Visual novel review: Little Busters!

0423This review only covers the all-ages version of Little Busters! that was released back in 2007. The 18+ Ecstasy version with additional routes added was not (and still isn’t) available in English at the time I read it.

Little Busters! had been on my backlog for quite a while. At some point after watching the Little Busters! anime when it aired, I had gone and read the common route of the visual novel, but had gotten distracted and left it on the back burner. The anime versions of Refrain and EX were also on hold for me because I was waiting until I had read the source material.

I had originally been intending to wait until the Ecstasy version was patched before going back to it so I could avoid having to revisit the game a third time. But after a reminder while reading Majikoi, as well as noticing that there hadn’t been any substantial changes to the progress spreadsheet on the translators website for a long period of time, I decided that it wasn’t worth waiting any longer. So I deleted my saves and started the game again from the start.

As for how Majikoi reminded me to revisit the Little Busters! visual novel. I noticed that there were a lot of things which were strangely similar between the two visual novels. I’ll list the main points here (just ignore this whole paragraph if you haven’t read/seen Majikoi because otherwise it won’t make much sense to you):

  • The protagonist from Little Busters! (Naoe Riki) has the same family name as the protagonist from Majikoi (Naoe Yamato).
  • Both games feature a group of close friends.
  • Both games have a charismatic character who acts as a leader for their respective groups of friends (Natsume Kyousuke and Kazama Shouichi).
  • Both games have a character who is essentially a dog (Noumi Kudryavka and Kawakami Kazuko).
  • Both games have a character who is obsessed with muscle training and is mostly a joke character (Inohara Masato and Shimazu Gakuto).

But anyway, all of that stuff is obviously coincidental but I thought I’d add it anyway because I found it interesting.

Little Busters! is separated into two parts. The first part is just like your average visual novel with a common route, which later splits into character routes for each of the heroines.

The game starts with the protagonist, Naoe Riki and his group of close friends trying to make some memories together. Kyousuke, the oldest member of their group won’t be able to spend as much time with them after the school year ends because he will have to either become a working member of society or go on to further study. On Kyousuke’s suggestion, they decide to play baseball, an idea usually unimaginable for people in their situation and Riki is left with the task of finding the remaining members required to have a complete team. The games heroines are mainly made up of the new members that are recruited to play baseball.0264

Like with most Key games, there are multiple writers who worked on Little Busters! With a total of four scenario writers, it has more writers than any previous Key game. This is also the first major title released by Key which hasn’t had Hinoue Itaru as the exclusive artist.

I think at this point, despite its popularity, a lot of people accept that most of Key’s writers are on the average side. When reading through all of the routes in Little Busters! I couldn’t help but feel that the amount of writers was letting the work down. Although I enjoyed around half of the  character routes, although I felt that at times they really could have been executed better. I especially didn’t like Kud’s route, as almost every part of it just seemed dumb and I couldn’t take it seriously at all. As much as I’d like to, I can’t even just blame a single writer for letting the work down as a whole, because there is at least one part from each writer that I liked.

Mini-games

There are also two mini-games that are part of the story. The first one is a baseball mini-game where you practice batting. It occurs at regular intervals throughout the common route as part of the team’s practice sessions. The fielders will throw the ball back to you if you hit it to them, allowing you to build up a combo. As more people are recruited as members, the amount of fielders goes up. Hitting the ball towards each character has different effects, so it’s worth testing out as some can be pretty funny.

The second mini-game is a fighting scenario. All the members of the baseball team are taking part in this game and are ranked. After a certain amount of time, certain things can happen depending on who ended up being rank #1. When challenged, bystanders will throw in random objects and the participants have to use what they got as a weapon. After the fight begins, you have no control over the outcome. The winner switches rank with the loser.

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(In game the mini-games are translated, I just don’t currently have the game installed so I grabbed images from vndb.)

Thankfully you can opt out of having to play the mini-games. They can be fun at times, but having to go through them on every single playthrough would be annoying.

Refrain

The second part of Little Busters! is called Refrain. After you finish all the routes from the first part, you go back and do Rin’s route again. There is a bit of new dialogue as well as a continuation after where the route ended the first time. After Rin’s route is completed a second time, Refrain becomes unlocked and you can access it from the main menu.

