Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Zora’s Domain)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I would also like to state before continuing that this post will not cover the Divine Beast or the things pertaining to its conditions for entrance. I will dedicate an article to the Divine Beasts in general at some point in the future.

My first time playing Breath of the Wild, I stumbled upon the trigger to Zora’s Domain by accident. Playing around in the wilderness, killing Bokoblins and hunting for goodies, I saw a shrine in the distance. Naturally, I darted for it, and after completing it, I wandered the area when I came across a bridge, glowing with a pristine silver blue. Stepping on a certain spot, a cutscene occurred, introducing me to the first of four major characters that act as the catalyst to Link appearing before the Divine Beasts. Sidon, prince of the Zoras, flashed that overconfident grin and I immediately became hesitant of his character. As it continued, though, I became smitten with the prince, slowly melting the assumptions made about up-and-coming royalty with his sense of bravado and cheesy sense of justice.

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The path traveled just getting to Zora’s Domain was a journey in and of itself, as I had little experience with what was to come; most notably, the future was to become shocking. A pleasure it was to cruise through a winding path that gave a variety of different platforms. Rivers, Lizalfos camps, bridges, mountains, and ruins. Every five minutes, the layout seems to change just enough to provide a sense of variety for the player to acclimate themselves to. Not to mention, aside from Lizalfos, the enemy variety is also fairly astute. Basically everything is present at some point or another, including a lone Wizzrobe. This sense of building was, once again, a nice transition from simply playing the game to being immersed in its environment. Like being in the tranquility of Kakariko Village, the path leading to Zora’s Domain gave a world-building experience worthy of its challenge.

Being perfectly biased, Zora’s Domain is essentially my dream world’s perfect aesthetic. Glamorously shiny, structures adorned with the same glowing silver blue that various parts of the preceding path had, and almost Atlantic-like in appearance. Water seeps in from all directions from rivers, streams, and large waterfalls. And, flashing some light on my preferences, the sky is fairly dark and gloomy, allowing the ebbing translucence of the domain to stand out even further. Sweeping corridors without roofs meet in the middle to a main living space which houses the King of the Zora. When first arriving, I was bewitched by the visual spectacle. Even coming back to it, after seeing everything else the game has to offer, I still feel a little in awe.

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What’s interesting about the Zora is that they have incredibly long life spans. So long, in fact, that despite the fact that Link has been asleep for over a hundred years, many of the Zora present upon his arrival recognize him almost immediately. Whether old or semi-old, many will greet Link with statements such as “Link! It’s been so long! Do you remember me?!” This allows the player, despite not knowing any of these characters, to see Link as a different entity, as a character of his own with his own perspective. These Zora have a history with him, and the familiarity immediately makes the place inviting to explore, if only to see who else recognizes him and how they’d react. Even without calming the Divine Beast, there is a reason to be invested with the world present in front of the player. Creating a legacy from scratch is fine and dandy, but interacting with those who knew the character from before the amnesia provides a lot of intriguing possibilities to the character’s growth and behavior. If only Link actually had a personality…

Even the King of the Zora recognizes Link, who laments that he does not recall anything of his past, including his late daughter, Mipha. Mipha, in all respect to her character, is one of four token “spiritual guides” that appear once Link has ventured inside a Divine Beast, but more on that later. It is revealed that the Divine Beast’s wrath has caused an overflow of rain to plague Zora’s Domain, causing massive bouts of floods that, in all honesty, don’t look too alarming. It is up to Link to appease the Beast and stop the rainfall that it seems to be causing. But first, he needs to talk some sense into some old asshole who holds a grudge against him because he believes Link let Mipha die. Mipha, you see, was apparently the belle of the ball in the Zora’s land, and every boy had the hots for her. Seeing as she was one of defenders of Hyrule against Ganon, she went off to try and fight him alongside the other defenders, Link, and Zelda, only to fail, and die. Clearly, it’s Link’s fault.

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On the very edge of breaking my own word, to appease the Divine Beast in this region, it is recommended that the player collects a load of shock arrows, most prevalently found at the top of one of the mountains surrounding Zora’s Domain. It is here where the player, assuming they haven’t explored much of the world, faces off against their first Lynel. And boy, was it a huge bitch for me the first time around. Their behavior patterns are a little tricky to pinpoint, and they have a massive amount of HP. You can’t even cheese it and shoot them from a distance, as they’ll pull out a bow and arrows and shoot you right back! It ended up becoming one of the more memorable situations while within Zora’s Domain, with the promise of fighting more had me uttering grievances under my breath.

