DEVELOPED BY: 4 Leaf Studios
DEVELOPMENT TIME: 5 Years
DEVELOPMENT TEAM SIZE: 21
RELEASE DATE: 3rd January 2012
It’s pretty much common sense that the more time one spends in creating something the more likely it is to come out nicely. Most of us shat bricks when we heard that Skyrim spent around 5 years in development. The game ended up boasting a fuck-tonne of quest and more than 300-hours of ignoring any life you may or may not have had knowing what “reality” is.
And you start asking this question…
But Skyrim IS an open ended sandbox styled RPG that required the utmost attention paid to every aspect of the game to ensure quality and a minimum amount of glitches and bugs. ( Pfft, what am I talking about? It’s Bethesda after all )
What if that same amount of attention was paid to a far simpler game? What if you took a Romance Novel and added Anime visuals to it and made into a game similar to R.L. Stine’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of Goosebump books?
It seems that 5 years ago, a group of people who may or may not have met each other on 4chan decided that they’ll do exactly this. The results is Katawa Shoujo ( Disabled Girl ) , a Visual Novel styled game, a genre of games that may be sightly alien to those of you outside of Asia.
The game put a demo out a couple of years back, and even then it gained a bit of a following. A simple DeviantArt search will reveal that despite it’s mere couple of days since release there is already an impressive amount of fanart available. The game puts you into the shoes of Hisao Nakai, a Japanese High School boy who suffers from a congenital heart defect that forces him to be sent to a school for disabled children where you’ll be given the chance to pursue the love of 5 incredibly beautiful girls each with their own unique stories and
The game starts of a bit bland sadly and if you’re not patient you may quickly lose interest, as the game quickly jumps into a depressing self-pitying monologue by your character. Once you get pass this and arrive at the school gates however, you will quickly gain a strong interest in what comes next as you’re shown what seems to be the front of a beautiful school, which from the couple of scenes you won’t notice but, SPOILER ALERT : All the backgrounds will seem like a picture but they really aren’t!
You will then be introduced to the first girl available to be pursued. Which by the way I want to point out how well character introductions are done in this game, I like how you were given a lot of time getting to know each available girl thoroughly before you were introduced to the next girl. The game dedicates the entire first ACT of the game getting you acquainted enough with each of the five girls to be able to make a decision on who to pursue.
Oh, by the way, it is possible to LOSE in this game during this first part, you can die. I won’t spoil that for you though, it’s quite fun really. 🙂
I must stress though, this game is NOT a dating-sim and it isn’t even an eroge to begin with. You will be treated to some sex-scenes towards the end of the game, assuming you get the “good” ending for the girl you choose to pursue in ACT 1 of the game…
When playing this game, you’ll want to be patient and go through all the scenes as if you’re reading a book, and trust me. That IS good thing. The game is split into four different parts. ACT 1 till 4.
Act 1 does the necessary introductions and girl choosing.
Act 2-3 will be mainly story with some decisions to make thrown here and there. These parts are full of dialogues and heavy monologues especially if you chose the Rin path. This is basically the novel part of the game. The game is very well written and you’ll be constantly stumbling upon very quotable lines you’ll want to tweet and and post on your Facebook straight away! The game uses the theme of disability and shines it directly under a very serious and mature light. ( As in totally not sex but rather heavy thoughts in dialogue and metaphors )
Act 4 ( IF you get an Act 4 ) will be the climax of the story ( no pun intended ) and be straight run towards the end usually with your character going back to the self-pity but not as bad to show that he has learned from the people of the school, specifically the girl you pursued.
Which yeah, is the part where you MAY get the sex. Yes, you can fail here too.
Moving on from sexual innuendos, another thing I like about this game is the atmosphere created by the simple but effectively used Soundtrack that sticks to a rather serious tone but it works even through the humorous sections of the game. I wouldn’t mind purchasing the soundtrack for this game, so uhh, 4 Leaf Studios, Soundtrack album please? 🙂
The game is surprisingly long compared to other visual novel styled games I’ve played and took me around 6-hours combined ( distractions from external sources included ) to finish one character path. So you’ll be pretty much glued to this game for the entire night, or day… but I don’t recommend this on your desktop at work…
Overall I’d say this game is very well produced for an independent game studio and it’s a bit of a tragedy that 4 Leaf Studios has stated that it will be the only game they will ever make. The lack of Voice-acting slightly turned me off and I feel that the introduction to the the main character itself requires a LOT of work.
Plus there’s no reason NOT to try this out especially if you’ve never tried Visual-Novel games before since this game is ABSOLUTELY FREE!
All in all here’s the verdict ;
Visuals : 8/10
STORY: 9.5/10 ( Fucking Introduction spoils it )
Music : 5/10
Re-play Value : You’ll definitely replay this since they’ll be another 4 girls each with 2-3 possible endings to them
Overall Panda Points : 7/10
The game can be downloaded here > http://katawashoujo.blogspot.com/2012/01/katawa-shoujo-released.html