I haven't read a visual novel before and I'm not going to take into account established genres. This review is how I see Katawa Shoujo (It's free btw) as it is, some of the criticism may really be of visual novels in general. As it stands I've played through 1.5 storylines So it's an eroge(with an option to remove the mature stuff) about disabled girls. Those flags that should have gone off in your head are wrong though. The subject matter is treated with huge weight and is essential to the story about finding who you are and how to do deal with disability and applies it to general life experience we all understand. This isn't about gratification and the game slaps you hard if you think like that. Its utterly respectful. Mechanically you click through dialogue with pictures and make a choice, maybe every 20 minutes that will send the story down radically different paths. It's terrible. Clicking through dialogue is physically a little uncomfortable and stops me from finding my own flow and destroys reading rhythm. By itself, a comic, or a book, or a lump of text would have been a better way to experience the story. It's a lot more work, but it could have done with using The Walking Dead tactic of giving choices for all dialogue that paraphrased the same thing but didn't affect the story. It would have been involving. Choices happen so rarely there's no feeling of control or creativity. The choices aren't even clear. The option to run harder in a race or not risk a heart attack will actually permanently decide your relationship with the sporty girl. The appearance of choice made me attach to someone quickly and then being tracked down the wrong path was just frustration. I have no shame in immediately redoing the game with a guide because the choices were damaging my experience of the story. They needed to come about after a series of several decisions rather than one that decides everything. The +ve of the choices is there's a sense of exploration after first completion, but it's almost unrelated to the story But the story was so good, the characters have rote stand out traits (shy, brash etc) but I fell for them and the story was gripping. And incredibly heavy hitting, some of the Hanako storyline made me question myself as a person and think about my life decisions. The reality of it makes it less pure joy but has an incredible weight.
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