Kana: Little Sister

aka: Kana: Imoto
Moby ID: 8501

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 94% (based on 2 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 43 ratings with 10 reviews)

Touching story... no game

The Good
As a hentai product, Kana can be considered a winner - as long as we allow ourselves to apply such a word to this industry branch. There aren't too many sex scenes, and those that do appear are noticeably more tasteful than the grotesquely overblown porn the Japanese seem so fond of. They are also not gratuitous and reasonably dictated by the events of the story.

Kana takes itself seriously. It tries to put some meaning into the deplorable genre. For that, it deserves some respect separating it from pure masturbatory material for guys who prefer monstrously-proportioned drawn girls for their sexual fantasies.

The only "gameplay" in Kana are some decisions (highlight an option and click on it) that will eventually lead you to one of the six possible endings. You can be more discreet and less romantic with Kana and tend more towards Yumi, thus getting the Yumi ending; or you can be totally engrossed in the relationship with Kana and ignore all other things - this will lead to any of the other ones.

The story of Kana has real emotions and some scenes are genuinely moving, I certainly do not deny that. It can engage us on an emotional level because it chooses a topic nobody with a human heart can be indifferent to: the suffering of an innocent little girl. At its best, Kana is touching, and playing it gives you the cozy feeling of watching a TV series or a movie that goes for the heart in a direct, almost crude way; prepare some popcorn (dark chocolate in my case, actually), sit down, relax, and purify yourself with a good melodrama. Kana aspires to be something like that.

The Bad
I suppose I could point out smaller problems such as a generally very low-budget presentation without voices, any kind of animation, or even a sufficient amount of character graphics - often you talk to people while staring at the background picture. The music is repetitive and annoying, mainly consisting of totally inappropriate cheerful Japanese pop, with only a few pieces actually matching the tone of the story.

But all that means little when we stand face to face with the fact that Kana can hardly be considered a video game in the first place. I have to state it as clearly as I can: there is no gameplay in this product. With the exception of the twenty-five or so "decision points" that pop out throughout the game, you literally do nothing in in it. Nothing at all. You simply read the text, looking at pictures. I know it is a hentai game, but even the stupid Three Sisters' Story had rudimentary gameplay - you could go to different locations, look, ask questions, think, etc. Not that any of that was interesting or challenging in any way, but at least regular Japanese adventures try to simulate gameplay, not matter how badly. Visual novels, on the other hand, forfeit their game rights right away.

At this point Kana fans will probably tell me it's not about that at all. We are supposed to drop all those expectations we usually have for a video game and just enjoy the groove. It's not about gameplay or anything; it's about telling a touching story, so I should only evaluate that one aspect of it. But since we are dealing with a game, I wonder why I am required to make such concessions. Nobody would criticize a film reviewer who gives a low rating to a movie despite the fact that one of its characters is terminally ill. We understand that the art of making movies lies in cinematography, direction, acting, and other facets, storytelling being just one of them. So how much more this should apply to video games, which are by default interactive entertainment where the story is much less significant than immersion through gameplay mechanics and atmosphere?

But let's for a moment forget that Kana is a game, and look at it through the eyes of literary criticism. The moment we do that, we discover a weak script devoid of drama and constantly revolving around the same basic ideas. There are way too many descriptions of what's going on in the hero's mind, needless repetitions, pointless remarks, redundant information - and all that is not even well-written. When this happens in a Metal Gear Solid game, I console myself with the fact that I can enjoy playing those games, allowing myself not to take anything else too seriously. But Kana forces us to focus on its story because there is nothing else. And yet, the admittedly serious and important topics it deals with are treated with the quality of an average soap opera at best.

The Bottom Line
Most Kana fans will probably call me a heretic unable to understand a game that transcends its medium and so on. But the simple truth is that Kana is neither well-written enough to be a great book, cinematic enough to be a movie, and (remember it's a game review) interactive enough to be a game. As it is, Kana is most certainly superior to the bulk of non-interactive hentai crap, but that doesn't make it any more fulfilling if you come to the medium with the desire to play.

Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (181794) · 2019

Brilliant - don't be put off by the descriptions on the website

The Good
Firstly, buy this game. Seriously, buy it. This game will change the way you think about life, death, love, your ambitions and goals, your health, and much else. I had heard of grown men reduced to tears by this game, and intrigued, I decided to buy it.

There is no denying that Kana is a unique game. Of course, there are other games in its genre, but the vast majority of them are 'lots of girls: choose one and seduce her'. This game is incredibly different. No other game has affected me like this; in fact, I can't think of many games that have really induced any emotions in me (video games don't scare me much). Trust me, after playing this game through, there will be A LOT of emotions flowing through your mind. I'm disappointed to say the game didn't make me cry, although I was feeling pretty choked at the end.