Without going any further, Zora’s Domain ended up becoming the first of four areas where Divine Beasts raged wild that I inadvertently chose to pacify, and during my second playthrough, ended up being the last. Fun fact: if you arrive at Zora’s Domain without triggering the cutscene where one meets Sidon at the bridge, the cutscene won’t ever play, and the game will carry on with Sidon having no idea who you are. Which, in hindsight, is kind of a letdown, as Sidon’s charm is a better improvement of the experience of Zora’s Domain. With aesthetic details to die for, a reason for Link to care about those present (if not for his current mindset), and a likable cast of characters, Zora’s Domain is a high point in the game in both gameplay and narrative gusto. I really do think it would be a great starting point for any beginning player.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Hateno Village)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I could have added this bit to the disclaimer, but I felt it too much for one bullet point. Since my last post on this subject, I have switched to the Switch version of this game and have gotten farther in the game than with the Wii U version. Needless to say, that means I have played over these oncoming events twice over, so the stories and situations I share will become muddled with oversaturation. While there’s no real need to distinguish the two playthroughs, know that I’m a lot more experienced with the game than I was since starting this collection of Traveling Thoughts.

Though I still haven’t beaten the game. Trying to find all those shrines. I’ll likely have them all by the time I write the next entry.

Now then, on the journey from Kakariko to Hateno, the range of area to explore rivals that of when one leaves the Isolated Plateau. Link is tasked with finding a Sheikah researcher named Purah, who is capable of repairing the Sheikah Slate to its full potential. (A device I never mentioned once until now, despite it being the first item the player receives in the game. Oops.) Essentially, the Sheikah Slate is the tool to end all tools, capable of allowing Link to use runes (another thing I neglected to mention once; supernatural abilities spanning from bombs to a time-freezer), look at a map of Hyrule, collect info from shrines and towers, take pictures (no selfies included), warp to established shrines and towers, and pinpoint specific locations for future perusing. Really, the more area that’s explored, the more of a Godsend the Slate becomes. At its state upon leaving Kakariko, however, there are still functions missing (such as the camera). Purah is the only person for the job.

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One little note to make is that while this becomes the main objective, it doesn’t technically have to be. After visiting Impa, Link is told of the Divine Beasts originally created to combat Ganon—and their current rampage upon Hyrule—whom then become objects targeted for the main quest. If the player chooses to go calm them, they’re free to do so without going to Hateno. In hindsight, going to Hateno isn’t drastically important, as the upgrades provided are more for extra security than anything else. For the purpose of consistency, as both times I went (relatively) straight there, I’ll continue the path that way.

Along the way, I recall in my first playthrough finding the first of many Stable areas placed throughout Hyrule. One can register their horse there (if they choose to tame one), collect side quests and info on the land, and collect essential goodies from the area. As stated previously, I felt a certain sense of joy discovering even more humanity present within the land, though this was far less impactful. A few quips here and there, and characters that will eventually become standard when visiting more stables, it was a cozy, albeit short break from the wild. I also discovered that every Stable has a shrine next to it, presumably to ease players into having a horse at all times.

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Contrasting from Kakariko Village’s serene and traditional atmosphere, Hateno Village is more cozy and homeland-feeling. Kids run around, people work on their farms, architecture looks more Western, and the musical score is cheery and almost child-like. The people are more outspoken and varied, almost as though they come from a number of different places. Some of them are even mean. And socially awkward. And fedora-tippers. I-Is this a statement of some sort? Certainly more pleasant in tone, but something was missing. Perhaps the emotions felt by Kakariko made my expectations too high for other places, as Hateno felt a little more “sideshow” than “main event.” Despite this, Hateno Village ends up becoming one of the more frequented areas in the game, even now. Whether it be praying to the Goddess Statue for extra hearts or stamina, dyeing my attire different colors, or showing a kid weapons I spend hours trying to find so he can give me the American equivalent of ten bucks, it’s a nice home base.

To make up for the lack of personality with Impa, Purah is a delightful little ball of energy that I can’t help but wonder was affected by her latest experiment. The situation goes that Purah is over a hundred years old, yet looks like a big-headed child. Some nasty side effects from an experiment caused her to reverse her aging to the point where she looks (and acts?) like a kid. Better than nothing, I suppose, as her voice (no talking, just grunts) is cute and her dialogue is all the more. While getting somewhat tedious after a bit, her background information is present in a diary at the top level of her research laboratory, which highlights a lot of the details left out by conversation, something I’d recommend reading.

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What’s a little disappointing is that, adding to the “sideshow” feel of the whole village, Purah is only important for this one time, as all future visits are the same old dialogue with nothing new. Link can ask her assistant for an optional side quest, but that’s the bulk of the priority for them. Once the Sheikah Slate is repaired, she has no use. Not as a person or a partner. She’s just there. I suppose with Impa, there’s a little more to her place in the game thanks to the multiple amounts of times Link can speak with her that provides new dialogue. Purah, in compensation for her enthusiasm, is almost like a one-track record. I really wish she were implemented more into the story.

As a little cubbyhole in the gargantuan mass of Breath of the Wild’s scope, Hateno Village is little more than an escape from nature. Its usefulness and simplicity provides a place to come back to when all’s said and done—the player can even buy a house there! There’s just not much more to it than that. Lots of side quests, along with shrine quests for areas yonder, but nothing that really makes it feel as though it’s a people-driven environment. Most won’t have a problem with this, but after experiencing the loveliness of Kakariko Village, I’m left emotionally unperturbed. I can be glad the town isn’t full of annoying main quest dribble, thankfully.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Kakariko Village)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

It’s been some time since my last post on this subject, but don’t let that imply that I’ve run out of motivation to write about it. I just forget it even exists! …Is that worse?

