I recently played this visual novel created by Four Leaf Studios because of a recommendation from my roommate. It is actually the first game of this type that I have played and I really enjoyed it. The gameplay and story were really good and I think it was a good choice for my first visual novel experience. Cheratomo and I both just finished this game, so if you would like another opinion to diversify your knowledge please check out her Katawa Shoujo Review as well. Please check out the rest of her posts as well! Read on to hear my thoughts on Katawa Shoujo.
The story of this game is focused around Hisao Nakai, a teenager who discovers quite suddenly that he has a life-threatening heart disease. Poor Hisao ends up having a heart attack when a girl confesses to him and is sent to the hospital for months on end. His parents decide to send him to Yamaku High School, a school for kids with disabilities. Hisao is less than thrilled with this development, but his opinions end up changing quite a bit as he meets the other kids at the school, including your 5 possible romance options. The story follows Hisao as he learns to cope with his disease in different ways and possibly finds love along the way.
There are many positive and negative aspects to this game, but I’ll start with what I liked about it. On a basic level, the art and story of this game are very well done. I only found about 5 grammatical errors in the translation which is pretty good. The story was also well-written because I didn’t recall any parts of the consistency bothering me. The art is phenomenal. The characters have nice expressions that they cycle through and the CGs are really beautiful. Every time that a new CG was unlocked I felt like spending a lot of time looking at it because they were all very visually appealing. The videos for each girl’s route were also very well done.
The game also did a great job with the music. Some of it was appropriately light-hearted for every day events, and some of it was very dramatic. The music for the particularly dramatic or heartfelt moments was the most impressive. It really helped to set the mood. The game was most impressive in its treatment of the disability issue. Hisao himself has many conflicting emotions on how he should treat the students around him, and each character has their own feelings about the disabilities of the students. I also really liked that mature content was included in this game because oftentimes people with disabilities are desexualized and I thought this game gave them the appropriate amount of sexuality that a human being deserves. They were seen as beautiful people and I appreciated that respect.
I also liked the amount of content in each story. Hisao himself changed drastically within each route because of the personality of the girl he was hanging out with. I thought that was a nice bit of attention to detail. Each girl also had a ton of new content for her route. The first act was the only repetitive one, and although many of the girls who were friends had shared events, such as Hanako and Lilly, these events had different script because Hisao had a different point of view of said events.
There were also several aspects of the game I didn’t like as much. One of these was the lack of diversity among the girls. All of the girls had the same skin tone, with only a bit of variety in height and hair color. I really wished that there had been a few more unique-looking girls. There were some really interesting side characters like a runner named Miki who I really would have liked to court. She was very interesting and pretty as well.
My biggest bit of criticism comes from the amount of time spent on each route. It seemed like the developers had spent a lot more time on certain girls over others. Routes like Rin and Hanako’s that had a lot of emotional problems within them took at least two more hours to complete than the other routes. In turn, the routes of Lilly, Shizune, and Emi seemed to have much more shallow and boring problems. Lilly’s was my least favorite because most of the drama revolves around your own heart problem and her “caring too much”. The longer ones also had a problem with having too much filler content that I didn’t want to read through. Rin’s is way too introspective and almost boring, while Shizune’s has too many mundane events. Emi’s route was my favorite, yet it was much shorter and less thought out in my opinion, which was sad because she was my favorite girl to court. All in all, each route also felt very long, and I was ready for them to be over by act 3. They all seemed about one act too long to me.
My last problem was with the decisions in the game. Most of them were good, but many seemed to me like they were meaningless. Some of the decisions were extremely vague, yet you would pick one choice and end up getting the bad ending for no apparent reason. It seemed like your hard work getting to know the girls didn’t matter in the end and that the final decision was entirely luck-based. I also wish that there were more decisions for each girl past the first act.
I really enjoyed this game overall. Most of the stories were interesting and well-written, and the art and music made up for most of the problems. The only warning I would give to players is to try to woo one girl all the way. If you are nice to all the girls as I was in the beginning, you end up in a very uncomfortable situation with your creepy anti-feminist dorm mate Kenji that doesn’t leave you in a very good place. The best part of this game is that it can be played on a mac and in several different languages. It can be downloaded from the main site. I give this game a 3.5/5.