Deep Cliff #62 (Game Review: Katawa Shoujo)

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Game Review: Katawa Shoujo

Hello and welcome to yet another Deep Cliff, where I listen to your questions and bring you in depth answers. Today I want to talk to you about a game that I was talked into trying recently. A free downloadable game for your computer. A visual novel, dating simulation game called Katawa Shoujo. Now before I go into this I want to make three things clear: Firstly, I am not that into visual novels and have never played one before. This was a new experience for me right off the bat. Secondly, this game does have sexually explicit scenes, but you can choose to have those censored. Finally, I am not going to touch on the topic that this is a fetish game. I wish to only discuss it from the perspective of its story, game play, characters, and overall enjoyment. With that said, let’s get started.

You play the game as a boy named Hisao, who recently learned that he has arrhythmia; a rare heart condition that causes the heart to beat irregularly and can raise ones risk for heart attacks. Because of this, Hisao is enrolled into Yamaku Academy, a boarding school specifically for the physically disabled and handicapped. At first, Hisao feels very out of sorts and alone in his new environment and like he’s deprived of a happy and normal life…until he meets a colorful cast of characters there to help him through it all…and yes, they’re all girls. Can these girls truly open Hisao’s eyes to the possibilities and opportunities Yamaku Academy has to offer, and possibly even give him the chance at romance? That is up to you and your choices through the story.
That’s the basic premise of almost any visual novel and dating sim game. It’s like reading a book but with visual characters to go off of for reference. Your decisions through out the book shape the outcome of which girl you end up with and whether or not you have a happy ending or not. I’ve never played a game like this, but I found it rather enjoyable simply because I love reading and this felt very much like a book. But let’s break this down into 3 parts, shall we? I’m going to discuss the characters first, then the Pros and Cons. Ready?

First of all, the characters are all an interesting sort. Your character, Hisao is much different than your typical bland male character in a harem anime. See, it’s a common trope to just have the male lead bland, boring, and an empty slate so you can easily put yourself in their place. But Hisao actually does have some character. He has a nack for sciene and math, and he’s not as interested in being physically active (though granted I suppose that could have been determined by the path I chose). He’s a cautious character, but very well meaning and kind. This is what wins the girls over that he interacts with.
The other girls are all vastly unique. I won’t discuss backstories because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will give a brief explination. You have Misha and Shizune…I mention them together because they NEED to be mentioned together. Shizune is a deaf girl, but also the Student Body President, and Misha is her hyperactive interpreter. These are the first girls you encounter and they are a rather interesting pair. They both work off each other very well, and it’s impossible to see one without the other.
Then there’s Rin and Emi, another unique pairing. Emi is a girl with prosthetic legs, but is also the star of the track team. A gifted runner and very athletic, I found her a rather fun and puppy dog like character…very playful. And Rin is just…odd. She’s a girl without arms who wears boy clothing and spends her time painting pictures with her toes. I don’t truly know what to say about her…she’s a very strange one, often saying things that don’t make sense or throwing illogical nonsense into logical questions and statements. I found her entertaining though.
Then there’s Hanako, easily the staple character of the show. She’s a girl with burn scars over half of her upper torso, including her face, which she’s very shy about. Let’s put it this way…she’d make Fluttershy from MLP look like a public speaker. Scared of everyone and dealing with her own personal demons, I dare not even begin discussing her backstory or further character right now.
Finally there’s Lily…easily my favorite character and (as you guessed) the girl I ended up with by the end of the game. She’s a blind girl who is very sophisticated, kind, and patient. She’s half Scottish (and trust me that will come to play later in the game) and just being around her you could tell that she wasn’t like the other girls. Where all the others were very hyper or mysterious, Lily portrayed herself as more of a calm and cool persona, which I have always been drawn to. Plus there’s the fact we have a few things in common. I was struck blind nearly 6 years ago due to a training accident and remained that way for over a week. It was not a pleasant experience. But enough about that.

Now as for the PRO’s of the game!
The art and music for this game are both outstanding. The music is extremely relaxing and conveys the mood of each scene excellently. My favorite piece is “Red Velvet” which you can look up on Youtube. I’ll provide a link in the description. The designs of the girls are all beautiful and there are brief animation bits that also add a good deal of emotion to which ever storyline you go down. I found just as much enjoyment just looking at the art and listening to the music as I did reading the story, which is also a pro. The story is the primary focus. Unlike Monster Musume where the characters were what made the show worth while, in this it is very much the story. It paces itself very well and doesn’t try to rush into obvious romance clichés. Sometimes it’s rather unclear if the decisions you made are the right ones, and perhaps that’s a good thing. If it were all obvious about what choice is the right one, then it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to see what comes of it. But trust me when I say that each decision is paramount.
For each girl, even if you manage to win their love and compassion, will lead you into Act 4 of the story where you will have one more decision to make…and that decision will determine whether you get a GOOD ending, a NEUTRAL ending, or a BAD ending. The good ending leaves the two of you together in a truly wonderful relationship and happy ending. A neutral ending just sees you two as friends…and that’s it. The bad ending will end the relationship and leave on a very bitter note. I think that’s a very mature and very interesting way of carrying the story especially considering how many relationships can have such outcomes.
And need I say that the writing is brilliant? As a writer myself, I felt so jealous of this writing! I wish I could write romance like this. I wish I could come up with stories like these stories! I think that’s a great sign when you’re actually jealous of just how well done the writing and story is. It’s very creative!

