Developer: Four Leaf Studios
NA Release: January 2012
I admit this one took a while to get to.
When I learned about the game from a superb article on Hardcore Gaming 101 I was immediately on board. "This sounds groundbreaking!" I thought. "I must experience it!"
I downloaded the game, which is free, but then it just sat on my computer. I would glance at it occasionally, but go on to play something else instead. It's apparently much easier to grab the gun than to pull the trigger, and my initial excitement to play the game had stagnated enough that other thoughts began to creep in, not the least of which was how was I going to describe this to people when they asked about it.
"Oh, I'm playing this visual-novel-slash-dating-sim, but the twist is it's set at a school for the disabled! Wait, I know that sounds kind of hinky, but it's being treated seriously and--well, yes, there are sex scenes, but I'm telling you that the anonymous people from 4chan who made this game have really thought it through and--look, it's getting hard to talk to you with how deep this hole is gotten. Just let me keep digging and I'll be right back up with you in a jiffy!"
Curiosity eventually won out, however, and I'm glad it did. For 27 ways to Tuesday this sort of concept could have gone wrong, Katawa Shoujo does a lot of things right.
|Those of you who know me may be all, "Ooh, I bet he went for the bubbly looking one with pink hair!" Well, you'd be wrong. I considered many other factors when making my decision. Also, she's not a persuable character.|
Katawa Shoujo, thankfully, seems to understand this and offers what I thought to be a very down-to-earth approach to the subject matter. The "playable" character, Hisao, finds himself having to attend his senior year at Yamaku High School and comes into contact with the five potential love interests, as well as supporting characters. The disabilities of these characters, which range from blindness and deafness to not possessing certain limbs, are never ignored yet never seem to fully define them. A strong personality has been built for each girl and the condition each faces physically only seems to be one part of what defines them. In my first playthrough, I ended up going down Emi's story arc not because she had prosthetic legs, but because she had promised to help Hisao with a running program that would help the heart condition he faces.
|Emi Ibarazaki: The Fastest Thing on No Legs. The fact that it's she who calls herself that and laughs while doing so is a very liberating theme of this story.|
And, well, speaking of taboo, I guess I should address the adult content. As I said before, there are sex scenes with nudity and acts and... positions. That you see. It's difficult to say just how "hardcore" these are as my sensibilities tend to lie more on the prudish side. Maybe they're like an illustrated Fifty Shades of Grey? Well, I'm guessing about that. I wouldn't really know, haha! You can turn them off if you wish, skipping them entirely, and if you feel they would bother you I heavily suggest you do so because the warm and fascinatingly written story is still very much worth the experience. I guess you could say the scenes do fit into the story relatively well, though, if you feel that sort of thing happens a lot. They're pretty jarring when they start to happen, at least to me, but I guess the fact I find them way more uncomfortable than the the theme of disabilities is a big plus, so, uh...
Gah, where's my shovel? Just give Katawa Shoujo a try, remember to turn off the adult scenes if you want to, and maybe I'll have reached China by the time you're done.