Impressions: Katawa Shoujo

By John Walker on January 10th, 2012 at 9:53 am.

Ewwwwwwww, gross!

Last year there were a couple of games that brought up the question of what actually counts as a game. One of them shouldn’t have, because it is – Modern Warfare 3 (the nuance of “un-game” is lost on the world, sadly). The other was To The Moon, which occasionally teetered on the edge of that which people were willing to tolerate. The debate is mostly unhelpful – it generally comes down to a person’s expectations of the game, and those not being met. I found MW3 to fall far short of what I would expect of an FPS, and not fill that absence with anything new, meaningful or worthwhile, thus my condemnation. To The Moon replaced a perception of choice with wonderfully vivid narrative, deep characters, and an exploration of subjects poorly explored by any medium, let alone gaming. So where does that leave Katawa Shoujo?

It’s a visual novel, a format with which I’m not overly familiar. But heck, I like a novel, and I like pictures, so let’s see where this takes me. This is not a review, it’s an account of my experience of playing the game/reading the novel.

Animated by some lovely hand-drawn Manga characters, super-imposed over cursorily photopshopped photographs, Katawa Shoujo wants to tell you a story. And it mostly wants you to sit and read it. It’s a story about topics gaming pretty fundamentally ignores: disability and social awkwardness. And it’s for that reason, and that the writing is seemingly of a decent standard, that I had the patience to keep on clicking for the first half hour or so. Then things slowed down. Here are my experiences.

After a good twenty minutes with the game, I’ve interacted twice. Once to choose whether to say something or not, that I imagine may have happened anyway. The second time given a three-part choice of what to ask a person, the game then refusing my choice and making that meaningless. I have, instead, read a great deal.

Even so, even though all I’ve done so far is click repeatedly on the screen to make the next line of written dialogue (or indeed the next ellipsis) appear, this isn’t comparable with reading text or viewing something. The closest would be reading a comic, where I in essence physically “interact” with the book by turning the pages, and emotionally interact with the experience of the story. Except, were this a comic, it would never get away with just having the same image repeated for panel after panel.

But then, I’m playing a guy with chronic arrhythmia and congenital heart muscle deficiency, who is forced to restart his life in a boarding school for the disabled, after a heart attack at a very young age. His friends at the new school have various conditions, one seemingly extremely hyperactive, another deaf. And with a constant internal monologue from Hisao about his circumstances, it’s a very introspective, underplayed narrative.

Underplayed, sadly, proves painfully true. The more I play, the less there appears to be to do, with this half-a-story being told at me while I click after every pause and sentence. And worse, those sentences quickly become far less worth reading. The interplay between the excitable Misha and the mute Shizune are pointlessly confusing, one invisibly signing to the other, both voices coming from Misha, but with the game seeming to make no effort to clarify any of it. Why I should care whether Hisao joins the student council or not is entirely beyond me, let alone the agonising length of the conversation about it. It spends more time making me read an argument about joining the council than it did introducing the heart attack, or the subsequent life-changing consequences.

And because of the meagre interaction I have – the need to constantly click to move the conversation forward – I can’t even sit back and watch it happening, the auto-mode being too slowly paced even at the fastest settings. Instead I’m beholden to my role of clickmaster general, as the inane banter stretches out endlessly before me.

Oh, I haven’t mentioned, have I? This is a dating sim.

After well over an hour of clicking, clicking, clicking this hasn’t been revealed. Other than that every girl I’ve encountered seems to be very beautiful and flirtatious. Not in a cheap way, I should stress. The game is at great pains to stress the independence and confidence of all the girls you meet. But clearly you’re standing in front of a line-up of girls to choose between, however it may be presented. That and the way their school uniforms are occasionally shown with their pants visible beneath their skirts.

My patience for the game really begins to run out when I’m party to an excruciatingly long conversation with an armless girl called Rin, with whom I’m mixing paints. And I don’t care at all about any of it, because there’s no reason to. Next I’m talking to a girl who stands on prosthetic running feet about our shared dislike of warming up before exercise. Or at least, I’m clicking. A conversation in the showers with the naked figure of the schoolboy in the dorm next to me, his modesty concealed by a fig leaf, about borrowing money is where I start clicking straight through the chat.

I would definitely have stopped by now. I’ve been clicking through conversations, taking in as much as flashes before my eyes and still entirely keeping up with the paper-thin plot. Good grief, the meticulous detail that goes into every tedious detail is agonising. Why would I ever care about Hisao’s morning running routine for more than a sentence, let alone literally half an hour of conversations, looping endlessly around the same topics, hurting my will to live? Clicking and clicking and clicking, nothing happening, nothing of any meaning occurring, and then I see the horrendous words, “ACT 2″. What? How many acts? Even if there are only two, this means I’m only halfway through this! Oh please no.

It’s a visual novel. That’s the justification. But it’s also half-pretending to almost be a game, and I can judge it for that. AND I can judge it as a visual novel – I cannot imagine the comic version of this. It would be 900,000 pages of the same six drawings over and over. No one would surely want to read it that way, would they? So why this way? And why is it so many people have recommended this to us, apologising that yes, it’s a 4Chan meme, but really, it’s so much more than that.

Created by 4Chan, after they became obsessed by a sketch, it’s been developed by a collection of internet communities under the name of Four Left Studios. And whether it’s disability porn or an affectionate teen romance is up for grabs.

It’s certainly ticking boxes marked “inspirational”. For someone with the patience to tolerate its agonising detail and pace, this is a story about young people achieving beyond their disabilities, and heck, featuring disabled characters at all is a woefully rare occurance in gaming. And you know what else? Imperceptibly, and I really don’t have any idea what it was that caused it to happen, something I did at some point caused this story to head in a particular direction. Because the guy just kissed one of the girls – one of five it’s apparently possible to get into a relationship with.

And after speed-clicking through approximately 870 more scenes they’re on a date, which is pretty cute. What’s not so cute, it occurs to me, is the option in the menu to switch off adult content. Emi, the girl I have unwittingly picked, looks about 14. (She is in fact 18 according to the story.) This isn’t going anywhere healthy. Clicking on any more of this sophomoric teen romance is going to make me slit my throat with the sharp end of my keyboard. Lines like,

“She pulls me back, nips at my lower lip, and reinitiates the embrace. Her tongue darts inside my mouth, exploring. I can feel a warmth spreading through my body as my heart begins to beat faster.”

aren’t doing my temperament any favours. And then it becomes just the worst sort of soft porn nonsense, with accompanying pictures. Including, in my game, a scene of meticulously described anal that neither enjoys.

In fairness, it then deviates back to exploring the relationship, the underlying issues, Emi’s past, and so on. But it’s mostly just using the dangled carrots of not telling you information it tells you it’s not telling you, and I can think of no other motivation to persist. In fact, no, I’m done.

I refuse to say “it’s not a game”, because it is. It’s just one where you don’t get to do anything meaningful, as you’re told a massively long story about not very much. And one I haven’t the energy to persist with to its ending, let alone explore the other four stories it has to offer. That scale is unquestionably impressive, and it’s obviously been a great deal of work. But I’m not sure I’ve gained anything from playing.

If you’re after the thrill of teenage boobies, skip this. They’re there, and they feel wildly inappropriate to be viewing (unless you’re a teenager, I guess), but the sex is a minuscule element of the game, which is far more interested in telling you about the organisation of every character’s sock drawer. And since I wrote that sentence, I finished the game. Which is telling. I just wanted to know how it ended, as frustratingly obvious as all of Emi’s so-called secrets were. I guess I’d committed so much time to it all that I may as well. Of course, that’s only one fifth of the game, which is both terrifying and impressive.

The game is free, and can be downloaded from here.

