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Game Info:

Little Busters! English Edition
Developed By: VisualArts/Key
Published By: VisualArts
Release Date: November 1, 2017
Available On: PC
ESRB Rating: N/A
Genre: Visual Novel
Mode: Single Player
MSRP: $34.99

Thank you VisualArts for sending us this game to review!

Ever since I had the opportunity to review CLANNAD, I have been keeping an eye on VisualArts' releases. Despite some flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed CLANNAD, and it was a story I won't soon forget. Their works are so moving that for some they provide therapeutic value, or at least reflective – sometimes the hardships or challenges that others face, whether in real life or in fiction, can help us put perspective on our own lives. So when given the opportunity to review Little Busters!, I jumped on it.

Little Busters! is a very long and well written visual novel (VN) with many, many choices to make along the way. In terms of raw content, it may be the longest one that I have played yet, as it took me over eighty hours to see pretty much everything. If that's not enough, there is a baseball mini-game, as well as a dungeon crawler (though a rather simplistic one) to keep your interest if you so choose.

Our main character is Riki Naoe, who is a friendly but otherwise unremarkable boy in his junior year of high school who suffered an unspeakable tragedy when he lost his parents at around ten years old. Thankfully, he was able to move beyond that with the help of his childhood friends, the Little Busters! This group includes Kyousuke (who is the oldest and the ringleader), his sister Rin, and best friends Masato and Kengo. The five of them attend a boarding school together.

Lamenting how quickly their lives are moving towards the final 'must grow up' phase, they decide to do something incredibly silly for their final school year before college prep: form a baseball team. To do so, they make a bunch of new friends who join this new team, taking a boy-heavy group and tilting it the other way with the addition of a bunch of girls, including Komari, Kud, Yuiko, Mio, and Haruka.

Little Busters! English Edition
Highlights:

Strong Points: Incredibly well written story, with many emotionally impactful scenes; wonderful characters full of joy and life, as well as challenges and hardship; many laugh out loud moments; several sad or difficult moments that a strong emotional reaction is likely; shows the joy and value of deep friendships; excellent Japanese voice acting
Weak Points: No controller support
Moral Warnings: Curse words like '*ss', 'd*mn', 'sh*t', 'p*ss', 'b*st*rd', including God's name in vain (God d*mn and Jesus) as well as some coarse words like 't*ts'; some 'fan service', like visible cleavage, and scenes in baths or hot springs; several situations with sexual tension, like flipped up skirts, the bath or hot spring scenes, and another where you have to co-ed strip in order to survive (represented in text, not images); one female character has irresistible urges regarding cute things (played for jokes), including other females; your friendship with a male friend is so deep there are questions of sexuality (played for jokes); there are a couple of instances of cross dressing; several suggestive jokes in the dialog, including things like breast sizes; RPG violence in the form of descriptive text describing fights, complete with hit point reductions; blood is present in a few scenes

Each of the girls has their own route, which can be accessed via various choices that you make during conversations with them and others. Unlike some other VNs I have read, they guy friends are not throwaways – you have some great conversations with them, and they feel very important to you and your character. You can 'love' one of them, but it's meant as a source of laughs rather than anything real.

The only endings are accessible via the girls' routes. There are many, with good and bad endings available for each, though (with a few exceptions) there is only one 'good' ending, which often includes an expression of love and is capstoned with ending credits and a song. Others just give you clear data. Seeing as many endings as possible is still valuable, as some scenes can only be seen in bad endings, and some of them are absolutely hilarious.

The humor in Little Busters! varies from Masato's muscle obsessions, Kengo's aloofness (to later absolute silliness), to Yuiko's and Mio's dry or perverted jokes, to just completely off the wall craziness from Haruka, Kyousuke, and others. There is a lot of humor here; though not all of it is clean, it is likely to bring more than a few smiles.

Through all of the routes, there seems to be a few underlying themes, and that is the power and value of true friendship. This is told very well through the story, as even your most goofy of friends shows in several places what true friendship is really all about. When the usually stupid Masato gives some of the best and most sagely advice, it really gave me pause.

