>> Katawa Shoujo

Finished every route with a good ending on PC

Katawa Shoujo is a bishoujo or dating simulator visual novel game where typically an attractive boy (the player character) interacting with several girls and ultimately be in a relationship with one of them. The twist is that these girls (and main character) are disabled that makes the player rethink their involvement or commitment. Thankfully, the writing does not use disability as a shield or ploy and uses it to foster understanding and equality. The game can be downloaded for free and consists of 5 routes each with 4 chapters which took roughly 1 hour each or around 20 hours in total.

>> Thoughts

Since this is my first foray into visual novels, I can only meaningfully judge the experience, so the quality of graphics, design and options are beyond me. As a dating simulator, judging the routes is quite subjective and personal as people have their own priorities and experiences; my criteria is not character development, romantic compatibility or character personality but the writing, experience and impact. Among the possible routes, Rin's route is the best written in showing the effort, anxiety and uncertainty of falling in love with her because of her communication issues and not her limbs. Hanako's route tackles disability the best since it requires perceiving her past her trauma and appearance much more so than Emi's route. Sadly, Lily's route has little tension and Shizune's route has pacing issues. Nonetheless, the routes are good overall and show people are not defined by their disability but are people still.

For the expected sex scenes, I can only judge them for their impact and weight. I like Rin's and Hanako's scenes since both meaningfully progress the relationship; however, the scenes of the other characters are less interesting because it happens multiple times and of libido. Personally, this aspect of dating simulators is hard to discuss but perhaps I wanted this to be handled more maturely since it tackles disability. This is not a big issue since objectification and intimacy requires empathy by virtue of the whole cast having disabilities.

My only true criticism of the game is Kenji who does not contribute much to the story or any route and should be removed or replaced to improve overall pacing. I would also appreciate more dialogue choices (not necessarily branches) to increase interactivity and provide breaks from lengthy text sequences. Other than that, this visual novel is a rare gem and worth your attention.