The two main characters in the game - Taka, yourself, and Kana, your little sister, who is suffering from a disease called 'chronic renal insufficiency disorder'. As Kana spends most of her time in the hospital, she hasn't really experienced much of life, and when she does come out of the hospital, it's up to you to guide her. Its hard to say much about the actual content of the game without giving away some spoilers, and trust me, its better to find out for yourself. But as the game reaches a close, it really does become melancholy and despondent. From the title and description, you can probably guess this title deals with incest. This is a major part of the game, I admit, but not in the way most people would realise. Instead of making a big deal of all the sex in the game (this is a bishoujo game after all), it is integrated into the story, and adds to the emotional intesity of the game. I might add there is virtually no actual incest in the game, and it is more to do with the characters' feelings and confusions. Speaking of feelings and confusions, Kana really brings out the character's anxieties and feelings. Especially on the 'intellectual' set of endings, D.O. has really made an effort to make Kana's feelings a large part of the game. To give one example, at one point you see Kana completely broken down, absorbed in self-pity about how she'll never have a normal life, and you're put in the difficult poistion of trying to bring her to her senses.

As this is an interactive fiction game, there are 6 endings that you can get, dependent on the choices you make throughout the game. You can group the endings into two categories, and within each category there are 3 endings. The first category differs quite a bit, and the second, called the 'intellectual route' hass more similar endings. Each ending is amazing, and you will want to unlock them all. I haven't got around to unlocking all of the intellectual endings yet - they depress me too much.

Visually, Kana is well made, and crisp and clear, apart from some times when Kana just looks weird - sometimes she looks older than she's supposed to be. The music is good as well, but I also suffered from the BGM bug, where I didn't hear any of the music ingame.

If you absolutely hate the 'clickathon' genre of game, you will detest this game. But if you mildly dislike it, then I definitely recommend you buy this game, as you will love it, even though there is not much of an 'interactive' element to it.

I can't say this enough - BUY IT, BUY IT, BUY IT!

The Bad
There is ONE thing which really bugged me about the game. That is, the erotic scenes. There's a girl, Yumi, for whom there are 3 sets of scenes. These are pointless, and merely take away from the amount of people who would otherwise be willing to enjoy this game. The erotic scenes do add intensity and emotion to the game, but I feel the game would have been just as good had the scenes merely been implied, rather than explicit scenes that are there. Putting them in makes it classified as an 'adult' game, and thus puts most people off the game. Trust me, if you're looking for an erotic game, this is not for you. Go play X-change or Critical Point or something.

The Bottom Line
This game will change the way you think about yourself. Don't be put off by the descriptions or the packaging. I believe this is a game that EVERYBODY should play, and were it not for the erotic scenes, and people's general aversion to anime-style graphics, this would be hailed as one of the best games created.

Windows · by Daniel Anderson (3) · 2005

A Beautiful Work of Art *Spoilers*

The Good
A couple weeks ago I was playing the ever praised Three Sisters' Story and I got to thinking. While I did enjoy the game, and thought that the plot and characters were wonderfully over-the-top, it is really more pornographic than not, and I reminded myself that I played these games for their deep attention to plot and their serious adult themes. It was then that I remembered a little title that had been recommended to me two years ago, Kana: Little Sister. I can't remember why I neglected to pursue the game at that time, but I immediately went and tracked down an English copy.

I can now proudly say that I have played Kana: Little Sister, or more accurately I believe I can say that I have read Kana: Little Sister. I consider it less of a game, and more of an interactive graphic novel. This is ultimately not a problem for me, and quite frankly any more gameplay functions would have likely detracted from the story.

The blurb for the game sadly does it little justice. The player (or reader) takes the role of Taka Todo, the older brother of Kana Todo, a young girl who is slowly dying from chronic renal insufficiency, a terminal kidney disease. At the beginning of the game Taka overcomes an initial dislike of Kana and her monopolization of their parents' affection, and after risking his life for her spends a couple of weeks in the hospital getting to know her and takes it upon himself to be her protector. Over the course of the story Taka and Kana continue to grow closer together, and Taka eventually falls in love with Kana. The game deals masterfully with a number of very serious topics, among them life, love, incest, death, and mortality.

The Pros:

  1. The story. I can't say enough about it, yet those two words seem sufficiently elegant. Not having to worry about such gaming pit-traps as graphics or mechanics, the writers were able to go nuts creating a beautiful and believable story that the player becomes an active part of.

  2. The characters. Over the course of the game the player gets to watch the growth and evolution of Taka and Kana, as well as that of a sufficiently varied cast off minor supporting characters.

  3. The artwork. Done, naturally, in the Anime style, the art for the game is beautiful, surpassing many of its Bishojo peers in my opinion.

  4. The serious themes. Few standard novels on the market today are capable of dealing with these themes so believably and so touchingly. If someone asked me to recommend a novel about the forbidden love of a brother and sister, I would suggest Kana.

