Little Busters! Review
Key, a veteran visual novel production company, which had released masterpieces like Clannad, Kanon, Air and so on, had certainly proved it’s worth with it’s release of Little Busters, a visual novel released in 2007. I managed to finish this game around the end of last month and it is indeed a great game and meets my expectation.
The plot of the visual novel revolves heavily around the 5 childhood friends, Kyousuke, the ringleader, Masato, the muscle idiot, Kengo, the cool kendo practitioner, Rin, the obsessor of cats and last but not least, Riki, your very ordinary male protagonist. They named themselves “Little Busters”, the allies of justice.
Now, they are high school students with everyone in second year except for Kyousuke who is in his third year of high school. While walking around the school one day, Kyousuke found a baseball lying on the school ground. Feeling nostalgic of their childhood memories and their Little Buster days, Kyousuke decided to form a baseball team, and named themselves.. the “Little Busters”.
From then onwards, the visual novel proceeds from the introduction to the common route, and the choices made here would influence just whose route you are getting into and once you are done with all the heroine’s individual route, you will have access to Rin’s true route and Refrain, the epilogue of the game. While the progression for the routes are quite easy to figure out, there are a few things which are a must-know before actually completing a route; basically a route will gets locked out once you finished them and you can only play them again after you finished Refrain. The second thing that is the mini-route, the epic Muscle Sensation route! You can access this mini-route via Kud’s route itself be sure to check it out!
Little Busters has a lot of mini-games and the common route itself, is a treasure dove of mini-games. You can choose to toggle them off when playing the visual novel but I don’t suggest doing so as you will lose out a lot of fun. The two most major mini-games involve battles and baseball but there are other minor ones too, like the “throw Rin to the third floor building” game and the “serve customers the correct dishes” game. Most of these games, especially the battles and baseball, are very reliant on your battle stats. If you are playing the mini-games on your first try, you would certainly lose on every occasion. In my opinion though, you don’t need to load and try again and I would say it’s fine to just carry on since your stats will automatically increase after you finished a route. 2 to 3 routes after that, you’ll see that you can easily pwn Sasasasasami (ooh I stuttered) in her battles and could perhaps beat the opposing team in the baseball match. At this point, you can see more of the other sides of the visual novel, like the battles with the mysterious lifeform and the battles with the secret challenger, all of these adds to the beauty of Little Buster’s entertainment values.
If there is something disappointing in the mini-games department, it would be the items and equipments section. In order to get a character something, you had to load and load again until the character you want approaches you for a trade. There are so many easier ways to work around with this, like the option to “give” a character something, not just waiting for them to come to you. I would also love to have the cafeteria implanted into the battles too, and perhaps had Riki buy something there for a powerup, since nearly half of the items are consumable foods.
The plot itself is pretty Key-typical. The common route focuses on the fact that the characters have a fun time playing around, even though they know this moment can’t last forever, they still enjoy themselves to the best of their abilities, and their medium of enjoyment comes in the form of baseball. Throughout the common route, Riki is seen running up and down to recruit more members for their baseball team, and for one reason or another, girls are the ones he are always acquainted with and are always the ones to join the baseball team.
Another strong point of Little Buster are humors. While high school and humors are a common thing in Key’s common routes, Little Busters had the best execution so far. Because of so many wacky and quirky characters, this may actually the fact which contributes to Little Buster’s comedic values. The two contrasting characters, Masato and Kengo, are the ones which played the biggest part in the humor department, especially when Kengo “switched to top gear” during your second playthrough onwards. Little Busters has the richest and vibrant character cast ever, probably even topping Clannad or Kanon.
The heroines are ironically aren’t as vibrant as the five original Little Buster members, but they are still great characters in their own rights. Some of the routes ended in a forced and unnatural manner, turning up with a mediocre route, while some are great. However, nothing can top the Refrain route, which is the most canon ending of all. Although you have to play every other routes to access to Refrain, it’s all worth it.
The more technical sides of the visual novel is just a little around average. The visuals are nothing bewitching, though it is satisfactory to say the least. The best part of the graphics are the character designs themselves, Na-Ga’s character designs in particular. There are two character designers for Little Busters, the first is Na-Ga who designed Rin, Kud and Mio. The second is Itaru Hinoue who designed Komari, Kurugaya and Haruka. This may be why sometimes there are inconsistencies in regards to the quality of the artwork. In my opinion, I like Na-Ga’s character designs more. It is solely because of the designs of Rin and Kud that got me so interested in Little Busters in the first place.
The soundtracks are soothing and comfortable. The voice acting is a bit disappointing though. Rin’s seiyuu, Tamiyasu Tomoe is sometimes a bit overly loud with her character. I know that being a tsundere is all about shouting but it’s important to control the voice when shouting as well, that takes skill. I’m not sure if she voiced any tsundere characters before this but I do know for sure that she still needs to practice more with tsundere characters. Also, Riki’s voice actor is horrid.. I’m not saying that it’s bad, just that they picked the wrong voice actor for him. This is especially bad during Refrain since Riki had a lot of voiced dialogues there. Why did they even choose such a girlish voice actor for him in the first place..?
Overall, my impressions of the plot is similar to that of G-Senjou no Maou. Every plots are pretty much irrelevant once it is compared to that of the main heroine’s route. Some of the other routes just don’t make much sense as well if you connect the plot to Refrain so it’s best not to link them together in the first place.
But I’m in love with the concept, I love how they implanted the use of baseball to strengthen the bonds of their friendship.
Little Busters had been one hell of an enjoyable ride. Even though I had read some major spoilers accidentally, it had been a pleasurable viewing experience from start to finish. Little Busters is certainly worthy of joining the list of many masterpieces which Key had created in the past.