(For a general description about Visual Novels please read our About Visual Novels page.)
What started out as an experimental project by Visual Novel writer Tomo Kataoka has launched into an incredibly heart-wrenching franchise that has now expanded beyond its simple roots following the life of a single character that is in the last stages of her terminal illness. Narcissu is not for the faint of heart. There are no happy, miracle endings, and the story pulls no punches.
Narcissu follows the story of a nameless boy as the narrator and through his voice tells the story of main character Setsumi. The game introduces readers to the world of 7F, the hospice ward, where the dying give newly initiated tenants a set of grim rules and explain that tenants are only registered to 7F three times where they are then given the choice of dying in the hospital or dying at home. Setsumi is on her third stay, but is not content with this final choice, and has not made up her mind.
While Narcissu explores the remaining hours and the choices the terminally ill faces, Narcissu Side 2nd could be said to explore those who remain behind, and the relationships between the dying and their loved ones. Written as a prologue to the first game, the story closely follows Setsumi who has not been made a ward of 7F, yet, and introduces a new character named Himeko.
Both games are released together on Steam as a single unit and they complement each other well. The games do stray outside of the normal Visual Novel formula. The visuals are scarce, and do not provide much face-time with the characters, concentrating instead on striking background drops and providing an almost movie-like quality. The music is where these games truly shine, as the games provide a rich ensemble that is easy to listen to and wonderfully atmospheric. The runtime for both games is on average six to ten hours, offering no choices or multiple endings, but a simple and straight read.
The games have had a rough and tumble translation history. When the game is downloaded and played, you are given multiple options before the game even begins. The first, which game do you want to play, choosing between Narcissu or Narcissu Side 2nd, and then choosing if you want play Voiced or Unvoiced. While this seems like a trivial choice, the Unvoiced versions do provide extra lines that provide a little more character description and each has a certain mood taste. The games are not long and I highly recommend play throughs of both. But more to the point the next set of choices after that could leave the reader scratching their heads – the Narcissu games have had multiple fan translators due to the game’s nearly tragic translation fate.
While I won’t bore you with the specific details, as I’m not completely sure on all of the finer points myself, the game was originally translated by a fan group named Insani, but after the group fell apart due to careers, it took nearly three years after the second game’s release before its translation was finally completed by Agilis. (Personally, I highly recommend his translations.)
This game series is near and dear to my heart and I waited all three of those years for the game to become translated and was happy to assist in a small way by creating a small subpage webdesign for the game’s launch site. While I am no translator myself, I like to think that I have been closely tied to the game’s translation releases and have always been eager to help.
The future for Narcissu is even brighter these days. While currently only the two games have been translated, Sekai Project, spearheaded by Project Lead Agilis/Randy Au, have been eagerly pushing to have the translations completed for the other games released in the series. Recently there was a Kickstarter project to release these games and can now be found on Steam as the Narcissu 10th Anniversary Anthology Project. For the first time in history, Agilis is working directly with the developers to create an official translation for these unreleased games.
Narcissu 1 and 2 are available on Steam for FREE. Especially if you are new to Visual Novels, this is a great series to launch with. The Anthology Project, though, will be a paid experience and include four games. Each game will be available for a small fee upon release or if you would like to support the project you can purchase a Season Pass and receive each game as it is completed. (Please, PLEASE support this game series.)