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344 Comments »

  1. durrreading says:

    Wow what a shit review! No of course I didin’t read it but I know it’s bad because it’s a wall of text with some non-moving anime pictures in it to distract from the shitty writing!

    0/10, this is not a review but a scrolling to the bottom simulator

    Also this site’s registration sucks too who the hell asks who the main protagonist of some shitty-ass FPS trash “game” is, LOL MORE LIKE CLICK AND EXPLODE SIMULATOR!!!!!!!

    • RaveTurned says:

      If you’d read as far as the *title* you’d know it’s not a review. :)

  2. Mad Hamish says:

    The outpouring of butt hurt here in the comments is tremendous. Did /v/ form a raid or something? It sounds like a bunch of teenagers agonising and complaining that no one understands them.

    • Dominic White says:

      I’m sorry, but using sentences like “The outpouring of butt hurt here in the comments is tremendous” makes you sound so much more 4chan than most of the people you’re complaining about.

    • Memphis-Ahn says:

      Donmai him Dominic, it’s just reverse trolling.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      If this was a 4chan raid you’d have more than 6 pages of comments.

  3. Chicago Ted says:

    So, I’m interested: Did you intend to go for Emi, or did you sort of stumble into her route? I hear it’s particularly easy to fall into hers, since I’m fairly sure hers is the first divergence point, and easy to fall into if you treat your health sort of seriously.
    If you didn’t intend to woo the fastest thing on no legs, who, if anyone, were you gunning for?

    • inawarminister says:

      Yeah, the activation point of her route is the head nurse asking you to take care of your own body.
      Of course people will say yea to that.

      Also, because of the order of CGs in the gallery, I myself believe that Emi is intended to be the first route to be taken. I’ll do Shizune after this, because people say that hers is the most… underwhelming, and because I’m reserving Lilly until the end… (shamefully, I can’t stand looking at Haruka. There. I said it)

  4. mrhorseshoe says:

    I’m impressed that FLS actually finished saw this project through to the end. It isn’t stunning literature, but most of it was written decently enough. I was surprised at how touching some of the stories were. The art is pretty good as well. Overall a pretty decent freeware visual novel that everyone should give a chance.

  5. wiredhuman says:

    So we got a full sized article of John ranting about a visual novel being a visual novel.
    I mean, whatever rocks your boat, really, but bashing a freeware title because it doesnt quite go in your alley is a bit cruel dont you think?

  6. Kazz says:

    This being only the second VN that I’ve read, I found it fairly enjoyable. Also apart from Recetter and Don’t take it personally babe, I’ve avoided the whole animie scene, but I I’m open minded and gave it a go.

    Would it have been nice to see more choices? Sure. In my playthrough there must have been about 5 choices over the 5 hours it took to do one of the story arcs and only a couple of those felt like it had any significant impact.

    But the overall quality of it felt ok and at times really draws you in (depending on which arc you take I guess). The sex scenes felt a little weird though, maybe if the characters looked their age rather than the stereotypical animie young age it would have been more comfortable. I’m all for VN’s covering every avenue that other mediums do, but please be less creepy in future :)

    I’d recommend it if anyone’s interested to give it a go. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

    Reading through the comments though it’s clear that a selection of internet dwellers have taken John’s piece to heart. It’s a similar reaction to the COD “un-game” drama, close minded people making knee jerk reactions because someone’s linked this article to a Katawa Shoujo fanbase. Some of the childish comments really made me cringe.

    For those who aren’t just trolling, VN’s have been covered here on RPS before and got a warm reaction with many including myself being introduced the genre and finding it surprisingly enjoyable.

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/04/06/dont-take-it-personally-review/

    • inawarminister says:

      That was Alec, not John, though.
      We all know that Alec is weak for cute, lovey stories.
      Whilst John is only good for crying games, and being a terrible healer.
      Isn’t it right, John?

      (more seriously: I do hope that Alec is taking a look at this game, I do believe that… well, he’ll enjoy this more than John currently is, I bet)

  7. Fishin says:

    If copious amounts of text and little interaction turn you off, it seems like visual novels aren’t your thing, but even if they were Katawa Shoujo is a poor choice to start with. You’d be far better off reading something like Ever17.

  8. thewizardninja says:

    I don’t what to parrot what everybody else has been saying but I really do have to ask – have you actually read a romance or slice of life heavy novel in the last 10 years? Because I think you’ll find that the majority of your complaints regarding the actual story of the game could be attributed to each and every one of them, especially so if you didn’t even TRY to connect with any of the characters (which, from what I can tell, is YOUR fault in this case). If it wasn’t your thing, so be it, but then why even bother writing the article? Why write a large piece berating a romance visual novel for being a romance visual novel when you obviously aren’t interested in romances or visual novels? I don’t really know what you were expecting but it certainly didn’t seem to be a romance visual novel. It just seems kind of pointless, to me.

    As for comments made about how the choices seem superficial and such, I couldn’t disagree more. KS is one of those VNs that lets your choices define, not just the main character’s actions, but also his personality and outlook on life. The idea isn’t that you pick a girl and go for her, you’re naturally drawn to a girl based on the personality that the main character ended up being defined as having. Almost all VNs will have their main character develop differently based on the route but not many have the main character be developed differently from the very beginning. THAT is what those seemingly meaningless choices are for – it’s giving you some control over who the main character IS rather than just what he DOES. It adds a layer of IMMERSION, something you didn’t even try to bother tapping into, Mr John Walker.

  9. cappy says:

    Normal people, pff.

    Go play CoD and leave the fringe stuff to the rest of us.

    • Kazz says:

      Hi.

      You must be new here. RPS isn’t really a “OMG COD IS DA BESTEST FING EVAR!” kind of place / community.

      I wish you all the best though with your “fringe” stuff, you edgy cat you.

    • cappy says:

      Oh, sorry. this entire article gave me the opposite impression.

      Sorry dude man bro.

    • Chris D says:

      Cappy

      Reading comprehension clearly isn’t your strong suit. Nor is maintaining even the pretence of a rational argument.

  10. lemoncake says:

    Really shitty article. The author doesn’t understand the medium. I feel that the author was very biased going into this and did not give it a proper chance.

    • Kizor says:

      Hi there! I’m new to visual novels. There’s one or two sitting on my hard drive that I’d like to get into, but if I don’t like them, I don’t want to spend an excessive amount of time poring through unpleasant text, just in case it gets better. So what would you say would be enough time to give visual novels a chance?

    • tremulant says:

      Sounds like he felt the game wasn’t particularly engaging and the writing was strewn with utterly pointless filler, surely a good VN needs to be a good N to begin with, a disabled teenage romance novel written by the collective forces of the internet just doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a winner, somehow.
      Yes, the game was reviewed as a game, by a gaming journalist, on a PC gaming website, but is a mainstream assessment really so unfair? If we’re to believe, based on this review, that John just hates visual novels as a genre, does that mean that Katawa Shoujo is the finest VN ever made and he’d have to possess some deep seated bias not to enjoy it?

      I realise it’s not by john, but rps has touched on something that appeared to be visually novellish in the past, and the response wasn’t entirely negative.

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/04/06/dont-take-it-personally-review/

      A shit novel’s a shit novel, regardless of how many pretty young disabled girls you get to ogle in its course.

    • Ckarasu says:

      But, tremulant, most people that played the game seemed to like it. So, what does that mean? A shit novel can’t be enjoyed by many, but this was. So, I wouldn’t call it a shit novel, now would I?

      It’s a good VN, and was written well. That’s my opinion. John disagrees, but that doesn’t matter to me. I could write an essay as to why LotR was a bad series of novels, if I really wanted to (not that I agree, it’s just that you can make anything sound like shit if you want).

