VideAU Games PC Review: Katawa Shoujo (Four Leaf Studios, 2012)

I have delayed playing a visual novel such as Katawa Shoujo for too long, simply because of my bias towards books in hard-copy. After all, how good could a visual novel be?

Katawa Shoujo is a combination visual novel and dating sim independently released by a group who formed out of 4chan named, Four Leaf Studios; dedicated fans who came together to form a community and developed this game. The result is a game/visual novel that has at parts made me feel utterly sorry for the protagonist, while I pounded my fists in anger at how some of my decisions have made led to bad endings.

Katawa Shoujo, literally translaed to "Disability Girl" is a story about a boy who has been admitted into a school for students that have special needs (e.g. blindness, trauma that is affecting day-to-day interactions) – Basically anyone with a disability finds love there... and whether the relationship ends up well or not is completely up to the player’s choice.

How do you play Katawa Shoujo? Think any typical ("old school") RPG, where you don’t really move around nor hold big swords and shields, and a story is given to you. All you need to do is to move your mouse and click, read the story, enjoy the music as well as the drawn art.

The art of the game is beautifully done and its story well written, though at times I could detect that certain parts have been written by other people, even within the same run of dialogue. It was often gentler, harsher or more emotional from one line to the next.

The accompanying music used in the game was beautifully composed – the theme song of the game, known as Wiosna even made it into my phone. With such great narrative, art and music, I now wonder why I waited so long to play it!

However, this game is not something that you should rush through – Every piece of word in the narrative or dialogues have been carefully crafted to create flaws in the people. Humans are not perfect, and this is why the story is so perfect. It is about finding love when you are lost in life; meeting people who face disabilities like you and turn out to be your guiding light.

Would I have recommended that Katawa Shoujo be put into a hardcopy book, with none of the fantastic music and art that I have just heard and seen?
Frankly speaking, I am not sure.

Having already played the game before giving this consideration has affected my judgment somewhat. On one hand, I can bring out the rhetoric that having it in all text allows your mind to be the one that constructs how each character looks like, every bit of detail, from how the school looks like to how the characters speak.

However, having already seen how the characters look like on art, I am not sure if I can construct the world as well as Four Leaf Studios have.

If Katawa Shoujo is an indication of the qualities of other, similar novels, I would most definitely read/play another one.

Review Score: 7.5 out of 10.

Highlights: Clever dialogue, Nice art style, Excellent characters.

Lowlights: Not going to be for everyone.

Developer: Four Leaf Studios
Publisher: Four Leaf Studios

Release Date: November 2012