Cartoon Crushin'

In all honesty, I started “playing” this out of laziness. The tiring, repetitious journey of thumbing my character to the other side of my television screen, the disorienting cuts of some lame action movie, or the seemingly endless paragraphs of a novel were all too much to handle. I wanted to simply lie back and let some form of media just happen to me. As what seemed to be some sort of minimalist trifecta of each of these mediums but requiring only a fraction of the labour, I figured I'd give the whole visual novel thing a try. And while all Katawa Shoujo asked of me was to scan its tidbits of dialogue and click through its screens without worry of precision or pace, its rewards were wholly disproportionate to the effort involved. I'd even go so far as to call my experience with it – and far this is; I hate myself for retreating to such a vague and cliched descriptor here, but it was – magical.

'Sup Jess

If you've romanced or been romanced by a girl, frozen up in the presence of that oh-so-unattainable beauty, or named the smokin' blonde in Secret of Mana after your current junior high school crush (Sad? No way!), this experience is going to resonate with you. Reclined across my couch, mouse in hand, I was mercilessly transported back through my many (no) romantic histories. The indescribable highs, the devastating and gut-wrenching lows, Katawa Shoujo's writing nailed the valley-ed nature of navigating through that first romance. And at no point did I feel like my emotions were being elicited cheaply. Due to the somewhat mature and more serious themes at work here there is simply no need to employ melodrama as a story device, and each character is so well-realized and singular their actions always feel like their own rather than forced upon them by some unseen, pencil-wielding divinity. In fact, the entire experience seemed very organic to me. Going in, I expected that at one point I would be overtly choosing which potential partner would be mine, and after gradually meeting them all I knew whose name it was that I would eventually click. But that point never came. Then halfway through the story, I realized it had already happened – somehow my inner desires had unconsciously come to fruition on the screen in front of me, and without the use of some jarring and unnatural choice mechanic I was amidst the blossoming of a relationship with my virtual crush. Her name is Emi, and she's awesome.

I don't even CARE she has no legs

I'm still not sure how I feel about becoming so attached to a virtual character, but there was something that just felt right in slowly chipping away at Emi's armour of unrelenting cheerfulness and getting to her core, to the real Emi Ibarazaki. With each step in our relationship a new Emi stood (there's a joke here) in front of me, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but always affecting me on a real-life level. After we almost broke up, I paused the story out of some ineffable mix of emotions and went away to play Xenoblade. I hunted a few beasts, grabbed some blue orbs, but I just couldn't get into it, not at a time like this. Fifteen minutes later I was back to Emi, to see if we couldn't work things through. Upper hand? What?

After seeing how intricately this courtship unfolded, I'm extremely interested to go about the other girls' storylines. I'm just not sure if I can do that to Emi... Not yet. My usual timeframe for getting over a girl is a month or two, at least, so I guess I'll see you then, Hanako.

20 Comments
21 Comments
Posted by killacam

In all honesty, I started “playing” this out of laziness. The tiring, repetitious journey of thumbing my character to the other side of my television screen, the disorienting cuts of some lame action movie, or the seemingly endless paragraphs of a novel were all too much to handle. I wanted to simply lie back and let some form of media just happen to me. As what seemed to be some sort of minimalist trifecta of each of these mediums but requiring only a fraction of the labour, I figured I'd give the whole visual novel thing a try. And while all Katawa Shoujo asked of me was to scan its tidbits of dialogue and click through its screens without worry of precision or pace, its rewards were wholly disproportionate to the effort involved. I'd even go so far as to call my experience with it – and far this is; I hate myself for retreating to such a vague and cliched descriptor here, but it was – magical.

'Sup Jess

If you've romanced or been romanced by a girl, frozen up in the presence of that oh-so-unattainable beauty, or named the smokin' blonde in Secret of Mana after your current junior high school crush (Sad? No way!), this experience is going to resonate with you. Reclined across my couch, mouse in hand, I was mercilessly transported back through my many (no) romantic histories. The indescribable highs, the devastating and gut-wrenching lows, Katawa Shoujo's writing nailed the valley-ed nature of navigating through that first romance. And at no point did I feel like my emotions were being elicited cheaply. Due to the somewhat mature and more serious themes at work here there is simply no need to employ melodrama as a story device, and each character is so well-realized and singular their actions always feel like their own rather than forced upon them by some unseen, pencil-wielding divinity. In fact, the entire experience seemed very organic to me. Going in, I expected that at one point I would be overtly choosing which potential partner would be mine, and after gradually meeting them all I knew whose name it was that I would eventually click. But that point never came. Then halfway through the story, I realized it had already happened – somehow my inner desires had unconsciously come to fruition on the screen in front of me, and without the use of some jarring and unnatural choice mechanic I was amidst the blossoming of a relationship with my virtual crush. Her name is Emi, and she's awesome.

I don't even CARE she has no legs

I'm still not sure how I feel about becoming so attached to a virtual character, but there was something that just felt right in slowly chipping away at Emi's armour of unrelenting cheerfulness and getting to her core, to the real Emi Ibarazaki. With each step in our relationship a new Emi stood (there's a joke here) in front of me, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but always affecting me on a real-life level. After we almost broke up, I paused the story out of some ineffable mix of emotions and went away to play Xenoblade. I hunted a few beasts, grabbed some blue orbs, but I just couldn't get into it, not at a time like this. Fifteen minutes later I was back to Emi, to see if we couldn't work things through. Upper hand? What?

