Narcissu Side 2nd Review: Setsumi’s Past and the Story of Himeko
I finished Narcissu Side 2nd a few days ago, though I was too busy to post about it until just now. Ultimately I enjoyed NS2 even more than the original Narcissu for a number of reasons.
Narcissu Side 2nd is a prequel to the original Narcissu that takes place about seven years prior. NS2 focuses primarily on two characters: Setsumi from the first game, and a new character named Himeko. At this time, Setsumi is still just a regular outpatient and her sickness is nowhere near as developed as it was in Narcissu. Himeko is a bright, carefree individual who loves cars and helps volunteer at a nearby hospital because she and her family are Catholics. Eventually, however, she becomes terminally ill and is sent to the all-too familiar 7th floor. The story goes back and forth between the stories of these two, showing the events of Himeko’s past as well as what happens upon her meeting with Setsumi.
One aspect I truly enjoyed about NS2 was the fact that it had a better developed story with a larger cast. While Narcissu primarily focused on the main duo, NS2 explores the characters much more, particularly in regard to Himeko’s life. Characters such as Chihiro (Himeko’s sister), Yuka (Himeko’s best friend), and a young girl who lived on the seventh floor all add to Himeko’s development and give much more variety to the story. The switching back and forth between the times also helps to give insight on both Himeko’s past and her own thoughts during the present time, steadily revealing more about why she has become the person that she has. Setsumi’s interactions with Himeko also add to her own character greatly. With Setsumi narrating events of her own life, the story shows much more of her thoughts, which I felt weren’t adequately indicated in the first game because of her quiet, reserved nature. NS2 did a fantastic job with adding to Setsumi’s character while at the same time introducing other characters as well. In some ways, I felt the emotional impact was even stronger in this game than the original because I felt a much stronger connection with the characters here and viewing the progression of Himeko’s life from a 7th floor volunteer herself to a patient there added to the impact of what had taken place.
More themes were also presented in NS2, particularly in regard to religion. Many references to Catholicism (and Christianity as a whole) were made throughout because of Himeko’s religious background. The contrast between the hope of the faithful and the despair of the 7th floor patients makes the story all the more tragic, as Himeko’s view on her world changes more and more as she begins to view the world as unfair. Seeing Himeko’s feelings about God shift and the doubt she faces because of how far away God feels from her adds another dimension to the story that the first Narcissu did not have. NS2 also alludes to a story known as “A Dog of Flanders,” focusing particularly on the roles of three characters: Nello, Patrasche, and Aloise. The characters, primarily Himeko, often reference these characters in connection to the roles of the terminally ill and those who interact with them. Nello (who are doomed to die) will be accompanied in death by Patrasche, but will leave Aloise behind, and in the same way it is mentioned that those who are to die are considered Nellos and the people who suffer on Earth following their deaths are like Aloise. Himeko mentions that these three are the only options that people have in life, referencing the characters of this story in a way that adds even more to the tragic seriousness of the situation.
Just like the first Narcissu, NS2 does not have any points in which the player makes choices to influence the story and thus there are no alternate endings. However, I find this to be less problematic in this game not only because the first game had already established this, but also because as a prequel, NS2 would not have room for alternate endings either due to obvious plot holes that could exist in connection to the original.
NS2 was a very emotional story and developed well, though there were some issues I had with it. One of my primary problems was the seeming lack of connection between the original game and this one. Not only did Setsumi leave out any mention of the events of NS2 in the first game, but I also felt that at times the development she went through in NS2 was largely ignored by the events of the original game. There were some instances in which I felt there was a lack of consistency and even the first game’s ending itself seemed contrary to Setsumi’s development and thoughts in NS2. Considering the importance of Himeko in Setsumi’s life, it seemed disappointing that nothing ever alluded to anything of the sort in the original game.
I felt that NS2 was an improvement to the Narcissu series because of the development it offered and well worth the time. Upon finishing, I rated Narcissu Side 2nd an 8/10, though in all honesty it is very close to a 9/10 and the consistency issues were the only reason holding me back from giving it that rating. Regardless, NS2 is a very touching story that is a must for people who wish to read moving tragedies that explore the issue of looming death and how it influences loved ones. Though NS2 would most likely hold up on its own, I would recommend that readers complete the original Narcissu first, in part because the title of NS2 itself does suggest that it’s not the first, but also because it will make Setsumi’s character development much more meaningful and explores issues in more depth than the first game did.