  5. The touching realness of it. I'll admit it, I'm a 6'0" 280 Lb. he-man, and I was crying like a baby within the first 2 hours. The coldest of hearts would be hard pressed not to be deeply moved by the emotion of this story.

  6. The convenient out to satisfy the uneasy reader. Hey! Turns out she's not your blood-sister! Doesn't mean it's not incest in spirit, but it does give you a possible moral out, and it even adds greater complexity to Taka and Kana's relationship.

    The Bad
    Despite my unending praise for this work, there are a few things I didn't like, though most of them are just me complaining really.

The Cons:

  1. There's no way to avoid Yumi. Like the narrator I had no feelings for Yumi, and often just wanted her to go away, but there is no interactive choice I found to avoid the Yumi relationship all-together, and this is a source of much personal grief :)

  2. The ball is dropped a little bit right near the end of the ending I uncovered. I have currently only played the game once, and in my ending Kana passes away, but donates her liver to Cana. The doctors say it's a better match because they're blood relatives, only problem is that they're not. Then later, after Cana's operation, the game states that she got Kana's kidney. A little sloppy.

  3. Parental neglect. I can accept it, but I don't understand it, and so it's a con.

  4. Miki never ages. It's a small point, but one worth making.

    The Bottom Line
    Despite these little flaws the game is absolutely incredible. Bottom line? Play this game. It will effect you deeply and emotionally, no matter who you are or where you come from, and you'll likely carry it with you forever.

I may return to edit my review after I have achieved some of the other endings. Stay tuned. Buns, out.

Windows · by Noah Kilian (4) · 2010

It will leave you aching.

The Good
First off : I do not generally care for hentai or anime in general- the only reason I played this is because I tried 'Katawa Shouju,' enjoyed it, and saw this mentioned as another game I might like. Also, I like bishouju pics, when they're not all rapey. So I played 'Kana'.

'Like' may not be the right word for it: this thing left me raw for a week afterward: it's like a shot of straight bourbon to a man dying of thirst.Of the 6 possible endings: I've played only 2. I don't think I could bear to play the others yet: it would be too much to take at one sitting.

Note: I'm a trauma nurse and former combat medic: when I say something is 'too much to take at one setting', I feel I can speak with some authority. IF you're not emotionally tough, you may find it rough going, but it's worth every second.

It's a beautiful, bittersweet story- it put me in mind of the movie 'Casablanca', of all things. There are many games which reference 'duty' and 'courage', (often in the title) but they're in the context of blowing shit up (usually Nazis), but you've got a sick girl on dialysis who just wants to be normal, and a brother who wants to give her the world. I think the visual presentation is well done: the younger Kana is aggressively cute, and when she's an adult, she's drawn in a very subdued manner, something which makes her character more believable and lends the game more emotional impact, not to mention making her heartbreakingly beautiful.

When Yahtzee does his snarky video game reviews, he often comments about the idea that "Games Are Arrrrrt", and I think this is kinda what he has in mind. No zombies, no nazis, no Mario, no catgirls showing you their internal organs - just love, duty, and simple courage in the face of death. It doesn't get a whole lot more profound than that.



The Bad
Some of the dialogue and translations were a bit clunky: I get the feeling I was seeing cultural differences here though- things which make perfect sense to a Japanese citizen but are bewildering to a gaijin like myself. (I wonder if American games are sometimes confusing to the average non-English speaker?), the music didn't do much for me, though I get the impression that's a cultural thing - some of the plot devices were a bit contrived- maybe the writers were backing away from the controversial aspects a bit to make room for the rest of the story; straight-up incest certainly isn't a problem in other titles I've seen, but I think it may have been too much for this little story to cope with, given the

It's also a 'mature' game in the truest sense of the word; not for the sex (I suspect my youngest son has seen far worse), but for the lessons- a young person may not be able to understand some of the deeper topics. (though maybe they should)

The Bottom Line
It's an incredible love story told in the medium of a hentai game.

Please Get It - you may not like it, but I doubt you'll forget it.

Windows · by dave H (3) · 2010

Perfect...

The Good
What did I like about this game..............well everything. Now this is not exactly a game. More like a wonderfully done story that is destined to affect you in some way. I got this and thought it was another one of those hentai games. After I stared playing for a few minutes I felt a bit emotional (which in this case is a good thing). That's when I realized that this one ............ is different.

I would not classify this game as a hentai game which focuses mostly on the love/sex scenes. I would not even classify this as hentai. There are hardly any love scenes in this one . But when there is, it adds to the game most of the time. This one is not supposed to turn you on. It's there as a good emotional read. One that makes you think.

