When I first heard that 4Chan had released a video game, I expected something raunchy, vile, discriminatory and generally, highly offensive. To my surprise, the game wasn’t what I expected.
The game begins when a young man by the name of Hisao Nakai suffers from cardiac arrhythmia and must transfer to Yamaku High School for disabled children in Japan. It’s there that he meets five young women with a variety of disabilities ranging from burn scars, amputations, and the inability to hear.
Katawa Shoujo was released by 4 Leaf Studios, named after the 4Chan logo. Development began when Japanese Doujinshi artist Raita Honjou made some sketches in January 2007 on 4Chan’s imageboard. A group made of members from around the world then came together and worked on creating the game, which wasn’t released until January 4, 2012. Since then, a number of translated versions have been released in languages such as French and German.
Every so often, the player is given a selection of choices to further progress the story. Different decisions can change Nakai’s path for better or for worse. There are five paths he can go down; one for each girl. The relationship can end either good, bad, or neutral, giving the story a little more depth.
Playing the game myself, I found the game to be a little too slow paced for my own tastes. Despite the flowery writing and the diversity of the characters, the game wasn’t able to keep my interest for very long. Also, the selection menu to make choices doesn’t pop up very often. This makes the game more of an interactive graphic novel than a dating simulator, with some of the choices allowing you more freedom and some of the choices set in stone.
However, I was happy to see that the game doesn’t just revolve around dating. Change, transitions, acceptance, and self-confidence are other themes within the game. As well, the girls aren’t defined by their limitations, but rather are recognized for things like athleticism or artistic abilities.
There was a lot of mixed reception for Katawa Shoujo. There was a lot of praise for the game and its sensitive approach to the situations, as well as the inclusiveness of it. Since 4chan is known to have a large number of offensive users and content, it came off as a surprise to many that the site could produce something so compassionate.
Pleasantly Surprised but There Are Some Downsides…
However, there were some that said the game had horrible characters and poorly written prose. The major issue was the name Katawa Shoujo. The literal translation of the game is “cripple girls,” which was taken as derogatory.
It is import to note that the game is more mature than it’s rated. While it’s not pornographic and there is the option to turn off any sexual content, there still are a few sex scenes in the game. After all, it is 4Chan.
Overall, the game appeals to people who prefer slow paced games and like to keep to fairly linear paths. Considering that 4Chan was able to make an inclusive game without offending a mass number of people, it’s worth trying out at least once.