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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Little Busters!



Little Busters!  is a Japanese visual novel developed by Key. It was released on July 27, 2007 playable on Windows PCs and is rated for all ages. Little Busters! is Key's sixth game, along with other titles such as Kanon, Air, and Clannad. An adult version of the game titled Little Busters! Ecstasy was released on July 25, 2008 for Windows. Ecstasy was later ported to the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita. The story follows the life of Riki Naoe, a high school student who has been a member of a group of friends named the Little Busters since childhood. Riki brings multiple girls at his school into the Little Busters to have enough people to play a baseball game.


The gameplay in Little Busters! follows a branching plot line which offers pre-determined scenarios with courses of interaction, and focuses on the appeal of the six female main characters by the player character, which increases to nine in Ecstasy. There are additional minigames added into the gameplay, such as battle sequences that resemble fighting games or baseball batting practice, which serve to give the characters experience, obtain accessories to use during battle, and improve theirstatistics. Both Little Busters! and Ecstasy ranked as the best-selling PC game sold in Japan for the time of their release, and Ecstasy would go on to sell over 100,000 units. Key went on to produce an adult spin-off of Ecstasy called Kud Wafter in June 2010, which expanded on the scenario of Kudryavka Noumi, one of the heroines from Little Busters! and Ecstasy.


The main part of the story takes place at a high school in Japan. There is a "secret of this world" that Kyousuke speaks of. The characters live in either the male or female dormitories on the school grounds which are adjacent to each other. Facing the dorms is the main school building where classes take place which also houses the cafeteria on the ground floor. The school is four floors tall and offers a roof that anyone can go up onto if they wish. Beyond the main school building is the large schoolyard, with the pool area adjacent to the yard. On the other side of the field, is the baseball field, with the gymnasium and tennis court beyond it which is closer to the main school building.



Childhood and adolescence are two important themes in Little Busters!. The opening video of the visual novel starts with two lines written in English: "What 'Adolescence' do you have?" and "Do you remember 'Childhood'?". Riki Naoe, the male protagonist, has four childhood friends whom he grew up together with through adolescence and still hangs out with when the story begins. Thus, friendship is another theme presented in the form of Riki's relationships with his friends in high school, and is thought to be irreplaceable. 


Little Busters!' story revolves around the main protagonist Riki Naoe, a young male high school student. When Riki was a child, his parents died, leaving him hopeless and depressed. A group of three young boys and one girl his age saved him who referred to themselves as the Little Busters, a group dedicated to fighting evil and preserving justice. The leader of the group was Kyousuke Natsume who had a younger sister named Rin. The other two members were Masato Inohara and Kengo Miyazawa, who were rivals despite being friends. They took Riki out and played together with him during his time of need, making him the fifth Little Busters member. In time, Riki enjoyed playing with them, and his grief over his parents gradually faded away. When the story begins, Riki and his friends are seemingly in their second year of high school, except for Kyousuke who is in his third year. They still hang out together, and enjoy their school life.


The story opens on Sunday May 13, 2007, and the next day at school, Kyousuke decides that the Little Busters are going to play a baseball game, except they do not have enough members to have a complete team. Kyousuke gives Riki and Rin the task of going around school to find more members to join, preferably girls so as not to leave Rin the lone girl. Riki finds five girls his age willing to help him out. They are: Komari Kamikita, a childish girl who is very clumsy; Haruka Saigusa, a problem child who likes to start uproars for her own enjoyment; Kudryavka Noumi, a one-quarter Japanese girl in the home economics club who is very bad in English; Yuiko Kurugaya, a girl who is given respect from her peers, and has a self-sufficient personality; and Mio Nishizono, a calm girl with a weak body who is always seen holding a parasol when outside. Throughout the game, Riki hangs out with these girls and learns more about them.


This is a highly recommended visual novel. Apart from its story line, music and art, the characters are very memorable. Nevertheless, it is simply one of the best.


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