There are 6 different endings. I have completed one so far, the snow ending (I heard the others are even better). I completed the game less than an hour ago and had to tell someone just how amazing it is. It left me thinking .................. crying .................. changed. It really makes you stop and think. Are we living our lives fully? After I finished, I found my self staring into nothingness thinking about this and more. I found my self thinking about the various scenes. The way I felt when playing it. It really made me think back.

I don't want to spoil the story or anything but here is a quick intro. You start of with your sister at a young age. You hate her. She is sick and gets all the attention from your parents. You hate her...but after she goes missing during a family picnic something inside you makes you worry about her. You go looking for her and what happens next makes you more understanding towards her.

As you both grow older you realize just how sick she is. ........... and your hatred turns into compassion ............... and that compassion turns into something beautiful.

The Bad
I liked everything about it. There is some incest in it but it added to the plot.

The Bottom Line
A perfect 10!!!!!!

Great game for those that want a deep story. Many grown men have cried playing this (yes me as well - a few times also). This game deserves more attention. Expect to be affected by it if you play it.

Windows · by kana fan (3) · 2005

Please don't make me summarize this review...

The Good
Man, where can I start with this one…

This may be the longest thing I ever write because this could be one of the most important games to ever appear in the West. It should be anyway. This game could potentially be the saviour of gaming over here, if only our developers would grow up a bit.

At the time of writing, Kana ~Little Sister~ has just one other review on Mobygames. That really says something about just how many people have played it. 99% of gamers over here have never even heard of this game. Computers aren't taken seriously as a form of entertainment outside of Japan, and so we have the lunacy of Doom being blamed for child murderers, and stupid games like Soldier of Fortune being classed as "mature". Kana is one of the only "mature" games I think I've ever played. I remember reading journalists and even games developers saying that fear is the only emotion we can successfully produce, I even said that myself in my System Shock 2 review!; how naive I was, and how unfortunate it is for the state of the industry over here that this is the general consensus among developers!

It took me 7 months to get this game. I'd never bought anything online before and had no idea how to do it (Kana isn't for sale in any shops in the West); not to mention I was a year too young to buy it legally and I still lived with my parents and if they saw it they'd have gone flippo. I eventually summoned the courage to ask a mate to buy it for me, which he did, albeit with some funny looks and thoughts that I might be a pervert. 2 weeks of agony finally resulted in the game arriving. A week later I'd completed one of the 6 endings and life has never looked the same since.

Kana ~Little Sister~ is absolutely wonderful if you hadn't already guessed. Currently, I don't think you'll find a review on the net that isn't positive. There aren't many games that you can say that about. Also nearly every review has the reviewer admitting he cried like a baby during many scenes in the game, so now it's my turn:

When I completed Kana ~Little Sister~, I cried, I felt physically sick, and I had to go for long walks in the dead of night for the next week just so I could sleep. I must do some volunteer work before I die. "Games can't do emotion yet", we said. Idiots.

OBVIOUSLY what you're all thinking right now is…"So Ed, what's the deal? Is this the best game ever then? I thought you said Deus Ex was! Are you admitting you're wrong?" -- The thing is it's impossible to compare. Kana has no animation, almost no sound effects, no voices, the game requires no skill, it hardly even requires you to touch the keyboard if you so desire, and there's loads of reading, and yet…I get choked up just thinking about how immersed I was in the whole experience, and how much I love the whole thing. Deus Ex, materially, has about 50 times the content. But I couldn't give a damn about any of the characters, and it's hardly had a positive effect on my life. I couldn't possibly say either game is better; although, whilst anyone who calls themselves a gamer should play Deus Ex, Kana will appeal to anyone who has a soul, gamer or not.

You may have noticed I've written quite a lot without explaining anything about the game whatsoever. 'Visual Novel' is a good word to use for Kana; gorgeously rendered CGs fill the screen and the text comes on top of them, this is accompanied with some music. There are 30 save slots. You can read profiles of all the major characters, relive any endings you've already seen, look again at all the CGs you've seen, and listen to the music separately. The CD even works in your hi-fi / stereo so you can listen to the music there too. What more needs to be said?

I am torn between trying not to spoil any of the game for you and telling you all of my wonderful experiences. I'll only give you one, at least it'll give you some idea of what's in store. This is one of a thousand beautiful moments from Kana…

You're walking home from school with Kana having just been to her parent-teacher night (your parents couldn't make it, and you were considered mature enough to cope). You're in your early teens and Kana is a few years younger at this point in the game. As you walk through the streets, Kana looks anxious. It is, after all, quite late and the sun is going down and she's not used to walking home from school at this time. She is glad of your presence though. After you chat a while, Kana spots a cat in the shadows. As the cat comes out into view you see it's extremely malnourished and has a broken leg; the atmosphere changes. Kana, who has the prospect of death as a part of her life, is at once sad and fascinated. She wants to follow the cat down the alley that it's just staggered into. You are unsure; despite her illness, Kana should still spend her life with a certain kind of innocence. Where there is innocence, surely there's hope as well? Reluctantly, you accept. You walk into the alley and after a bit of looking around, find the cat lying down outstretched. It's died. Kana cries. You tell her to back out of the alley. She does, and you then spend a moment making a grave for the cat and burying it. After that you leave and walk home in silence, probably with you feeling worse than Kana.

