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Such A Beautiful Game
"Katawa Shoujo" treats its subjects with maturity and stunning realism, and succeeds because it ardently refuses to objectify disabilities. Each sex scene does not fetishize the girl's disability, nor mention it in passing, but treat it sensitively. For example, Hanako faces excruciating pain during sex and Lilly creatively imagines her beloved through stimulation. Also, the game sufficently involves the player, as choosing to half-heartedly accepting the nurse's request to run with Emi will cause Hisao to lose interest with her passion and her love.

But the game truly won because despite each girl's suffering, it refuses to excuse her for her weaknesses. The weak-willed Hanako, on both hers and Lilly's track, must accept self-dependency and move forward rather than latching upon Hisao or Lilly. The annoying, prideful Shizune must lose her complacency to truly connect with Hisao. It is not completely realistic, but the mentions of "phantom pain" by Emi, disconnect Rin faces toward others, and stimulation Shizune feels when Hisao touches her hands all add to each character's personality.

In my opinion, the prose tries too hard to be artful, and many details are too heavy-handed. Also, the game does not appeal to a specific audience: it balances high school shoujo drama with coming-of-age stories and sex scenes. In addition, the erotica may be awkward (condoms and anal, oh my), but to me, it emphasized the reality of teenagers experimenting with their bodies. The drawings are not professional, but extremely well-done considering that the creators received no compensation for their vast efforts. Also, the player may sometimes face a disliking and disconnect toward Hisao, especially when he essentially uses Hanako for sex, but I feel that this expounds his imperfections and depth.

Overall, "Katawa Shoujo" struck a beautiful nerve with me, as I found myself making excuses to continue each story late into the night. I found it genuinely interesting as I am attracted toward character-centered plot-lines and weirdly sexy scenes. It is not for the faint of heart (get it? Hisao has arrhythmia...? Okay, I'll shut up), and it defies conventional story-telling for full explanations and genre confusion, but it overall is beautiful and, most importantly, emotionally real.
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Couldn't put it down
I loved playing this game. I'm a fan of the visual novel - and personally, the fewer choices I need to make, the less anxiety I have. For me, the appeal of the genre as a whole is being able to experience a story in a more visceral and immersive way than in a non-interactive medium. So I don't mind the fact that (in some of the routes) there aren't many choices or branches. For me, it's a bug, not a feature. I played through the first few times aimlessly to find out where I wound up (and got Emi first, then Rin) and turned a walkthrough later on to make sure I was getting where I wanted to go.

The characters are all well-developed and while some of their issues stem from their disabilities, the main problems of the routes and end goals aren't about them. Hanako wants to be seen as a whole person despite her injuries - Rin wants to be understood and her arms have nothing to do with it - Lily needs to allow herself to lean on someone - Shizune and Emi need to let people in.

My single favorite thing about the game is that the H-scenes are at no point the end goal of the game or the resolution of the story. It's not about having sex with them - it's about falling in love. In almost all the routes, you can still get a bad ending after having a sexual encounter, and the good ending implies a stable, loving, respectful relationship.

I also admit I was surprised to see people talk about the "unusually high" number of female fans. Speaking as a woman, Hisao is a great boyfriend all the way through. He takes great pains to make sure his partners enjoy themselves, which made it easy for me to put myself in their shoes and have just as much fun. I'm not surprised at all that women find this hot.
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An enjoyable and interesting visual novel
Katawa Shoujo can be described as a visual novel in which you date disabled girls, but that is an oversimplification. It raises multiple questions. What does it mean for two people to understand each other and fall each other? How can people overcome their own weaknesses, or change long-standing behavior patterns?

The characters you can date are quite well-written. While at first they appear to represent certain disabilities and certain types of people, but as you progress in their routes and learn of the aspects of themselves they hide from others, they come off as more easier to relate to, more human and more likeable. Their personal issues sometimes are related to their disabilities and sometimes are not, which nicely emphasizes that disabled people are people, too, not free of the problems everyone faces even while they have problems of their own.

Each route not only has a different kind of girl, but also a different kind of story and a different writer. As such, some may appeal to you more than others, based on the kind of girls or stories you like, but you should be able to find at least one that holds your interest, and may, by playing through them all, like one you otherwise would not have.

