Review: KARAKARA

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This title from new studio calme created a world I wanted to inhabit together with its cute characters, but didn’t allow me to spend enough time there.

Title: KARAKARA
Developer: calme
Publisher: Sekai Project
Playtime: 3 hours
Buy KARAKARA here on Steam.
I backed KARAKARA, the first project from new studio calme, on Indiegogo, and have also been involved in subtitling the videos for KARAKARA TV.

KARAKARA is set in a dry, arid are of the world called Sagami Francisco sometime after an unspecified disaster decimated much of humanity. Leon lives a quiet life amidst the heat together with Lucia, until one day they happen across a pink-haired girl who turns their lives upside down.

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The two main things that immediately made me want to back this project were the art and the setting. p19’s art is just gorgeous, using soft pastel colours for her adorable character designs. The American-West inspired backgrounds are also bright and crisp, and it all looks extremely professional. Further setting the scene is the music and the voice voice actresses did a fantastic job with bringing the characters to life. Aisia’s especially was cute!

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Speaking of characters, Leon was a typically stoic protagonist, although he did have some fun lines. Lucia was great as the composed osananajimi who loses her cool when it comes to Leon, Cullen had some brief screentime as the dirty-minded onee-san, and Aisia was an adorable ball of energy. She could have been annoying, but I just found her carefree attitude and the way she spoke too cute to be irritating.

It’s such a fluffy and heartwarming experience, and I think they totally achieved the goal they mentioned in the interviews of wanting you to feel like you’re really there in the world with these girls. That sense of immersion one of the things that draws me to visual novels like no other medium, and KARAKARA hits all the right notes.

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However, while I loved the characters, the world, and the writing (the English translation was great), I honestly found the length disappointing. It took me under three hours to complete the whole thing, and it felt like it should have been the demo for a much longer game. There are multiple plot threads that are briefly referred to but never go anywhere, and the things that do happen are oddly rushed. Also, while there are hints at the lore of the world, none of it is explored enough to make it feel relevant.

The game has everything going for it, it just needs to be longer so that plot developments are given time to breathe and it tells an actual cohesive story. I really hope calme is able to create a sequel that will expand and improve upon what we’ve seen here. It would be great to see KARAKARA turned into a full-length visual novel, even if it takes multiple episodic releases to get it there.

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