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      A shit novel can’t be enjoyed by many

      The Da Vinci Code

    • tremulant says:

      I could write an essay as to why LotR was a bad series of novels, if I really wanted to

      Just so long as you don’t go on to call for 4chan’s assistance in producing a visual novel based on said essay, sure, go for it.
      As for people not reading shitty novels, plenty of popular books are shit(not only Man Raised by Puffins’ excellent example but the rather remarkable genre that is “Tragic Life Stories”), in much the same way that the vast majority of popular television programming is shit, you really can’t trust popular opinion…

    • Ckarasu says:

      It’s normally true that if many truly enjoy it, it’s good. There are exceptions, and the more obscure something is, the more “true” the rule is (in my experience). KS is obviously not main stream, and the people that play and enjoy it genuinely mean it. You may not like something, but that does not mean it’s shit. I’m not claiming KS is amazing, but I do believe that it’s good. Maybe great at some points, but definitely enjoyable.

      We could argue what defines what is good and what is not, but that’s pointless. My standards are not yours, and one’s standards are not better than another’s. I find that, if you enjoy it, it tends to be good (either so bad it’s good, or just good). This is certainly good, to me.

    • jrodman says:

      Once you’ve gone down the “we should trust popular opinion track”, then you’ve given up on criticism almost entirely, and shouldn’t expect anything worthwhile out of responses to works, or criticism of them.
      In short, this is just a tangential way to reject criticism for silly reasons.

    • Ckarasu says:

      I was just saying that something isn’t shit if there are many people who truly enjoy it. Doesn’t mean it has to be good, though I think this game is.

  11. Timmytoby says:

    John had a lot of very valid critizism.
    Aside from the whole “It’s not a game! It’s a Visual Novel! Let’s burn him and all people in his vicinity!” issue, I share many of the same problems with this as John.

    You may call it Visual Novel, or PrettybookwithPictures or whatever, but huge amounts of narrative text still need to adhere to the same standards as all other literary works.
    This “Novel” was desperately in need of an editor, preferably an experienced one. Aside from the painful to read format (2 lines of text per click, yeah, that’s helpful) it was a lot like reading fan-fiction. Probably a good third of the text would have been cut by a professional, and that’s just one of the 5 stories.

    A better comparison are probably self-published ebooks. A lot of them show promise but they really really need an editor’s eye to become painless to read.

    And that’s before taking into account the cringeworthy aspects of of this “Novel”, like the fetish for schoolgirls, the horrendous underaged female love interests and the completely ridiculous treatment of disability.

    Seriously: Have any of the writers actually met disabled people? Maybe done some research in modern schools for the disabled? My brother is a disabled teenager, and if he read this, he would probably start laughing and never ever stop again.

    To summarize: I agree with John. It has to few meaningful interactions for a game, is almost offensive in his lack of reasearch and could have been improved to readable levels by including an editor in the process. I think I’ll pass on the genre if that’s the pinnacle of it.

    • Memphis-Ahn says:

      You can hardly blame a bunch of guys who got together to make a freeware indie VN for not having a professional editor. They did at least bother to research.
      More importantly, could you tell your brother to play the game and then offer us his thoughts? I’m actually quite curious about his take on it.

    • thewizardninja says:

      Really? Really? Are you seriously going to condemn a story that excels in EMPOWERING the disabled as functional human beings as treating them ridiculously? Also, all the characters are 18 or over. This is a JAPANESE high-school. I’m going to guess you never even got past the title screen.

      Also, complaining about the amount of lines on the screen at one time is pretty fucking stupid. If it’s so much of a hassle to click a mouse or push the space bar, there’s an auto-read function with adjustable speeds for your particular reading level.

    • Gaytard Fondue says:

      Just by the way, but is there a reason they’re locking up kids with disabilities in “private schools”?.
      Having to wear prosthetics doesn’t really keep you out of regular schools imo.

    • thewizardninja says:

      @Gaytard Fondue
      In Emi’s case, it’s because she was a runner before losing her legs and she wanted to continue doing it. The school has quite a large number of medical staff on site and her leg blades would need constant maintenance and check-ups if she were doing an activity that used them as forcefully as that. In fact, most of the students are there for the medical staff alone, that and the fact that the school fees are incredibly cheap if the prospective student is disabled (being disabled is not actually a requirement to enroll but, on the flip-side, fees are incredibly expensive if you aren’t).

    • Timmytoby says:

      You can hardly blame a bunch of guys who got together to make a freeware indie VN for not having a professional editor.

      You are right, for a freeware indie VN it’s okay. But that’s the reason I compared it to a self-published ebook. And since John was shouted at in these comments because he found the length and pace of the text tiresome, I thought it worth to mention that that’s what you get without extensive editing . After having posted my comment I actually thought about other games and their notable lack of editing and think it’s a widespread problem. When developers like Bethesda have problems actually hiring good writers and apparently choose to decline hiring editors then it’s not something a indie team should have to do.

      More importantly, could you tell your brother to play the game and then offer us his thoughts? I’m actually quite curious about his take on it.
      He’s a normal teenager in a normal High School with the average amount of girlfriends as far as I can tell. He just has some health issues and prothetic parts, which is simply no big deal. I doubt he would be much interested in this since he’s more a console gamer (yeah, I know).

      Maybe it’s just the whole japanese culture thing that makes everything seem wrong. From a european viewpoint, the way disabled kids are portrayed here seems weird and unnatural. And the “18 year old” girls looking like 13 year old children just makes me uncomfortable. I probably should stay clear of this whole Genre.

    • Hanban says:

      I agree with most of what you write. I ended up in the Hanako arc and found it mostly endearing. In between events that brought the story along, however, there was a lot of clicking over boring dialogue.

  12. Unaco says:

    Nice article John. Thank you for sharing your impressions. I haven’t played the “game” (and really, I don’t think I will), so I’m not sure if I would agree or disagree with you, but this was an interesting read (the article that is, the comments section not so much).

    One piece of advice though… Lock the comments. I think you may have woke something up. Failing that, delete the article, lock your doors, ignore your email, take your phone off the hook.

    • wiredhuman says:

      May I inquire on why you are not willing to form your own opinion?

      Unless you wouldnt read/play the game anyway, in that case no more questions.

    • Unaco says:

      I’m not going to form an opinion on this based, largely, on other people’s opinion… which is what it would be, if I were to form an opinion without reading/playing this. And I’m unlikely to read/play this, for many, many reasons… The art style is not to my tastes. The idea of a ‘dating sim’ is not to my taste, and neither is a visual novel/interactive fiction or whatever you want to call it.

  13. InternetBatman says:

    So a lot of reddit / 4chan people found this one I guess. You shouldn’t have to have preconceived notions of a medium to enjoy a work in it. You might not be able to perceive or appreciate as much as an aficionado but you should still be able to get the gist and enjoy it on its own merits.

    The complaint that the author hates visual novels or reading is stupid and reactionary. He reviewed Don’t Take it Personally Babe favorably. Yes he skimmed some stuff to finish this, but why would a reviewer get to the point where he was muddling through a work? Also, if he took the badly written path, the fault is on the work, not the reviewer. The reviewer shouldn’t have to game the work to get to the good parts.

    Edit- I am an idiot. Completely inaccurate about Don’t take it personally.

    • inawarminister says:

      Wasn’t the reviewer of Don’t Take It Personally was Alec Meer, not John Walker, though?

      Also, I am a regular in this site for over a year already, and will continue to do so. We’re all grown-up here, and won’t cry just because our toy is insulted by other kids, or something like that, right?