Hisao himself is a relatively interesting character, if not as much as the girls. After having his whole life turned upside down and leaving everything he knew behind, what direction will he take? The answer often depends on the girl he's with, and he often ends up drawing different insights about his life before as a result. The choices are often fairly interesting, in that you're often not asking him to respond to a situation, but where his priorities lie. For example, choosing whether to side with Lilly or Shizune is not as much about whom you want to choose, but deciding- is Hisao the kind of person who stands up for himself or takes things at his own pace? Such decisions shape Hisao's personality, and as such, who is right for him.

The art and music are quite well done, and effectively illustrate and complement the scenes throughout each route.

All in all, Katawa Shoujo is very enjoyable and insightful, and as such, is well worth your time.

My favorite routes are as follows: 1)Lilly 2)Shizune 3)Hanako 4)Emi 5)Rin, although to the game's credit, I did not dislike Rin's route, merely finding it less interesting than the others.
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The most over rated game about milking peoples symphaties
Right on the moment I played the game, I have fallen in love with it. I was having so much fun reading until when I realized that such enjoyment was just a false facade of the boredom that lies within

Most positive reviews highlights the majesty of the story and the colorful characters. But lets be honest here. How many of you have said that it was original?

The most famous characters in the VN are Lily and Hanako so they were my automatic target to finish.

Lily Satou, the Hime Sama of the VN. Hailed by all as the manifestation of feminine artifice. But why do people deny the fact that she was just another archtype out of the many others which was done before and done better?.

Heck, even her story was frustrating as fuck! All she did was to just have fun till her parents called and ended their relationship, without any objection against her parents. Seriously? Dont you realize the difference between a Yamato Nadeshiko and an Extreme Dormat? Make it worse, her ending was just a poor copy of Liar Liar and some other movie that I forgot the title.

Next Character would be....

Hanako Ikezawa, the idol of the "Broken Hearts Club". I admit, her shyness was adorable. But if all you did all throughout your screen time was to kept on weeping and sitting around the corner, then you got a problem little miss. All that Hanako did was to scream "Oh no, my parents died! Time to cry and wait for prince charming". Can please we stop blaming the death of parents already?

Her whole story was just a single ride where she just cant accept her parents death then Hisao nailed her. The End. Romantic isnt it?

I like her bad ending though, as it showed her desperation to prove her strenght. Too bad, its a bad end. I have no intention of playing the other arcs, because if this 2 famous girls cannot impress me, then theres no point for more.

The only explanation for the massive fanbase was their imaginary symphaty for the characters disabilities. The game tricks the player into relating themselves with how the characters get to live their life like normal, despite their defects. But once you removed that, all you will uncover is a predictable story and bland characters
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Good storygame experienced badly.
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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A Good Story
As a game, Katawa Shoujo is kind of a failure. It waffles between having fairly meaningless choices, and choices that are obvious. Out of all the routes, I only had problems figuring out what to do in one, and that's more a product of my personality then anything else, when I sat down and analyzed it, it was pretty easy to see what the authors were going for. If you are looking for a visual novel that will take things to the next level and offer a lot of compelling choices, this is not it. Katawa isn't terribly long either, without skipping it only took me about 20 or so hours of gameplay to get through the routes (though I am a very fast reader).

However, I would heartily recommend KS as a STORY. It's a very beautiful story, and if you go into it thinking of it as a story and not as a game you will find yourself enjoying it immensely. All the characters are fairly well rounded and believable with their own problems and triumphs. The disabilities are addressed very well, they are not ignored but they are not what define the characters (with one exception, which makes sense).

The different routes are very well done in my opinion. The first one I got was Emi's, which came about as a result of making choices much as I would in real life if I had a heart condition. It was also my favorite route, probably because Emi's the kind of girl I get along with best. She's pretty bubbly and bouncy with a tone of energy, but she also has some very understandable issues and her route dealt with things like loss, overcoming fears of abandonment, and choosing a future.

Hanako's route was the last one I played, and my second favorite. She was radically different then the bouncy Emi, and her's was the route I struggled with the most. I got the bad ending and the neutral ending before I discovered the good ending. And you know what? I learned something from that. The game was not afraid to force me to confront my own biases and faulty beliefs and I applaud that. Hanako was also the most defined by her disability, but considering it's nature and impact, it was very appropriate.

In summery, I really recommend this to anyone who's interested in reading a good story. It's obviously an amateur production, but that only make the experience all the more enjoyable. It was a labor of love, and that shows. Recommended to anyone looking for a good read.

