Little Busters! Early VN Impressions
I don’t read very many Key visual novels. Of the translated ones, I’ve read Clannad, and Planetarian. I absolutely loved both of them and can’t speak highly enough of them. I’ve been wanting to read another Key visual novel for a while now, and as luck would have it, I got time off work to do so. I chose to read Little Busters! and I ended up deciding to livestream my reading of it for 24 straight hours. Why? Long story short, it was a challenge issued by a member of the Fuwanovel forums. So my impressions are solely based off 24 hours of straight reading, and do not necessarily represent my final opinion of this VN.
First and foremost, Little Busters! has an awesome opening video. The first moments of the novel does a great job of introducing who the Little Busters are. We have our main character Riki (more on him later), Rin, Kyousuke, Masato, and Kengo. Each one of them is entertaining when grouped together and allowed to play off each other. The banter between Masako and Kengo is always hilarious to watch unfold, and their rivalry is made quite clear in the opening moments of the novel. Just as quickly, we are introduced to Kyousuke, who establishes himself as the leader of this particular circle of friends by setting rules for a fight between Masato and Kengo. Next we have Rin who joins the fray. She at first comes across as ill tempered, but then as a kind, shy person, shown by her treatment of cats. Cue a little back story of these characters (how they met Riki mainly) and you have yourself the Little Busters!
Aside from Riki, there is nothing wrong with this cast at this point of the story. Riki is the student you play as, and a member of the Little Busters! What’s wrong with him? He is blank, and lacks a very strong personality. It’s jarring to have this cast of dynamic, fun characters, and be playing as the bland, uninteresting student. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with the VNs I’ve read having a protagonist with a personality, but reading from Riki’s perspective is an absolute bore. He lacks any wit, and is actually too full of common sense for his own good. He honestly feels like a Gary Stu (a character with no flaws) and it hinders the story telling of this VN.
During the common route, you will also meet the rest of the characters that will eventually make up the new and improved Little Busters! This ties into yet another flaw of this visual novel. It didn’t do enough to make me care at all about these characters. I struggled to find even one character to become attached to (I settled on Haruka because I’m a sucker for the genki types). The novel really gives the reader no reason to care about these characters during the common route. The new members of the Little Busters! feel like they appear out of no where, and are suddenly best friends with everyone else. This leads to no noticeable growth in relationships between the newer members of the Little Busters, due in no small part to the style of story telling in the common.
At the beginning of Little Busters!, Kyousuke decides to make a baseball team to enjoy youth. Problem is, he needs more people to field a team and sends everyone out to find more members. Being the only normal one of the bunch (oh, so that’s why he is so boring), Riki is the only one capable of getting anyone to join. They give some random reason for being willing to join, and then everyone is best friends. There is little to no exposition on these characters. The novel instead chooses to spend its time telling a simple slice of life story with no aim or purpose. There are plenty of fun scenes between all the characters, which makes things bearable but the ultimate goal is to play a game of baseball. The characters were utilized just to advance the story, and not in tandem with the story making this slice of life scenario a snooze fest (or maybe it was the 24 hour reading.)
When you do finally finish the common route, the story does finally pick up a little bit. I only completed Haruka’s route so far, but I noticed a few things. Mainly, the absence of any other meaningful interaction with the other characters. Everyone was best friends, even after the baseball game, and then it’s as if they all forgot about each other. Other characters will make token appearances, but at least during the Haruka route, they made no impact on the story at all.
As for Haruka’s actual route, its decent. I’m told that it is one of the longest routes of the game, and it sure does drag on, but the ending is of higher quality than the rest of the route. It has that typical Key emotion and drama, but ultimately lacks that final punch to propel it to being a great route. As it was, Haruka’s route is simply a decent route.
As I spouted off my thoughts while reading, I kept being told to “Wait until Refrain. Just wait until Refrain.” While I have no doubts that Refrain is amazing, a serious writing flaw exists if you can’t keep a novel interesting for that emotional pay off in a final route. Why should I have to subject myself to boredom just for a good ending? If people weren’t so excited about Refrain, I would likely end up dropping this and move on to find a more exciting read. Is Little Busters! a bad VN so far? Absolutely not, but it is a deeply flawed visual novel at this point. Will I finish it? Of course I will. And if Refrain is as good as people make it out to be, I will eat my words. Until then, color me unimpressed.