    • Chicago Ted says:

      I thought Alec Meer was the one that reviewed Don’t Take It Personally.
      Unless it’s somewhere else, I’ll have to look later, when I’m not on a bloody phone

    • Chris D says:

      Yep, it was Alec.

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/04/06/dont-take-it-personally-review/

      It won’t dissuade anyone gunning for John specifically but worth a look if anyone wants evidence that RPS doesn’t automatically hate all visual novels.

      (Really John linking to To The Moon in the introduction should be enough evidence that he’s perfectly happy to play games with words in them.)

  14. mrwout says:

    The amount of people shouting “this a shit review” and then claiming John doesn’t like to read is just hilarious.

    • wiredhuman says:

      Even more staggering is the amount of people taking those people seriously. Like they really didnt see a troll in their life.

    • mrwout says:

      To be honest, I really haven’t seen a troll in my whole life.

    • Kazz says:

      I saw a crab once.

    • Durkonkell says:

      Disgusting creatures!

    • Special Agent Dale Cooper says:

      Being a niche game with a rather dedicated fanbase, it’s not much of a surprise that an article critical of the game (regardless of how justified it may or may not be) would galvanize the polemics.

  15. cappy says:

    “It’s just so weird. People pretending that disabled girls can be normal? WTF?! lol, no one else finds this odd?”
    – John Walker

    The fuck man???

    • Unaco says:

      And that’s a quote from where, exactly? Or, did you just make it up to make John Walker look bad? His lamentable Healing skills do that already. If you actually read the article, you’ll see that the inclusion of disabled characters is actually one of the few things he commends…

      It’s certainly ticking boxes marked “inspirational”. For someone with the patience to tolerate its agonising detail and pace, this is a story about young people achieving beyond their disabilities, and heck, featuring disabled characters at all is a woefully rare occurance[sic] in gaming

      John hasn’t said anything about ‘pretending disabled girls can be normal’.

    • apocraphyn says:

      Don’t feed the trolls, Unatco. (besides, they should be busy playing the vidya/reading virtual dribble, rather than wasting time trolling)

    • NathanH says:

      When I see his name I automatically read “unatco” too.

    • Unaco says:

      @Teddy,

      It was formed by Executive order after the terrorist strike on the Statue (of Liberty). I have someone in place, though.

  16. wodin says:

    Very disturbing, not the disability bit but the hints and art style of what borders on pedophilia.

    I’d be very concerned about an adult if they actually wanted to buy this or where into this sort of art style which to me is bordering on animated child porn.

    The girls in these novels\\animations look like school kids and is very suspect.

    • pipman3000 says:

      it was made by people from 4chan and tvtropes so it’s probably intentional but it’s okay they’re really 500 years old or something

    • cappy says:

      Hey, like I said. My fiancee is 20, looks 14.

      Haters gonna hate.

    • Gaytard Fondue says:

      Are you sure she is looking like a 14-year-old? Why not 13 or 15?

    • inawarminister says:

      Whee! All salute the Land of Freedom, now! Where a man will get himself imprisoned for life and/or getting sign-posted as a ‘Sex Crime’ doer just because he happens to like drawn art that looks like lil’ kiddies! While the real children-molesters are walking free! How nice!

      (yes, this is a sarcasm. Sorry if it’s a bit shite, but I’m not a native English speaker, mind!)

    • cappy says:

      @Gaytard Fondue

      Because that’s what people keep telling her? I just think she’s really short and petite but everyone else tells her she looks way too young for her age.

    • tsuD says:

      Yeah, and my dog looks like a cat. Doesn’t stop me from doing her tho.
      What we all need is open-mindness.

  17. Hey What? says:

    And i thought RPS was above this. Congratulations john, You just took RPS from “Major PC gaming website” to “Reviews for /v/irgins”. Why don’t you start reviewing my little pony flash games while you’re at it?

  18. Archer666 says:

    A visual novel that fails to grip you with its writing is a failure. But then again, such things tend to be on the subjective side(Unless there are gross spelling/grammatical errors). Something like Kawata Shoujo never really interested me, but I think the people calling him biased and whatnot are overexaggerating a bit.

    *Goes back to playing Togainu no Chi, which got a partial translation*

  19. Durkonkell says:

    Man, SO MANY posts in this article are going to be replaced with pictures of ponies…

  20. Hisui says:

    Telling your readers that it might be a cripple fetish porn game is the worst thing you could possibly do when writing about Katawa Shoujo. The adult scenes are written in such a tactful, flowery and vague way and are so painfully short that it’s really obvious that they’re just crammed in due to their status as staple dating sim element. Surely you won’t let the 1-2 out of hundreds of scenes drag the whole work down?

    Of course this isn’t a formal review, but that’s entirely irrelevant since your popularity is enough to make people fully trust in your judgement.

    • McCool says:

      Right, and you can play through No Russian without shooting a single civilian.

      While I think you are right to highlight that this game isn’t entirely about the sex, It’s inclusion and the gamey total focus on romancing one of several beautiful, child-resembling girls looms over everything. Katawa Shoujo is a fetish game, you can’t deny this. The term “waifu” could not be more relevant here. It’s a certain fetishisation of having intense, close relationships with impossible, beautiful young girls. If we’re to convince anyone that games like KS are relevant, I think it’s best to bite the bullet and fully admit this is a cripple porn game – yeah, totally – but that does’t prevent it from being relevant, interesting and capable of teaching us something about ourselves, or attraction, or so on.

      All this said I am with John in thinking this game could’ve done with a bit more polish, and love in the writing departments. From what I hear some paths are much better written than others, though.

  21. wisnoskij says:

    It is simply a game that appeals to a specific group.
    Reading lovers and anime lovers. I played the first act that has been available for years now I think and it was fantastic in my opinion.

  22. Bluerps says:

    Weird. For some reason I thought for most of the article that the next paragraph would start with something along the lines of “But then, suddenly, the game gets interesting”.

    What a pity. It sounded really interesting at first – I like visual novels and manga/anime – but if the writing is that bad, I don’t see myself having much fun with this.

    • Memphis-Ahn says:

      The writing isn’t bad, it’s just very mixed.
      My suggestion would be to try Hanako/Lilly/Rin path and see if you like it for yourself.

    • Chicago Ted says:

      Give it a shot, it’s free

    • Hisui says:

      Mind that every single route is written by an entirely different writer, and there’s 5 of them.
      Emi’s struck me as one of the weakest, and also has the largest focus on adult scenes, which is why Walker’s choice feels especially unfortunate.

    • Chicago Ted says:

      Funny, I felt Shizune’s was the weakest.

  23. unentschieden says:

    The devs actually have a statement up about Visual Novels and how they could be a “real” media category http://katawashoujo.blogspot.com/2011/01/reach-for-stars.html

    KS itself however isn´t that. KS fails the same way othe VNs fail because the concept was “a VN with the context disabled people”. VNs may not be a flawed concept but the current conventions are.

    KS isn´t remarkable in the endresult. It is in it´s creation and tastefull aproach to a VERY difficult subject.

  24. Savyg says:

    I’m not surprised by the criticism, more the delivery.

    While I like the game, I agree some routes are less…fun. My question for John would be whether or not he connected with the main character at all. If not, the way he interacts with people (or doesn’t) would make it hard to read the story.

    I’m not an expert on VNs or whatever. I enjoy a few but it’s not my thing overall.

    Also, I’ve met quite a few girls in their twenties who look like teens, and Asian people tend to be shorter. So I think the anti anime girls thing around the comments is a bit of a joke. (Also, since Emi was in a bad accident and excercises regularly, it seems to me thats exactly what she should look like.)

    • bill says:

      but EVERY SINGLE ANIME has schoolkids in it – and then they stick in some kind of “don’t worry, she’s really 18″ comment and that’s supposed to make everything ok.