The endings are brilliant. Western developers seem unable to understand the importance of endings. A great ending can blind the player to the slow / bad bits of the game and make them remember the experience in a much more favourable light; although somehow I doubt that's what's happened here. A bad ending can have the opposite effect. Even my favourite games - Deus Ex, System Shock 2, and Grim Fandango - have endings that aren't very good. DE has 3 and they're not very good or long. SS2's is rubbish. GF's is ok but not long enough. None compare to Kana. The "normal" ending (an incredibly modest claim), is utterly heartrending and lasts at least 10 minutes with the credits. Ending #3 lasts nearly 40 and is just as good! You can even save the game mid-ending in case that seems too long to sit through. I haven't even seen all of them, I want to keep that air of mystery a little while longer.

Also, the songs in the game are fantastic and…

OH JUST BUY IT!! JUST BUY THE GAME!!!

The Bad
The fact that the game can reduce you to a gibbering wreck may be looked upon as a bad point. Other than that, the biggest problem in my opinion were the erotic scenes.

Those Japanese eh? What are they like? They make a wonderful game of power, depth and beauty and then they undermine it completely. The creators of "Kana" are D.O, which stands for 'Digital Objet' (I think 'Objet' means 'Object'. It means that in French at least) That name pretty much sums up the current attitude to 'hentai' in the West, although I will personally crucify anyone who calls Kana a hentai game. Even the blurb on the back of the box sounds like it's trying to sell incestuous porn rather than a beautiful love story. The front of the box has 'erotic' written on it, and this game is sold next to utter filth like 'Tsuki - Possession'.

The sex in the game, like all bishoujo games, is explicit. While Kana somehow benefits from raw sex, since this is a very raw and emotional game, the developers are cutting out a large percentage of people who would otherwise buy it. X-rated films never succeed in the box office and the same rule applies here. Some scenes seem to be trying to arouse you, this is ridiculous. I can't imagine anyone playing this game to be sexually stimulated and the scenes occasionally feel out of place. The sex is not usually happy sex anyway, it's not like in Seasons of Sakura, it's often ugly. It seems to be like a temporary release of painful emotions which neither person can express, like that movie Last Tango In Paris, than a union of love. That's not a bad thing, in fact it's very good, but why does it have to be written like a porn movie?

This is the best bishoujo / h****i game out there by a mile, so any bad criticisms would have to be leveled at the whole genre. One thing that they really need is smoother transition between music tracks. Kana frequently goes from a heartbreaking scene to a 'happy' one, and the music goes from melancholic to jaunty in a second. Your mood, however, hardly flips around like this. I don't know how they'd do it but we need music that smoothly changes and knows which scene has come before it, music that really plays to your emotions. Of course, all of these games suffer from this problem but it's more noticeable here because bad things can happen any second, and Kana frequently jumps forward in time too.

Then of course, there's the translation. While Kana is one of the best translated games I've seen yet, there are still misspellings and other mistakes. It didn't bother me much to be honest, but I really wish bishoujo games would come up with some more inspired dialogue. Some of it is quite good, but a lot is fairly formulaic, and there are too many cases where a character just repeats the person's name because they don't know what to say (you'll see what I mean). But like I said, they're all like this. Translated games currently suffer from stale dialogue, hopefully this will change.

The artwork is mostly good and sometimes very good like in many of the sex scenes, but occasionally quite bad. One CG in particular is bizzare in that Taka's hand is clearly coming out of Kana's chest. It's not supposed to look like that but when you see it, you'll see that the way it's been drawn was probably not an accident. The artist was probably hoping you wouldn't look too closely. Also, considering the amount of people in the world who draw Manga these days, you'd think someone...somewhere...would've figured out a way to draw a person's nose viewed face on. An X-Box version of "Kana" was in production but the graphics were redrawn to be even worse! Why?! Still, it was cancelled, which may have been for the best.

Also there are only about 25-30 points in the game where you have a choice to make. This may not be enough for some people. It didn't bother me at all.

That's about it. People have said they didn't like the way the characters stood out against the backgrounds so much. Once again, I didn't care.

