Counter-Point to DraconisTheory's Review, A Review from Fat4all
While I didn't force him to play it, I helped pique DraconisTheory's interest enough for him to try out a Visual Novel that had just come out. Even though he look's negatively upon the experience, in the end I'm glad he was able to at least get through the game. Also, we set out to at least complete only one story per member, as we could all get a good first impression for our reviews.
Me and Frankie (aka DraconisTheory) vary when it come's to many different things. One subject in which we always seem to differ usually revolve around media from Japan. From games to anime, we always butt heads over several different things like that, seeing how I'm usually a fan of different Japanese media.
When it comes to my likes, it goes like this; video games, anime, manga, murder-mysteries, and romance. When all is said and done, most Visual Novels are usually a hybrid of two of my favorite things, manga and romance. I was able to look into the text and emotion of each of the characters as I played, because that's how I always look into characters. It's just part of my nature.
So, keeping in mind the fact that game's like this are my bread and butter, this will probably be just as biased a review as Frankie's negative review. Thank's for reading.
Katawa Shoujo: Hanako Story Review
Katawa Shoujo is a Visual Novel much like others before it, with one key difference. While attending his normal school, life, and freedom, Hisao Nakai (The main character, and your vessel for this story) is waiting to meet someone who left a note in his book during class. It turn's out to be a girl he always liked, who asks him if he would want to go out with her. Then he has a heart attack.
That's just bad timing.
He is diagnosed with heart arrhythmia, a serious heart condition that causes irregular beats in the heart when it is strained too much. While in the hospital, he is slowly cut off from the friends he once had, and the girl he once liked. The only thing he can do to pass the time is read and re-read the small collection of books that the hospital has on offer. Finally, after months of waiting, he is told that he would finally be able to leave the hospital, but not back to his old school. With his condition, they recommend that he go to a school that is catered towards people with disabilities, a school that has a nurses and physical treatments, but still offers a chance to get an education.
And that's when the game start's proper.
This is just Act 1, people, stuff get's cereal
With the setting established, you soon meet all the characters in Act 1, and each one has different disabilities.
Emi is a girl who lost both of her legs and now wears prosthetic's that help her move about, and so she joined the track club.
Rin is a girl that is missing both her arms, but doesn't seem that bothered about it, so she just eats with her feet and spends her time painting.
Shizune is a girl who is deaf, and is always accompanied by her friend Misha, who translates sign language between Shizune and others. Both are members of the School Council, with Shizune being the Student Body President.
You come across Lilly, a blind girl who is proper yet nice, sitting alone in a room with no one else in it, and discover that she is the class president of the classroom next to yours that is for those who are vision impaired.
Then I ran into the girl I would eventually be following the story for until the end of my first game. Hanako.
Hanako caught my attention right away for a different reason then her burns. She seemed to be the only person who wasn't effectively dealing with he condition like all the other girls you meet in the game. Her only friend in the whole school seemed to be Lilly, and I think she only really got close to Lilly at first because she was blind. I decided to set my sights on getting the good Hanako ending.
Within the grasps of act one, I slowly gained a very very very minor friendship with Hanako (basically she wouldn't run away as soon as I would talk to her), and then Act 2 started up. This is, I dunno, 2 or 3 hours into my playing. I then realize this game's gonna take a while, so I strap in a prep for Act 2.
Well, I didn't expect a video to pop up this soon...
Turns out Act 2 is probably the turning point of the game. all of your minor and major choices in the first Act leads you towards one girl or another, then the next three Acts (It's a 4 Act game in total for each character) would focus on the girl you sided with.
One of the best scenes of the Hanako story
As the relationship with Hanako (and Lilly, seeing as they are friends) grew stronger, there are several different tests to how willing you are to stick with Hanako. You learn of your past a great deal, and you also deal with issues you have as the main character with your past suddenly being gone and having to start anew. In Act 2 I learn that she likes books, lunching with Lilly, chess, and that's about it, but you also learn a bit about her past, and how she lost her family in a house fire that left only her alive.
Hanako slowly begins to trust you more and more. She talks about how her life is kinda 'on hold', and that she almost felt as if it would never get back to normal. She hates people, she hates crowds, and she almost wished she had no friends. She even thinks to a certain extent that he parents death was caused by her, and that if she never existed they would still be alive.
There is a very emotional scene during class in which Hanako basically shut's down and has a massive panic attack that was an actual shuddering moment in the story for me, the tension was quite thick.
It's a heartbreaking and very interesting story that had me going all the way to the end. You not only help Hanako deal with her issues, but sort out a lot of issues yourself. Her story ends with a scene in which you break down some massive emotional walls, not to spoil too much. I did end up getting the bad ending once, so even I had trouble reading her as a character.
I'd say that Hanako's story has been my favorite so far, and I'm really glad it was the first one I ended up playing.
Now that the story is out of the way, judging the game's merits
There are five girls to pick, and I've only gone through one, but I feel that the writing for Hanako's story was quite well done. Every scene with her in it seemed like it could end with her either running away, saying one thing, or not saying anything at all, so her dialogue was really on the backseat until later in the story.
Her lack of talking early on made what she did say that much more important, and you could easily remember clearly everything she told you about her life, her fears, and her views on what her life is.
Whomever wrote her story did a great job, and the detail shows.
The characters in the game are few, but the work put into them to seem realistic, especially considering the conditions they all have. Hanako as a character was well done, and the burn marks that run down her face and arm, though mostly implied as they are covered, tell her story well.
During the game, animation tools were used, not only for thing's like the animated video above, but also for stills and regular scenes. While talking to Hanako, it wasn't uncommon for her portrait in game to change rapidly, but the only detail to really change to be her eyes or mouth, giving you a good idea of how timid and scared she was of the world. A good conveyance of character.
This is a major plus. The music for this Visual Novel was just friggin' great. All of the music was made to fit various scenes and moments, including during videos. The music was a constant that could change suddenly to fit the moods of characters, the change of scenery, and the tensity of different moments.
The soundtrack for the game will be released for free at a later point, so that makes me very happy.
This is a no-brainer for Visual Novel fans. It's well written, it's free, the characters feel interesting, the music is well done, it's free, there is a ton of story to enjoy and it's free.
Did I mention it's free?
For those of you who haven't played a Visual Novel, this is a good starting point. It's a simple story to follow, there are multiple people to interact with, but not a massive amount of choices, and the story is easy to follow and enjoy at your own pace. You can save and load where ever you want, you can auto-skip old text, it keeps up with choices you made, and other small tools are there to help make it an enjoyable experience.
Go give it a shot. It's free, for fuck sake. All you will waste is your time, and if your have the time to read this, I'm guessing you could waste a little more to try out a Visual Novel.
Rin, your story is next...