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Katawa Shoujo's choices are better than Mass Effect's.

This is my first blog post, so you might think I'm simply going for simple shock factor in choosing the title for it.

You would have guessed correctly, but that's not the gist of it; there's more.

Now, I'm going to safely assume that most of you have never heard of Katawa Shoujo, so I'm going to give you a blurb from the game developrs' blog, found here:

Katawa Shoujo is a visual novel set in the fictional Yamaku High School for disabled children, located in modern Japan. Hisao Nakai, a normal boy living a normal life, has his life turned upside down when a congenital heart defect forces him to move to a new school after a long hospitalization. Despite his difficulties, Hisao is able to find friends - and perhaps love, if he plays his cards right. There are five main paths corresponding to the 5 main female characters, each path following the storyline pertaining to that character. The story is told through the perspective of the main character, using a first person narrative. The game uses a traditional text and sprite-based visual novel model with an ADV text box.

Done? Okay then, I doubt anyone needs another blurb for Mass Effect 2, so we'll skip that, and move on to the main question at hand:

Am I out of my f*cking mind?

No, no I'm not, for you see, there is a simple yet glaring flaw in the Mass Effect choice system, see if you can spot it for yourself.

First let me set a scene for you from Katawa Shoujo: You are playing Risk with two girl, one of whom happens to be a possible love interest in the game, you know this girl is outgoing, sly and very competitive.

She tells you that if you don't change your tactics to a more aggressive approach, you are going to lose very soon, and you get these choices:

The outcome of the game is irrelevant, but your choice will most likely affect how the rest of the narrative plays out; either you continue on with this particular heroine's tale, or you move on and come across another choice for a different love interest.

Now let us set a scene that many of you probably already know from ME2: You have just released a tank-bred Krogan from his pod, and the first thing he does is attack and asks you to give him a reason to live, to fight.

You get these choices:

Is the flaw obvious yet? In fact, let me change the question a little:

Are the flaws obvious yet? Let's take this one step at a time.

Color Blindness

First is a rather cosmetic, but maybe extremely detrimental flaw to ME's choice system; it's color coded!

This may not seem like a big deal, but remember that colors have meanings, there's a reason why Jedi usually use Blue and Green lightsabers, and Sith use red ones.

This gives you a preconceived notion about the nature of the choices, basically, the blue choices are good, and the red choices are bad, not only does this oversimplify the choices for you, it might also blind to actual moral dilemmas.

The people behind Extra Credits already touched upon the subject in their episode about Enriching Lives, now they might have realized this odd flaw in the choices but I'm willing to bet most people just breezed through this choice, why?

Because the blue choices are good and the red choices are bad, they've been established as such throughout the game.

Now look at the Katawa Shoujo example, there is no actual indication of which choice is more beneficial to you, so you're forced to weigh the choices based on your own philosophy, or the characters' philosophies at least.

This is a choice that is easy if you have the proper information, but as it is, it's completely dependent on your thought process, you have to think about it, even if for a second.


In this screenshot both of the choices are unlocked, but what would be the difference be between those two choices?

Yes, they give two different responses, and they do increase their respective stats but...

How do they change the game?

I mean, that's the point of choices, right? To give you a chance to change how the game plays out? But this does virtually nothing; after you pick your choice, you go back to the game as if nothing happened, and even when these choices come into effect, it's not any different from the other choice?

There is no actual distinction between these two choices, the outcome is the same regardless of the choice.

Now this is a bit better in the case of Katawa Shoujo; either you continue with this story line, or you move on to other opportunities for other story lines.

Now to be fair, I just gave you my reasons for why one of Katawa Shoujo's choices is better than one of Mass Effect 2's choices, obviously, there are better choices in Mass Effect 2, such as the one mentioned in EC's video, but the majority of Mass Effect 2's choices are like this one, the majority (if not all) the choices in Katawa Shoujo are like the one I've showed you, while Mass Effect has quantity, quality is the bread and butter of Katawa Shoujo's choices.

As for why did a game with a budget of jack all beat out a AAA game (at least in my opinion) in one of its defining characteristics, well, that's an even harder question, my best guess is that the makers of Katawa Shoujo are people who are quite familiar with this style of game and narrative, while Mass Effect 2 is a whole different beast, and its developers are very much in uncharted water.

Not to mention that Katawa Shoujo is just what I showed you; a long and branching novel punctuated by crucial choices, believe it or not, Katawa Shoujo is not groundbreaking in that aspect amongst its genre, while Mass Effect 2 is a far larger game, and is much harder to get one aspect to a top notch level even if it is one of its main aspects.

Edit: Now I forgot to mention this before, but if you didn't catch my sentiment from what I wrote, I loved Katawa Shoujo, I highly recommend it if you value great story lines, and you can get it FOR FREE on the website and blog.
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About Viredaeone of us since 11:51 AM on 10.13.2011

(sung to the tune of Jonathan Coulton's "Code Monkey")

Viredae get up get coffee. Viredae go to job. Viredae have boring meeting, with boring manager Rob. Rob say: "Viredae very diligent, but his output stinks. His designs not functional or elegant, what do Viredae think?"

Viredae think maybe goddamn manager wanna draw UML himself. Viredae not say it out loud. Viredae not crazy, just proud. Viredae like Wiimotes, Viredae like gamepads and keyboards too. Viredae very simple man, with big, full, precious memory cards. Viredae thinks games are real cool!
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