After acquiring the paraglider, the player is allowed to explore wherever they want. This is where the game finally becomes so engrossing to play, as the feeling of exploration finally kicks in. As stated in the last post, the Isolated Plateau didn’t really feel all that adventurous because it was so limited and restrictive, coming off as an obligatory “Trial Sequence.” I didn’t have a lot of fun with it and began to wonder if the game would even be worth it. After some poor voice acting from the Old Man-turned-King of Hyrule, I was given instructions to find Impa, who conveniently rests within a small, mountainous region called Kakariko Village. My map popped up and showed a shiny yellow dot about 100,000 miles away from me (which made me udder a “Ho-ly…”) as to where I was supposed to go. Naturally, I ignored this for a good while and explored the now completely open world.

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I remember quite vividly exploring a body of water with some small islands scattered within right next to a giant bridge. It was here I found myself face-to-face with Lizalfos for the first time, and to my horror, they were capable of one-shotting me. Now being careful, and exploiting the use of BOMB SPAMMING, I killed all of the Lizalfos around the island, collected their loot, and found a hidden Shrine within the biggest island. I even discovered a wandering Zora as I found myself examining the look of the species in this game. Nothing really came of this, but I remember it for being the first thing I really did outside the main objective.

After some more meaningless exploration, I set out for Kakariko, hitting all the open Shrines and Towers along the way. Something humorous to look back on, I didn’t approach the village by conventional means. I’d assume most would take the straight path that curves around and leads upward, meeting the Korok that expands your inventory along the way. For me, I took a back route and CLIMBED A TON OF MOUNTAINS to get there. Essentially, I arrived backwards, taking the most difficult path possible for absolutely no reason at all, completely out of ignorance. I wasted a lot of time fighting off hordes of Bokoblins, exploring forests, and cooking foodstuff to even notice that there should’ve been a much easier way to reach the village. By the time I got there, I left the village the way I probably should’ve arrived there.

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As for the village itself, Kakariko is something of a special segment for me per my enjoyment of the game. It was the first time I was surrounded by a stable amount of civilization. There were people to talk to, buy from, and do sidequests for. It was also the first time I really paid attention to the soundtrack of the game, as for the most part, it was just calm and atmospheric. Kakariko Village’s themes, both day and night, bring me to a distinctively different place, something that really rubbed off on me and gave me an impression of the culture of the village. One could see it from the villagers and their actions throughout the day, but the music drives it home. It’s nothing short of beautiful, really. This was the place in Breath of the Wild where I felt that sense of wonder others likely felt upon coming out of the Chamber in the beginning. Kakariko Village was where I realized that this game was really something else.

This placement of priority says a lot about what I find important in games and the like. Seeing the vast landscape and scope of what’s to be uncovered? Meh. Battling against a number of different dangers with sticks and rocks and clubs? Meh. Being a part of a small society where characters can express themselves and shape the culture they’re a part of with perfect accompanying music and imagery? I’m oozing. I enjoy characters, character interaction, character quirkiness (to an extent), and the impact they can have on an otherwise bland and typical story and premise (see: Undertale, Custom Robo, Katawa Shoujo). Breath of the Wild, in my mind, is at its best when I can interact with the people within those small pockets of civilization. Exploring and discovering secrets and various environments is nice, but it’s nicer when I have a reason to care about any of it.

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Still, Kakariko Village is somewhat hampered by its commitment to the major plot, which comes off as boring and overexplanatory. Impa herself is rather chatty, though integral within the world as one of few people to live through the calamity that occurred 100 years prior. Her connection to Link is a figment of his uncalled past, causing a disconnect for her character as nothing but… just somebody that you used to know. Aside from that, she has no personality. Her role is to provide information and give Link stuff, and point him in the direction of other people. Her granddaughter is a lot more charming than she is (I may have become infatuated with her). This is more noticeable when I began to fall in love with most of all of the other characters within the village, including her granddaughter, a little girl named Koko, and a recently divorced male villager who is obsessed with his cuckoos. For a long while, I never left the village because I wanted to find out more and more about these characters’ lives and behavior.

The first village is noteworthy for being the first in a long line of places Link must explore throughout his journey. It was also the first time playing the game where I had three hours pass and thought to myself, “I can’t wait to play this again!” I was excited to see what other places had in store for me, and if they would all feel as open and alive as Kakariko did. Spoilers: They don’t. I was more determined than ever to get to the next village and explore even more of the vast world that awaited me. All because one little pocket of civilization made me care about the world I was preparing to save from the ultimate evil.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (The Isolated Plateau)

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When it came time to start a new Traveling Thoughts subject, I was stuck on what to do. What is something that I could play through that could take up a large portion of my time, interests me, and can be split up into various parts for further exploration?

Then, I looked down at the controller in my hands, looked up, and saw the remains of a Lizalfos camp up in Gerudo Highlands. Duh.