The Bottom Line
It's highly unlikely I'll ever do a review this long again, but you never know. I'm aware that most of the games I've reviewed on this site I've raved about. This is because I only play good games, 'nuff said. Still, it's going to be hard for me to love a game more than this one. Kana ~Little Sister~ is by far the best game that you'll never play. I appreciate how hard it is to get hold of it but please try. I've been using the word "game" all the way through this review, only because there is no other word to use. But "game" is really stretching the limits of the English language a bit. Kana isn't a game, it's not something you play to have fun with. You're not really playing it for entertainment, it's there to have you ask yourself the fundamental questions again - Are you really living your life the way you want to? Why don't you help those who are worse off than you? Why don't you make something with your life, why stop trying?

Kana should always be remembered as one of the pinnacles of computer games to remind us that we potentially have a medium that is a better story teller and is more involving and moving than books, theatre, and TV and movies put together. D.O, despite their name, should have plaudits rained on them until they're so rich that their great grandchildren need never get a job.

Thank you for reading.

Now go away and buy the game.

<hr />

[FOOTNOTE - 23/8/2005]

It's been almost two years since I wrote the above review and I've finally got all the endings. "Kana" is now finished for me. I've seen all the CGs, read all the words, heard all the music...

Going back to this game after you've left it for a long time is like going back to your childhood home and walking through all the rooms. You can feel the history in the air and all the memories coming back of the stupid things you did. For a moment, you're transported back to those times, and then you think of how different things will become and how in just a few short years you'll no longer be sleeping in that bed, or seeing that view from your window, or playing in that garden with those friends. It all becomes more precious because the outcome is already decided and you can just enjoy the moment without having to worry about anything. This is at the heart of bishoujo gaming and to a lesser extent, all gaming - when you play one for the first time, every second of the story is something you want to treasure because you know that great things will happen to the character you're playing and you can enjoy the ride without having to worry about doing things. Unlike life.

Bishoujo games are little dream worlds and they live or die by the extent that you are willing to throw yourself into them. I've kept my original review fairly unaltered because I want it as a record of what was going through my head the first time I finished the game. I hope I can be forgiven for failing to be objective at times because I feel my gushing emotion will tell you more about "Kana" than an emotion-free review could. I've added this little footnote because in retrospect I think made a mistake in saying "Kana will appeal to anyone...gamer or not". It won't. This is still a bishoujo game. It's a male fantasy. "Kana" is made for the sensitive college-age male. People like the protagonist of the story, in fact. Visual novels are roleplaying games in their purest form. You play them to do the same thing actors do when they act - to be psychologically transported into somewhere more exciting. Somewhere where you know great things will happen. The more you identify with Taka and the more you're prepared to be "in" the story, the more wonders you'll gleam from "Kana". The more you can do this, the more you will have a real sister, who you'll watch grow up, who you'll love, who will likely die.

This is why people talk about being 'healed' by "Kana". It makes them experience things that life isn't giving them the chance to do. It reminds them that they're not alone. It helps them deal with grief. It reminds them that, yes, love can be that strong, that incredible, that miraculous. And fundamentally, it gives them a place to pour out the potential for love that's inside them, and encourages them to love in this selfless way in real life. "Kana" may be crude at times, the translation may be diabolical at times, some of the CGs might be badly drawn, 'Miki' might have green hair and giant heaving breasts, but this is a game that helps people. It can teach. It can heal. It's art, and OK it's not Shakespeare, Beethoven, or Van Gogh, but it's done what every artist hopes to do - it's spoken to people. It's taken bits of their lives, messed around with them, and given them back. It shows us the agony of life and it shows us the ecstasy at the same time. In other words, it shows us the beauty. What other country but Japan could make ordering drinks at a cafe with someone you love seem like heaven on earth; and also make the pain of losing someone you love seem like heaven on earth? The pain is the happiness. The happiness is the pain. How am I supposed to explain it in words? You can't explain art. "Kana" burns itself onto your memory. It's unforgettable.

I know how pretentious this may sound. As if adding a footnote to a review wasn't pretentious enough. I'm not denying that "Kana" is related to all the masturbatory-fantasy games that it inevitably gets linked to anyway, but you only have to read other people's accounts of the game to see that I'm not alone in being so affected. In the end, that's all that matters - what YOU get from the experience.

I just hope that all the people out there who need the experience are going to find this.

Windows · by Shazbut (163) · 2005

A story that will make you cry

The Good
First and foremost, I liked the touching story. It is very well thought-out, the plot will make you surprised many times and the story is serious. This is not just a hentai game with a good story, "Kana - Little Sister" is a great story with hentai scenes playing their role in the story development.

The graphics are good, music is good as well (it is in CD-audio format, so you can play it ouside of the game) and occasional sound effects add nicely to the game.

The replayability is great. Although there are only two main female characters (those that you can have sex with :) ), all endings are very different, suprising and original.

The Bad
The characters images don't have alpha-channel transparency, so they have somewhat noticable jarring edges when they are superimposed on the background (see the 2nd screenshot).

