Players choose touching storylines in free game, ‘Katawa Shoujo’

By: Cody Hood

Upon hearing the confession of his long time crush, Hisao’s life changed forever. His heart was beating like a drum, and soon he felt it stop. With a sudden realization, he fell to his knees as his life went black.

When he came to, Hisao’s vision was filled with light while he smelled the sterility of the room and heard the soft beeping of the heartbeat monitor. The doctor walked in to inform him of his life-changing news: he had been diagnosed with long-dormant cardiac arrhythmia. Hisao’s eyes widened when he was told that he would be changing schools to Yamaku Academy, a school for the physically disabled. From that day, his life was never the same, and now your job is to help him decide which path will be his future.

“Katawa Shoujo” is a visual novel and game developed by Four Leaf Studios, a group that was originally from 4chan. The game is completely free for download straight from the website. Though it does have some sexual scenes, they can be disabled straight from the menu for people who do not want to see them.

“Katawa Shoujo” is centralized around a young man named Hisao Nakai who transfers to Yamaku Academy after his dormant cardiac arrhythmia acted up upon hearing the confession of his high school crush. After his recovery, he meets a variety of characters, the main five girls each having various disabilities. The game handles the topic of disability very respectfully, and there is no joke that is made that is in bad taste for each character’s unique background.

The story depends on which girl players decide to go with on a route, each character having her own struggles that she has to go through, developing her characteristics throughout the player’s choices. The game is a choice-based visual novel, so every once in awhile a decision needs to be made by the player. Each decision is vitally important; each one leads to either a bad ending where the relationship goes badly, a neutral ending where they remain friends or break up or a good ending where they live happily and the relationship blossoms.

The characters are each very realistic, each one having his or her own flaws regarding different things. They fight through trials and become stronger characters as a result of those struggles. It’s a very large strength of the game that makes its characters very relatable and brings a strong emotional connection to each character.

The soundtrack is absolutely beautiful with each song bringing a deep impact to each area the player is located in. Most of it is piano music, and it really brings out the emotional side of “Katawa Shoujo,” and sometimes the game is very sad, guaranteed to make almost anyone cry.

A negative of the game is the lack of animation besides the cinematic introduction to each route. It’s an absolutely spirit-based game, with art being displayed for a beautiful effect at times. For someone who needs great animation to be immersed within a game, it’s definitely a drawback to this game, but for a visual novel, it can be excused.

This visual novel is a highly recommended, if not required, read. It blends excellent writing with well-developed characters and a story that can move anybody. Each route is impactful, leaving the player with haunting feelings.

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