Narcissu Review: Terminal Illness and Choosing One’s Path

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So at last I’ve gotten the chance to get to some more visual novels, and Narcissu was the first one of those I decided to play.  I heard it was a short but enjoyable one, and I suppose that it was far from amazing but still worth it overall.

Narcissu focuses on a nameless protagonist who meets a girl named Setsumi.  Both of these individuals are terminally ill and reside in the 7th floor of a hospital, reserved for hospice.  While hospice patients may be temporarily dismissed to go home, it is inevitable that they will return and Setsumi tells the protagonist that a patient would never be released more than three times before dying.  The two are not content with the idea of being left to die at the hospital or their homes and decide to adventure to the outside world in an attempt to reject their hopeless fates.

The story is generally slow paced and definitely has a realistic feel to it.  Narcissu emphasizes the hopelessness of the situation and the sad reality of terminal illness as the two drive around with the constant reminder that this adventure cannot last forever.  Though many of the days are simply aimless and the two don’t truly have a particular purpose in their actions, there are still various events that cause problems or serve to remind the two of their situation.  In comparison to other series I have encountered, Narcissu doesn’t have extreme tearjerker drama but it can still be touching at times and it gets more emotional as the story approaches the end.  The idea of abandoning hope for life itself in order to avoid the pain of not having a future is a very relevant theme that manifests multiple times throughout the story.

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The VN primarily focuses on the two main characters, as any others who make any appearance are only around for a brief moment and play very little role in the overall story.  However, Narcissu is quite short in comparison to a number of other visual novels out there, and as such there is very little time for major development and there is not as much depth to the characters as there could have been.  This is also highlighted by the fact that there are only two characters that receive the spotlight to begin with and neither of them have as profound development as one might expect upon hearing the synopsis of this story.  That said, there is a prequel game (Narcissu Side 2nd) that I have yet to play so I may discover more in regard to development upon finishing that.

One thing I should note is that as a kinetic novel, Narcissu lacks the option for making choices through the story and only has a single ending to its story.  Though this makes it much easier to finish and is probably more accessible to newcomers, this does mean that Narcissu lacks the advantage of possibilities and multiple ending freedom that many other visual novels are known for.  As such, Narcissu is simply one that a reader will go through to sit back and enjoy the ride without making any choices to influence the story’s direction.

Narcissu was enjoyable and certainly a good gateway visual novel for those who are unfamiliar to this type of game.  However, it lacks the development time that many longer visual novels have and does not get to display all of its themes as properly as it could have with more time.  I would rate Narcissu a 7/10, as it was certainly good but far from extensively developed.  If you’re looking for a short yet touching story, you can’t go wrong with Narcissu, though there are most likely stories with much better development if you’re willing to put in the time for a longer series.

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  1. I actually only played this one recently and thought it was pretty good! It certainly wasn’t the best thing I’ve seen so far, but I’m not really that much into playing Visual Novels yet, so I don’t know that much about it. However I agree on basically every point you said. I kinda felt like I still didn’t quite get to know the 2 characters which probably is one of the worst things that can happen to a VN or Anime at the same time! However it was quite emotional and I thought the execution and writing-style were pretty cool and definitely were quite sad which is something I applaud the VN for as this is something not every VN can do! Definitely looking forward to playing the Prequel some time soon but I guess that’ll have to wait ‘^^
    Once again I rate a show 1 point higher than you^^ I’d say it’s a n 8/10 though it is really close to a 7…

    • Narcissu certainly is a nice gateway into the visual novel medium (which is the main reason I played it to begin with) and it is a pretty nice story. I do wish there was more characterization for the two and in that regard I was a bit disappointed but it was still a very moving story with interesting themes and it was very much worth experiencing. When you do get the chance (unless you already have finished it), I do hope you’ll enjoy Side 2nd. Unlike most people, I actually enjoyed Side 2nd more than the original. It provides much more characterization for Setsumi while also covering a variety of interesting and powerful themes. I think I found Side 2nd more emotional in some ways than the original, it’s pretty powerful in how it handles a lot of its subject material.

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