There are about 25 points in the game where you make decisions (during 5-10 hours of gameplay), but I would like to have a bit more control over my actions. However, it is understandable, as you can't have both interactivity and great story at the same time.

The Bottom Line
Playing the game is like being a part of a great story. This game can be played alone, with your SO or even with your opposite sex sibling. :-)

Windows · by Paranoid Opressor (181) · 2003

One word: Masterpiece

The Good
To me, this is not a game.

I rarely play computer games except for some card games online. When I heard about this game through a distant friend of mine, i thought i would give it a try. This game is considered a visual novel type game. To be honest, I hate reading books, magazine, or just about anything that comes to literature. This game is different. I played this game non stop until I finished the first ending. I read every line in the game, enjoyed every seconds playing it. I spent around 6 hours straight to play this game.

I cried, yes I did. I cried till my tears ran dried; I cried till my tears filed both eyes that I couldn't see the computer screen anymore, everything was just a blur.

There are a lot of good reviews on this game as well as high scores for this game. The music really goes along with the mood of the game in certain situations. The graphic is simple awesome, but the main thing is the story, which make the game inspirational. Even the sex scenes looks great too (seriously)

The Bad
If they make it a non-H game, everyone would know about this game and it could win many awards.

The Bottom Line
heartbreaking story, amazing graphics, incredible music, unforgettable emotions, etc.

Windows · by Titi Ung (1) · 2006

A great game that will never have the large audience it deserves.

The Good
First off, we need to get two important things out of the way regarding this game. The first item is a spoiler, so if you already know that you are going to purchase Kana: Little Sister, then just stop reading now. This isn't the review for you.

For the still-curious, this is a spoiler that could make or break whether you even consider playing this game, so I think it's important enough to mention. So here goes...

There is ABSOLUTELY NO INCEST in this title, thanks to a convenient plot twist. I consider this worth saying because I knew it before I played the game, and it did not hurt my enjoyment - and more importantly, had I not known, I wouldn't have played the game at all. And that really would have been a shame because this might be the best bishoujo game ever released in the US.

Second item: If you play bishoujo ("hentai") games for titillation, brother, this isn't the game for you.

There is plenty to like about Kana: Little Sister, but talking about a game of this type, nothing matters if the story doesn't hold up. I'm happy to report that it does. If you're the type who might enjoy a heart-rending romance, this game might be just the ticket for you. I would put it on par with most films in that regard, and it is head and shoulders above just about any computer game romance (of which, interestingly, you'll find little outside of bishoujo games). Personally, I generally don't need a three-hanky computer game, and between that and the incestuous title, I stayed away from this game for a long time. I shouldn't have. Although the story doesn't really have any moments that I would consider "fun", I also wouldn't call it depressing. It might actually change the way you think about certain things. Life, sickness, death - it's highly unusual for a game to try to tackle the "big questions", but this game actually does so with quite a bit of grace. And yes, you might just be a bit misty-eyed at the end.

In brief, Kana is the story of siblings Taka and Kana, and it follows their progression from childhood into young adulthood. Kana, two years younger than Taka, is afflicted with chronic renal failure, which in layman's terms means that her kidneys do not function properly, and that she will likely die while she is still young. Taka is a callous young child who can't stand Kana or the attention their parents shower upon her. An incident during a family trip makes Taka realize how fragile his little sister really is, and it changes their relationship forever.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with bishoujo games, Kana plays basically like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. The game features large hand-drawn illustrations and a scrolling story that occasionally stops and allows you to make a choice, resulting in a plot branch. Although it is more or less an adventure game, this means something very different in Japan than it does here. There are no puzzles, per se, and overall there isn't a great deal of interactivity. Your choices have a far greater impact on the story here, however, than they do in most bishoujo games. You will make about 30 such decisions in the game. Kana plays at its own pace, and it will probably take you around 4-6 hours to play it through the first time. In subsequent plays through, you have the option to automatically fast forward through story elements you have already seen. The game will automatically stop for a plot branch or event you haven't seen yet. Since the game does little to clue you in as to which choices will drastically change the course of the story, you will be playing this game for quite a while unless you resort to using a walkthrough. None of the endings are bad, but you will not see the best ("True") ending your first time through the game.

Endings, plural? That's right. Kana has six of them, to be exact, although only four really count. There are three "real" endings, plus three variations of a fourth ending which can be best described as taking place in an "alternate universe". You also get to see a short epilogue, one you have unlocked enough of the endings. The great thing about bishoujo games as compared to traditional American adventure games is that while so many American games are content to give you a mind-blowing intro movie and a thirty-second ending (Quest for Glory V being the all-time worst offender here, IMO), bishoujo games often go all-out to make the ending the best part of the game. Nowhere is this more evident than in Kana. Each ending is very long, highly emotional, and features the best graphics in the game. This is the first bishoujo game I have ever played that kept me glued until I saw every ending. Even if you don't go that far, you will play the game through more than once because you won't see the best ending the first time. This makes the replay value quite high, and trust me, once you see the best ending you'll agree it was worth it. Especially after seeing the normal ending, which just might leave you bawling on your keyboard.