So we have the first edition of Traveling Thoughts with our current subject: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (for Wii U. Felt that should be pointed out). This first post will include the ins-and-outs of the first area of the game: The Isolated Plateau. What it contains, my own experience with it, and my criticism and thoughts regarding its entirety. As always, by the end of this chain of posts, I will write a review for the game, hopefully giving me more clarity by that point. Two quick notes of clarification; as of my writing this, I am not yet complete with the game. I still have one more Divine Beast to conquer, and I’ve found myself exploring and Shrine-seeking more than anything. The other thing is that, as always with these posts, there will be spoilers.

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The story begins with you waking up in an illuminated cave. A female voice is calling out to you. It gives you directions as to how to proceed and that you’re the hero the world needs and all of that “Been there, done that” jargon of Zelda lore. Immediately after leaving the cave, Breath of the Wild reminds you that it is big, with a full view of exactly how much the player is free to explore (and more to come). This sense of freedom is one that has been welcome to fans of Zelda in most games, however this entry gives them the liberty to search anywhere they want at any time, regardless of how difficult the zone… after going through the trials of the Isolated Plateau.

Something I wasn’t expecting with this game (though I really should have) is that it doesn’t just throw you into the wild for you to explore and learn at your leisure. Its first area serves as a trial basis for what to expect from the rest of the game—teaching the player about the base necessities of survival and the ultimate goal of the adventure. With every new weapon, item, or maneuver received, the game will instruct you on what buttons to press and useful tips as to what they can be used for. In addition, the entirety of the Isolated Plateau is essentially cut off from the rest of the world, hence the name Isolated Plateau. One cannot get off of it without death, so the player is trapped there until they can manage to do all that they’re required to do.

While I acknowledge that this is simply a stepping stone for players to get accustomed to the game, it also defeats a lot of the purpose of the game’s selling point: freedom. Once again, the game bogs you down with (subtle) tutorials and constant messages and pop-ups about various things. It gives you the freedom to explore the Plateau, but there isn’t much there to behold, mostly the remains of a ruined civilization and some foreshadowing of what’s to come. Not to mention, the Old Man who accompanies you throughout this first step process is basically a teleporting tutor, jabbering on about things to know and the importance of your survival. It makes the opening shot to the rest of the world feel like a cocktease, knowing full well you’ll need to spend an hour or two tumbling around the Plateau before you can get to that. And due to this, I was kind of bored with the opening sequence. It didn’t really grip me as much as it could have. My pleasure with playing this game didn’t come until after I flew the coop, but more on that for future entries.

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Of course, many would see this as nitpicking, as its simply the start of the game and the creators didn’t want the players becoming so lost that they die continually until they get somewhat decent. For me, the beginning of a game is important—it serves as the hook, the gateway into what the player will be looking forward to doing. And though I openly state that the game becomes far more fun afterwards, does that mean I can disregard how “Meh” I felt while on the Plateau? Some would say so, though I can’t quite overlook it. A lot of that “Meh” feeling for me came in the form of the Old Man.

He serves as a handholder. Fine. He supplies you with the items you need to make the game more accessible. Fine. He tells you about how Calamity Ganon destroyed the world and that you’re struck with amnesia (Initial reaction: Ughhhhhhhh). Fine. What caught me off-guard was how long he would go on for, how trivial the story was, and how terrible the voice-acting is. If the Old Man were cut from the Plateau altogether, I’d likely have a better time with it. I didn’t mind him so much guiding me around and giving me tasks, but once push came to shove and he revealed he was actually the long-passed King of Hyrule and Zelda’s father, accompanied by a horrendous vocal performance, I zoned out. It’s one thing to have a boring story told to you, but to have a boring story told to you by a boring (and borderline cringey) voice is next to torture.

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Negatives aside, my experiences within the Plateau were generally positive (and frustrating). I found myself awakening Stone Talus within the woods, only to die against it about six times because I don’t know how to quit. After finally taking it down and realizing it only provides me with various ores, I became incredibly disappointed, because I saw no use in ores at that time. “A lot of effort for some rocks. Thanks, game,” I thought to myself. If only I knew. As sad as it may sound, I literally had to be told how to cook things. I didn’t think “Hold” was something that would eventually lead me into cooking. It took me a while to get the hang of the Option menu, too. One of the other major changes from the Zelda formula is how frequent the player has to go in and out of the Pause menus. Checking the map, organizing items, recovering hearts and adding stat boosts; cooking, changing weapons, clothing, and shields. It was something of a disruptive change, but I found the comfort of perusing items and doohickeys to be rather accessible and non-intrusive. I never even received the Warm Doublet, or cooked the recipe the Old Man wanted. I just cooked up some Spicy Peppers and blazed my way through the icy mountains naked (Okay, not naked, but may as well have been).

