Review by encrypted12345
Ah yes, Katawa Shoujo. After 5 years of development, it has finally been completed. Some despise it, and some love it. Such a thing is inevitable. No game can satisfy everyone, and people who just don't read will definitely not care for it.
First things first. Katawa Shoujo is a visual novel. Basically a visual novel is an electronic novel with music and pictures. They may or may not have multiple story paths. (Katawa Shoujo has five major ones.) These things are very popular in Japan, and only in Japan and her neighboring countries. Most other people have not heard of them, and that is not surprising. After all, they are often considered the equivalent of porn and for good reason. Many of them, but not all, are porn without plot. There are a decent amount of them that are plot with (often forcibly shoved in) porn, or just plot, and have enough of the plot to be adapted into an anime. These are the visual novels that Western fans of the medium like. Sadly, these are the exception rather than the rule to the point that many visual novel developers that have contact with the West are surprised that we like plot focused visual novels. Due to its Western origins, Katawa Shoujo is a plot based visual novel with only a scant amount of porn that is completely relative.
Before I get to why this is a high quality visual novel, I shall clarify on why some veteran visual novel players may not think so. If you're looking for a soul-wrenching romance with sympathetic characters on the level of Clannad, Kanon, or any other Key Visual Arts visual novel you won't find it here. If you're looking for an epic plot with badasses on par with classics like G Senjou No Maou or Fate Stay Night, you won't find it here. If you're looking for high-quality cripple porn, you will definitely not find it here and you should probably be ashamed for doing so.
The music is good and creates the mood quite well. The CGs or the pictures are drawn very well, almost to the point it seems professional. The art style varies somewhat, but that is because there were multiple artists. The sex scenes were done extremely well, and none of them felt gratuitous. Each of them was either an important plot point, or a part of the characterization. The stories were well written. Furthermore, since each of them have a different writer, they feel like five different love stories, and your favorite will be determined more by your tastes than the actual quality. While this also means that there may be a couple of routes you may not like, it is still a good decision on the part of 4Leaf Studios. The part of the visual novel that makes it truly shine is the characters. Each character feels so real. It's all the little things that add to realism: Shizune being playfully competitive and commanding besides being deaf-mute, Hanako having an interest in pool and playing it so intensely, Lilly exclaiming that she has her own taste in men despite her blindness, Emi being experimental, and Rin being the incomprehensible philosopher that she is. It's hard to describe, but I'm sure you get the point.
Most fictional works incite emotion in the audience by taking a character that's just developed enough for the audience to care about him and mercilessly torture him whether it's through creating some dark and terrible past for him or through the plot. Almost every fictional work that has drama is guilty of this, especially in the romantic drama genre. Most if not all romance soap operas, novels, anime/manga, plays, and movies are guilty of this. Even if the romance is but a mere side plot, it's still usually guilty of this. Sympathy is almost pathetically easy to bring out of people.
However, Katawa Shoujo is different. Instead of taking the easy way out, Katawa Shoujo creates characters so real and makes them deal with problems so realistic that audience can't help but feel emotion. This is because the audience can see themselves, their friends, and their loved ones in similar situations and how they will react. In short, the audience cares what happens because it is happening to fellow humans, because they empathize with the characters. Works of fiction that can inspire empathy are very, very rare to the point of being more or less nonexistent. Yet by some miracle, a small group of amateur developers who were inspired to create a cripple porn game for free, created this. Doing it for the art, indeed.
Katawa Shoujo is for anyone who can appreciate a well-written and realistic romance story. Even if you think you can't, give Katawa Shoujo a try. Who know? Even you might cry manly/unmanly tears like the many Katawa Shoujo fans out there.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/20/12
Game Release: Katawa Shoujo (US, 01/04/12)
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