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Review of narcissu

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Vote: 7.6
japanication on 2023-01-24
ReviewEDIT: After playing narcissu 2 I have to say I somewhat recommend narcissu - part of that is because narcissu 2 is a pretty great read, a bit better than narcissu 1. But I still wouldn't call it a must-read.
Would I recommend narcissu? No. But not because it's bad. I think it's very well-written.
It's a story about (very, very minor spoilers - you probably already know this) death and dying. I think it tells a competent, compelling story, but it isn't something that you HAVE to play, which is why I don't recommend it. But if you're someone that can't stand over-the-top "anime" writing (which to me, would be a pretty unfortunate situation to be in) and much prefer a more somber story with attention to realism and maintaining a low register, you may as well try narcissu. I don't think it will blow your mind if you're not a relatively new reader, but it is definitely a decent experience.


To describe narcissu, it has a very tranquil tone. Unlike other visual novels I've played that deal with sadness, there is no significant amount of happiness or comedy to attach you to the characters. It's a very bleak story from start to finish, with little bits of happiness applied here and there.


This is the shortest visual novel I've read. I went into this thinking "There's no way I'll come out thinking this is a masterpiece. A 3-hour visual novel doesn't have enough time to get me attached to the characters." (it ended up taking me around 2 hours to read it, at a pretty average pace).

I was right. I was not particularly attached to the characters per se, but I did end up attached to their circumstances and struggles. A stranger's child that's crying may still elicit empathy, and somewhere on the spectrum between that and feeling for a loved one you've known for decades, is where the characters of narcissu stand.

They are decent characters and feel relatively human.


This kind of story has been done a lot of times. Perhaps not many times in this exact manner, in this medium, with this exact sequence of events and this particular tone throughout and these themes. It reminds me of a young adult novel I read when I was a teen, The Fault in Our Stars, about love between cancer patients, and a manga I read Yukionna to Kani wo Kuu, because they go on a trip with no return. I don't mean that these inspired narcissu, or that narcissu is not original. Not at all. I just mean to say that the story is not new. Not particularly surprising.

Is it bad that it's not new? No. But does it do what it attempts to do well? Well, yes. But not remarkably so. I'd say it's better than standard execution, at the very least.

The translation seems to be decent. The prose seems to be pretty beautiful. I like the dialogue, it was good. The progression was perfect in terms of what the story wanted to be.

No major complaints.


The "game design" (or what I believe is called "visual novel direction") is very nice, from the table of contents to the wide images to the music. This definitely bumped up the score by 1 point or so.


I think I rated it a bit higher than it deserves. But I'm struggling to find a common criteria between this and works I've read that are 100 hours long. As a short story, it probably does deserve at least around an 8. But as a visual novel, I sincerely have to say that this did not really touch me deeply enough for me to give it anything higher than that. If that makes sense at all.

Even if it doesn't make literal sense, I hope you can roughly grasp the dilemma I'm describing and how I feel about this visual novel.
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