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In retrospect, kind of disappointing
It'll be a year tomorrow since the release of KS, 4chan's infamous foray into eroge. It took me until summer this year to find out about it, and I couldn't wait to download it when I did. Even though I had heard that the premise was treated with respect, I still couldn't believe that the asshole of the internet could have created something that wasn't full of debauchery.

Yes, I was proven wrong. Yes, I read all of the routes (save Shizune's) at least twice over, and yeah, I thought it was the best 4chan possibly could have done. And then... I stopped reading for awhile. Picked up some other visual novels (as KS was my first "official VN"; I had played a Phoenix Wright game before but didn't know what V Ns were at the time). Got to thinking. And before long, I realized that KS wasn't near as good as I thought it had been.

It took me awhile to figure out why. The art was good. I've seen freeware V Ns with better art (though none with the incredible FM Vs as good as what Mike Inel made), and upon reading it again, I notice the pencil lines a lot more than I used to, but I can't say it's unpleasing to the eye. Music was also pretty good; a few of my favorite VN tracks come from KS. This is without a doubt the most user friendly VN I've read, with a backlog that stretches FAR back, a library that skips to ANY previously viewed scene (even professional ones usually just skip to the H-scenes), and choices that, while not immediately obvious, can be easily solved with a little intuitive reasoning, with an exception or two on both ends of the spectrum.

The problems then, had to come from the most important thing: the writing. While it succeeded in its goal of not coming across as patronizing, I eventually concluded that every last route save one (Rin's) consistently had problems with pacing and tension. Not one of the remaining four could conjure up any sort of interesting conflict without resolving it right away, not until the very end, anyway. And furthermore, the emotional stakes often seemed pretty low. It's difficult for me to read Emi or Lilly's routes now without thinking, "What do I care if they get together or break up? They'll be fine either way..." Fittingly, both bad ends are lackluster.

So I guess it comes down to what you want from a story. If it's interesting conflict, look elsewhere.

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Good and bad
It's one of those games... While good, it's hard to compare it to other VNs, while I completely understand this wasn't a professionally made game it's still fair to compare it.

The first thing I didn't like was how it locked up each route. They didn't merge together. It certainly made going back and getting 100% much, much easier it was still very... it rubbed me the wrong way, anyway.

Characters: Some of the characters I liked (Kenji, Emi and Rin being my personal favourite) and some I couldn't stand (such as Shizune and Hisao)... yeah, it's very irritating when you cannot stand the main character. All of the bad endings involve him acting like an ass and they aren't the choices you can control. The one ending where he dies is the best one. Example: he apologies to Lilly after he has an attack because he doesn't take his medication, she tells him not to apologise for his illness... he never expands that he's a dreadfully stupid person.

Naturally, kudos to the writers for all of the other characters - I enjoyed them.

Art: The art is rather nice, some better than others, though Lilly's hand will forever frighten me. When it's close to her mouth... it's... very strange.

Difficulty: This is somewhere in the realms of easy and searching out the bad endings. It's rather irritating going out of your way to find the bad endings just for a hundred percent and this brings me to my biggest problem with the whole game: the skip text speed is too darn slow. When you're searching out all of the bad endings... you've got to sit through everything again and again. Even before then, just going on the separate routes you have to go through Act 1 over and over again. Incredibly boring. Of course, this leads to the magical reason as to why the credits as skippable but to get 100% you shouldn't skip the ending.

Sex scenes: these annoy me. First of all there's a song called "To Become One" which is the worst music to be played over any sex scene. Horrendously cheesy. For the sex themselves - meh. I was horrible awkward in some places where a girl would say "comfort me" and Hisao would just whip off his trousers. Last time I check a hug was enough... this does bring up the fact that Rin does hug you (no CG oddly...) and then later says she can't hug you.

It's the matter of the curate's egg. All the bad things about it ruin it.
  # comments: 4
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Recovered from my feels and ready to review!
Ah yes, Katawa Shoujo. After 5 years of development, it has finally been completed. Some despise it, and some love it. Such a thing is inevitable.

Before I get to why this is a high quality Visual Novel, I shall clarify on why some may not think so. If you're looking for a soul-wrenching romance with sympathetic characters on the level of Clannad or Kanon, you won't find it here. If you're looking for an epic plot with Badasses on par with classics like G Senjou No Maou or Fate Stay Night, you won't find it here. If you're looking for high-quality cripple porn, you will definitely not find it here.