Refrain starts back at the start of the game, except Kyousuke never suggests that they play baseball. Refrain builds on from some things that were mentioned back during the main part of the game. None of the heroines from the main part really play a role in Refrain because they were never recruited to play baseball (except Rin since she was already part of the group). This unfortunately may leave the reader wondering exactly why they were included in the first place.

I don’t really want to spoil anyone so I can’t really say much more, but overall Refrain really is worth reading. If you get sick of the game during the first part and feel like not continuing, it might even be worth just holding down Ctrl to skip though the remaining routes to unlock Refrain. (You should still read the second playthrough of Rin’s route though since it actually sets up to Refrain.)0214

Overall Impressions

Although the amount of writers makes the overall experience a bit shaky, ending with Refrain more than made up for it, leaving me satisfied overall. It’s far from a masterpiece, in fact I’d say that the first season of the anime did a much better job of the content it covered. I would argue that Refrain is much better in text form, however.

Positives:

  • Mini-games can actually be pretty entertaining at times.
  • Although the comedy isn’t anything special, it can be decent at times.
  • The characters’ emotional issues/motives are actually pretty well done (in general).
  • Refrain isn’t without problems, but it really is an emotional ride that is well worth it.

Negatives:

  • Too many writers left the work feeling inconsistent in places.
  • A few routes are just dumb.
  • Most of the routes could have been executed a bit better.
  • There’s that thing which Key visual novels like to do which I can’t go into details because spoilers. (It will have to wait until another post.)

If anyone has been paying attention to visual novel news recently you may have noticed that Little Busters! will be coming to steam. It will include the all-ages version of the extra routes from Ecstasy as well. I personally am disappointed that there hasn’t been any news about an 18+ version since that was the original release for those routes. (I’m not surprised on the lack of news though, and Key h-scenes aren’t that good anyway so I guess it doesn’t matter.)

I also watched the EX episodes that were a bonus in the Refrain BD releases. They cover the three extra routes from Ecstasy, and were pretty good as bonus stories to the Little Busters! world. I do currently still have plans to read the routes but I have no idea when it will happen.

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About FabledHunter

Novice Anime Blogger. ask.fm/AnimeAtaraxia

Posted on November 23, 2015, in Reviews and Impressions, Visual Novels and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Little Busters is a VN I really need to go back and read at some point (probably when the official translation is released), because nowadays i’m really not clear on how I feel about it. I think my opinion would probably mirror yours though since it’s Refrain that stands out to me while the heroine routes don’t bring back any fond memories. I’m glad to see another blogger with that opinion of Key’s writing (and use of multiple writers >.>).

    The mini-games were an interesting aside that fit well with the atmosphere of the story, though they’re ultimately unnecessary. I personally thought Kurugaya’s route was the weakest.

    Thoughts on the character art?

    Like

    • It’s interesting that you thought Kurugaya’s route was the weakest. It isn’t my favourite, but I remember liking the mysterious atmosphere that it had going. At the time I read it I still hadn’t figured out the secret of the world, so it helped me come up with all sorts of theories, which was fun.

      As for the character art. I liked Na-Ga’s character designs a bit more than Hinoue Itaru’s. But for some reason I always have some issues with Key’s art. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it often seems to me to come across as a bit stiff(?). Especially around the mouth area or neck/face area. I don’t know if it’s just me who feels Key’s art is a bit off at times or not, but I think I might just be used to it so it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.

      Like

  2. Little Busters is another one of many visual novels where the main route is just much more superior than the rest, but forced you to play the rest of the routes first before even able to access it, lol. But the payoff in the end is obviously very good too, so no complains for me (besides, I seem to recall Clannad is even worse in this case).

    I personally have a lot of fun in the mini games though, if you really delve into it, subsequent playthroughs will bring a lot of variety in it (new challenger in the tournament, etc…)-of course, with improved stats, you can actually win the baseball game. It’s integrated perfectly in it’s theme of self-improvement (of mainly Riki and Rin).

    I do agree with the multiple writers, but the issue isn’t as blatant as Rewrite, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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