinshi. The game can be downloaded for free from its official website.
Official website: http://www.katawa-shoujo.com/
Story & Playability
Before I would really go deep into my review, I need to mention first that in overall I lack experience with visual
novels and in the fact I played only 3 (Ever17, Di Gi Charat Fantasy and Horny Bunnies 2). I got interested in Katawa
Shoujo because a freeware indie game and also is quite rare to see a visual novel born outside of Japan. Yes, ladies and
gentlemen, surprise, despite the completely Japanese environment, Katawa Shoujo is made by anime fans like you and me.
This project has been born on the internet itself, after a certain Japanese artist Raita uploaded sketches of multiple
girls with different disabilities and some people got the idea to take it a bit further. Yes, you read it correctly,
'disabilities'. One's first reaction would be to think that it was a sick idea to have disabled girls be the heroines in a visual novel. But everyone who played this game and had such thoughts first, pretty fast changed his/her opinion already after the first chapter, because this game is a lovely story about overcoming your own disadvantages and gaining courage to go forward once again.
The main part of the game happens in the fictional Yamaku High School, which is a special institute for disabled children located somewhere in the countryside of Japan. As a player, one assumes the role of Hisao Nakai, a third year student, who was diagnosed with heart arrhythmia, after he had a heart attack and having been asked out by a girl from his former high school. Oh my, did that really need to happen there? ...okay, okay, I try to not lol too hard. So, after spending months in a hospital, his parents recommend his transfer into Yamaku. As his new school life begins, the main characters are slowly introduced and that's where this game really can show off his true capabilities - the characters themselves. The authors probably poured most of their time directly into this, to create their own unique traits and habits. We have Emi, an always smiling blonde girl, who lost both of her legs in a car accident, but now, with her prosthetic legs, she became the star of the track team. Then the shy Hanako, who lost her both parents in a fire and half of her body got burned. Lilly, a tall motherly figure with European ancestors and who was blind from birth. Next, Shizune, is a deaf mute girl who serves as the Student Council president. Rin, a genius artist, who paints with her legs but is also a social outcast at the same time, and finally Misha, the interpreter of Shizune, who despite being a major character didn't get her own route, perhaps because she is the only healthy character from the main cast? The cynicism of this game can be weird sometimes. A interesting move from the autors was that our six main girls are paired up as friends - Emi/Rin, Hanako/Lilly, Misha/Shizune, usually making up for the disabilities of one other, and with that, the beginning of their routes is quite similar. With this even if you decide yourself for the certain one (the route selection depends on your choices in the 1st chapter) the other girl as her best friend will get still a lot more interactions with you as rest of the heroines. In terms of time it takes between 3 and 6 hours to finish each route. Both the lenght and the complexity was very well adjusted to the characters, the route of Emi is short and easygoing as she herself and is a complete opposite compared the route of Rin, which is definitely the heaviest and takes upon 6 hours of gameplay.
Side characters are also present, and they do their job as side characters well, since their interaction with Hisao (or the heroines) is kinda short and limited, often serving only as a change of environment. Guess most of us will not care about that too much anyways.
Of course, despite all the pros which I mentioned, this game is not perfect. As we go deeper in, some small cracks will show up and those are mainly in the story-flow and narration. My personal problem is with the low number of choices and often their lack of effect with the story line itself. Some choices are totally pointless regardless of which answer you give, and for some the outcome leads to something pretty obvious. There are even chapters, where you don't get a single question and makes you feel that you are reading a e-book and not playing a game. Some might value the fact that they don't need to bother with some complex labyrinth of choices or to get stuck, but otherwise, I have the feeling that the game doesn't really know what it wants to be. Eroge, drama, love story or really just a book? It's hard to tell because it has the characteristics of all and neither of them. Another problem is that the narration emphasizes too much about the surroundings. In the beginning it can be taken as a sense for detail, but after long hours of game-play it comes forth as useless blabber taking only text space and with this amount, it often takes away the focus from the characters. Here it is really true, that less could sometimes mean more.
And yes, to not forget the small, but spicy matter - this game is an Eroge. But before haters gonna hate, I need to assure that the authors didn't emphasized on the sex scenes too much and in the options they can be even turned off, of course with the cost of losing some from the story itself. The cynism strucks here once again, we are broken, so let's do it...well, why not, guess is also can be taken as wish being like anybody in the society. All depends on the view of individuals and doubt the players will really mind. Rather, in very opposite.