The music is good, the CGs are good, the sex scenes fit well in the narrative (for once), the writing is good, and so on. But what really makes this Visual Novel shine are the characters and how realistically they are characterized. In other words, it's not how likable or sympathetic these characters are, it's how empathetic these characters are. Clearly, the devs took great care in making these characters as real as possible.

Most fictional works incite emotion in the audience by taking a character that's just developed enough for the audience to care about him and torture mercilessly him. Almost every fictional work that has drama is guilty of this, especially in the Visual Novel genre. Katawa Shoujo instead creates characters so real and makes them deal with problems so realistic that audience can't help but feel emotion. This is because the audience can see themselves, their friends, and their loved ones in similar situations and how they will react. In short, the audience cares what happens because it is happening to fellow humans. Not many works can inspire the sheer amount of empathy Katawa Shoujo can.

Katawa Shoujo is definitely a must-play for anyone who can appreciate a good romance story. Even if you think you can't, give it a try. Who knows? Maybe you'll cry Manly Tears like the many others who have played this.
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A beautiful story
This troper is not in Katawa Shoujo's target demographic. I am not male, nor do I frequent 4chan. As a result, I only learned about Katawa Shoujo shortly after Act 1 came out. I was... intrigued and decided that if the full version ever came out, I would play it. I didn't think of myself as an enthusiastic fan, but when I woke on the morning of January 4th, I remembered that "Today's the day!", at which point I threw myself out of bed and rushed to the computer.

It really is amazing how much love and effort was put into this, especially considering the place it got started. Our protagonist is likable and identifiable, and even the side characters all have certain depth to them. And let's not get started on our heroines, who break free from not only their disabilities, but also from the stereotypes surrounding their personality types.

Sadly, this game is not for everyone. Some people just don't like visual novels that involve a lot of reading, especially when it involves reading something that isn't directly related to the plot. Then again, the writers tried to make the story as realistic as possible, and real life isn't always exciting. The people who complain about how long it took to get to the sex scenes, I have less sympathy for. Katawa Shoujo was promoted as an eroge, but at its core, it's more than that. It's a love story. Your hero isn't some White Knight, coming in to save the poor crippled girls with his penis, nor is he a monster raping the innocent girls for his own sick amusement. He's a boy who had a heart attack and is still trying to find his place in the world. He helps the girls, yes, but he also makes mistakes. The only thing you decide is if the mistakes are ones that will ruin his relationship with the girl.

Overall, it's definitely a must play for any visual novel fan. Even if you're not, I think it's definitely worth a play, if you don't mind some reading. Who knows? It might give you a new perspective not just on visual novels, but on life as well.
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Quite possibly the most boring thing I've ever read/played
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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Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.
Katawa Shoujo is like nothing I have ever played: thanks to some intriguing Internet articles and friends' glowing recommendations, I've immersed myself in one of the most inspirational and meaningful stories I've ever experienced. The game has allowed me to look at love and life in many new ways, and it really has become my new standard for romantic fiction.

In terms of the story, the game takes the smartest approach to its characters' disabilities that I could imagine: it de-emphasizes them. They're important, without overshadowing the characters' own diverse and generally deep personalities. The player character, Hisao, has a very strong central personality for a player-controlled character, and his various contradictory personality traits, such as his compassion for others and his impatience, make many conflicting choices equally plausible (if not always wise). All of the stories earn the player's emotion in their own unique ways: some stories are simple but powerful (Hanako, Emi), while others rest on the overwhelming complexity of the characters and their struggles (Shizune, Rin). Shizune's plot deserves special praise for deconstructing basically everything about her life and relationships, and Rin's unique story demands unconditional compassion to the end.

In my view, Emi's story's success lies not in plot or character complexity but in the strength of individual moments. Emi's story, to me, was "great" overall, where everyone else's was fantastic, and yet her path is where Hisao makes what is my favorite heartwarming speech of anything he ever says—and this, I believe, must be earned by *botching* a certain critical decision anyway.

Lilly's path can seem suspiciously refreshing to those who have completed the others, as the story is much calmer and more reserved about conflict from the start—but the plot and its lead have plenty of reason for that. Her story, the last I finished and my favorite of the five (she's so sweet!), does an excellent job of calling back the start of the game, as well as pulling out a few tricks at the end that no one else's story does. (Stay through the happy-ending credits!)

All of the characters are as memorable as their stories, making for one of the best gaming experiences I've ever enjoyed. (The beautiful instrumental soundtrack is free to download. Use it in Audiosurf!)
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