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Will play most anything: 1/26/12

Hello again! And welcome back! I have no idea what my update schedule will be like, probably not daily.

* Holy shit, this ended up being really long. I have no idea who'd want to read this. I'm going to post it anyway, but damn, if your read this, kudos to you.*


From left to right: Lily, Hanako, Rin, Emi, Misha, Shizune
From left to right: Lily, Hanako, Rin, Emi, Misha, Shizune

This is the recently released VN (Visual Novel) that finally came out about what I think was about 5 years of development. I remember stumbling into some information about it some years ago, and being curious about the characters, but I pretty much forgot that this existed until RPS (Rock Paper Shotgun) did a story on it. It wasn't overwhelmingly positive, but it sounded more like the writer didn't like the whole idea of a VN to begin with, and I decided to download it and give it a shot, since it's free and all.

Three days or so later, I've gone and gotten the good endings for all 5 of the characters. This would be because I ended up really enjoying it. (And it became to me like a book, which when I pick up I finish) Some things first I suppose I should mention! (I'm assuming here you know nothing about the game)

1. I've never played a VN before, but I like reading, so I figured it would be a lot like that. I was right. It's a lot more like reading a illustrated book.

2. The characters all look like they come from the animes despite the artist being of western descent. Since I generally don't mind that style at all, I suppose this makes me a jerk (hah). But if you hate the art in the picture above, than you will probably not like the game much.

3. All of the characters are, well, disabled. (Including the character you "play" as). Katawa Shoujo translates loosely to "Cripple girls" or something along those lines. It's all very tastefully done, and it is nowhere the focus of the story. It comes into play often, it's a school for the disable after all, but sometime in the story of all of the girls I pretty much would forget about their disability at some point, since the disability is not what defines any of the characters.

4. There are adult sequences. These can be disabled in the options, if you want. I don't really know exactly what this does to the scenes, since I didn't take that option, but I hear that this doesn't censor the nude character portraits, just the larger scenes, so be warned about that I guess. I believe that are fairly tastefully done, they're similar to what'd you see in a rated R movie I suppose, and they avoid being overly explicit. You could make the argument that they are unnecessary, for a myriad of reasons, but whatever your opinion on that matter is, this is NOT a hentai game. The sequences I'd say total about 5-10 minutes in each character's 3 hour or so story. If you want to play this game for the boobies, well, that'd be an awfully inefficient way to do so, don't you think? Just don't, you'd be wasting your time.

5. The game was conceived on the 4chan boards, but became it's own thing and really has nothing at all to do with the infamous message board. (Despite the name of the studio being a reference to the message board's logo.)

Alright, moving on, Katawa Shoujo follows the story of Hisao, a boy who discovered that he has a debilitating heart condition (Arrhythmia) when he suddenly has a heart attack after being told that he's liked by someone. After a long hospital stay, Hisao begins his new life at Yamaku High School for disabled children, a fictional school in Japan. In Act 1, you're quickly introduced to the characters, and the decisions you make decide little aspects of Hisao's personality, and decide which character he will end up with, so to speak. The story will then move on to Act 2, and at that point, you're "locked in" to one of the girls and the story will continue from there. This means that the game has a rather large amount of content, I'd say roughly about 20 hours if you want to see the endings for all the girls. Act 1 will tend to play out roughly the same, but once Act 2 begins, it's completely different for each character.

The art is really well done. It's still scenes for the most part, and character portraits that move around and show different emotions, poses, and clothing, but are stationary. The only exception is the really nice animated sequence you get when beginning Act 2 for each character. It's a bit confusing, since they sequence is just a short montage about the character, and actually will display events that don't happen or won't happen for a long time, it's just eye candy really. In the extras menu on the main menu you unlock all the pictures as you seem them in the story, allowing you to look at them whenever you want.

The music is pretty good. Simple, but it set's the mood nicely. It's kind of jarring when the music takes dark turns, to signify bad things are happening/about to happen, but it's pretty easy to tune out especially if you're engrossed in the stories.

This brings me to the main event, which are the stories. I'm a sucker for romance, despite being a guy, and some of the stories were really touching, played out believably, were interesting, and, well, I'll admit, made me cry.

The 5 characters are Lily (blind), Hanako (burn scars on most of the right side of her body and face), Shizune (mute and deaf), Emi (doesn't have legs, uses prosthetics), and Rin (doesn't have arms). Despite the fact that I just defined these characters by their disabilities, like I said earlier, the characters are far from defined from them. They are affected by them, and they are important factors, but in the end not really what the story is about.

My favorite was Lily's. To put it bluntly, with the best ending, I was basically crying. This may be because I'm a wuss about this stuff, but I still found it powerful. It's also the only ending with an epilogue that takes place after the credits, and firmly cements Lily and Hisao's relationship for the future. It makes Lily's story feel like it's the "real" ending.

Hanako's story I would probably rate second (also cried), followed by Emi's. Shizune's, for some reason, I found kind of long, and in a kind of weird way didn't really focus on the relationship between Hisao and Shizune much, which felt odd since all the others did and they were dating since the second act. It made the sudden scenes of romance seem jarring and out of place, both times they occurred. The ending is kinda of up in the air as far as where it's supposed to go from there as well, at least compared to the others I felt. It's too bad, because I really like the character of Shizune, it's just the story of their relationship that falls by the wayside.

Rin's story is kind of the odd duck out. Her story is considerably darker than all of the others, and was really kind of sad throughout. It's also really confusing, it's meant to be really. The best ending though is really nice, and does leave hope for the future of the characters. I did her story last, and I still can't really decide how much I like it compared to the others.

Well. I ended up writing a lot more about this then I planned to. It's probably because I like to discuss things like this, but I'm way to embarrassed to run around and tell my friends to play this game due to it's content and the fact that I'm the only one of my social circle that likes sappy nonsense like this. Thus, my recommendation will have to be told to just the anonymous internet masses, who won't even read this anyway, heh.

SO! In short, I recommend you give it a shot. You just may find the stories quite touching!

*Note* RPS Just came out with a good "Wot I think" article about the game which I highly recommend you read should you be interested. All the things she says in that review are pretty accurate (I think the art is a bit better than she says), which continues to make me a bit embarrassed about how much I enjoyed the thing. Her review is refreshingly honest, and explains the history behind the game rather well. To sum up my opinions basically, I like the emotional stuff too much, and I don't mind excruciating detail because I read really fast, and I get easily sucked into things and have an optimistic attitude about them. I won't notice the bad things very much in favor of how much I like the good. I suppose this is why I call my blog "Will play almost anything". It's true. I'll play almost anything and probably enjoy it all too. This is not to say that i'm doubting my previous verdict. Books and movies and such make me tear up pretty often, but I like to think the story needs to be powerful in some way for that to happen to me at all, so to me, Lily, Hanako and Rin's stories were powerful in their own amateurish, hyper-detailed way.

Ok, I continue to write wayyy too much about this. Just play the damn game.