Little Busters! Early VN Impressions

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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!

story

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.

lets-play-baseball

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.

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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.

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Posted on December 6, 2013, in Visual Novel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. It’s been a long time since I read LB! so I find myself unable to argue with most of your points, though I definitely didn’t feel the same way while I was reading. One thing I can tell you is that Riki’s “blandness”, in your words, is deliberate and has a reason behind it. I would even go so far as to say that the swiftness with which the characters become best friends is also explainable, though I can’t do so without spoiling anything. Still, at this point I don’t think your comments are unfair.

    I liked Little Busters! but I would be the first to admit that some of the routes lack impact. My final impression of the Visual Novel, however, was good enough that i’m desperately looking forward to the release of the LB! EX translation patch. When you start another route I would advise you to pay attention to what changes 😉

    What really annoyed me, however, was the baseball game at the end of the common route. After so much practice with the baseball mini game I was really looking forward to personally showing the other team up with my mad skills, so I was incredibly disappointed when it turned out to be a text-only affair that you can’t even win until you’ve completed multiple playthroughs. =/

    • I already have a feeling that Refrain will address a lot of the issues I have, but in my eyes, a potential future plot redemption isn’t enough to save piss poor plot in the beginning. My final review will likely reflect the pretty bad common.

      • I agree that a horrible common route cannot be forgiven regardless of how good the payoff is at the end. That was one of my major problems with Rewrite (though admittedly I didn’t think the end was very good either).

        As I said though, I remember liking Little Busters!’ common route anyway so I think on that point we’ll have to agree to disagree.

        I wonder if doing it all within 24 hours was a bad thing or a good thing? I know in the past i’ve thought stories would be better if I got through them quicker, but perhaps forcing yourself to play for that long is detrimental. What do you think?

  2. It’s true that sometimes it feels dull, mostly common, but there are a few changes here and there everytime you finish a route, as Silvachief said. Even so, I loved Little Busters!, and I really liked all the routes (although there were some things that left me wanting more, or even a bit disappointed.) The fact that the other characters kind of vanish in the other heroine’s routes is weird, but it has a meaning too! (at least, that’s what I understood, maybe I’m wrong.) I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just stop there xD Nice review, hope to see your thoughts on the other routes later on c:!

  3. Without ranting about how much I loved the VN, LB is something that NEEDS to be read completely before really evaluating. It’s a journey that, to many, feels like by the time you realize it has begun, it’s already over, and the urge to re-read parts to better understand the story is overwhelming.

    Firstly, Riki isn’t perfect. He does fit the plot and fulfill his role, and that’s due to him following in Kyousuke’s footsteps and getting some tips from the bros in each route. He does serve as a sort of KEY psychiatrist, and is kinda bland, but he does improve by Rin and Refrain routes. His character improvement is integral to the plot.

    The repetitive common route is mundane with fun moments, because LB’s face value common route events aren’t the most extremely serious things. You’ll find Riki helping out each of the heroines one by one until Rin and Refrain, and it’s supposed to be heartwarming for the routes, rather than something highly emotionally climactic, though some routes can be that great if you enjoy them.

    I’d highly suggest using this walkthrough, but you kinda already changed up the order.
    http://tlwiki.org/?title=LB!:Walkthrough

    There’s an alternative order, where you can leave Kurugaya, Rin, and Rin 2 for last, which I highly recommend because it sheds the most light on the Secret of the World and the plot of Refrain. You can do the other routes in any order.

    Try Haruka->Komari->Mio->Kud->Kurugaya->Rin1 -> Rin2 -> Refrain

    The other characters making only token appearances during each other routes is also integral to the plot, so don’t expect it for most of the routes.
    Basically, you should just cruise through the slice of life and try to find some mild enjoyment out of it, for now, and don’t go in expect something on the level of one of Clannad’s 3 climactic scenes in each of the heroine routes.

    Little Busters has a high drop percentage from readers because people assume it has no plot, and with a VN this long, I don’t blame them, but there’s definitely a lot building up. You’ll find that while each of the heroine routes probably feels segmented from the story, reading the final routes of the visual novel will bridge connections to the entire story and make the experience more meaningful as you approach the climax of Little Busters. While the writing quality is arguably long-winded and could’ve been much better, the story structure is intentional and nontraditional, and builds up to an overall unique experience in the VN medium.

    • I don’t doubt the payoff will be worth it. I have very high expectations for Refrain and have every intention of completing it. I merely wrote on my experience in the early stages of it. Even if the way this is handled is done for plot reasons, it still is a major flaw in my eyes because it is not entertaining.

      • It’s something that really grows on you.
        If you come to enjoy it by Refrain, you’ll probably enjoy watching the anime, which has some good parts, despite JC Staff’s awful budget at times.
        I’d probably give the CR a 7 or something, and I didn’t really like it a lot my first time through, and it’s tedious and time consuming. Once you get insight on all the characters and become attached to them through the heroine routes, and more attached through Rin and Refrain where the story is tied together, it’s much more enjoyable to go over things later on, check out the anime, etc.

        It’s sort of like how if you watched a random anime with a new character tell a joke, it’s not quite as funny as if your best friends tell the same joke, I guess.

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