But now let’s talk about the CON’s.
As I said before, this game does have sexual scenes…and as I understand it, these sex scenes are given, no matter which girl you choose. Now the fear behind that is that all this game is is just a fetish game where if you have a fetish for disabled girls then you’ll just enjoy it for the sex. If that’s true, then I truly feel bad that this game has to be that way, as I feel like it worked incredibly well as a love story. But if it IS just a love story and it is treated as one…was the sex really needed? I feel like this story could have been strong without that.
Then there’s also…Kenji. Kenji is your next door neighbor in the game and I can’t tell if he’s disability is that he’s part blind…or if he’s a paranoid schizophrenic. He shows up constantly spouting random nonsense about feminist take over and how women are going to come to rule the world. Really he’s an unnecessary and very annoying character. I feel like he was introduced to be a comic male character to downplay the girls some…but could they have picked someone less irritating?! He was funny at first, but after the THIRD time seeing this guy I was ready to punch him, and from what I understand he can also be a huge foil for you at one point or another if you make the wrong choices.

Other than those things, I have very little negative to say about this game! I enjoyed it and, much like a good book, I couldn’t put it down after starting it. It nearly made me teary eyed by the end, and that’s not easily done guys. I give this game an easy 8 out of 10. I remove those two points only because of the issues of Kenji and the sex scenes, but otherwise this is a game well worth the time and energy to just play with…but you might wanna save Lily’s story for last, because once I finished hers, I didn’t want to do anymore…it was too perfect an ending.

Until Next Time!

This is the musical score "Red Velvet" that I mentioned: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA3qWn… please give it a listen..it's well worth it.

Anyway, yes I gave this game a try because my brother knew I was struggling with writers block and encouraged me to try something new to give me inspiration to work with. Whether it did the trick or not is up for debate, but whatever the case this is my review of the game! I highly recommend it to you if you're a lover of good stories and romance.

Hope ya'll enjoy!

Oh, and in the cover art, the girls (from left to right) are Lily, Hanako, Rin, Shizune, and Emi.
© 2015 - 2020 The-Knight-Writer
anonymous's avatar
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MajesticHentaiSenpai's avatar
MajesticHentaiSenpaiHobbyist General Artist
I just wanna add that, at least in the beginning, the protagonist reminded me of Kyon from The Melancholy Of Suzumiya Haruhi. ...Which is a good thing.
patathatapon's avatar
Was wondering if you'd ever get to this. I played through all the endings and I loved it. First character I ended up with was Emi, because I'm the type to listen to my Doctor, and get goaded to do something that might kill me if I'm not careful. I also like running. A lot.

I found the worst sex scenes in the game were mostly just the awkward ones. Without even needing to spoil, you can guess that Hanako takes the cake and devours it. That scene does get explained well enough though for it not to be too big of a deal breaker.

While not a big fan of sex scenes (or anything that tries to turn me on at all really) I would say that apparently sex is fairly normal for most teenagers these days, even if they're just dating. So some would argue it would be more unnatural if there wasn't something relating to that.

Now, if you want to get to a very well written game, I'd recommend UnderTale to you. Probably the best written thing this year.
bookrider's avatar
bookriderHobbyist General Artist
Though, as your first visual novel, it kinda ruins any others you might play... It's just too good. 
The-Knight-Writer's avatar
I might try others...but I don't think there are any that hold a candle to this.
bookrider's avatar
bookriderHobbyist General Artist
My first path Was Emi, and then Lily, and then Hanako. Lily and Hanako are definitely my favorites, and my least favorites were Shizune and Misha :/. Everything you said is pretty much how I enjoy the game, and I'm glad that such a great visual novel was your first. And about Kenji... Yeah, he's annoying, but I found him fun simply because I know people like that. Annoying to the point of making you admire their commitment to their own world. He's there because he's nearly blind. They don't allow any students with mental heath issues into Yamaku. As for the sex scenes... I don't have a fetish for girls with disabilities, and that's not really why this game was even made. It was made to make you think about how you treat people differently, and that everyone is special in their own way. I personally am attracted to a girl's personality and the connection between the two of us, so the sex scene didn't entice me because of the nudity, but because of the closeness you were able to feel with the characters. I wish more anime romances would have sex in them, (Not to turn in into a hentai, they don't even have to show it), but only for the commitment and closeness that the characters are showing to one another. It just makes a story that much more deep and realistic to me. 
The-Knight-Writer's avatar
Oh yes, the game was extraordinarily fun. I loved the story, loved the characters, loved the music (goddamn I could listen to Red Velvet all day long). And you're probably right. The sex scenes (while nude) did emphasize the closeness of the characters, so I'll give you that one. ^^ But Lily was easily my favorite of the girls, especially since we both have a lot in common and I felt just more naturally drawn to her personality and character. I know what it's like to be blind (although my case was temporary). And the whole thing at the end....just damn...nearly had me crying. If my writing were half that good, I'd be world famous.
bookrider's avatar
bookriderHobbyist General Artist
And the entire game was written and made through messages on 4chan. Give that one a think. 
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