Sunday, February 19


Katawa Shoujo

Right.  That reminds me why I don't like this sort of game.

I don't have any problem at all with the game subject or material; they're fine, and deftly handled.  It's the shallowness of the decision tree that I have a problem with.  At least when Mass Effect screwed you this way, you could mostly either apologise or shoot someone.  Sometimes both.

Right now, I give it a big meh.

To expand slightly: I like the characters (with one grating exception), the artwork, the writing, and the music.  Unfortunately, it's not a good game.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 02:23 PM | Comments (14) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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1 KS isn't really a game, per se.  It's more like a giant "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.

Posted by: Wonderduck at Sunday, February 19 2012 04:37 PM (ZNgWw)

It's more like a giant "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.

That's the point he's making. You don't get to choose much. Rins path is the worst in that regard. Hannako's is by far the best as far as logically relevant choices.

On balance I liked most of the characters, and 3 of the 5 stories, but I agree that gameplay was lacking.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sunday, February 19 2012 05:12 PM (EJaOX)

3 I note that Katawa Crash has more actual game play (you can slow yourself, give yourself a boost a limited number of times and of course choose your initial trajectory) also get to kick Hisao around and there's a sharktopus, (which the VN sorely lacks).

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sunday, February 19 2012 05:20 PM (EJaOX)

4 And that's my point (which I also made in my review).  KS isn't a game by Western standards, and comparing it to Mass Effect, even in passing, isn't fair to either. 

If you object to calling KS a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, then I'll just call it five novellas wrapped together by a computer program.  There is no gameplay, just a lot of reading.

Having said that, I had more fun reading KS than I have any of the last five books I've picked up.

Posted by: Wonderduck at Sunday, February 19 2012 05:30 PM (ZNgWw)

5 The problem I have is that you're presented with two or three choices, none of which are quite what you want to do, and which don't accurately represent what your character will do or say (a sin which Mass Effect also commits, which is why I mentioned it) - and then you just press the space bar for a long while.

If you read the credits, you'll see they had a writing team, an art team, a music team... And no-one at all on game design.

I agree that it's a fun read, and the characters are engaging. But I think that all that creative work is sadly let down by the shortage of meaningful choices.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, February 19 2012 05:56 PM (PiXy!)

6 I'll give it another go, to get some more of the story out.  I do like the story (so far).  It just needs about three times as many branch points.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, February 19 2012 05:59 PM (PiXy!)

7 The real culprit there was, the, er... "development cycle", I guess you'd call it. The first chapter was produced as a demo/test the waters/holy shit this is really happening piece, and actually has a lot of decision points and branching etc etc. But the rest of the development doesn't run with that at all - if you don't end up on the Kenji bus, your ride will take you completely to the end of one of the girls' stories.

A game developed in more organic fashion would have spaced that out more, so that you didn't have a Future Destiny With _x_ by the school festival. But it would have also been a long, hard slog with the initial development team - they needed to have something out there to convince people that this was a real, serious project devoted to taking what sounds like a terrible joke of a concept and making a good experience out of it.

That said, there's something to be said for the roller coaster. Contrast with Type Moon's stuff, for example. The Tsukihime game had a bunch of branching options, but only a single determiner between whether you were on the Arc path or the Ciel path... and it wasn't the game asking you "so would you prefer to be bonking Arc or Ciel" either. It was entirely possible to go into the game and play it with a strong preference for one character, then do that particular choice wrong, starting you on the path for the other with massive, insuperable penalties (because, well... Ciel very much does not like Arc and Arc's just jealous in general.) So your game was doomed at that point... but it wouldn't say "oh yeah, you're so dead by now", you'd just play for a few more in-game days wondering why you're suddenly getting all these Ciel scenes when you'd been a lot more friendly with Arc.

Which is to say, designing these stories with a lot of branching points is hard, because an "oh darn, nobody likes you very much" ending is a highly negative experience, especially if you can't exactly work out what you did wrong. FSN had a few problems with this too. If you're playing the game worried that answering "wrong" when you get asked about your favorite vegetable will result in hours of wasted gameplay, you're not going to have as much fun.

Some games get around this by having a strong default option - Sakura Wars (not exactly a dating sim...) rigs it so it's quite difficult to get EVERYONE mad at you, and even blundering your way through the game without much of a focus will have you end up with Sakura. Other games get through it in this fashion - you've got choices that can lead to different scenes, but in ways that aren't story-important (the infamous White Ren/Black Ren selection event...) Some games just blow it and become crapware.

It's fair to say that KS doesn't have a whole lot of user interaction, but eh, it's a visual novel. More interaction doesn't necessarily equal a better experience.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Sunday, February 19 2012 09:43 PM (GJQTS)

8 More interaction doesn't necessarily equal a better experience, but in this case, and for me, it definitely would.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sunday, February 19 2012 11:25 PM (PiXy!)

9 Hey, Pixy.  I can't log into  I'm getting an Internal Server Error page.  Could you have a look at that?  Thanks! :-D

Posted by: Tuning Spork at Monday, February 20 2012 11:40 AM (yh6+P)

10 Spork, I'll get that fixed ASAP, but in the meantime try the backup login at

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Monday, February 20 2012 03:49 PM (PiXy!)

11 Pixy,

Do you remember when I whined incessantly about the spam on Ace's blog, and you finally tried to block me while you and Den Beste shamed me for my awesome ability to whine about stuff?

Well, sorry for all of that, but more importantly, congratulations on fixing the spam problem!  If it's not a secret, how did you accomplish it?

*fingers crossed that it was one of my ideas*

Posted by: Kevin at Monday, February 20 2012 07:26 PM (3o64G)

12 I'm not sure exactly what did the trick.  I updated the spam filter to scan the database for repeat offenders, find all the IP addresses they use, and ban them en masse.
I also spent several hours manually identifying spam and zapping the hell out of it (and banning people the same way).
It worked a lot better than I'd expected; spam levels have gone way down.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Monday, February 20 2012 09:12 PM (PiXy!)

13 Thanks, Pixy!  The main login is still out, but the backup worked like a charm.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at Monday, February 20 2012 10:25 PM (yh6+P)

14 Original address should be happy again now as well.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, February 22 2012 11:42 AM (PiXy!)

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