D-Don’t get me wrong, y-you’re cute and everything, b-b-b-but I’m married! And if Kohaku finds out…well yeah she does mess around with Shiki, but there’s this alter ego called “Magical Amber”…
The fuck happened to Masato!?
Little Busters! isn’t very new (or extremely well known), but I haven’t done a full-out visual novel review in a while and I thought it’d be a nice in-between while I segway back into writing about anime weekly. I’ve been playing the Ecstasy edition (EX), and it’s been pretty entertaining and relaxing.
GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNN!? No English!?
Let me start out by discussing it’s current English translation status, since that’s what a lot of people who look at this post for months to come will be looking for. For starts, Little Busters EX is not translated (nor is Key’s memorial edition version), and only a partial patch exists for the original Little Busters common route as of the writing of this post. You can apply parts of the original patch to the EX version by using something like Universal Extractor, but it will be buggy. The translation team seems to be working at a somewhat steady pace, but you could probably learn a lot of Japanese in the year (or more) it’ll take to be 100% completed…
Character depth has always been my favorite part of a story, and Visual Novels usually do a good job of expanding on just that. Little Busters! is no exception, providing a very well rounded introduction before you even enter any specific character route. All the characters are pretty entertaining, and knowing only a few phrases of Japanese I haven’t played it enough to pick a favorite character but overall Kudo and Masato are pretty comical and fun to converse with.
Let me explain to you, Shōnen.
Basically the story starts out introducing Riki, the main character, a member of the Little Busters! which consists of him, his friends, and their leader’s little sister, Rin (the main heroine, of course). When your fabulous/gar/charismatic/otaku leader Kyousuke gets bored you form a sandlot-baseball team to add a bit of productivity to your after-school antics with you and your friends, who are hell bent on fighting each other. Basically, it’s up to you to gather your harem baseball team of diverse females each with their own in-depth backstory up to you to explore. Little Busters! does a good job of melding all the stories together for a solid 25 hours of gameplay, and has (on estimate) 6-12 additional hours per character after the common route is over to explore each route after completing the game successfully the first time. The characters are fairly diverse and you can expect something different from each of them.
There’s a few things that sets Little Busters! apart from your other Key games. One, the original Key staff brought on a lot of people specifically for Loli Little Busters. Half the cast is done by the original character designer, and the other half (you know the interesting ones, Kudo and Rin included) are done by the new designer. This lets it stand out from other Key games alone in adding some serious different styles, having two separate key writers.
SHUT UP AND FIGHT!
But the writing alone isn’t what sets it apart. The game has an array of small minigames, most notably the battle/ranking system added to help your friends combat their boredom – using an assortment of random weapons and turn-based battling. It’s a pretty interesting system, but it still lets you turn it off if you don’t want it. I of course kept it on, but the option is still there for those who want to sit down to a traditional VN. k
Lollipop gives me strength!
A nice portion of the common-route half of the game is dedicated to this battle system, preparing for the baseball game, and missions fabulous-leader Kyousuke gives you. The interface system is very updated and gives one what you would expect of a modern day visual novel. It’s got all the options (font selection, auto read speeds, full screen options) that an experienced visual novel company like Key should provide (I’m looking at you, Kagetsu Tohya…) and it seems like the programming has been re-done from ground up compared to the previous games. The sprites are fucking amazing if you couldn’t already tell, and so is the music. I think it’s pretty safe to rate Little Busters play quality a pure 10/10, as far as visual novels go.
Since the fights and random weapons are rather silly, anyone on your baseball team can fight pretty well.
The battle system gets stale after 3 or so play throughs, but it’s the highlight of the game your first time around. Collecting good items, and giving strange titles to your friends builds a lot of the visual novel-feeling that you’re spending time with your friends, since you’re doing more than just dialogue. You know about the visual-novel feeling, right? Don’t tell me you play these games for 60+ hours and don’t lose a little base touch with reality.
The main heroine, Rin, is more entertaining than most, but she never struck me as the main-character type (like say, Ayu did). According to Jason Miao’s harem statistics the title of childhood friend is always the most common heroine in these sort of stories, so I guess she was selected mostly because her backstory to be the “main girl”. I wouldn’t be disappointed if the anime focused on her the most, but I know Key is releasing (or have they already released?) a spin-off/sequel to Little Busters! starring Kudo as the main character ( Kud Wafer ). Her route feels as much disjointed from the main group as the others do, so I don’t think you’ll have any problem playing through any specific route and getting the taste of too much of one character or another. The only annoying one that shows up too much is Haruka. That troublesome girl…
Repeat Again . . .
The only thing that really bothered me in the game is the end of the common route Higurashi/Kagetsu Tohya style. Though it’s no where near as bad, you still have to go through most of the common route again to get to set yourself on a specific heroine’s route, since that builds up your relationship with that character. What’s nice is a sort of new-game plus starts so you can keep some of your battle stats and do a bit better in the missions, and of course make other choices, giving you extra scenes. You can skip previously read text, though I don’t know if it’s the game or English patch, but it’s a bit buggy (I swear it stopped on some scenes I have read before, and maybe skipped a couple I hadn’t seen, though that could just be me.) Anyway it’s not too bothersome, and once you’re past the common route and on a specific heroine’s route it changes the game completely, but I suppose this is becoming a little too commonplace in some visual novels these days. Anyone know of any visual novels trying to do something really new in the genre with the limited programming-setup other than to go back, change choices, or repeat again? I would like to see just how far they can push the limits without ruining the traditional feeling and gameplay. Eitherway, I still found it surprising (before the after thought) while playing, and it hardly took away from the game (albeit forcing me to find and google translate a Japanese walkthrough after raging from 3-4 CTRL-speed playthroughs).
Yahoo, Masato!!! Muscle no Jikan?! Yeah, the game even comes complete with your token idiot friend who surprisingly isn’t a blonde-haired idiot (Like Sunohara or Jun from Clannad/Kanon). Key went all out on Little Busters! and it’s common route is the relaxing laid-back style I expect from a well done visual novel, while each heroine has their own in-depth background story which brings out the background of the overall story in it’s own way. Good interactivity, top notch music, writing, and visual novel mechanics. You’d be passing up a good opportunity if you skipped even the already translated common route by not playing it. You’d also be missing a good opportunity if you didn’t start a battle ranking with your own friends, should you have any awesome enough in close proximity to you.
Shy girls don’t need exposure.
I was never sure if this was a mock-up troll (I would think so from looking at the eyes), or something actually featured in a magazine, but considering Key has Kyoto Animation hooked by the balls and KyoAni should be looking for a new hot seller (after they finish milking their K-ON cash cow for the upcoming season 2 in April), I like to think the Little Busters! anime will appear sometime in the next year. Judging from the difficult Kagetsu Tohya-esque plotline, awkward main characters, I think it would be a difficult anime-transition, but I know KyoAni could probably do it pretty well. In the mean time I’ll be learning Japanese to finish Kudo’s route…