Kana: Little Sister
Meet Taka Todo, just your average Japanese boy with an average life. He’s got three best friends at school and together they are known as the “Big Four.” Taka also has a crush on a cute girl in his class and it looks like the feeling might actually be mutual. All in all life is pretty good for Taka except for one crucial thing, his little sister Kana.
Two years younger than Taka, Kana has been living her life in and out of hospital due to chronic renal failure, a deadly illness that affects the kidneys. Taka starts off resenting his little sister and blames her for being weak and stealing all their parents’ attention, but a selfless act when he’s ten years old changes his perspective and brings him closer to Kana. As they grow older, the bond becomes stronger and Take becomes the most important person in his fragile little sister’s life. With time running out for Kana, it’s up to Taka to help her experience life and make the most of her remaining time. The question is, at what cost?
Kana: Little Sister is a visual novel categorized in the “eroge” genre which means this is a game that few players will want to take on and even fewer will really appreciate. “Eroge” or “Hentai” games as they are also known are notorious for featuring very little gameplay and the focus is usually firmly on nudity and sex. Kana: Little Sister doesn’t go to the extremes that the genre usually achieve but its definitely not a game for anyone under the age of 18.
The subject matter alone, no matter how well it is handled will already make this game taboo for many, and the sex scenes will just be the final nail in the coffin. The kind of people that are usually attracted to this sort of game will also have a lot to moan about. The story is very slow paced and deals more with morbid subjects like death, terminal illness and the inability to protect the ones you love. The sex scenes are quite tame (in comparison to what this genre usually delivers) and few and far between. With so many things stacked against it, it would seem that Kana: Little Sister would be condemned to obscurity but instead it is one of the highest rated games in its genre. The reason for this is one thing and one thing only, story.
While leaning heavily towards melodrama at times the story of Kana is so hear wrenchingly tragic and involving that its virtually impossible to stop playing it. If you can manage to play through this game without at least getting a lump in your throat then you truly have no heart. Spanning ten years in the life of Taka and showing how his attitude and behaviour towards his sister changes from resentment to almost being his reason for living makes for a bittersweet and believable tale that will captivate players. Things start off a little slow but towards the end you will almost be wishing for the story to let up a bit and spare you the emotional trauma. There’s six different endings available but very few of them will leave you with dry eyes. The story is really well written and its virtually impossible not go get involved. There are a few spelling and grammatical errors that creeped in during the translation process, but nothing major. The dialogue during the sex scenes however are as corny and cringe worthy as they are for most games in this genre and a few times I burst out laughing which I’m sure wasn’t the intention of the writers. There have been arguments that the sex scenes add nothing to the game and could have been done away with without missing anything but I’m not so sure. The game doesn’t feature the usual “sleep with every available girl” routine so beloved of the genre and you are shown the consequences of your actions with people’s feelings getting hurt in the process. There’s a very limited amount of characters in this game so you’ll become acquainted with all of them but if you think that all the females are going to be sexual conquests then look elsewhere.
Being a visual novel and not really a game, Kana: Little Sister features text and lots of it. If you are not the type of person that enjoys reading a good book in one sitting then once again this is not the game for you. At first I didn’t like the way that the text was overlaid on the graphics but after seeing just how much text there was I can understand the reason for this layout. A right click of the mouse will hide the words so that the picture can be better appreciated but the focus really is on the text. For such a deep and involving title you are actually given very limited choices and in the entire game there is only something like 33 options to choose from. Some choices branch off into other paths but if you plan on seeing all six different endings you’ll be replaying a lot of the same scenes. There is a text skip option that will fast forward past text that you have already read which really comes in handy.
Although it’s a “visual” novel, the focus is definitely on the novel part as I have seen free flash games with better visuals than this. Scenes consist of static backgrounds with no animated detail and characters are also just portrayed as cardboard cut-outs. For important scenes you will be treated to a special picture and while all of these look wonderful there is an awful lot of recycling going on. For the most part your imagination will have to fill in all the blanks. All the characters only seem to have three poses (happy, sad, normal) and shift through these with a simple transition effect, no animations in sight. With only about nine characters shown in the entire game I would really have liked to see them fleshed out more (and no I don’t mean it in THAT way.) I realize that the emphasis is on the words but with such wonderful characters its almost a waste not to see more of them. It’s really cool to see characters like Kana and Yumi get older as the story progresses but with all the visual recycling things can look a bit low-budget.
The music consists out of CD audio and most of the songs fit their scenes really well. There’s even a few tracks that feature spoken lyrics which is a nice touch. There’s no voices but this is a good thing as it would only have detracted from the experience if the acting wasn’t up to scratch. The game does have a few sound effects but nothing that will make you sit up and take notice plus its very annoying how you have to wait for sound effects to stop playing before you can continue clicking through the text.
Kana: Little Sister is truly a game that players will either love or loathe. It’s a crying shame that due to the subject matter and game genre this games wonderful story will be missed by a lot of players. If you can stomach a bit of controversy and nudity then by all means give this game a try. While it hasn’t “changed my life” like some people claim it definitely made a emotional impact that will be hard to beat.
Review Written: 10/2010
VMLite running Windows XP OS
Microsoft® Windows® XP/Vista
Pentium 166Mhz Or Higher
640×480 True Color
Microsoft® Windows® XP/Vista
Pentium 166Mhz Or Higher
640×480 True Color