I’ve said it before on IRC and twitter and to friends, but I’ll put it on the record and say it here: Kara no Shoujo is one of the best games in our catalogue, and easily one of my favourites amongst the titles I’ve worked on. Everything about this game just screams quality, and its dark, interactive mystery aspects make it a great introduction for fans of classic Western adventure games to come to the world of visual novels.
“But Sloane,” I can hear you typing away, “You bastards removed all the voices so why should I buy this, let alone recommend it to my friends?”
Well, Mr. Reader, I’ll break it down like this: When I work on MG’s visual novels, I’m working on them….without the visuals. And the voices. And even the music. Most of the time, I’m not given a copy of the Japanese game, and even if I was, it isn’t always easy to know where things map to since I don’t read Japanese, let alone the fact that I’d have to run the game in virtualisation next to my copy of Pages. This means that for me, our visual novels are…novels. eBooks. Very long eBooks broken down into an exhaustive set of MS Word files.
In other words, my appreciation of what we release is almost solely based on the quality of the writing and the translation. And KnS is bloody (pun intended) brilliant. For starters, the MC is a proper adult, as are most of his associates. This brings a weight and maturity to the game as we’re dealing with something outside the idealised realm of “Boy wants girlfriend.” Likewise, because you’re a true professional, the level of conversation you have quickly moves past small talk and into plot dependent exposition and investigation. All the characters, be they Yukari’s friends or your sex-crazed informant, are treated with a level of maturity which is refreshing to those used to school-set antics.
Kara no Shoujo also excels in its use of suspense and pacing. The idea that your investigation is a race against time is drilled into your head early on, and as the body count starts to rise, the urgency moves with it. Plus, your inability to interview everybody and the shifting nature of different informants means that there’s no such thing as a guaranteed line of inquiry or new information. Somebody who gives you everything you need one day may simply be unavailable or only willing to make chitchat the next.
This isn’t to say that the game lacks levity, mind you, and it provides welcome breaks and releases from the death and dismemberment around you, but at its core, we’re dealing with a tightly paced suspense thriller, and fans of mystery series like Wire in the Blood or Waking the Dead and classic adventure games like Phantasmagoria and the Gabriel Knight series will find Kara no Shoujo directly up their alley.
And those voices? From what I read of the beta tester submissions and my conversations with Kouryuu as he played through, the music and the graphics layer fantastically, but at its core, they work because the story is so good: they’re icing on an already tasty (and real) cake. Would voices be nice? I guess. But unlike, say, We Love Master or even Koihime Musou, they’re a perk, not a core requirement.
I should also take a moment to comment on KnS’s ero content. While not the selling point, the ero is often well placed in context (needing to trade it for information, a logical outgrowth of a relationship, or leading to a bad end in traditional horror movie fashion), and it’s blissfully free of lolis and incest. In other words, we’re dealing with a mature game with a (mostly) mature presentation of sex. Mind you, if word from the back rooms is correct, most of you will be skipping through it to get back on the case as quickly as possible – at least on your first time through.
In short, I can’t recommend Kara no Shoujo enough – not because I worked on it or because it’s my job to post about how awesome our games are, but because it’s genuinely brilliant. Believe the hype this time and you will be well rewarded.