While I thought to follow up my 999 review with Kotaro Uchikoshi’s earlier and most famous work, Ever17, I felt like a change of pace was more appropriate. This week is now about long road trips and… people dying. Now you may find yourself saying “I thought you said change of pace, Laevatein!” Not to worry though, Narcissu is a completely different experience. Well, except for the fact that both can be and very much are tearjerkers, Narcissu in particular. In fact, Narcissu will very likely be one of the saddest pieces of fiction you’ll come across for a while.
Narcissu is a tale of two characters slowly whithering away in a hospital, and the choice that is presented to them: to stay in the hospital and die slowly but surely, or to escape and try to live life on their own terms before finally kicking the bucket? How can people who have given up on life live their lives? It’s a bit like The Bucket List, but with a very somber, if not highly depressive atmosphere. There’s not much else to say, seeing as how one can finish it in a few hours. Beyond the somber and depressing mood, the story can be quite simple. Additionally, the ending was a little disappointing. Even so, it’s a well done tale that will tug on your heartstrings.
Presentation in this is also quite unique. The character art (by character art, I mean art of that one girl) has a style that looks like colored sketches, which is not bad by any means. Background art also uses that style, as well, though it’s not as obvious. Additionally, the actual art is displayed in an area that’s very wide and not very tall. This works well with the whole road trip theme that goes on in the VN, seeing as how a car’s windshield is very wide, but not very tall. Music is rather standard faire for a depressing game: very piano heavy, slow, and somber. However, it fits Narcissu well. Even the general ambiance is used well: often enough, all you’ll hear is the sound of the engine as the car goes down roads and highways. However, visuals and audio have a very synergistic effect: they come together very well, making you feel like you’re on the road with the characters, rather than viewing them from a computer screen.
Narration can seem bland at times, but considering the characters and the theme, it fits; it’s not bland because the writer cannot describe anything, it’s bland because the protagonist never has much to say about anything. Again, it works well. There is one thing that’s very unique about the presentation. When you start for the first time, you’ll have two options: voiced, and unvoiced. While it may seem like a no brainer for most people, the narrative and dialogue actually change depending on which version you go with, one to go hand and hand with voices, and one to stand tall without them. Additionally, the translation style changes between versions. It’s interesting to go through Narcissu twice to see the changes.
Characters are also really good. While it may at first seem like interactions between two characters that have both given up on life may be a bit boring, they develop a very small, but a very precious motivation that allows them to keep going. While I can’t say I enjoy following someone’s journey to their death (because that’s just downright depressing), the characters were too endearing for me to give up on them. While it’s normally hard to care for disinterented and dispirited characters, Narcissu makes it hard to not care for them. That is ultimately what makes Narcissu so good.