Back when this game came out, it was making its rounds through the internet as “that one game 4chan made.” Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking a visual novel made by 4chan members and it’s about girls with physical disabilities is just pushing some boundaries, right? Well, they did. But they actually did it right and made some very compelling and emotional stories for each of the heroines.
Not an actual choice in the game.
Katawa Shoujo is basically your typical visual novel. There’s no real special mechanics to this game; it’s just raw, emotion filled story. You fill the role of Hisao, the man who has a heart attack when confessed to at the start of the story. Due to his newfound heart condition, he is transferred to a new private school, one that is especially suited to people with varying disabilities and health conditions. Now you’re asking, why is this appealing? The way the characters are written make them feel so human it’s scary.
My first playthrough I didn’t bother looking at how to get to a certain path, I just picked what I would naturally respond with if I were in that given situation. I wound up on Emi’s route and, while it probably wouldn’t be something I do in reality, the effort Hisao put into keeping healthy and exercising with Emi was a very uplifting and motivational story. To some players, Emi’s story had even motivated them to start running daily.
Each story is unique. Each girl has their own quirks outside of their disability. My personal favorite story was Hanako’s story. She’s the stereotypical shy girl who slowly comes out of her shell after hanging out with you and her blind friend Lily (who happens to be another one of the routes). Through Hanako’s route, you experience her extreme introversion and learn the cause for her mentality. Through her interactions with Hisao, we see in the good end, she comes out of her shell and we see how she’s grown. However, the bad end of her route is possibly one of the more dramatic ones with her outburst toward Hisao and further withdrawal into her shell.
Each story does a great job at portraying personalities with or without disabilities. Many people brush this off as a “disabled person sex sim” but it’s far more than that. It’s a legitimate visual novel exploring some very real situations in life and written by an unexpected group of people. I definitely recommend this visual novel to anyone, even to those new to visual novels. Let me know what you think in the comments! Who’s best girl? Which route did you do first?