Title: Katawa Shoujo
Released: April 29th 2009 (Act 1)
Developer: Four Leaf Studios
In my time 'working' as a shoddy 'journalist' I've been told I'm quite narrow minded with the games I 'review'; "Dude, that's another RPG" or "Halo? Wow man mainstream" and so on and so forth.
So today's 'game' (Bad start to an open mind) is Katawa Shoujo (Literally translating to Disability Girls" or "Cripple Girls), a visual novel developed by Four Leaf Studios. For those of us that are unaware, Four Leaf Studios is a group of developers, artists, ect from the image board known as 4chan, more specifically the /a/ board (Anime). Basically these developers bonded together to make this visual novel - Now whilst those of you may be aware of 4Chan and the activities they may partake in, do not throw all your angst and hate towards /a/, or these developers.There's a much larger back story to how this game was developed, but I won't bore you with the details.
I've never played or read through a visual novel before, and to those who have also never done so might be under the impression that these are for 40 year old basement dwellers. Well, after playing through my first one you could potentially be correct, the settings are some what familiar, but with not much appeal to someone of our age group (Or anyone outside of Loli lovers If I'm honest) not that I let this put me off, an open mind was retained through out the play through.
The game takes place after your character Hisao Nakai, has a heart attack during the prologue of the game, this sets up the entire scenario for the game. Hisao is kept in hospital for several months and ends up a sort of disabled school due to developing the condition Arrhythmia, within this school he can attend lessons and have 24/7 nurses on hand, obviously character development is a huge part of this process, character development for Hisao is shown through his inner monologue that runs all through out the game whilst conversing with people and whilst chillaxing in his batchelor parlour next door to his strange neighbour Kenji aka comedy relief, he was potentially the weirdest and yet most relatable character, he carries on about feminists and women taking over the world, which are then brought up within your character's monologue throughout the game, adding even more comedy relief through the medium known as "The weird kid"
Now all the supporting characters throughout the game have a disability (Minus the teachers) that is brought to your attention quite quickly, but surprisingly handles with a mature tone, considering the game is centered around the disabilities it does rather well managing to develop the characters into people that you relate with, no matter what disability they have.
I personally found myself relating to several characters and finally decided that I'd be friends with the girl with no arms - Rin; and the girl with no legs beneath her knees - Emi. I took a shine to these two due to the fact that the Rin was so blunt about every thing it made me laugh, it sort of put real life things in perspective for me - and Emi is merely cheerful and hangs out with Rin, so that only seemed to work. But I really loved the way they approached the disabilities, mentally and visually your character isn't disabled, obviously his heart is a disability, but you wouldn't know that upon looking at him, but the others are all visible and even Hisao notes this in his monologue, how he approaches them and talks to them is fascinating, don't get me wrong, the writing is hardly Bioware level, but entertaining and will keep you glued for a good two hours before your story is brought to a sharp end, either due to your mistakes or because you'd finished Act one.
It's been stated that Act one is a 15+ rated game, due to the cursing and mature subjects that it approaches presumably, whilst the rest of the game is slated to be an 18+, most likely due to the developers bringing in sexual acts, which actually seems to be the point of the game so far If I'm honest.
Whilst I'm not interested in the sexual acts that the other chapters will bring forth, I am slightly interested in the way that they'll approach sexual acts with the disabled, they've shown great respect and potentially changed alot of people's views on the disabled with the game so far, I can only feel that it will fall into a pit of turmoil and sex with blind chicks.
As a visual novel, graphics aren't really present, but the art and backgrounds featured in the game are nice.
The characters are of an Eastern animation style and play up to all cliches you could imagine about the anime stereotype, potentially playing up to jokes through this medium, either way charming and suitable.
The background are photographs with photoshop filters placed over them presumably, whilst not all that impressive, they provide a suitable and some what cozy setting
5 / 5
I started off with both my music and sound turned right down, and listened to my own music over the top, I'd presumed it would be cheesy elevator/soap opera music. I was mistaken, whilst listening to a some what quiet song I managed to catch a little bit of the music playing from the game, I instantly turned my music off and turned the in game music and sounds up.
The music is quite dainty and the sound effects are some what far and few between, but effective none the less.
3 / 5
Obviously the most impressive part and whilst it has pure intentions to begin with I can't help but feel this will all fade away once it turns into HXC HENTAI BITCH TITTY SEX.
4 / 5
(I realise this may seem a little silly, but whilst reviewing this as a game, I will keep to my format)
As a visual novel, most 'gameplay' consists of options, the options decide whether or not you'll finally get with this or that chick or whether or not you'll die, but I don't think I even came close to such a thing.
The choices weren't obvious in all cases though, sometimes certain actions would trigger events that you'd think weren't related, but were, in this sense I guess there was some form of challenge, but the gameplay will hardly keep you on the edge of your seat, but nor is it meant to.
4 / 5
(Graded on the plausible choices and events that will come from it, not excitement.)
It wasn't too bad, I had low expectations, but the story was entertaining enough to keep me with it and the art for the characters and backgrounds was rather impressive. Kenji could potentially be the best person within the game and provides entertainment throughout.
Most definitely worth a download
4 / 5
All in all an entertaining and educating game, and whilst I kept an open mind throughout the play though, I can't help but feel this game was designed for either fans of ecchi or hentai that have no real care for plot and those that should perhaps put their talents else where, maybe into graphic novels and visual novels that don't necceserily end in banging the chick you deliberately bonded with because she looked like the most loli?