Monday, February 17, 2014

The Retro Goat Reviews- Kara No Shoujo

Kara No Shoujo (The Girl in the Shell) is an adults only point-and-click detective visual novel, developed by Innocent Grey and published by MangaGamer. It’s setting is Japan in the 1950s, and it is a purely realistic story. Keep in mind that while this review is appropriate for all ages, this game contains erotic content, as well as extremely graphic images, and is not intended for minors at all.
Story- 8/10
The story primarily focuses around a girl named Kuchiki Toko, who hires you with the mysterious request to find her real self. At the same time, a serial killer begins murdering schoolgirls in increasingly horrifying and mutilating ways. While it definitely sets the tone that this is not a cheery game, nothing could prepare you for how depressing the story becomes.While the first half of the story sets the bar for how dark this game will become, the second half is almost unbelievably heartbreaking. The story itself is great, with almost every character being connected in one way or another. It’s an extremely emotionally gripping story, to the point where you feel serious, legitimate emotion over what’s going on in the game. The story also leaves you questioning almost everything before finally giving you a few answers at the end of the game, which works in this situation. Even better is that there are multiple endings that give you different parts of the story, giving you reason to replay this game more than once. The characters are relatively fleshed out, but they have the unfortunate habit of dying gruesomely. It’s easy to get attached to the characters, which makes your complete inability to save the ones that are doomed all the more frustrating. The main issue with the story is that, regardless of your actions, many parts of the story are set in stone and won’t be changed no matter what you do. While there’s nothing wrong with depressing stories, this game takes away the feeling that anything will get better or that you have all that much influence and control over the story. It doesn’t give all that many lighthearted moments to offset the feeling of emptiness, and the few nice moments you get are often marred by the following scene being even more bleak than the last. Even the endings are depressing, with the absolute best ending being bittersweet at best. Making your choices almost always be in vain made the point of trying seem completely hopeless. The story is still incredible however, and it’s attempts to be emotionally exhausting definitely succeed. It may be a perfect story by itself, with there being virtually no plot holes and the entire story tying together seamlessly, but the lack of influence on the plot can make the experience less enjoyable. The story is generally hauntingly beautiful, and leaves a very genuine impact on the player. It gets too depressing and intense at times, but it would be perfect if your decisions had more of an impact on the story.
Gameplay- 5/10
This is one of those games where you almost certainly need a walkthrough just to get to an actual ending, which is extremely annoying at times. The detective aspects are fun, but you’re given very little leeway to make mistakes. The way to do the detective aspects must be done in an exact order, or you will leave the scenes before you acquire a crucial piece of evidence that can only be found on in an obscure location. Failing to acquire these pieces of evidence will net you the same premature ending over and over again, and you can never go back if you missed something. As previously noted, your decisions leave very little impact on the story, to the point where it feels like you’re mostly just experiencing the story with your character as a narrator.KNSR2Graphics- 8/10
The CG for the game portrays it’s intended emotion quite nicely, but there isn’t a large amount of variety. It definitely seems like a quality over quantity situation, which generally works towards this games advantage. It’s artistic and beautiful, while being some of the most disturbing images in a game to date. The erotic scenes are well done, but given the nature of this game, sex is likely the last thing on your mind. The best way to describe some of these images is that they’re hauntingly beautiful. They stay in your mind and leave an impression, while adding to the emotional overload that the game intended to give you. The character designs are nicely done and non-comedic, adding to this games feeling of realism. Each character has a distinct design, but without looking particularly uncanny. It’s a very pretty game, and the titular painting could be a genuine work of art if it were ever painted in real life.
Sounds- 9/10
This game has an absolutely beautiful soundtrack. It is composed of a relatively varied amount of pieces, each meant to convey a certain emotion. Dread, anguish, relief, all the feelings that the game is making you feel when the song comes on. The theme song, Azure, is a beautiful piano piece that is so nicely done that it’s one of those songs you should listen to even if you don’t intend to play the game. Kara No Shoujo has some incredibly beautiful pieces, but not all of them are memorable. It seems that certain songs are played more scarcely so they don’t lose their impact when they come on, while character themes are pretty but not particularly noteworthy. The voice acting feels very genuine, with it seeming as if the characters themselves are alive. The emotions they portray add to the games realistic feeling, and further captivates the player into becoming even more emotionally invested in what’s going on.
KNSR3Replay Value- Varies
While the game is beautiful, it is also extremely heart wrenching. Many players are legitimately unable to continue playing the game due to how depressing it gets, and the fact that it never gets better only makes you feel a bit empty when you finally do beat the game. The story is incredible on a technical value, but it’s simply too much to handle for some people. That being said, this is a long game with a lot of different endings. If you can persevere through the depression, you’ll find that there are so many endings that you’ll be busy for an extremely long time trying to get them all. The endings piece together the story, and getting the different ones are required to fully understand the entire plot. It’s a pretty long game, and there’s definitely a lot to try and get, but that’s only if you have it in you to keep playing when it gets to be excessively painful in an emotional sense.
Buy It?
This is not a game for the faint of heart. It is very intense, very graphic, and very disturbing. If any of that bothers you, this is not the game for you. Anyone without a heart of stone will be deeply moved and heavily affected by Kara No Shoujo, and it’s not one for everyone. But to those that want a depressing story, this is incredible. The gameplay isn’t stellar but the story is so incredible on a technical level that it’s worth trying to get to the end. If you believe you can get to the end without crying, this is definitely worth checking out. But if you think it sounds like too much of a challenge, don’t push yourself. This game can leave a heavy impact on the player and really should only be played by those that can withstand heavy amounts of depression.
Overall, Kara No Shoujo is a very unique experience. It blurs the line between fantasy and reality, and it’s ability to get the player emotionally invested is incredible. That being said, watching you favorite characters die brutally and slowly, finding them and apologizing to their corpse for your failure to protect them, it is extremely emotionally exhausting. It genuinely left me feeling depressed in a manner very similar to real life tragedies, and it’s almost baffling how this game manages to leave such an impact. If you’re looking for a good story, Kara No Shoujo is a great game to get. Just do not expect anything even remotely light hearted.
Final Score- 8/10
Help support the publishers by legally purchasing the game. Visual Novels are frequently pirated, and that seriously hurts the sales. It’s always nice to show your support, and your support helps the publishers release more visual novels for you to enjoy. You can get the game from MangaGamer here. It’s a very unique experience.