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Monday, January 9, 2012

Feelings & Fire: A Third Review of Katawa Shoujo

Overwhelming Need to Help: My Experience As a White Knight

Ogachi's Review of Hanako's Story
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Okay, I grudgingly agreed to play through this with the sole purpose of proving I could. It's a visual novel with an anime style developed by 4 Leaf Studios (Here: http://katawa-shoujo.com/). It follows Hisao and his paper heart through his time at a school for the disabled. Whilst there, he goes after one of five disabled chicks, each with positive, negative, and "Well, shit." endings. SO! I downloaded it, thinking it was just some stupid weeaboo kawaii uguu nonsense I'd be done with in 2 or 3 hours of laughing. 8 hours later, I completed a story. It was... different, to say the least. Now, I'm not big into the whole "Video Games as Art" thing or "Visual Novels Can't Be Video Games" thing, but it was certainly a different experience from the usual. Perhaps, that the lack of total control was it. Sure there were choices in the "Choose Your Own Adventure" style, but no more than 16 or 17 per story, and all the stories share 9 or 10 of the same choices in the 1st Act. Even the whole "Normal Guy" thing has been done before, but it is presented differently. You are not just a normal guy trying to get by but having trouble with the world. You are the normal guy, frail and knowing the wrong move can kill him, but always trying to deal with the problems and concerns of others instead of your own, which hits close to home for a lot of people. Perhaps it's just novelty value, as was recently suggested to me. Perhaps it was interesting in its way. Perhaps I'm just bullshitting my way through this. I'm not sure. Alas, I must continue my tale. ONWARDS!
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Hanako's Story

AVAST! Minor Details and My Reactions to Unspecified Plot Turns Lie Ahead!

Right-o. So. I started as Hisao and went through my first week at the school. Along the way, I saw a girl will long, dark hair who seems to be constantly hiding from everyone, raising some suspicion. Later, I meet a blonde, blind girl, named Lilly, and so I take the time to converse with her before accompanying her to the library. Whilst there, I saw the same dark haired girl in the Library, reading alone. Out of instinctive chivalry (or maybe just curiosity) I chose to cowboy up and attempt to talk to her. After a few odd sentences, awkward silences, and her just jumping up and running off, I learned her name, Hanako. I also learned the had quite the collection of burn scars and SERIOUS social anxiety. Unlike Fat4all's sheer curiosity about her, I felt slightly obligated to at least attempt to force a few more words out of her. Who says chivalry is dead? I found out her and Lilly are friends. Thus, off I went, on a roller-coaster of confusion, unsure that I was making any progress or not.

If I could describe the story in two words, it would be "emotional baggage". Seriously, Hanako would need an entire brigade of Psychonauts to clear that out of her head. About halfway through the story, I thought I was finally doing right well, making good progress as Hanako was actually starting to talk to people. My success lasted a half second before it was crushed into the dust of false hope as she then had an emotional breakdown. The next day, I thought I was bringing her out of it and even believed so for a bit after that but lo and behold I was WRONG. Though, I do have patience so I toughed it out and kept trying to break her out of the mental concrete barrier she made around herself. Thus the white knight that is in my blood did not allow me to leave it be but instead forced me to have a sense of obligation to protect her. Towards the end, I had the feeling of success again and once again it seemed to have been smashed. But then, during some of the last lines of the final Act, I had gotten a message she had been trying to put across the whole time, and thus "Oh. Well. Shit." It triggered a strange response, an experience I can't quite put my finger on. It seems like there's a word for it but I just don't know. Luckily, I never got a bad ending, and instead got the good one. Huzzah.
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Generic Technical Reviewing

Music- I don't really see that much to praise here. It was good for the job it was doing, I suppose, but nothing amazing.

Writing- Fairly good, definitely made me think about it. I was actually impressed by this part, being not what I expected.

Art & Design- Eh, this is a bit complicated. It's standard anime art, but the character designs do well to fit the personality of the character they represent, and I suppose calling an armless girl "generic" in this regard would be... unfair.

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The End Is Here

So, was it good, you ask? Was it playable? Was it worth it? In a nondescript, hesitant and shortly put way, yes. I only hesitate because I suppose at heart I am still biased and dislike this kind of thing off instinct. Did I enjoy it? ... Yes. It was actually much better than I expected. Hell with it, it's free. If you've got time to spare, go for it. It's just like reading a book, just with more pictures, music, sound effects, small choices that end up having a dramatic effect, and etc. Until next time folks. See you on a walk around town accompanied by "Dust in the Wind".

Oh God, why do I want to play it again? Oh dear lord, why? What is this? What is this I am experiencing? Oh God, it's the same as before! I think I know what the experience is called now. Is this what they call... feelings? My God.

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