After seeing how intricately this courtship unfolded, I'm extremely interested to go about the other girls' storylines. I'm just not sure if I can do that to Emi... Not yet. My usual timeframe for getting over a girl is a month or two, at least, so I guess I'll see you then, Hanako.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@killacam said:

Then halfway through the story, I realized it had already happened – somehow my inner desires had unconsciously come to fruition on the screen in front of me, and without the use of some jarring and unnatural choice mechanic I was amidst the blossoming of a relationship with my virtual crush. Her name is Emi, and she's awesome.

*tries to hold chortle in* Emi's the character everybody gets the first run, for some reason. Not insulting her (even though she's the start of my least favorite route), but just informing you.

Posted by SexyToad

Uhh are you telling me you're attached to a character?

Posted by FluxWaveZ

Didn't even realize that was common. I got Emi on my first run of Katawa and I didn't even try for her. Weird.

Posted by AlexanderSheen

Lilly all the way!

...

What are we talking about?

Posted by NegativeCero
@FluxWaveZ

Didn't even realize that was common. I got Emi on my first run of Katawa and I didn't even try for her. Weird.

Same here. I can't be bothered to replay it for another outcome, though.
Posted by Video_Game_King

@AlexanderSheen said:

Lilly all the way!

...

What are we talking about?

Pfft! Rin would totally kick her ass (pun not really intended).

Posted by RWBladewing

@Video_Game_King said:

@killacam said:

Then halfway through the story, I realized it had already happened – somehow my inner desires had unconsciously come to fruition on the screen in front of me, and without the use of some jarring and unnatural choice mechanic I was amidst the blossoming of a relationship with my virtual crush. Her name is Emi, and she's awesome.

*tries to hold chortle in* Emi's the character everybody gets the first run, for some reason. Not insulting her (even though she's the start of my least favorite route), but just informing you.

Not everyone. I managed to get the "none of the girls like you" ending first, just like I've done in almost every dating sim I've played. If it's possible to be considered bad at visual novels, I am probably the worst.

Edited by Video_Game_King

@RWBladewing:

To be fair, that also seems to be one of the common first endings, even if I got that ending last (I think it was immediately after I pissed Hanako the hell off).

Edited by RWBladewing

@Video_Game_King said:

@RWBladewing:

To be fair, that also seems to be one of the common first endings, even if I got that ending last (I think it was immediately after I pissed Hanako the hell off().

Yeah that doesn't surprise me. This game seems stricter than any of the others I've played as far as who you're allowed to talk to and when for any particular route. Though you'd think that after countless dating sim failures I'd finally understand that trying to be nice to all the girls, instead of completely ignoring all of them except one, never works.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@RWBladewing:

Is that the romantic advice I was supposed to take away from the game? Because what I got was "the closer you get to them emotionally, the closer you get to them sexually."

Posted by RWBladewing

@Video_Game_King said:

@RWBladewing:

Is that the romantic advice I was supposed to take away from the game? Because what I got was "the closer you get to them emotionally, the closer you get to them sexually."

Both really. Those would be number 1 and 2 on the list of dating sim tropes, with "every girl has a deep dark secret and/or magical powers" and "your sister is in love with you" at 3 and 4.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@RWBladewing:

I was going more with decent dating advice; I'm not sure of many women who have magical powers, and I don't know what you think about me, but incest is pretty looked down upon up here.

Posted by killacam

either way, i thought it was really cool how the entire experience can change with just a few seemingly trivial decisions. any other VN's you'd recommend?

Posted by Video_Game_King

@killacam:

I'm sure Katawa Shoujo is the only VN I've ever played, so I'll just say Not Digital: A Love Story and Not JESUS: The Dreadful Biomonster.

Posted by RWBladewing

@Video_Game_King said:

@RWBladewing:

I was going more with decent dating advice; I'm not sure of many women who have magical powers, and I don't know what you think about me, but incest is pretty looked down upon up here.

Oh, is this the part where I'm supposed to post that Giant Bomb Dating Advice pic?

Not sure if you can read Japanese but if not, Mangagamer has a pretty good selection of VNs that have been translated to English. Just avoid the ones with the more, uh, vulgar titles, as story isn't really the point of those. I personally enjoyed Da Capo 1 and 2. There's also a number of notable games that have fan translation patches but those tend to cost a lot of money to import.

Edited by DonChipotle

@Video_Game_King said:

@killacam said:

Then halfway through the story, I realized it had already happened – somehow my inner desires had unconsciously come to fruition on the screen in front of me, and without the use of some jarring and unnatural choice mechanic I was amidst the blossoming of a relationship with my virtual crush. Her name is Emi, and she's awesome.

*tries to hold chortle in* Emi's the character everybody gets the first run, for some reason. Not insulting her (even though she's the start of my least favorite route), but just informing you.

I got Rin the first time because she seemed like the interesting one.

Maybe some day I will go back for the others

Posted by Video_Game_King

@DonChipotle:

She is, although I got her second. Also, go back for the others. Hanako's awesome, man. Speaking of...

@RWBladewing:

Should I post that picture of Hanako having her shoulder touched?

Posted by Ariketh

@AlexanderSheen said:

Lilly all the way!

...

What are we talking about?

I looked up Emi Lebowski. It's some girl in a dating sim called Katawa Shoujo.

Do dating sims really count as games? Aren't they more like interactive graphic romantic novels?

Posted by RWBladewing

Absolutely not. A moment like that must be earned. One does not simply view it on a forum.

Posted by DonChipotle

@Ariketh said:

@AlexanderSheen said:

Lilly all the way!

...

What are we talking about?

I looked up Emi Lebowski. It's some girl in a dating sim called Katawa Shoujo.

Do dating sims really count as games? Aren't they more like interactive graphic romantic novels?

Depends on the visual novel (which KS is, it is not a dating sim). Princess Waltz, for example, is a visual novel with card battles being an important part of gameplay. Visual novels come in all types