February 05, 2012

Romance At the Crossroads of "Awww" and "Ewww"

A few days ago, I received in the mail a parcel from some place called Duckford. It contained about 5 feet of bubble wrap and this....

..which in turn contained 18 inches of bubble wrap and a flash drive loaded with the Mac version of Katawa Shoujo,... you know...THAT game: The dating-sim/visual novel in which the young ladies of interest posses various disabilities. Put together by a group of US fans, it is based on a joke sketch by a Japanese Doujinshi artist. Despite the cringe worthy subject matter, I have, as mentioned previously, been looking forward to this, albeit with some trepidation.

 I've been quite sick lately and for a few days couldn't leave the house so...



Well, I went ahead and played through all the paths.

I found the game to be quite uneven, but it's rather better than it ought to have been. In some places it was tedious or just aggravating, in other places it was absolutely superb.

Art by Wee (Raemz)

More thoughts on this interesting fan work are below the fold, some that are slightly spoilerish, others that are behind spoiler tags.


You, the player, play the part of Hisao Nakai, a young man who, upon having a young lady confess her love to him, promptly has a heart attack, ends up in the hospital, discovers he has a congenital heart defect and is transferred to Yamaku Academy, a high school that specializes in disabled kids. 

The other dramatic personae are well described here.

After playing the 5 paths I went back and replayed them using other choices to get the bad ends (and the good end in Rin's case) until I got 100% completion

Having done that, I feel that of the 5 main paths, 3 are very well done and satisfying, while the other 2 fall short in various areas but are still interesting. A sixth path may befall you if you are indecisive. It has the advantage of brevity and dark humor. 

Lilly: Very well written and very closely meshes as a "what if" with the Hanako path. Lilly is a genuinely likeable, even admirable character. This path is poignant and satisfying. It is also about the smoothest.

Hanako: Like the Lilly path, this one is superbly written, it is a gut wrenching ride though and disturbing at times. It is a story not just about young love, but also about ethics

Emi: While not quite as well written as the first two, it is much more light hearted and quite refreshing...lemony fresh even...

Rin: Rin is win, but Hisao is fail. I like the Rin character a lot. I like her oddball take on things and I love her dry wit. The problem with this path is that Hisao (that's you, the player) is a bit of a self important jerk.
 I found myself asking "Why would I even SAY that!!?" "That's assinine! WHY am I doing this?" And its not like these are options Still this path has Rin...being  Rin. So it's not a total loss.  

Shizune: This one has some decent ideas and a few good points, but rambles in a series of oddball digressions. Shizune is not a terribly likeable individual in this path (as opposed to the other paths, where she is an antagonist but flashes of decency emerge in each of them).  There are other issues too This path is the weakest of the lot, but even it does not actually suck, it just needed some editing and a little character exposition. And less traps.

Kenji: We will not speak of this here.

One of the things I liked about the demo as that it was not an H-game. When it was announced that the full version was going to be, I was concerned. There is an option to turn off the ero scenes but this simply substitutes the pr0n with random pictures of fruit, cuttlefish, a chinchilla or images subtly mocking Hisao...

 Hey kids! The shrimp is in the Barbie!
With one exception they didn't really contribute a lot to the story, though they were generally touching (and would have been more so without some of the text). I'd've felt better about the game if they were left out, but they did not come off as exploitative at all which was my primary concern. That is an accomplishment in itself.

I don't do, dating sims much, to the extent that this and its demo are the only ones I've played, so I can't reliably make comparisons. However, this was a cute and often quite touching set of stories. The people who made it have done an impressive thing and I look forward to seeing more from them.

* Awesome packaging is courtesy of Wonderduck.

Please avail yourself of the spoiler tags in the comments. Spoiler tags here are:
 "bracket" spoiler "bracket" SPOILERIFFIC TEXT GOES HERE "bracket" /spoiler "/bracket"

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