If somebody followed the evolution of this project trough the years, they would easily notice that the biggest upgrade
from the alpha version or even the original sketches was the character design and by comparison it looks now like a
completely different game. Or as if this would be Katawa Shoujo 2. In fact it is a huge step towards to better, the art
reflects back how developed the characters are, and in nothing is worse as regular CG art of professional studious would
beI can say that as somebody who has seen tons of artbooks related to visual novels, so I give all my respect to their
skills. The in-game pictures are great too, however is kinda obvious that multiple artists did them, cause despite all
efforts to bring their styles close to each other, even a commoner can tell that instantly. Not that I would brag about
it, I always thought that variety is something necessary. For the background scenes the authors used static filtered
stock photos, which may cause a few weird grins among the first time players, but as I heard a few years ago the very
same practice was pretty common and utilized even by the big hit games. We even have some animations, one for each
character, appearing on the start of a specific girl’s route and they give another boost to the already professional
level. Not really related to the art itself, but still I can group with the visuals part - the font is Comic Sans. Nope,
nope my dear friends, I don't joke, it is really Comic Sans. I know that is popular and is easily readable, but sorry,
being a freeware or not, it is somehow too generic for me. With a project like this one, I'm sure loads of font
designers would be willing to offer their otherwise paid font for free. Is just my two cents.
Because Kawata Shoujo is fan-made, due to budget issues, it completely lacks any voice acting. So sorry guys, no
drooling over your favorite seiyuus. Of course it has some basic sounds of steps or doors, but otherwise your main
attention will be the music itself. Let's be realists, the two responsible composers (Blue123, NicolArmarfi) are
definitely not professionals, but maybe especially due this is almost astonishing what they have put together with such
limited resources. They definitely put in everything what they got and the classic tunes perfectly flow with the game.
Maybe I cannot mention up some super duper tracks, but the whole soundtrack is just great as a whole. And that's what's
important. Of course the OST can be downloaded also seperately (320kb MP3) and is higly recommended to do so, due inside
the game the sound quality is kinda limited due the weaker characteristics of the used MIDI sound format. And yepp, same
situation also here, the soundtrack costs $0.00 USD with tax included!
Overall, this game is a great choice for both beginners and experienced players. It's highly philosophical with a deep story line, is well written and as the not typical harem game, can enjoyable for many without converting them into a otaku. Also, it has a high replay ability and frankly said, I never played a game where the main characters got so attached to me as here they did. To recommend this game is like to strongly suggest a great book to someone. I personally adore it very dearly and can even say that it helped me to improve a tiny bit on my human side. Of course it has some flaws and despite being highly popular on the web, I cannot call it revolutionary in any aspect. But to hell with all the claims this being the best/worst visual novel ever, cause I can say after my experience blasting trough all routes & endings, that it holds a very high value and is pretty much comparable to any other game of the visual novel genre. And yes, did I mention already that this game is free? *laughs like Misha*
A few facts:
Developer: Four Leaf Studios
Release date: January 4, 2012
Game engine: Ren'Py
System: Windows, MacOS, Linux
Reviewed by akiranyo, May 05, 2013
Drakill May 06, 2013
Nice big review Aki.
SnickerdoodleNinja Moderator May 14, 2013
Here are the judge comments from the contest!
Thoroughness: excellent presentation of the characters and plot, without spoiling too much of the action. Also appreciate the details about the gameplay (options and length) and the ones regarding the production of the game itself.
Style: a LOT of grammar mistakes which obstruct the flow of the review, but it's still understandable in the end (with a bit of more serious concentration). Sem-formal style at first, then delves into informal later on.
Objectivity: the personal opinions and facts blended very well and don't get in the way of each other too much. Both are supported by examples and, in the case of personal opinions, solid facts. The Graphics section has more personal opinions which do come across as patronizing, though.
Balance: both good and bad points are given, so the review is fairly balanced in terms of arguments.The rating of the Graphics section should have been lower, though, based on the bad points mentioned.
Overall, very well done for a first review. A nice amount of voice and personality was present, but there was a bit of fluff present in the story section. Bits of humor were nice. I also noted that considering how fair the writing was, the scores tended to be a bit high in some of the sections given just how many flaws were pointed out. Aesthetically, I would recommend adding spaces between paragraphs to make the review more appealing to read. Nice work!
Granted this is one person's review, but I feel that akiranyo's more conversational take added too much filler, especially in the Story and Playability section. He was very thorough and otherwise objective, making sure to give both positive and negative aspects of the game. However, the conversational asides added a feeling of bias, as well as the emphasis on the fact that the game was free. There were a number of spelling and grammatical errors, which also brought down the style score.
If you would like to see your score broken down for each individual category, just let me know and I will send it your way.
Thanks so much for competing, and nice work! :)
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