Review by FRIEDSTRUCK
How many times have you played a game that is not so much a game, but an engrossing story behind the facade of a game? I am not too well-versed in the field of Visual Novels, in fact I had only played one prior to Katawa Shoujo (and to be fair, Snatcher is not a true Visual Novel, though that is the meat of the game play), however that happens to be my fifth favourite game ever. Katawa Shoujo will probably not ever break my top ten favourite games ever, however it is one of the most engrossing and enjoyable games I have ever played; I loved every minute from minute one of the first route I played, until the final minute of the final route I played, and every minute in-between. Sadly the game is restricted to merely reading text and making choices, however this does not seem to dissuade the masses that have played the game. The positive reviews around the net are apt, as Katawa Shoujo is very special, as game play will no doubt tell you more.
Game play: 8/10
Katawa Shoujo does what many games try and fail to do; it sucks you in, in order for you to become one with the protagonist, thus you feel what he feels (aside from the heart attacks, in the case here!) throughout the game; Katawa Shoujo simply does such an incredible job at conveying emotion. The purpose of the game though? Find love with the five girls you meet (in their respective routes of course), and try not to screw it up! The five girls range from the cute and bubbly Emi (my favourite), to the tall and composed Lilly, to the competitive and forward Shizune, and finally to the outcasts Hanako (due to shyness) and Rin (due to character). Each of these girls has their own likes and dislikes, and as a result you will have to make choices that tie-in with said likes and dislikes. While as Visual Novels go this seems to be a more than solid enough game, what makes the score decrease a little bit, is the fact that some Visual Novels have mini-games; Katawa Shoujo does not (and there are plenty of opportunities where mini games could have been implemented as well). Now, it DOES take away from the novel aspect, however it does make the game less of an actual game in my eyes; something that does hurt it when talking about its game play. Not a big deal though, however story is (being a Visual Novel, it better).
Its a snowy day, and Hisao Nakai is awaiting a girl he has a crush on, in a park. He is nervous, but he really likes this girl thus its worth all of the emotion. She arrives and he is delighted, however he cannot think of any words to say. After trying to speak yet again, he still cannot, and he collapses to the ground with his heart beating as a drum would. He wakes up in a hospital bed, and is confined to the cold, sterile building for four months. Once he is finally granted his reprieve, he discovers that his parents have signed him up to attend the Yamaku Academy; a school for those with various medical issues (Katawa Shoujo roughly translates to, "Cripple/Disability Girls). Once here, you take over Hisao, and make various choices to get with one of the five girls in the school. Each girl's story is vastly different than the next, and each is just a work of art; beautiful from beginning to end. If you want to be captivated by a story that is simply magic, then Katawa Shoujo's will not disappoint you in the slightest. Neither will the graphics.
I know the resolution on a PC is high, and that there is little animation in the game, but wow is the artwork in Katawa Shoujo just phenomenal! The girls are beautiful, and beautifully drawn, as well as the other characters. Misha really stands out as one of particular graphical splendor, as well as Lilly. In between all of these scenes with the girls are various animated drawings that pop up here and there; they took look brilliant, as if someone just drew them in front of you. The backgrounds of each scene are actually photographs taken of real-life locations, and that adds a little twist to the graphics in Katawa Shoujo, however they never detract from the game experience, blending in perfectly with the action in front of you. The final bit of the brilliant graphics score are the FMVs. They look splendid and are drawn brilliantly, its a shame that there are only one per girl... Still, the graphics will make your jaw drop! As will the sounds.
No sounds at all save for little ones here and there regarding thumps, and bells ringing, however the real meat of the sounds department in Katawa Shoujo is the brilliant soundtrack that accompanies the game. Track after track is just amazing, and they all fit in with the scenes perfectly. Each girl has their own theme song as well, and each suits their respective character superbly. Truly nothing bad can be said about the soundtrack, as well as the replay.
Replay ability: 10/10
If this were an actual novel, thirty hours to finish the game completely would translate to a long thirty hour novel; that is more than your money's worth, even though it is unfortunate that there are no extras in-game, though there are quite a few unlock-ables in terms of the extra artwork and scenes you unlock by finishing the game fully 100%. Considering that Snatcher was under ten hours, Katawa Shoujo blows it out of the water.
Buy or rent?
PC game. Cannot rent, and you do not have to buy; you download it from the site! If that is not motivation to make you buy the game, I do not know what is!
I have written the entire review of the game without mentioning the genesis of the game itself! Some members of 4chan's boards, along with other members of various communities came together to create Katawa Shoujo; it was done for free, with the intention of distributing it free. Its a neat little tale that shows just how awesome some people are on this planet. The characters in Katawa Shoujo are exactly the same; you will grow to love the girls in the game, as they are all fantastic characters with loads of depth. The art style is unique and just brilliant, as well as the soundtrack... It could be a best-selling album, legitimately. The writing in the game is just something that other games do not have; sheer brilliance. A game this magical does not come around too often, so do yourself a favour and download the game if you are convinced you will like it; you will NOT be disappointed! Wahahaha~! "Rin: I'm having my period and I need some help regarding that. However, I don't feel that our relationship is yet on the level where I could allow you to pull my underwear down into the girls toilet even if you offer to."
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/23/12
Game Release: Katawa Shoujo (US, 01/04/12)
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