Kana Little Sister (PC) review
"One of the biggest knocks against video games is that they do not provide any redeeming social value. This point can hardly be argued; where is the social value and moral development in games such as Grand Theft Auto III? When was the last time you played a game with a mature storyline more suited for a movie house then a video game? The surreal plot of Metal Gear Solid 2 might jump to mind, but that correlates little to the real world. Instead, the stereotype of video games wi..."
One of the biggest knocks against video games is that they do not provide any redeeming social value. This point can hardly be argued; where is the social value and moral development in games such as Grand Theft Auto III? When was the last time you played a game with a mature storyline more suited for a movie house then a video game? The surreal plot of Metal Gear Solid 2 might jump to mind, but that correlates little to the real world. Instead, the stereotype of video games without real life value continues its exponential growth, as public perception has not changed.
Therefore, it came as a vast surprise to me that the only game Iíve played in my many years of gaming that offers such an experience, a deeply emotional and tremendously grown up tale, will never even be heard of by almost all gamers. Traditionally, roleplaying games such as Kingdom Hearts and the Final Fantasy series are cited as examples of stories with thought in their stories. However, all of these games are wiped out by a simple computer game, made by a small group of programmers and writers, with maybe one percent of the budget of these blockbuster games. How do they do it? And why will nobody ever hear of, not to mention play, this stellar game?
Kana Little Sister centers around one crucial relationship: between a boy, Taka, and his sister, Kana. The characters alone are not noteworthy; after all, many games feature brother/sister duos. However, the entire crux of the story centers on one thing Ė Kanaís terminal illness. Kana has lived almost her entire life inside of a hospital because of the pain her kidneys cause her. As a result, she struggles with every aspect of life, while dealing with the dark presence that mires each day of her life: the threat of death. The complexity of questions such as dying with dignity, true love, and how to deal with death are constantly being addressed by the game. The focus never shifts from Taka and Kana though, as he desperately tries to cling on to the little sister he loves.
My words alone canít really penetrate the depths of which the story probes. Accounts adorn the internet about how Kana Little Sister actually made people cry. That is how raw the emotions involved are. Kana is a beautiful girl, with a fragile personality; she fits the archetype of the quiet girl next door. That makes her affliction all the more painful, especially for Taka. Kana has never had a life, and Takaís one wish is for his sister to be able to experience life first-hand. You play the role of Taka, as the story shifts around from various times in Kanaís life.
Why will no one play this game? Certainly, all the story aspects are in place. Likewise, there is a solid point and click gameplay interface. Not revolutionary, but it gets the job done in a text heavy, story intensive game such as Kana Little Sister. No, it is doomed to commercial failure despite all of its virtues because of two factors: itís an anime game, and it features nudity.
Even the most popular anime series and games can never aspire to the level of commercial games like those mentioned in the first paragraph. Only Dragon Ball and Pokemon can reach this plateau. Small computer titles from unheard of developers have almost no chance for commercial profit. The throngs of defunct anime translation companies can attest to this fact. Consequently, Kana Little Sister is already at a disadvantage.
Add to this the fact that it must bear the scarlet letter of ďhĒ for hentai. Hentai is the term associated with anime porn. And Kana Little Sister does feature scenes with nudity. Is it anything you wouldnít see in an R-rated movie? No. However, the fact that there is nudity limits it to gamers over eighteen. If I had my choice, the erotic elements would be eliminated entirely; they seem out of place at times in the game, even though they all come much later. Itís hard to derive pleasure when characters are going to die.
Also, because of this nudity, Kana Little Sister is immediately thrown into a negative light. Thereís a certain connotation in this country that goes with nudity. Itís perfectly okay for there to be buckets of gore in DOOM, but the second someone tried to show a booby in Snatcher (a critically acclaimed PC game remade for Sega CD), everyone freaked out. The same thing happened in BMX XXX. I am from the George Carlin school of thought; Iíd much rather see a naked body or a tender love scene (which is what appears in Kana Little Sister) then some maniac going crazy with an AK-47.
Kana Little Sister does not disappoint in either graphics or sound. Illustrious artwork is present throughout, and the innocence of Kana is something that is also portrayed on a visual level. Many different backgrounds are present, unlike stale reusable backgrounds and places often used in other games. The music varies on the scene and emotions involved in that scene; it is always appropriate, and never detracts from the activity taking place. Neither is comparable to a big budget commercial game, but the key to Little Sister Kana is the story, not the pretty packaging around it.
Yes. This game really is worth all the accolades it has received, from myself, from internet message boards, from basically every source that has played. It can be special ordered from Japan (in English of course) for varying prices, and it is also disturbed by a few English anime sites. At any price though, Kana Little Sister is worth getting your hands on. Itís more then a simple video game; itís a life lesson.
Community review by sgreenwell (January 19, 2003)
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