A bunch of friends try to win a baseball game, and 2 of them end up falling in love in a comedic setting. Cue the tragic back story for the girl, some mystical symbolism pretending to be plot, a lot of stuff about the power of family and friendship, and you’ve got Little busters in a nutshell.
The story was quite similar to other games that Key has turned out over the years. The slapstick comedy involving stupid friends, the overly long and complicated branches that changes with each play through, the main character that’s a complete moron at times but quite intelligent at others, etc etc etc. The one major difference was that I didn’t really like any of the characters this time around. I’ve had posts about the characters here and here. Refrain, which is the true ending which must be unlocked (like Air in Air or the After story in Clannad), was really similar to Cross Channel, in that the writers behave as if the plot is only an excuse to have the characters show a reaction, therefore the plot doesn’t have to make sense. That works in Cross channel. It doesn’t work here.
Another problem is that the different parts of the game feels too detached. There was almost nothing to Rin’s path, as the focus was wholly on her brother, Kyousuke. most of the little that is to her story is in a completely different setting than the rest, giving a jolted feeling. In fact, everything Jun Maeda wrote feels detached from what the other 2 wrote, making the entire thing feel like 3 games rather than 1. It certainly felt as long as three games, especially with all the skipping I had to do trying to get to the character paths.
Many images, such as the CG above, are quite nice. You have your very Key-esque backgrounds, which blend quite well with the character art. The female characters all get 2 poses each, with a few head and arm variations to each pose. Now, let me start on the problems.
1) The bodies are inconsistent
2) The poses are inconsistent
3) The anatomy is horrible
These aren’t even the worse of it. I’ve avoided some because of spoiler reasons (such as Kyousuke’s scene with the bus), and don’t get me started on the h-scenes, most of the images are so awful I’m speechless. The promotional art is also a mixed bag, with some good, some bad, and some awful. Then there’s the mysterious circumstances involving Komari’s ribbons (and why Itaru Hinoue draw the same pose twice is beyond me)…
The BGM gets really tiring over the course of the game, and I can’t say they don’t feel generic, but they always fit the mood. Mio’s theme is fantastic and all the vocal tracks are nice.
The programming has 2 sides to it. On the novel side, we have all the basic stuff and a few extras, including some nice semi animation in Saya’s route and an excellent credits roll. On the other side, there are some mini games embedded into the story. Near the beginning of the game you’ll be asked whether certain mini games will be turned on or off. That decision can’t be changed for the rest of the play through. I’ll be using Chinese screen shots for them.
1) The battles
Every character has their own stats, and there’s a small tournament between the characters. At the beginning of each match, the crowd throws in random things, which the characters use as weapons. The reader does nothing to affect the outcome of battles other than a very small amount of control over which weapons to get. At times during the day, you may choose to wander around the school in search of opponents to fight or trade items with. This can be turned off. Another part of the battle system is Sasami’s fights with Rin. For some reason or another, Rin always gets Sasami mad, and Rin fights Sasami’s underlings, then Sasami herself if she wins.
The battles has no effect on the story. Character stats can be boosted through baseball training.
When the screen changes and the maplestory music comes up, you know you’re in baseball training. Basically, Rin throws balls at you and you attempt to hit it toward characters you want to train and hopefully get a chain of hits. This increases character stats and affects the outcome of the baseball match. The match itself is like a battle, with the batter going against the pitcher and the difference in stats controlling the outcome. You can also control your own team (steal, bunt, etc).
3) Saya’s shooting
Saya’s story involved going around an underground maze with 8 levels shooting at things and solving puzzles. After completing the maze once, you have to go through it again through Saya’s perspective, where you have to die many times. Apparently, when Saya loses enough times, she turns M and the game switches to Ecstasy mode, with more hits and more life. But I failed in activating it after many frustrating and mind-numbing hours and eventually game up.
The minigames, like many of the jokes, proved to be amusing for all of 10 minutes, after which they were incredibly annoying. With these things, and also the fact that the flowchart is incredibly complicated with the script changing slightly at each play through, I have to say that I wish they didn’t waste the time on this.
Total: 66/100 C