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The 'Kara no Shojo' review: Prepare for despair

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Kara no Shojo

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Kara no Shojo is a visual novel created by Innocent Grey (very ironic considering the content of the game) and translated for publication in markets outside of Japan by MangaGamer.

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It takes place in a fictional 1950s Japan. The game specifically takes place during March and April of 1956, but a lot of references are made to previous incidents that occurred earlier. It’s during this span of just over a month that Tokisaka Reiji, an ex-cop turned private detective, finds himself in the middle of a very bizarre series of murder cases.

Even so, it’s not the first time he’s seen something like this. In fact, the case seems strangely similar to the one that made him quit the police force years ago.

The narrative for Kara no Shojo is done really well for the most part. The characters seem believable, and their interactions are handled well. There are many amusing parts sprinkled throughout, and they can give you much-needed laughs during the very serious narrative. You’ll quickly find yourself liking a great many of the characters, and that’s how Innocent Grey lures you in. It’s once you’re attached to these characters that all sorts of mayhem breaks loose.

Without spoiling too much, let’s just say you should be prepared to have your heart ache… a lot. Kara no Shojo seems to be about fighting against falling into the depths of despair just as much as it is about catching a murderer. There are some truly depressing events in the game, especially if you come across one of the game’s several bad endings. Correction, when you come across one of the game’s several bad endings.

This correction is needed because you’re pretty much guaranteed to come across a bad ending without a walkthrough. You would have to be extremely lucky not to without one. This is because the game requires you to have certain information or evidence by a particular point, and if you don’t have it, you’re guaranteed an automatic bad ending.

This wouldn’t be a problem if you had multiple chances at the evidence or information, but usually you only have one shot, and if you screw it up that will spell your doom. There are some times where the only thing standing between you continuing on the “true” path and veering off into an alternate bad ending is whether or not you visited a certain person on a certain day.

It seems immensely luck based, and honestly it’s quite frustrating. A missed clue or wrong choice from days prior can lead you down a long path to a bad ending, and then you just have to hope and pray that you have a sufficient save from an earlier point that can allow you to go back and redo your mistake. If you don’t, you’ll be starting all over. Even if you do, you still won’t necessarily know what the trigger is for getting on the right path, and you’ll likely have to do quite a bit of trial and error to find it.

It’s sad when the best advice that can be given to someone starting the game is to save themselves hours of frustration and just use a walkthrough. It’s nice to have a mystery game where you aren’t spoon fed the correct answers, but Kara no Shojo gives you no leeway at all, and honestly it just turns into a chore more than anything.

It got to the point where the game’s story, which is what should have been the primarily focus, didn’t even matter anymore. The constant paranoia of wondering whether or not the correct choice was made, or if all of the possible evidence had been gathered, became absolute. The story couldn’t be fully enjoyed because a game over screen was always thought to be nearby. It’s easily the biggest issue with the game, and it’s a shame because the story is actually pretty well done for the most part as mentioned earlier.

For those of you wondering what “for the most part” means, it’s just that the game’s ending is rather flat. It honestly felt rushed compared to the rest of the game. Besides the fact that even the “true” ending was quite depressing in its own right, there just seems to be some things that aren’t properly explained by the time that final screen appears. Perhaps Innocent Grey wanted players to come to their own conclusions about those things, but it still would have been nice to know about a few things.

Other than that, the only story issue is that there are some things that can only be learned by going to the right place at the right time. It’s just like the evidence and information issue earlier where it’s pretty much a situation where you have to hope and pray you make the right choice. Considering how significant some of these additional story reveals can be, it would have been nice if they were put into the main story instead of a side section, but this is more of an issue with how the story is presented more so than with the story itself.

If you’re looking for h-scenes, look elsewhere. They are few and far between in Kara no Shojo, and the ones that are there are nothing special and rather short. The soundtrack definitely grows on you, and does its job well enough. The art is well done and mostly realistic (or as realistic as the manga style art can be) and proportions on ladies are generally far from absurd.

All in all, Kara no Shojo is definitely worth a look, especially for those that like mysteries. You’ll likely enjoy it a great deal more with a walkthrough, and even if you don’t have one you can manage if you’re very stubborn. Just don’t expect to come out of it without any emotional scars, whether it’s from the gameplay or the story.

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Disclosure: A free copy of Kara no Shojo was provided to create this review.

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