So those not in the know Namco High came out last week. Namco High is a dating sim based on the different characters from various Namco franchises including; Katamari Damacy, Time Crisis, Klonoa and yes even the Yellow Man himself Pac Man. It’s one of the those large company cross over events that many fans dream of and has been outsourced to some well known internet creators including creator of Homestuck Andrew Hussie, artists like Ashley Davis and Yuko Ota famous for their web presence in Hey Ash and Johnny Wander respectively.
You can play Namco High right now by following this link but as of yet I cannot. For some reason it keeps on displaying a black screen for me so instead I’m going to talk about another Dating Sim I played recently also of Internet Origin Katawa Shojo.
Katawa Shojo roughly translates to “disabled girls” from the Japanese Language and has it’s birth place in the seedy underbellies of 4Chan. Now don’t jump to conclusions when I say you need to play this game! It’s not the product of the worst scum of the Internet nor full of distasteful images and words that make you hate the human race. No, in fact it’s quite the opposite.
If you have ever seen a slice of life anime based in a high school or played one the many MANY MANY dating sims out there then you’ll be familiar with the premise of new boy in school gets his choice of girl to befriend and eventually have sex with through choice dialogue.
The twist (if you can call it that) is Katawa Shojo is based in a school full of disabled people whether blind, amputees or in the case of our protagonist Hisao an unstable heart. Hisao must come to grips with his new disability which is a hard emotion to project towards people who aren’t disabled. A lot of the opening is focussed on this and it makes the game seem slow but adds a greater purpose. It allows us to relate to the suffering Hisao is going through by making us simulate the disability of going slow through a game when we are so used to racing through them.
Obviously the girls are beauties and tailored to a our personal moe instincts. Each girl along with a disability has a story and Hisao can assist them through the hard times through companionship. This isn’t a harem so pick your girl wisely or none at all to see a darker end to the story.
It wouldn’t be a dating sim without some smooth loving and each girl comes with one or two H-scenes. These are actually pretty tasteful and don’t go overboard with the images. One of the biggest praises I can give to the game is actually a subtraction of the sex scenes if you just wanted to experience the story. That’s fantastic! Dating sims primarily rely on their sex scenes for sales, Katawa Shojo goes above the filth and shows that it can be above it if it wants to.
The writing is good. All the girls are charming and have their own distinct personalities. The auxiliary cast also have their own back stories that are interesting to piece together through out each play through. It’s like settling down to a good book. You always want to see the next chapter, you want to know where the next step in the relationship will be. You become invested in the characters specifically the girl you are courting at the time that pushes you onwards.
Dating Sims have also come under another name, “visual novel” and I have to agree on the latter moniker as a replacement of the word “game”. Games invokes some interactivity and Katawa Shojo although interactive is 9/10th reading and clicking through the dialogue which can be akin to turning a page of a novel. There is literally three choices you can make to change the outcome of the story so whether you have THAT much interactivity in the matter is very much debatable.
Katawa Shojo is available now via the site for free and there are also many goodies you can download from the site like soundtracks and fan artbooks. The soundtrack is an absolute necessity after playing the game. Listening to “Ease” or “Fripperies” will take you back into the classroom and you can almost hear the light chit chatter of your classmates.