Something else of note is the change in combat procedure. There are only two variations of weapons: one-handed and two-handed. There are also elemental rods, but I’ll get into those later. One-handed weapons are quick and allow Link to use his shield in combat, but are generally weaker. Two-handed weapons are stronger, but are slower and don’t let Link use his shield in combat. One’s best means of attack is spamming the attack button, because there’s little else to really do with it, aside from holding down the attack button or throwing it. This little variation in combat is disheartening, though it’s never really bothered me. I find the variation between primary weapon, bow and arrow, and SPAMMING THE SHIT OUT OF BOMBS to be enough to hold me over. Combat also isn’t something that comes across too often—not like in past Zelda titles. Enemies (up to a certain point) don’t feel like nuisances, but rather something one has to strategize for in order to defeat them as effectively as possible, which is a huge plus. What Breath of the Wild lacks in intricacy it makes up for with effective simplicity and making the enemies genuine threats to your safety. The Isolated Plateau serves as a great starting point for taking down red Bokoblins with basically sticks and clubs as weapons.

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One annoying thing is weapon durability, which I’ll get a little more into in later posts. Many of the weapons will break upon defeating three or four enemies in combat, assuming one only uses their primary weapon. I understand the logic of wooden weapons and rocks not being too durable, but to some extent it gets irritating to always have to switch out other weapons in the middle of a fight. And the constant fear of running out of ammo, which is better suited for early segments of the game, only becomes a drag in harder zones.

Looking back, this post is a little unorganized, and I started criticizing things that don’t necessarily correlate to the Isolated Plateau. Nevertheless, I hope I managed to clarify that the Plateau is the “Obligatory Training Section” of the game, and that the best things are yet to come. Overall, if not for the Old Man, I would have no major issue with it, despite feeling like a rat in a cage. It wasn’t until after flying from the Plateau that I eventually stumbled upon… well, in due time.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of MKIceAndFire.)

Traveling Thoughts on Katawa Shoujo (Side Characters)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Typically when viewers are invested in a story, it’s the major characters that are given credit for most of the appeal. The wingman in a two-person team is usually also given high regards for the amount of development they go through along with the titular character. Something more commonly provided, which some may take for granted, is the addition of side characters who take the brunt of the more mediocre tasks, such as providing transitions or inadvertently being the voice of reason for the stars. Side characters aren’t given their time in the sun to bake, but are scooted into the limelight every so often for specific reasons (and sometimes not). Usually they wither, while the rare few end up stealing the show. See: Jaleel White in Family Matters.

In this particular post, I won’t be discussing every side character present in Katawa Shoujo, only the ones I feel are prevalent enough either all-around or within a particular route to become memorable. That’s not to say all side characters aren’t memorable, but a few feel more like jokes and puzzle pieces rather than actual characters.

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I think it’s important to start with a bang, so why not start with Kenji? What a character he is. The level of unfounded nonsense that pours out of his mouth is more than a little charming. So often stories will use characters such as Kenji to give a sense of comic relief in the form of stupidity for the sake of stupidity, but he takes it to a bizarrely intellectual level. They are unfounded, yes; they are major stretches, yes; but the things that he says have enough there to kind of ponder the situation ahead. There are times when it appears that he knows more than he shows, while other times the feminists are wiring his room and he needs to hide out for a while. His entire character is that of a giant conspiracy and he always seems to be right in the middle of it.

Word around the fanbase is that he’s the clear favorite among side characters, and I can absolutely see why. His mannerisms and ability to come up with these giant web of strange “truths” gives him an undeniable identity. It’s more than this that sets him apart, however, as he encourages conversations and interprets friendship from the title character (much to the title character’s chagrin). He cares for the player’s well-being and will offer advice in his own way whenever possible. No matter the situation, Kenji’s appearance isn’t a nuisance to me.

The side character I find the most charismatic is The Nurse. No personal name, just “The Nurse.” He is, as the title implies, the nurse of the high school, and is tasked with helping the player with his conditioning. His playful personality and tendency to go for the kill with his jokes makes him immensely likable. At the same time, he takes zero tolerance when it comes to shirking off responsibilities. Of all the side characters, I think he might be the most rounded character, aside from Yuuko. We don’t get to know much about The Nurse, but we know enough to want to know more. Emi’s route benefited greatly from his constant appearances.

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In all honesty, I was a tad disappointed when I found out Yuuko wasn’t romanceable. While her shtick of “She’s so clumsy and lacks confidence ha ha” is played a tad too much for my liking, she has a cuteness to her innocence that makes her an appealing pursuit. She slightly reminds me of Hanako, only a little more astute in her stature, while her appearance is slightly reminiscent of Sam from Totally Spies!. Random reference, I know, but I think it fits. For as self-conscious as she is, her words of advice do a lot more for the player than most others of a higher position. She also has two different outfits for two different jobs. I find this interesting for absolutely no reason.

Mutou is kind of like the representation of the “Why can no one ever be interested in anything I like?” The science teacher (although little science ever comes from his mouth) at the school, Mutou doesn’t really get a lot of emphasis in the story unless you’re in… Lilly’s route, maybe? I don’t recall off-hand. Otherwise, he covers the bases of what a standard teacher should do with new students. Ask ’em what’s up, how they’re doin’, and what they can do to improve their time there. If not for the foundation of the science club within whoever’s route, he wouldn’t really be worth talking about. Fortunately for him, he gets some much needed development to his character because of his enthusiasm for science and research. I liked his dialogue when he was discussing what scientists do to “check their work” and how he applied it to real-life situations. I think it’s handy advice. His gloom and doom appearance was a little off-putting at first, but it’s just the kind of thing that reflects his outlook on the current state of youth. So relatable!

