This review of Little Busters: Converted Edition was written by Miguel Marín, who has vast experience with this title and visual novels in general.
When it comes to visual novels, one of the most talked about developers is none other than Key, makers of such classics like Clannad, Rewrite, and the soon-to-be-released Switch port, Little Busters.
While the game was officially translated to English just three years ago, its original release dates as far back as 2007. The question now is, does it still hold up to current standards and is it worth the full price the game is asking for? Let’s find out.
The story surrounds Naoe Riki, a shy schoolboy with a troubled past who sees himself as nothing more than a weakling who constantly has to rely on his childhood friends to get through his hardships. This, however, doesn’t mean that he is living a lonely life. In fact, it is quite the opposite. He is surrounded by a quite lively group of friends. The general dynamic between them and how they bounce off each other feels very genuine, which is something that way too often feels forced.
Where most stories just present a character or two who are being nice to the main protagonist and not much else and expect the reader to feel some attachment to them, Little Busters really goes the extra mile here. There are scenes full of banter, scenes with compassion, and just them simply having a nice time. All of this will probably sound very mundane and nothing to be particularly impressed by, but once you see how well it can be pulled off, it’s hard not to notice how weak and underdeveloped most friendships are often written, especially in video games.
Structure wise, it follows a very similar one to Clannad. Basically, there’s a route for each girl. In each, the relationship between her and Riki will grow and eventually reach a romantic stage. Character development is something Key excels at and Little Busters is no exception.
No stone will be left unturned here, as each route goes to such depths that by the end of each it truly feels like you understand exactly why each character has become the way they are. That being said, with Key’s often slower pacing, it can feel like some routes will drag on for a little bit longer than they need to. Something else that needs to be said is that different routes will be written by different writers, which means not every route is created equal. That’s not to say some of them are straight up bad, but different writers tackle different themes which might resonate more or less with the reader.
Just like with Clannad, going through all the main routes will unlock the final true ending route called Refrain. And just like Clannad, this is absolutely the highlight of this visual novel.
This story really goes way beyond your usual slice-of-school-life story and introduces some elements that are impossible to see coming, yet are perfectly foreshadowed with such subtlety that nothing feels forced or unearned. This epilogue episode is where everything falls into place and is an absolute must read for any fans of the genre.
There’s one particular scene that rivals or even surpasses the “Sunflower field” scene from Clannad, for those who are familiar with it. It’s one of the most memorable scenes I’ve ever seen in any video game to date. You absolutely need to read all of the girls’ routes in order to get why this game is considered a classic in the genre, which of course requires quite the time investment.
In my opinion, it is absolutely worth it, but if you go in completely blind, finish one route, and call it a day, you will most likely be feeling that this isn’t the masterpiece some say it is. On top of that, getting into each route requires choosing the right choices when being asked, so it might be slightly confusing how to reach each one without a walkthrough. For newcomers of the genre, I personally recommend playing it with a spoiler-free guide to the side, which thankfully there are plenty to find on sites such as fuwanovel or even the Steam forums.
This Switch release features some additional routes featured in the “Ecstasy” re-release of the game. All of them are completely optional and not required to get into the epilogue route, but I personally found them quite enjoyable. In fact, they were some of my favorite stand-alone routes of the entire game. They round up the cast nicely and make the whole world of Little Busters one that feels alive and developed to such an extreme that’s quite rare even within the visual novel genre.
There’s another point to be made when talking about the story, and that’s the general quality of its translation. I would love to say that Little Busters features a top notch translation, but unfortunately that isn’t exactly the case. It’s definitely nothing that will deter the enjoyment of the story and probably most will not even notice it, but it can be a bit rough here and there, making some conversations feel a bit stiffer than they actually are.
For those who understand Japanese, there’s the option to change languages with just the press of a button, for the other 99% of anyone watching/reading this, well, just keep in mind that there will be the occasional not-so-smooth dialog.
Well, this is a visual novel, so there’s not really much to talk about here… or so one would think, but Little Busters actually features some mini-games and quite prominently at that.
The main one is a baseball mini-game that’s really well integrated into the story and has absolutely no right being as fun as it is. Basically, you play as the batter, but your role isn’t to send the ball as far as possible. Instead, it is to aim at your teammates who are running around the field doing their own silly things. Once you hit one, they will send the ball back to you so that you hit it once more into another teammate. The bigger the combo the better, and any teammate you’ve hit will get a stat boost at the end of the mini-game.
It all sounds absurd and silly (and it most certainly is), but once it clicked with me, I was always looking forward to the next chance to play it. Of course this isn’t the only mini-game, in fact one particular route features quite a lot of them, which make this visual novel feel constantly fresh and engaging.
Little Busters’ voice cast is overall really solid. I feel like most of them managed to express the personality and growth of each character remarkably well. Of course that means no English voice acting, which is probably to be expected. For those who like to watch subbed anime, this will absolutely not be a problem. For the rest, this might be my opinion, but I feel like when there’s good voice acting, that’s more than enough to properly convey the emotion of any important moment.
Music wise, I think the soundtrack does a terrific job of setting the mood. Particularly the themes of each girl really manage to wonderfully illustrate their unique personalities. However, it has a bit of an old school feel to it, with its constant use of MIDI music, that might put some off. I’ve always found it quite nostalgic, but opinions here may vary.
With that being said, the opening song is an absolute banger! Please give it a watch even if you aren’t interested in the game. It’s that good.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
Little Busters features an anime style that still lingers on that early 2000s anime style that might be considered dated nowadays. It’s definitely a step ahead of Clannad, which to some looks kinda weird, but it might not be up to everyone’s tastes. Still, all the sprites are really expressive and easy to feel attached to. The game also features more than 100 unique CGs, which is most certainly quite a lot.
Performance wise, it’s perfect. It runs on the same engine as Clannad and Summer Pockets, and it’s extremely fast to save and load and easy to navigate. This might seem quite trivial, but you would be surprised by just how many visual novels manage to mess this up.
Little Busters will set you back £40.49, 44.99€ or $44.99. Yes, it’s a steep price, but there’s one pretty big reason to it: the game is absurdly long. It will take anything around 60 hours to reach the true ending and around 80 or so hours if you wish to see all the optional routes as well. You definitely will get your money’s worth here.
Of course not everyone has that much time to spend, let alone on a single video game. In my opinion, it is fully worth it. It’s one of the best visual novels I’ve ever experienced and not one I will forget any time soon. Its moments, most definitely the ones on the Refrain chapter, will linger with me for a long, long time. This is a visual novel that if you are willing to offer your time to it, it will give back to you an unforgettable story.
In addition to the western digital release, Little Busters is a game that’s ripe for an import. The west doesn’t have a physical release at the time of writing, but Japan does, and most interestingly it has English on the cartridge. So if you want this physically, you can import this excellent visual novel using the links below, and also get a nice discount too.
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Story - 10/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Audio - 9/10
Visuals & Performance - 8/10
Value - 10/10
Little Busters is a wonderfully put together visual novel, most certainly one of the best this genre has to offer. To anyone that wants to discover this medium and its unique charm, it’s a fantastic entry point. That is if they are willing to give in the hours necessary to reach that astounding and deeply emotional conclusion.
- Excellent storytelling
- Strong character development
- Fun mini-games
- Loads of play time
- A bit pricey