Katawa Shoujo Review
I was at first doubtful of playing this visual novel, but due to general positive reception,
and a lot of procrastination, I went and tried it, and it is indeed surprisingly better then I thought. It’s been more then two or three months since the game is released so I’m guess I’m kinda slow, but better late then never right? Sadly, due to time restrictions, I only managed to finish two heroine’s paths, namely Emi and Hanako.
The fan-made VN, deals with the concept of disability, and the struggles of said disabled people in being accepted into society. You play as Nakai Hisao, a high school student with heart attack issues, arrhythmia, and was forced to transfer to Yamaku school, a school specially designed for the disabled. Here, in his new surroundings, he will meet the heroines of the game, all obviously disabled one way or the other: meet the deaf Shizune (and her interpreter, Misha), the blinded Lily, the arms-less Rin, Emi whose legs are amputated and finally, Hanako, whose part of her face and hand are burned.
Other then dealing with physical issues at hand, which is the disability prospect obviously, it also deals with other intangible problems; isolation, separation, adaptability and so on, all stems from the mindsets of the characters themselves. Of cause, when one had to live the disability permanently for life, it will effect him or her mentally one way or the other, and the VN presented these issues accurately. It is interesting to see how they cope with their limits forced upon with their disability.
The story is broken up into different “Acts”. Act 1 is basically the common route, and Act 2 is where your choices will effect the routes you end up with. The routes progression aren’t really that hard to figure out. I’m sure from the most veteran of visual novel players to even the beginners, would be able to figure out which choice to make in order to access their desired heroine’s route.
The characters in the game are colorful and rich in context. They are very diverse in personalities and each of them handle their disability in different ways. I didn’t finish every single route so this may be a bit biased, but Emi easily won me over as the favorite character. While I have a thing for twintailed lolis, she herself, could be one of the strongest character ever. She never lose her positive altitude, even when she lost her legs, she kept running on the tracks, via the use of artificial legs. She literally became known as the “Fastest Runner With No Legs”. She has a bubbly and straightforward personality and like Hisao, I’m weak to that sad puppy eyes too.. so weak I totally prioritized her route first and foremost.
I played Hanako’s route next. I’m quite interested in hers because in her case, she isn’t disabled physically (no deaf, no blindness, not mute and she has all her limbs intact) but sustained a psychological pain. Ever since she survived in a fire outbreak, parts of her body is burned, most visibly seen on her face and her hand. Of cause, it had healed over the years but the scars remained permanently. The scars made her interaction with people difficult and she faces a lot of social mishaps just because of it. I should try not to spoil too much but overall, her route is just sad, yet awesome. I think in terms of scripts, Hanako’s is superior then Emi’s.
If I had more time, I may consider playing Rin’s route. I like her for her philosophical remarks and random statements. I will quote what Hisao said about her, as I think it clearly sums up Rin’s basic characteristics in an essence. “Talking with Rin is like playing chess with a supercomputer who does seemingly random moves as if to mock everything you know about chess.“
For a fan-made VN, it is quite professionally made, especially if we are talking about the visuals. The backgrounds look good and the character designs are great. The CGs are beautiful too; it’s lush graphics look like it’s painted by a professional painter. There are even short anime animations. These animations always appear before the start of a specific girl’s route, showing you that the story will be focusing on her from now onwards.
The sound department is.. I’m afraid to say.. unsatisfying. The tracks aren’t THAT bad, of cause, but my problem is probably the quality itself. Most can easily notice that all the songs are made via MIDI, and these low-producing sounds made the game lost a few professionalism points.
There are also other minor issues like the fonts, as I actually prefer a different fonts, and that having colors for the character names don’t really do them good anyway. But overall, the makers of the game did a job well done, in terms of technical aspects. Ironically, in it’s quest to mimic the capability of a professional visual novel, the client lagged at times, due to the how they went way past the “limit” of the visual novel engine’s capability. Though the lagging may be just my only problem, does anyone suffers from similar lagging problems too? Like how when some of the dialogues may take a few extra seconds to load up.
Katawa Shoujo, a visual novel manifested by a group of 4channel-ers, and with even five years in the making, it certainly lived up to it’s expectations. The realistic premise and well-written scripts the visual novel contained, makes the game quite an excellent well-made visual novel worthy of attention. It is philosophical, it is deep, and it teaches us humans new points of views which we had always taken for granted.