Nomiya isn’t seen (sans one scene) outside of Rin’s route, but I decided to include him because he’s so vastly different from most of the other adult side characters and because he’s essentially the root of the conflict with Rin’s route. He’s intriguing because, on the surface, he seems like a lax, humorous old man with a love for subjective interpretation. I suppose most art teachers would be like this. Although, he’s also incredibly thick-headed and expectant to a vast degree, putting a lot of difficulty on Rin and her work. Some may see him as the “bad guy” of Rin’s story because of this, but I see it more as a complex situation. He wants to do what’s best for her by giving her art career a kick-start, and slacking off and being reclusive simply won’t cut it. At the same time, he doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of moderation. One could make the argument that he’s living his dream through her, but I feel the little background revealed of him paints a moderately successful picture, so it’s debatable. He’s one of the lesser side characters, but he’s integral enough to Rin’s story that it’s hard not to associate him with her.

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Finally, I’d like to discuss Akira, Lilly’s sister. Seeing her for the first time, I figured she was female, but one can’t help but wonder with how androgynous she appears. Cliché as the “girl who looks like boy or vice versa” is in Japanese or Japanese-inspired stories, she doesn’t make it incredibly obvious that her character is simply “the androgynous one.” I find it a tad alarming that she’s so carefree as to buy alcohol for… minors? The player mentions this briefly, but they’re supposedly all eighteen, so are they really considered minors? In any case, she doesn’t get a ton of development outside of Lilly’s route, though that doesn’t stop her from being an entertaining addition to the party. I particularly like her sprite’s facial expressions. And her red eyes, brazen as rubies can be. One can tell she cares a lot about Lilly, which is a big plus.

Overall, Katawa Shoujo has a number of memorable side characters. Is that enough to enhance the game’s quality? I’d say so. Yuuko, Kenji and The Nurse alone are enough to show that the game cares about its side characters enough to give them more prominent roles depending on the situation. They even have a few side characters tied together by a matter of coincidence. These subtle nudges are delightful, along with the oodles of different conversations one can have with them at a moment’s notice. Most have a wide variety of things to say and means of saying it, though a few admittedly leave much to be desired (Shizune’s family members, the hand-less track member, etc.). Thankfully, It does a hell of a lot more than most.

With that, this edition of Traveling Thoughts comes to a close. Thanks for keeping up with it and for reading my content. Take care!

 

Traveling Thoughts on Katawa Shoujo (Shizune Route)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

For the few that may have followed along with these posts in order of when I’d written them, you may have noticed a trend within the continuation of these thoughts. It seems that with each passing girl, I become less and less attached to their particular story. Assuming anyone had noticed, I would say that you were both right and wrong. The order I chose to write about these five girls in is the order I chose to pursue them while playing the game. It just so happens that the quality and enjoyment I had with each of the girls coincided with the order of best to worst, and based on this choosing, one can assume that Shizune is the least favorite of mine among the choices. One would be right and not wrong.

The biggest, most deflating part about Shizune’s story as a whole is that it feels incomplete. By the end, the player only feels so close to Shizune while having to deal with a number of other conflicts that arise within her story that doesn’t even physically involve her. “Physically” involving her meaning that the issues revolve around her, but she isn’t there to offer feedback or any sense of clarity. You literally spend half of her story talking about her rather than to her. Part of this problem is due to Shizune’s translator: Misha.

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What’s almost sad about Shizune’s route is I find myself more emotionally attached to Misha, someone who is not romanceable, than the main target of the route. While her upbeat, loud personality isn’t exactly alluring me into a blissful state of catharsis, she at least shows some relatable and semi-developed conflict that directly plays into the story of her relationship with both the player and Shizune. It provides some meaning to the amount of time she spends with Shizune and gives her more depth as a character rather than being subjected to the role of “Translator.” While I also believe her moodiness near the end of the route comes out of left field, she at least explains her situation in a grounded enough manner to keep her credibility afloat.

A lot of what I praise about Misha is something I can’t say for Shizune. As mentioned before, there isn’t really much the player can do in terms of interacting with Shizune at first before teaching himself sign language, and even then he seems to get more dialogue from Shizune’s family than anyone else (L-O-L! Shizune’s dad is, like, so random! XD). I previously criticized the player for supposedly “falling in love” with a girl even though there isn’t even any reason for him to be, but here it’s on both sides of the spectrum. Not only does the player’s infatuation feel rushed, but so does Shizune’s. If there was chemistry to be had between these characters, I didn’t really notice it, try as it might during a school festival. Being alone together for one night and looking at fireworks doesn’t really constitute a believable jump from friends to lovers. Physical attraction, perhaps?