Rather than just 'the value of friendship', there are a few more deeper themes as well. Most of the characters, but the main ones especially, go through some deeply troubling hardships. What you come to find is not only that your friends really need you, and that as a good, caring friend you can help carry them through their life challenges, but that by being that kind of person, and sharing whatever strengths you may have with them, you also become stronger yourself. You change from someone who merely gets by because of your friends to someone who can face the most dangerous of challenges, even when life and limb are at stake – and persevere. It's hardships themselves that make us better people, and we then carry that forward to the next challenge.

The writing on the whole is excellent, though I did find a few more typos than typical near the end on a few routes, but it wasn't too distracting. The music is great, and very fitting to the moment. The art is also fantastic, though I did not realize that some of the pictures have more to be seen if you use the mouse to drag the image around (at least in the gallery view). Unfortunately, doing so does expose a bit more of the 'fan service', as it were. Thankfully there is not a whole lot of it, and it's mostly done tastefully.

'Fan service' is, for those not aware, an unfortunately common thing in games these days, where the developers put in visuals or other situations that are there just 'for the fans' – in other words, with little narrative value, but make some subset of fans happy. These scenes are overwhelmingly of a sexual nature, with things like compromising co-ed situations, or visuals like cleavage, up-skirt shots, or bath house scenes. Thankfully Little Busters! avoids up-skirt shots on screen, but they do happen in text. Cleavage and bath scenes are present, though. Cleavage is not excessive thankfully, nor are the bath scenes. But they both happen. It's not constantly in your face, but it happens. Nothing is shown except for some cleavage in some cases. Most is left to the imagination of the reader. And they are thankfully rare.

Little Busters! English Edition
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 67%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 2/10
Sexual Content - 6/10
Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

I point this out because (outside of the obvious need to inform) CLANNAD, another VisualArts/Key visual novel, did not have fan service. But it did have more than just sexual jokes, indeed premarital sex itself (and marital sex, which of course is fine). None of them are shown or really described, but rather stated as having happened. Little Busters! has no sex of any kind in the story. The farthest it ever gets is french kissing. While romance is clearly important to the story here, it's less important than in CLANNAD, where you can even get married and have children; that does not occur here.

Sexual humor varies from simple 'she has large breasts' or 't*ts' to jokes asking if you are 'a homo'. One girl on several occasions misinterprets what the guys say to make it sound homoerotic. A girl apparently has strong 'urges' that she finds hard to control with cute things, which is why she has her own room (she claims she couldn't control herself if a cute girl (or boy) bunked with her). There is a scene where you are snuck into a slumber party and they make you dress like a girl, and a girl wakes you up, teasing you about every boy's desire for a secret rendezvous. Thankfully, he is a gentleman throughout. There are other lines about panties and a few awkward situations. Late in the game, there is a life-or-death puzzle where the only solution is for both you and the girl you are with to strip naked and make a rope out of your clothes. As I said before, nothing is shown.

Curse words are used, with things like 'd*mn' and 'h*ll' being more common, with a few very rare 'sh*t', '*ss', or 'b*st*rd'. Sometimes God's name is used in vain, like 'God d*mn' or 'Jesus'. There is also some violence, in the form of silly slapstick violence, or the humorous RPG-style battles. Each character is given a weapon (sometimes real, sometime silly) and you must fight the other using them. Hit points are deducted from a life bar, and the victory goes to the one to survive. No one ever dies except when it is required for the narrative. There are scenes with a person chained up in a dramatic manner, and there is blood visible in a couple of scenes. There is one scene where you rescue a girl from her oppressive family on the wedding day of an unwanted arranged marriage.

Little Busters! English Edition is another quality release from VisualArts/Key. Like CLANNAD, I really loved reading about these kids goofing off in high school, and the main themes and messages throughout are heartwarming, have positive moral lessons, and have significant emotional impact. Despite some of the fan service and language, there is a lot of excellence here as well. Whether the trade-offs are worth it is up to you, and it's definitely not for children. More mature teens and adults who are looking for a good, memorable story will find a lot to like in Little Busters!

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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