      It’s no wonder Japanese boys are getting so messed up…

    • Savyg says:

      Every single anime has characters marked as 18? Really? I’ve watched more than a few, and they’re usually between 13 and 18. Until someone makes a hentai version and pretends they’ve aged since the original show, which is obviously bullshit.

    • thewizardninja says:

      Just thought I should point out that final year Japanese school students are, in fact, 18 year olds (if they don’t have late birthdays, that is). Every single character that Hisao has a sexual encounter with (as well as Hisao himself) is in their final year and have either already had their birthday or had it during the progress of the game, ergo they are all at least 18. Emi was HELD BACK a year while she learned to walk again using her prosthetics so she’s actually OLDER.

  25. Fwiffo says:

    The similarity of content these comments have to the comments of negative Twilight reviews are shocking. The reviewer doesn’t understand the genre, the reviewer hasn’t grasped the subtleties of the characters, the reviewer doesn’t understand literature at all, the reviewer is a doodyhead who should die in a fire…

  26. Tadpol says:

    Well, a story is always hit and miss. Madame Bovary may be considered a classic, but the entire time reading it all I could think was “fucking slut”. I didn’t absorb anything meaningful from the book, but I couldn’t really accept it either.

    I can’t hate you for not liking Katawa Shoujo, Mr. John Walker

  27. TomSmizzle says:

    When I played it I saw the potential of the Visual Novel format (of which I’ve only played Don’t Take It Personally Babe before this), but the writing in Katawa Shoujo was just sloppy as hell. Stuff like “The epitome of generic” or “The nurse grabs me by the shoulder without waiting for Rin’s permission which he didn’t need in the first place and drags me aside.” or “Like me, the girls pack up their lunches as efficiently as they set them out.”

    The format is essentially a choose your own love story, which could absolutely be a valuable experience, but with such sloppy writing that went on so aimlessly, most of Katawa Shoujo felt like it was just trying to justify the disability porn to me.

  28. bill says:

    It strikes me that Visual Novels need to be a little more like novels, and a little less like pictures with a line of text at the bottom.

    I suspect even a great novel would be ruined if you had to click through it line by line.

    Why don’t they take advantage of widescreen monitors and put a page of text on the left, and the pictures of the sexualized 12 year olds in short skirts on the right?

    • zairekaboom says:

      A lot can happen during one page in a standard novel. The images need to react to what is happening in the text. Maybe there could be some “press this to see her/his reaction!” buttons between the sentences but I don’t know if that would take away the immersion.

    • Chicago Ted says:

      Bloody widescreen bastards, lording it over us 1280×1024 peasants

  29. vecordae says:

    Thanks for your impressions on this one, John. I’d have to say I pretty much agree. Whether Visual Novels are a “game” is going to be subjective, but they certainly are very dependent on their dialogue and, in this case, that dialogue isn’t something I found engaging.

    For me, the biggest problem I have with the whole Visual Novel genre is that it really isn’t very mature and tends to be highly formulaic. The subject matter seems to revolve around idealized/unlikely romances between a nondescript boy and one or more attractive schoolgirls. Interpersonal relationships are explored, perhaps a mystery is solved. There will be the shy one, the sporty one, the confidant one, and the immature one that looks 10. There will almost certainly be boobies. And, honestly? Most western adults are going to find that hard to relate to or be interested in. It was written with young Japanese men and ladies in mind.

    • Ckarasu says:

      No, it most certainly wasn’t. This was written in English first, for the people who wanted to read a story like it. If it was written for the Japanese, it would be written IN Japanese. It was not.

    • vecordae says:

      @ Ckarasu: It seems that you have misunderstood. Please, glance back over my comment. You’ll realize I was speaking about VNs in general, rather than KS specifically.

      But, since you brought it up: Since KS was originally written in English by English-speaking folks from various western cultures one would hope that they would have done something besides retread the usual Japanese VN tropes. This makes the poor story pacing and inconsistent writing feel even more disappointing as it cannot be blamed on the difficulties inherent in translating a story from one difficult and complicated language to another or trying to bridge two very unique and divergent cultural experiences. I understand that some folks are very, very interested in those kinds of stories. I just wish that someone would go about doing something with the format that I find more personally compelling.

    • Ckarasu says:

      Cliches and tropes exist in every story, and many will show up in the best of them. KS does a good job of deconstructing many of these, though, and has a genuinely good story. It’s a bit on the long side, but I find John’s use of the word “tedious” as misplaced. The pacing is fine, and the characters certainly aren’t some stereotypes like many would think.

      If I had to rate it, out of a 10, I’d give it an 8. That’s mostly from the writing. The conversations are quite realistic, I found. Sure, they’re not always meaningful, but most of the conversations you’ll have in life have very little meaning.

    • vecordae says:

      @Ckarasu:

      If someone finds the enjoyment derived from reading a work wasn’t worth the time they had to put in to read it, then calling it tedious is not at all unfair. It is a very subjective sort of thing.

      If it helps to understand where I am coming from, I am sufficiently old enough that exploring teenage romance would probably get me thrown into jail and exploring college romance would get me labelled as a “creepy old shite”. The subject matter just isn’t interesting anymore and has little to do with where I am in life. High school romance, in general, will come off as being extremely trite and silly to me no matter how well-written it is. This makes reading them a tedious experience.

      Also: the conversations don’t seem realistic to me as most of my high school “conversations” were an unending stream of dick jokes, pop-culture references, and whining.

    • malkav11 says:

      Have you read any of the visual novels that -haven’t- been officially translated into English? (For that matter, have you tried the Ace Attorney games or 999 on the DS? Both the Ace Attorney series and 999 have more gameplay than many visual novels, but they’re still essentially visual novels.) Describing the genre as being primarily about a male protagonist attending high school and picking among various girls is kinda like describing comics as being primarily about superheroes and adolescent power fantasies. There may be a lot of both that fit the bill, but that’s not all there is to be had.

    • vecordae says:

      I haven’t played them as I don’t own the requisite systems. I also don’t read Japanese, so an untranslated game doesn’t do me much good. However, it’s good to see that the format is, indeed, being used to tell different kinds of stories. Eventually someone will get around to doing one I’m genuinely engrossed in.

    • malkav11 says:

      There are plenty of high quality visual novels that have received fan translation patches, such as Fate/stay night, Chaos;Head, YU-NO, Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, Steins;Gate (it’s not -quite- done yet, but there’s a playable patch), and Muv-Luv Alternative. (I can only vouch for Fate/stay night and Chaos;Head personally, but the others I mention have received very high ratings.) They’re just not officially available in English.

  30. AMonkey says:

    Tried this “game” myself and couldn’t agree more with John. I was utterly bored 40 minutes into it. Whenever the student council was brought up I don’t know why I couldn’t flat out say “NO!”. Eventually I spam clicked my way for like 5 minutes just to see if anything interesting happened. It didn’t.

  31. silverliner says:

    I think it’s very unfair to judge visual novels on their gameplay. They are called novels for a reason, after all; think more “fancy ebook” than ‘videogame’. The story (and unfortunately, sometimes the porn) is the selling point, not the gameplay.

    Now I haven’t played Katawa Shoujo, and the story may indeed be rubbish, but that doesn’t invalidate my complaints on the mentality towards the genre.

  32. Special Agent Dale Cooper says:

    People are being oddly squeamish about these sex scenes in this game. The potential fetishization and objectification of the game’s female characters is an understandable concern; however, in my experience playing, this isn’t the case– the characters are very well-developed beyond their inherent disabilities, and the game isn’t built as a means to an end to see some nudie scenes– the sex here is more akin to something you might see in a film, where the idea isn’t necessarily titillation (though that’s undeniably a factor here), but the exploration of a relationship between two characters.