Can I say something really vulgar for a moment? Shizune’s h-scenes tried really hard for the “lusty teenage sexiness” vibe, something only really matched by Lilly’s route. Even more so than Lilly, Shizune’s h-scenes were on par with “Fucking for the sake of fucking,” and damn was that some hot fucking. Her second one in particular had numerous camera angles (one of which I found hilariously misaligned) and just the perfect ratio of female to male for fapping material. It almost felt too naughty for a game like this. Compensating for the lackluster story? Who’s to say? Shizune may be boring, but she’s got, er, moves like Jagger?

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The h-scenes are only accentuated by the lovely art direction this time around. That “lovely” is about 60% sarcastic, as the more detailed pictures seem to have a tinge of inconsistency to them. Aside from the weird misalignment during the second h-scene, I don’t really like the way Shizune appears in a lot of the pictures shown. Something about her head being too sharp or the appearance of her (and the player) being too… uncanny valley? It’s somewhat hard to describe, but the artwork during these scenes feel a little off, almost in the sense that they hired a new artist halfway through the production of the game and they tried to cover it up by making them draw in the previous artist’s style. One could say that this is metaphorical of how her route feels altogether: a little off. However, I thought Misha looked a lot better than Shizune in these shots. Whether it be in normal or steamy situations (You can fuck Misha), she has this glimmer to her appearance that makes her visually pleasing. Strangely enough, her sprite work makes her look a tad chunky, although naked she seems to be not that much thicker than Shizune. Lots of inconsistency and illusions present.

What of Shizune herself, though? How is she as a character at first base rather than how she develops? This is probably where I found the most enjoyment out of her route. Despite not spending a lot of time with her, she’s a perfectly playful girl with a competitive edge that is only slightly overplayed for the sake of it. She has a bite to her that none of the other girls have that makes her more appealing to those looking for girls who take charge. She’s serious about what she does and seriously wants others to take things as seriously as she does. Seriously. On the surface, she’s a likable girl with a lot to like, but she’s inhibited greatly by the way her story progresses and the inclusion of Misha, who steals the spotlight from her more times than she should. There are many “If only” remarks that can be made with Shizune’s route, something that makes her being crowned “Worst girl” by my standards as predictable, as a character shines brighter when a story exerts its pressure.

What may be the biggest slap in the face is the way it all ends. Not only is it implied that Shizune and the player are no longer in contact with one another, but nothing really feels resolved. The problem (If one can really call it that) that Shizune faces throughout is the way her competitiveness rubs off the wrong way on other people, causing her to enter people’s lives and rope them into situations they may not really want to be a part of. She says a lot of pretty things about how she’ll work to change and that the future is bright. What she never does is show any of this, and the story ends without giving her any opportunity to. Instead, one is graced with a clumsy picture of the player, Misha, and Shizune pulling their best Haruhi squad pose to the camera in a “bittersweet” ending of farewell until the future. Everything’s fine and dandy and the player had an eventful high school life. And alone again. Zippity doo-dah.

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Here’s another interesting tidbit: when firmly planted inside Shizune’s route, the player only has to make one choice all throughout. That choice is whether or not you want to fuck Misha. No joke. Hopefully anyone with a brain would know that accepting her invitation will lead to the bad end (So save your progress before accepting!), except I wish it wasn’t the only choice! It makes the essence of a visual novel feel more like an actual visual novel; something being read to you without any input whatsoever. You’re reading a book rather than playing a game at that point. It also makes the scenarios more boring, as the player doesn’t feel like they can really impact the things that are happening in front of them. And if comment sections are any indication, the player doesn’t make a lot of great choices on his own. On top of feeling rushed, incomplete, and devoid of a lot of emotional impact, Shizune’s story is structurally straightforward.

It was an unpleasant end to a rather enjoyable journey through Yamaku High. The feeling of obligation to finish the whole thing was overwhelmed by the already-formed nostalgic reminiscing of past girls. These Traveling Thoughts aren’t quite finished yet, as I have one more post left to write out dealing with the side characters, as I feel they deserve a lot of praise for their efforts as well. In terms of the main course, the meal had a variety of different flavors and choices. It had treats that I filled up on too quickly, and side dishes with multiple kicks that tingled my dazzled senses. Unfortunately, it left the less desirable meals waiting with anticipation. A balanced diet is the right kind of diet, even if you don’t like it.

Traveling Thoughts on Katawa Shoujo (Rin Route)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Apologies for not writing this sooner. Work and the election dragged me down considerably.

Rin is an interesting case, interesting in the sense that I would willingly capture her and put her into different environments to observe her behavior. The relationship I had with Rin whether in or out of her specific route was one of scientific intrigue, a desire to know more about her not because I think she’d be a suitable partner, but because she’s an unpredictable nutcase. This feeling I have towards her is both a strength and a flaw to her story, though in the end, it did little to make me empathize with her conflicts.

An artist (or not, if you asked her) at heart, her pastime consists of being a lazy goof and painting, lots and lots of painting. Her paintings are usually obscure and hard to analyze, something of a continuing topic within her route. An underlying theme cements itself at the very beginning when Rin tells you next to nothing (or trivial things bluntly) of relative importance, whether about herself or others. Rin is a hard nut to crack, which is a lot like her story and the mood of her route.

