Katawa Shoujo is a long awaited dating game/visual novel by the folks at 4Chan. Before I say anything, I think it's only fair to applaud the effort that went into this labour of love. It takes the time to examine mature issues that are never addressed in videogames, and it does so with sobriety and honest intentions. Alas, this is also why I find the game all the more disappointing. Initially, I was captivated by the premise. The protagonist, Hisao, is hospitalised by a life-threatening heart problem. The game follows his attempts to pick up his life, months later, at a school for the disabled. Hisao's frustrations came across as very authentic, and I was quickly engrossed in his depressing circumstances. Unfortunately, once the setup has been provided, the girls are shown in and the story takes a nose dive. Individually, the girls are as compelling and fleshed out as Hisao. But the story prefers to focus on utterly banal and uninteresting conversations with them. I spent twenty minutes just reading through a tedious discussion about a student council. It isn't of any importance in itself, yet keeps coming up over and over. These conversations are supposed to establish the girl's personalities, but all they do is bore. I felt for the characters, but I don't feel their need to talk crap for hours. It is one of those sad situations in which the good points make the bad all the more glaring. The excellence of the characterisation and themes only serve to exaggerate, by contrast, the tedium, the repetition, and the filler. If you wanted to read a compelling story, you won't find one here. If you just want to see naked pictures of (underage?) girls, you'll have to wait for about two hours before the dubious porn materialises. The final straw is that there is an utter lack of interactivity. There seems to be just a dozen or so occasions in which I actually get to make choices. If only I was presented with an opportunity to lead the conversation itself, that way I could perhaps avoid the more hundrum discussions. Katawa Shoujo is a disappointment and a waste of time, but at least it is a step in the right direction. It is a game that is willing to take on new issues and try different perspectives. If nothing else, I take some comfort in the fact that such innovation exists in the first place.
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