    That being said, I don’t think it’s fair to accuse you of being “biased” against these kinds of games, John. Sure, I take issue with your opinion, but it doesn’t necessarily seem fair to dismiss your criticisms because you’re not in some very specific mindset or because you don’t have enough experience with visual novels.

  33. Robin says:

    Fair play to John for having a crack at reviewing the game, even if he didn’t like it.

    I would like to chip in a couple of positive points. Firstly, in spite of the terrible, waffling writing, Katawa Shoujo works well as a showcase of what Ren’Py (the visual novel engine) is capable of. It also (perhaps) goes some way to making the genre more accessible/relevant to Western audiences. The “adult” content is about on par with the ‘edgier’ sort of Channel 4 soap/teen drama (and if anything rather less gratuitous). It’s a game by and for teenagers, essentially.

    The other thing was, while I too thought that the game was severely lacking in interaction even by the standards of the genre, laid out as a flowchart there are actually quite a lot of choices and plot branches, which is refreshing compared to the massively signposted ‘choices’ in most AAA games.

    That said, it’s a hopelessly convention-bound design with extreme pacing issues.

    So in summary it’s a bit crap but makes me optimistic that more English-speaking people will attempt to do something interesting with the genre in future, instead of dismissing it out of hand.

    (McCool’s comments are utterly bizarre, almost Mary Whitehouse/Keith Vaz-ish in their eagerness to sling around innuendo and shut down discussion.)

    • Ckarasu says:

      I wouldn’t consider the game to be a “bit crap”. It’s good, to me anyway. Some conversations are boring, but that’s realistic. A lot of conversations I’ve had are boring or not worth remembering. Just because one or a few people do not like the game does not mean that it’s bad, no matter how well written the opinion is.

      Hell, I could easily make a game like Portal sound like it’s the worst game I’ve ever played (me not liking it helps in that regard, though).

  34. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Oh my, bit of controversy surrounding this one.

    Well, I quite liked it, so there’s my penny in the bag.

  35. merakai says:

    Having played through 4 out of the 5 available characters, I have to say most of the criticisms for this game are valid. As a dilettante in the medium, I found it to be mostly enjoyable (except for one girl), in the same way a trashy romance novel is enjoyable. There are far better visual novels out there, (TYPE-MOON’s VNs for example) and I would hardly recommend this as an introduction.

    Also, while the writing is impressive from a “fanfiction” standpoint, it’s still quite clear that they needed some beta-readers and/or some good editing. Quite a few characters feel unfinished, and seem like they should’ve been fleshed out more, but writers forced themselves to release it (Apparently it’d been in development for 5 years).

    The girls seem young, but nothing unreasonable (then again, it might be just an issue with the medium). Also, there’s an option to set the read speed faster, as the default read speed is quite slow in my opinion. As such, I don’t really understand the issues with reading 1-2 lines; Double-tap of the space bar or mouse click will advance the next line instantly, and the scrollwheel can bring back previously read text. Its no more tedious than a comic-book, with the trade-off of having more text and less pictures. (Though I did have to alternate between using the spacebar and mouse click to give each hand a break from clicking.)

    • Ckarasu says:

      I wouldn’t say impressive from a fan fiction point of view. That’s ridiculous. A fan fiction is impressive the author does not make a character a author avatar, a mary sue, or just out of character. I’d say most of the characters could have used a bit more fleshing out, but they didn’t feel unfinished. Emi and Rin both felt as close to complete as they could, given the length of the story.

  36. JohnFreeman says:

    This is probably the worst non-review I’ve ever read. Please go back to COWADODDY if you can’t handle a piece of prose.

  37. TheGameSquid says:

    It seems to me that the major problem of 99% of the visual novel genre’s out there are:

    1) The writing is usually incredibly bad. And I mean, INCREDIBLY bad. It’s usually so dry it almost evaporates in front of your eyes. I found this one no different. You’ll have a tough time finding an ACTUAL novel in bookstores that’s worse written than the stuff you’ll encounter on the net. And I’ve read a lot of tripe novels out there. On top of that, a bunch of the stuff is translated from Japanese, making the experience even drier than it already was in Japanese (presumably of course, but most of it is that bad that I can’t for the life of me imagine that it was even HALFWAY decent in the original language). A novel with bad writing is not worthy of your time, even if it has interesting ideas (which there aren’t any to be found here IMO). Being a VN for teens isn’t an excuse.

    2) Most visual novels are about silly romances. I’m actually quite surprised that the VN genre is doing so well here in the West, because the genre (if I’m correct) mostly seems to appeal to disillusioned young people who are slowly starting to realize that romantic and sexual relationships in their country don’t amount to all that much, which still stands in relatively start contrast to most of our countries societies. Perhaps some of the VN fans here could try to explain the appeal?

    Small note: I found that the addition of the disabilities in the girls sounded rather charming at first, but they’re obviously just added for attention-whoring, and the girls just look and act like all the others girls in your average VN, you’re just told that they have “disabilities”. In other novels you would have been told that these are simply elements of their personalities.

    • the_p says:

      Yes, #1, yes. Thank you.

    • Ckarasu says:

      No, the disabilities were not added for attention whoring. They are as much an element of the girl as anything else. They have merely gotten over their disability and are living life as normally as possible. They actually did research on each disability, taking advice from nurses and the like. It’s horribly ignorant to say it’s added for attention whoring without even doing any good amount of research into the game.

    • malkav11 says:

      Visual novels -aren’t- doing particularly well in the west. They’re a severely niche genre, with almost the entirety of the officially translated ones being unapologetic, barely plotted porn.

  38. qplazm says:

    I agree with John. While it’s nice to see disabilities being treated in a reasonably respectful fashion, I didn’t especially enjoy Katawa Shoujo. It is filled to the brim with irrelevant “slice of life” scenes, which drown out the more interesting portions (Though the balance improves somewhat after Act 1).

    This is a problem very common in VNs. Ever17 was a brilliant piece of mind-bending fiction, but it could have been so much better without some of its more tedious “slice of life” scenes. The pacing of Fate/Stay Night could also have done with the removal of some of these types of scene (though the pacing improves a lot after the first few days).

    Some games do it right. G-Senjou no Maou had its flaws, to be sure, but its pacing felt right, and it had less boring parts than most books (the daily school life bits could get boring, but they were fairly few and far between). I didn’t get bored at any point during Haru’s route, that’s for sure.

  39. the_p says:

    John, completely agree.

    I don’t understand this ‘John doesn’t like reading’ business and the image it provokes is of him wincing when street signs come up and picking up cereal boxes with his head averted.

    If we can stop lapsing into abstractions about visual novels and write specifically about this one, the problem is this:

    It’s badly written.
    It’s terribly written.

    It’s laboured and overwrought. As has been pointed out in this comments thread, the same point is often made *several* times. That’s not how literature works. It’s not how stories work. It’s also fucking tedious. The characters jabber on about worthless blather while you have an experience equivalent to being on a one carriage seven-hour train between chatty morons on amphetamines. All you want is to die.

    As for the people saying this is well written, I’d like to hear some novels and films you think are also well-written. Then let’s have a discussion about what constitutes good writing until we all get so old we shrivel up and expire in front of our monitors.

    Lovely.

    • Ckarasu says:

      The Professional (Film) was well written. Dragon Age was well written. Mass Effect was well written. Lord of the Rings was well written. This game was well written. None of these were perfect, though. No story/book/game is perfect. Especially when it comes to how it’s written.