While the story is obviously the best and most important aspect of this game, the graphics are also worth mentioning. Unless you are experienced with bishoujo games or early non-animated graphic adventure games (from Telarium, et al), the still hand-drawn frames might take some getting used to. The artwork in this game is simply gorgeous though, and I have seen only a few bishoujo games that can compare. If you like great hand-drawn 2D computer graphics, it simply doesn't get much better than Kana.

That's all there is to bishoujo games, really - story, graphics, and sound. I can't comment on the sound, because I play bishoujo games with the sound off. Stretch a half hour of music into a five hour game, and it's going to get repetitive no matter how good it is; and I read much faster than the voice actors speak.

The Bad
Actually, nothing. They probably could have taken the sex scenes out, though. I already have experience with bishoujo games, so I'm not squeamish about graphic sex in a computer game. It isn't necessary here though, and it limits the potential audience of an otherwise top-notch game. On the plus side, there are only a few sex scenes, and the artwork therein is quite beautiful.

The problem with putting sex scenes in a game like Kana is that you automatically exclude so many people from experiencing a great story. Your average King's Quest fan isn't going to touch a bishoujo game. Basically, bishoujo games are only played by people who have already played bishoujo games, and curious fans of Japanese animation. But then, many bishoujo gamers prefer the typical 'pick your favorite girl from a harem and proceed to woo' type of game, and will be automatically turned off by the incestuous title, limiting the potential audience even further. I myself actually was the same way, refusing to try this game until it was practically the only one left that I hadn't looked at.

Which is really too bad, because the bishoujo game genre could actually use more titles like Kana, not less. It would go a long way toward people thinking of the bishoujo game as a legitimate art form, rather than just cartoon porn.

The Bottom Line
Bishoujo games are like James Bond films. They are more aptly judged in relation to one another, than they are to the industry as a whole. Taken in that regard, Kana could be the best bishoujo game ever released for the Western market. If you are an anime fan wondering what all the fuss is about, make Kana your first foray into bishoujo games and I bet you won't regret it. Judged as an adventure game, Kana rates about a 4 - 4.5/5. Judged as a bishoujo game, it's an easy 5/5. It's just too bad that most will write it off as a niche title within a niche genre.

Windows · by Eurythmic (2663) · 2004

A woman is also playing Kana...

The Good
The intro... the first time I saw this intro, I understood there will be a very touching story. I loved the intro song. And the graphics and the music fit each other so well. You see the intro and already you can have tears in your eyes. This place where Kana is standing outside and it's raining is so beautiful. There is nothing more genius in the game than the animation of this rain. You really feel it. I watched the whole intro every time I loaded the game. I can watch it N times...

Of course, the best part of the game is the story... it is a psychological game, it describes people's minds. I loved the character of Kana. She is a weak girl. Everyone want to protect her. Men, women - everyone. The people who made this game are so talented, they could describe the feelings of people so clearly. Sometimes it is frightening.

The music is very good. I can't point some really great pieces, but it's a music everyone can accept, and it fits this story. Some of the pieces I liked very much. Like The White Season, Believe or that music box piece.

This story is like reading a novel, but it's still a game. Because you can lead the story to six different endings. You have a choice. My husband played this game before, and he got a totally different ending. Different story, everything was different. Because I am a woman, I made some decisions in the game that men maybe wouldn't make.

The pictures of the girls are sexy. There are two women, and they belong to completely different types.

Another good thing: simple English... I could understand it well.

The Bad
Of course, the "no movement" part... No movie, no animation, only pictures, so boring! I think the company could have made this better. Much better.

Some of the music is just annoying, and the music doesn't always fit the scene it accompanies.

The English translation is bad... Sometimes there is wrong grammar, wrong spelling.

There is no voice acting. Only text.

And I think there were too many erotic pictures. Maybe because I'm a woman I felt like this. It's not that the pictures are bad. The girls are sexy. Many men will go and buy this game just to look at this. But for a woman, it's not so interesting. I played this game for the story.

The Bottom Line
I played this game because my husband and I were choosing a game to play together, he took this game from the shelf, and I became curious... Of course, he told me this game has a beautiful story, but I was also interested to see an erotic game. I never played such a game before.

Even though this is not really my type of a game, I still liked it because of its story. I can also recommend this game as a woman. Although it has some erotic scenes, it is mostly a beautiful story. You shouldn't be ashamed if you want to play this game. There is absolutely nothing perverse in it. Everything is about people's natural feelings. There is nothing wrong about love.

Windows · by Melody (48) · 2007

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Koterminus, Scaryfun.