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I can appreciate the effort put into making her character verbally appealing to speak with. Her manner of speech is almost like one could find on dialogue-heavy “not-what-you-would-expect” games such as Undertale. Constantly challenging dialogue norms and spinning popular phrases on their heads for good measure. The level of interactivity with her text is a treat in non-serious, humorous situations. This is the core strength and appeal to the character of Rin, one that is easy to discourse with, who is relatable in the sense that she’s different from most others and herself in her own way. Fans seem to be most comfortable with her as a character based on these circumstances.

Unfortunately, there’s another thing about her character that makes her, along with the story attached, frustrating to go through. She is, as I said, a tough nut to crack, a nut that can’t even crack itself. As charming as her dialogue is, she’s also prone to clamming up and unable to really put her feelings into words, something both the player and the player’s character struggles with as time goes by. There’s some debate as to whether or not this inability to speak her mind is based on a mental condition, which would seem likely as the manner at which she can’t describe things is frustratingly apparent. This, in turn, makes the drama elongated and irritating to keep up with, as it’s the only genuine issue Rin and the player’s relationship faces. She wants to be understood, but can’t relay that info in a coherent manner. The player wants to understand her, but can’t because he doesn’t have the same mindset. This continues on forever. Her story seems to be the longest, though I never timed it properly to be sure. It certainly drags on.

There’s also the conflict of other characters outside of the player not understanding what Rin wants, either. While I feel it goes along better with the story of Rin’s isolation, the inner Libertarian in me keeps telling the player to leave Rin alone and let her do what she wants. I don’t like that everyone pushed her into showcasing her art for the exhibit, though I can understand the thought process of doing so. Still, it becomes somewhat of a waiting game from the point where Rin starts “living” in the art studio. There are some great scenes within that studio, but the slow pace of her story makes the whole situation lose a little of its intrigue. That, and Rin’s continuing lack of being able to communicate her feelings. It causes many of the same exact scene to play out, as the player gets mad/frustrated that she can’t tell him anything and Rin getting irritated with the player for misunderstanding.

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On a more subjective note, I just never felt a genuine romantic interest for Rin. Perhaps it is the fact that she’s so out there and charmingly unemotional. Perhaps it’s that she shows very little of her own affection to the player. Perhaps it’s because she reminds me of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Regardless, that intrigue of her on an unemotional level persisted within me going along with her story, never changing for a good majority of her route. It almost felt like a doctor falling in love with their patient, a teacher with their student. Forbidden relationships aside, it felt strictly business with no real means of emotional connection. I’m not even sure why the player fell in love with her in the first place. If I recall correctly, he wasn’t even sure. That’s not to say she doesn’t have appeal, but she isn’t someone I think has appeal to the majority. I believe love is an emotional commitment, something I didn’t think was present between the player and Rin.

For a section of a game more dedicated to art, there’s very little showcasing of different art styles. I would’ve liked to have seen more of Rin’s art at her state near the beginning, though what I saw from the exhibit was more than interesting enough. I wish it was more focused on, more present in backgrounds and situations. The player hardly makes an attempt to analyze any of it! For what was shown of the more dramatic scenes, I think the art was fairly good, though I feel Rin’s sprite model looks too different from her drawn caricatures. I liked the detail in some pictures, while scoffed at the varying length and style of her hair in others. It’s never really consistent aside from color. However, there’s something impactful about the stranger scenes that aren’t apparent from dialogue alone. The smoking scene, the exhibit opening, and her h-scene are all good indicators of actions speaking louder than words, and I feel the art did a great job of containing the weight of those scenes.

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Speaking of h-scenes, if there’s one thing I think Rin does better than all others is h-scenes. Something to note about me is that I believe sex should mean something. I don’t care for sex for the sake of sex. I like when it has impact, meaning; almost in an artistic sense. Similar to Hanako’s only h-scene, Rin’s first h-scene isn’t meant to be erotic or stimulating, but more an indicator of where Rin is emotionally: broken. A pitiful attempt at pleasing her in a way he only knows how, the player’s assistance afterwards is bittersweet, though considerably more miserable knowing what’s to come afterwards. Her second h-scene is probably the most erotic of the bunch, and has a beautiful amount of build-up and emotional impact. After all the emotional constipation and lack of genuine understanding, actions fill in what words can’t. I think that’s fantastic.

Not a lot of real emotion present in this route, and if it is, it’s hidden quite nicely. I can understand Rin not being able to communicate and her actions are supposed to make up for her loss for words, but I don’t think the main character handled it well. There’s an immaturity to his decisions that is both obvious for his age and immensely frustrating as someone older than that. A lot of my indifferent feelings for Rin and her route are somewhat subjective, along with disagreeing with the method of telling a story about a girl like her. It all accumulated into an inevitable realization when her ending line had me feel next to nothing, a feeling I felt quite often while on her route. If not for some great scenes in-between, her route may have been a dud. At least she’s funny.