      There is a tad bit of re-emphasis on some points in the game, but hardly enough to write off the writing. You talk about meaningless dialogue, but most of life is meaningless dialogue. Half of the conversations I’ve had or heard are forgotten easily because they were boring or without meaning. Thing is, I liked the dialogue in this game.

    • GameCat says:

      Ok, here we go:

      Books:
      Cormack McCarthy – Bloody Meridian, The Road, No Coutry For Old Man (last two also have great movie adaptations).
      Neil Gaiman – Coraline (also with great movie adaptation)
      All of Stephen King’w work.

      Movies:
      Blade Runner, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Stalker, The Thing (Carpenter’s one), Twin Peaks, 12 Angry Men, Clockwork Orange, Once Upon a Time In West.

      One thing: I CAN’T say that Katawa Shoujo is better written than all these movies and books mentioned above, at technical level it’s just decent and simple. But it doesn’t matter, because it moved me just as strong as many great books/movies.
      It’s like music – you can take complex Bethooven, Bach, Rossini etc. concertos for whole orchestra and some simplier piano pieces by Chopin or Erik Satie (his music is very simple) and say “yeah, Bach’s pieces required more composing skill than Satie’s pieces”, but it doesn’t mean that Satie sucks.

      Damn, I would love to write more, but my english isn’t that good. I almost fell like Rin now, because I can’t say exactly what I want.

      Opininon, Away!

    • Chicago Ted says:

      Speaking of music, I loved the soundtrack

  40. zeroyuki92 says:

    From the controversy that I read here, most of the clash of opinions was happened due to a HUGE gap between western and eastern culture, entertainment and media.

    Slice of Life isn’t a genre for everyone, especially with western. Westerners are used to actions and fast moving plot, while Easterners are used to slice-of-life and slow paced story. It’s not only for the game, it’s for almost everything. (Yes, of course it is a generalization, but at least that’s the general culture, not for actual individual)

    About “there is no editing?”, actually the editing takes a pretty long and lengthy process…More than 2 years taken and plenty of revisions had been done there. It was not about there’s no editing, it was intended to be that way.

    Well, it sure felt boring if the reader hoping for some extra-ordinary, well-thought talks, but it’s good since it’s ordinary. Just some normal person with some disability, just sometimes being themselves, cool or silly. Actually the more the characters “hit-home”, the easier players feel related to the game. Actually that’s the recipe for Katawa Shoujo and most of other slice-of-life romance stories to succeed.

    “Plenty of people find the narrative style of most VNs (including KS) too drawn-out and wordy and the minimal interaction boring. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s also nothing new.” – One of KS developers

  41. TheSaddestSort says:

    Well, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, though I readily admit that it’s not going to be a game for everyone (indeed, people either seem to really like it, or really hate it). While I did feel that some parts did seem overly long or dragged out, I appreciated the overall experience and thought that the game did a reasonable job of both treating the subject matter with a reasonable amount of respect (disabilities and coming to terms with them) and subverting some of the more common tropes associated with the visual novel genre.

    In a rather interesting way, I felt that this game was in some ways similar to the experiment that was Dinner Date (e.g. linear, little control, large portions of the game spent listening to the inner musing of the protagonist). Interesting in that I couldn’t stand Dinner Date, which only took up 18 minutes of my life (I want them back goddamnit) and thoroughly enjoyed Katawa Shoujo (which has eaten up many, many hours). So yeah, subjectivity, personal preference and all that.

  42. John P says:

    Why is it that a man who gets offended by the slightest hint of misogyny thinks it’s perfectly okay to write about this kiddie fiddler simulator, including posting an image of a young naked girl?

    And don’t anyone fucking dare say ‘she’s 18′.

    • Ckarasu says:

      What, exactly, makes her seem young? She has a developed body, doesn’t she? I can see you thinking that from her face or height, but the rest of her doesn’t really match up with “too young”. Her face looking too young could be a result of the art style. If she looks to short, it could be just that she’s too short or her prosthetics were not long enough. Now, saying she was 16 or 17 would be less problematic for people to accept.

    • John P says:

      ‘But your honour, these drawings aren’t child porn, that’s just the art style.’

      That shit doesn’t fly in court and it doesn’t convince me either.

    • Ckarasu says:

      Except that, in this case, she doesn’t look 10. I wouldn’t even say 14. And, to be fair, they tried to make her look older than the concept art had her look. They tried to strike a balance, and I felt they succeeded. Some don’t think so.

      It’s not as if she acts like she’s too young to be 18, because she doesn’t. She is only a little bit shorter than most of the characters, and that could be entirely because the prosthetics aren’t as long as her legs were. Other than that, her face looks a tad bit too young. That’s not even unheard of.

      If you want to complain about stuff like this, then go find one of these “kiddie fiddler simulators” you speak of and go complain about that. I’m sure you’ll find one out there, because Japan.

    • King_Burgerking says:

      1. She’s drawn with a developed body, as are ALL of them.
      2. Even if she wasn’t at the youngest she looks 16 maybe 15, and that’s not exactly kiddie fucking age.
      3. I don’t know what backwards country you live in but your Orwellian fucking rulings not withstanding, art cannot be child porn.

  43. Douglas says:

    How is it that John Walker doesn’t recognize this “game” for what it really is? I mean walker has in the past slammed games for mildly misogynistic themes and then all he has to say about this game is that It’s use of nudity is “wildly inappropriate”?

    What the hell???

    You know why that girl looks 14? Because the sicko that drew her wanted to draw nude 14 year olds! The explicit statement about her age is a disclaimer to avoid being persecuted by authorities and is a trick well known to anyone who has ever dealt with these peddlers of underage smut.

    And then John Walker Defender Of Women decides It’s inappropriate for the game but ok to post pictures of a nude mid-teen on his blog? What the hell is he doing I don’t want to see that shit!

    Given his stance on the treatment of female characters in video games why would he even post a clearly exploitative picture of an adult female, let alone a child.

    Shit’s fucked, yo.

    • Ckarasu says:

      I’d say she looks closer to 16. I feel that, if she was just a bit taller and her face wasn’t as “cute”, people wouldn’t be so upset over her design. The height thing could be a result of her prosthetics not being long enough. The face looking too young could merely be a result of the art style.

      Or she could have been drawn to look 14. To be fair, her earlier design made her look younger. They deliberately tried to make her look older so it wasn’t a problem. How successful they were is up for debate, it seems.

    • Coga says:

      I know quite a few ladies who look as young as Emi (the girl in the update) and are yet older than my 28-year old self. People develop in different ways, man. Like Ckrasu said,she looked much younger in the Japanese sketch that inspired it all:

      Japanese version:
      http://shimmie.katawa-shoujo.com/post/view/9?search=raita

      Translated and coloured:
      http://shimmie.katawa-shoujo.com/post/view/1?search=raita

      Honestly, I applaud the devs looking for a balance between the two.

    • Douglas says:

      Guys the game has been developed by a bunch of 4chan users who wanted an outlet for theory ephedophilic fantasy fiction. How can you defend it?

      There’s a difference between someone looking young and someone being designed to deliberately tantalise those who want to imagine themselves with teenage girls.

      You need to examine it within the context of the behaviour of It’s designers and the community from which they sprang. This game does not exist within a vacuum, it comes from a place where “cp”, “jailbait” and “loli porn” are joked with and shared around.

      In a world where reddit’s jailbait (and even kiddy porn) areas exist, why would anyone tolerate this obviously pedophilic fantasy because its vaguely disguised as being ‘barely legal’.

      Never thought I’d encounter apologists for this sort of shit.

