READ.ME: Curtain Call

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Those who have been paying attention will know that I’ve been enthusing about the visual novel Kira Kira quite a bit recently and with good reason — it’s really, really good and eminently worth your time to play through in full. (And yes, that means playing all of the routes through the game and the “true” route that opens up after you’ve done all that — it’s not an exaggeration to say that doing anything less is doing this game something of a disservice.)

One thing I was particularly intrigued about as my experience with Kira Kira drew to a close was the existence of Kira Kira Curtain Call, a follow-up to the original game that apparently focused on a new set of characters and acted as a sort-of-but-not-quite sequel.

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Kira Kira Curtain Call is, for those unfamiliar, what is known as a “fandisc” project, which is something we don’t tend to see a lot of in the West in quite the same form. Essentially, a fandisc provides people who want more from a favorite work with exactly what they want — more. The exact form this “more” takes varies according to the fandisc — some concentrate on characters from their source material who maybe didn’t get much time under the spotlight; others provide an epilogue to the original story. A lot of particularly popular visual novels end up with separately-released standalone fandiscs in their native Japan, but relatively few of them make it over to the West due to the visual novel medium’s somewhat niche status over here. We’ve had a few, and not just for VNs — there’s a strong argument to describe Persona 3 FES as a fandisc, for example, and Corpse Party: Book of Shadows on the PSP also fulfils many of the usual functions of a fandisc rather than being a full-blown sequel — but for the most part they’re still relatively rare outside of Japan. Our closest equivalent is an expansion pack or DLC package, but it’s not quite the same thing; fandiscs tend to be standalone products that are complete in their own right rather than bolt-on content — but despite being standalone, they are particularly aimed at big fans of the original.

One publisher that has been taking some tentative steps into the realm of English language fandiscs in Mangagamer, who just so happened to publish Kira Kira. Mangagamer is widely credited as being the first English language publisher to officially translate a fandisc with the release of Edelweiss Eiden Fantasia (NSFW link) — this was later followed up with the release of Kira Kira Curtain Call, which can be purchased either as an individual standalone product or in a bundle with the main Kira Kira game. Either way, Curtain Call is a completely separate game to Kira Kira.

Kira Kira Curtain Call is a much more straightforward experience than the original Kira Kira. It unfolds over two distinct parts that help explain a few of the things that happened after the conclusion of Kira Kira, assuming that the original’s “true ending” was canonical.

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Firstly, the player takes on the role of a new protagonist known as Souta Honda, who is a very different beast from Kira Kira’s leading man Shikanosuke. While Shikanosuke was thoughtful to a fault, rather wordy and sometimes had difficulty expressing himself quite as he wanted to, Souta is a fiery young man with strong, passionate beliefs. He’s also desperately in love with a girl named Yui, whom he inadvertently afflicted with androphobia after confessing his love to her in a rather forthright manner a while back. Over the course of the story, Souta forms a band with some people whom he’s somewhat hesitant to call “friends” and attempts to outdo Yui and her band in the vain hope of impressing her enough to fall for him. Yui’s band just happens to be a successor of the “Second Literature Club” band from the original game, and also just happens to include Shikanosuke’s sister Yuko as a member.

This is a pretty interesting setup for a follow-on story. Yuko put in several audible appearances in Kira Kira – usually to berate Shikanosuke for something or other — but we never saw her face or got much of an idea of who she was, besides being a somewhat bitchy younger sister. In Curtain Call, however, we get the opportunity to learn more about her and understand where she’s coming from — including what she actually thinks of her brother. Alongside all that, we have a love story plotline that isn’t the usual “harem” arrangement — because we’re informed in no uncertain terms shortly after the story begins that Souta is passionately in love with Yui, having a series of different routes for various different girls wouldn’t really make a lot of sense. Because there’s less focus on pursuing one of several different girls and “picking a route,” there’s a strong focus on what Souta gets up to when he’s away from the object of his affections — indeed, a lot of the first part of Curtain Call shows Souta interacting with the other three band members, who are all male.

What we have in Curtain Call is a shorter, more focused and much more linear story, meaning there’s less scope for it to diverge in different directions. That may put off a few people who enjoy the feeling of “consequence” that VNs typically offer, but thankfully the story and characters are written in an interesting enough manner to still make it a good read, even if you know you’re not going to have any real impact on the outcome. Souta himself is interesting enough to distinguish himself from Shikanosuke, and the supporting cast are fun to hang out with, too — particularly as a lot of them have violently clashing personalities.

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This approach continues in the second part of Curtain Call, which concentrates on the character Murakami and his new band Happy Cycle Mania. Murakami was a secondary character in the original Kira Kira, and we got a pretty good sense of who he was from that. The other characters in Murakami’s part of Curtain Call also put in an appearance in Kira Kira, too — with the actual amount they appear relating somewhat to which “route” you end up on — so it’s good to see them again and see what is actually supposed to happen with them. Not only that, but we heard a lot about Murakami’s hopes and dreams in the original Kira Kira, so it gives a pleasing feel of closure and resolution to discover what he’s doing about following them.

All in all, the two parts of Curtain Call provide a nice way to round off the overall story – Kira Kira is certainly complete in and of itself, but bolt Curtain Call onto the end and you have yourself a satisfying epilogue too. While there’s considerably less inherent replay value in Curtain Call due to the fact the narrative path doesn’t split or veer off in unexpected directions at all, if all you want is the opportunity to spend a little more time with the characters and setting that the original Kira Kira set up so lovingly, Curtain Call is certainly worth a few hours of your time.

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READ.ME is Games Are Evil’s weekly delve into the world of visual novels, a genre of interactive entertainment primarily developed in Japan which has carved out a small but dedicated niche in the West.

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