    • Ckarasu says:

      Congratulations, Douglas, you just proved how ignorant you are. 4chan themselves had no part in this game, just some people who visited it (there is a clear difference) and thought that the concept was neat. Nowhere in this game does it try to sell Emi as a “loli” trying to act older. She’s mature, outgoing, and troubled. Just like anyone would be after what she went through. The creators wanted to make a tastefully handled game about getting into a relationship with these girl (they even said that on their site), and they succeeded (John’s opinion means so little).

      If they were going after the whole “have sex with lolis” like you said they are, then there would be more sex scenes, she would be half your height, and flat as a board. None of those prerequisites are fulfilled in the game. I’ve seen some excuses for 18 that Japan tries to get away with. I do not like nor agree with them. But, and here’s the thing, this is way more ambiguous (design wise) than any of those.

  44. sethhuber says:

    This article sucked. 85% of it was complaining about the visual novel genre, which, yes, as you’ve accurately noted, usually isn’t terribly keen on player interaction and choice. This isn’t even consistent as RPS has positively covered similarly uninteractive games like Don’t Take It Personally Babe It Just Ain’t Your Story. I haven’t played Katawa Shoujo yet, but I’m potentially interested in it, and this article really gives me no information about anything other than that John Walker doesn’t like the concept of visual novels. Here’s a hint John, they’re all quite wordy.

    It seems like you were impatiently clicking, waiting for something to happen. But here’s a spoiler for you, nothing will ever happen. Just more words. That’s the appeal. This article reads like you’re criticizing a book for its lack of special effects or something.

    Oh, and, as other commenters have said, I found the naked little girl popping up in the middle of my reader very unexpected, and you didn’t even really comment on it. You complained for paragraphs about how the game is a visual novel but can’t find time to go into any of the ethical issues that a game about choosing which underaged cripple you want to fuck presents.

  45. Vandell says:

    To justify it to myself, I fucking hate dating sims and almost any of the similar dreck pumped out by Japan. I played the game discussed in this article and felt exactly the same way as you. I feel dirty as hell mentioning this..

    .. but, “A Drug That Makes You Dream” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yume_Miru_Kusuri:_A_Drug_That_Makes_You_Dream) can’t come recommended enough, provided you can get past the ‘adult’ part of the story. Oh, and the.. questionable youth of the characters. A friend pushed it onto me non-stop, and I eventually gave it a try.

    It deals primarily with high-school bullying, drug-use, existensialism, personal sacrifice, and suicide.. without feeling angsty. It had me in fucking TEARS at certain moments, and the first girl you meet (Aeka, I think?) was surprisingly well-written and paced. There are good and bad endings, and something about this blasted adult visual-novel made me want to see each of them.

    • sethhuber says:

      @Vandell Well here’s some validation for you. I’m a casual fan of VNs, and have read a lot of bad ones and a few good ones. A Drug That Makes You Dream was most definitely one of the better ones for the reasons you mentioned. In fact, I’d say its probably the best VN I’ve played that included hardcore pornography.

      If you’re interested in VNs that don’t have pornography (yes, they exist, and they tend to be much better), two of my very favorites are True Remembrance and Narcissu. Both are free, I like True Remembrance better, but Narcissu might be of interest because its about a similar subject as Katawa Shoujo. Both may cause you to cry manly tears. Links: http://trueremembrance.insani.org/ and http://narcissu.insani.org/

      For a longer game, check out Ever17, hours and hours of reading but with an excellently mindbending and twisty plot.

    • Coga says:

      Hah, I’ve just started playing Yume Miru; what hath Katawa Shoujo done?

      One question for VN enthusiasts- I want to try our Planetarian after this; don’t spoil me majorly or anything, but just tell me, does it have a happy ending? Yume Miru looks to be another tearjerker, and I don’t wanna cry no more. Hell, any recommendation for a 100% happily ever after VN would be great.

    • Ckarasu says:

      Planetarian does not have a happy ending. TvTropes spoiled that for me. It’ll likely make you bawl your eyes out, from what I’ve heard.

  46. Coga says:

    Good words there, SaddestSort. The Visual Novel format isn’t for everyone, and while I enjoyed the hell out of Katawa Shoujo (not ashamed to say I wept bitch tears at 3 of the 5 routes), I can definitely see why some people would dislike it.

    See, thing is, Hisao is his own character, and is much less of a blank slate than characters like Hawke, Shepard and the Bhaalspawn are, to name a few. He’s already got a preset personality which limits audience choice, and compared to the above protagonists, this might limit the immersion of some. On the other, it only increases the immersion and involvement of others as we begin to see how they develop.

    Another thing that helped me get into the game was how normal the characters were. They aren’t defined by their disabilities at all, not positively or negatively. They’re just people with realistic problems, and Hisao isn’t going to be able to solve them all with his Magic Dick™ or a Paragon talk option. Most of the time (obvious in 3 good endings) he learns to live with his and the girls’ disabilities, not as a defining aspect, but as just another thing in life. It’s also why there are so many slice-of-life segments; the devs tried to make players see that people in the game (with the exception of Kenji, but he’s… well, an exception) have their own lives going on, that they’re more than videogame characters.

    Look, if you’re still on the fence about KS, I assure you, it’s more than just a ‘kiddie diddler’; I went into it expecting the worst of 4chan dealing with a disgusting topic, and I was imagining the worst of fetishes combined with the disgusting thought that someone would make a ‘cripple fucking sim’, as I so eloquently put it when I first heard about it. I am glad to have never been so wrong.

    • TheSaddestSort says:

      Yes, I also went in with a fair amount of trepidation (4chan is 4chan after all) and went away pleasantly surprised. I also was impressed that the game avoided the trap of making the protagonist the savoir through “fixing” the female characters (in that they don’t need to be “fixed” or are capable of working through their own problems).

  47. Kikimaru024 says:

    I respect John’s opinion even if it does not correspond with my own.

    Though I agree that Auto-mode is too slow (also, there’s no way to assign Auto-mode to a gamepad button. WTH?)

    • Coga says:

      Try holding down CTRL; if you’ve alt-tabbed out, you might have to press alt and/or Enter before you can do this.

  48. Coga says:

    Damn, don’t want to be seen as spamming, but I think this Escapist review’s some good reading:

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.337440-Deskimus-Prime-Skips-A-Beat-with-Katawa-Shoujo

    Dude(ette?)’s played though all the routes, so you know s/he know’s what’s going on.

  49. Shockzn says:

    *sigh*

    Well, I knew the nonstop outflow of praise for KS had to end somewhere. I quite like it, personally; I found the writing to be amateurish but acceptable (no worse than a couple published sci-fi novels I’ve read and enjoyed, but that’s not saying much), and the story itself (I’ve only played Rin’s route so far) to be quite moving.

    But I can absolutely see the reasons John didn’t like it. It’s slow, it’s a bit on the trite side, and apparently I had the good/bad luck to do the best route first, while he hit one of the duds. (Though I’ve heard conflicting opinions on Emi’s route. Some say it’s up there with Rin’s, some say it’s a trainwreck on par with Shizune’s.)

    I certainly didn’t get the impression that John has a bias against the medium in general. Just that he didn’t like this one. And I’m okay with that. If it’s not his kind of thing, it’s not his kind of thing. It is my kind of thing, though, and the comment section here shows that I’m not alone in that. So let’s all try and let everyone have their respective preferences in peace, eh?

    • Special Agent Dale Cooper says:

      It’s nice to have a counterpoint to the unfettered praise the game is getting elsewhere; actually initiating discussion about the possible flaws and merits of the game is great, as opposed to just blindly accepting the radiant magnificence of Katawa Shoujo. Or, I suppose, reactionary hatred toward its premise.

  50. sinister agent says:

    a scene of meticulously described anal that neither enjoys.

    Welcome to marriage!

    Oh wait, you mean anal sex? Never mind.