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Little Busters!

Little Busters!

Little Busters!

Little Busters! is a Japanese visual novel developed by Key. It was released on July 27, 2007 for Windows PCs and is rated for all ages. Little Busters! is Key's sixth game, along with other titles such as Kanon, Air, and Clannad. An adult version of the game titled Little Busters! Ecstasy was released on July 25, 2008 for Windows, unlike Kanon and Air, which were first released with adult content and then had later versions with such content removed. Ecstasy was later ported to the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 3. The story follows the life of Riki Naoe, a high school student who has been a member of a group of friends named the Little Busters since childhood. Riki brings multiple girls at his school into the Little Busters to have enough people to play a baseball game.

The gameplay in Little Busters! follows a branching plot line which offers pre-determined scenarios with courses of interaction, and focuses on the appeal of the six female main characters by the player character, which increases to nine in Ecstasy. There are additional minigames added into the gameplay, such as battle sequences that resemble fighting games or baseball batting practice, which serve to give the characters experience, obtain accessories to use during battle, and improve their statistics. Both Little Busters! and Ecstasy ranked as the best-selling PC game sold in Japan for the time of their release, and Ecstasy would go on to sell over 100,000 units. Key went on to produce an adult spin-off called Kud Wafter in June 2010, which expanded on the scenario of Kudryavka Noumi, one of the heroines from Little Busters! and Ecstasy.

There have been 13 manga adaptations based on Little Busters! and Ecstasy published by ASCII Media Works, Kadokawa Shoten and Ichijinsha. Comic anthologies, light novels and art books were also published, as were several music albums. There have been two Internet radio shows hosted by the voice actors of Rin and Kyousuke Natsume and Kudryavka Noumi. A 26-episode anime television series adaptation, produced by J.C.Staff and directed by Yoshiki Yamakawa, aired between October 2012 and April 2013. A 13-episode second season produced by the same staff titled Little Busters! Refrain began airing in October 2013. An eight-episode original video animation series titled Little Busters! EX will be released between January and July 2014.

Little Busters! Plot

Little Busters!' story revolves around the main protagonist Riki Naoe, a young male high school student. When Riki was a child, his parents died, leaving him hopeless and depressed. He was saved by a group—three boys and a girl, all his age—who referred to themselves as the Little Busters, a group dedicated to fighting evil and preserving justice. The leader of the group was Kyousuke Natsume who had a younger sister named Rin. The other two members were Masato Inohara and Kengo Miyazawa, who were friends despite being rivals. They took Riki out and played together with him during his time of need, making him the fifth Little Busters member. In time, Riki enjoyed playing with them, and his grief over his parents gradually faded away. When the story begins, Riki and his friends are seemingly in their second year of high school, except for Kyousuke who is in his third year. They still hang out together, and enjoy their school life.

The story opens on Sunday May 13, 2007, and the next day at school, Kyousuke decides that the Little Busters are going to play a baseball game, except they do not have enough members to have a complete team. Kyousuke gives Riki and Rin the task of going around school to find more members to join, preferably girls so as not to leave Rin the lone girl. Riki finds five girls his age willing to help him out: Komari Kamikita, Haruka Saigusa, Kudryavka Noumi, Yuiko Kurugaya, and Mio Nishizono; three other girls Riki meets are Kanata Futaki, Sasami Sasasegawa, and Saya Tokido. Throughout the game, Riki hangs out with these girls and learns more about them.

The story's main part takes place in what seems to be a normal high school, but in fact all took place in the school term previous to Little Busters!, and Riki and Rin are reliving it in an artificial world created by the other members of the Little Busters. They, and the other main characters, were involved in a bus accident during a field trip, and only the two of them will survive. Kyousuke and the others created the artificial world to make them strong enough to deal with what will happen when they awaken in the real world. This was caused by a ripple effect based on all of their desires to save Riki and Rin. The world loops, but though they forget what happens, Riki and Rin do grow stronger, and Kyousuke hopes that they will eventually be strong enough to leave the world. They do manage to survive and get away from the crash site before Riki collapses because he has narcolepsy. Riki vows to fight against his narcoleptic condition, which was the reason why he was only able to save Rin and merely get away from the explosion before collapsing.

Rejecting this turn of events, Rin travels back into the artificial world again (this time created by Riki and Rin) and helps Riki overcome his weakness. Afterwards, the two of them go back to waking up at the crash site. This time, Riki and Rin work together to save everyone at the crash scene. Kyousuke, who sneaked onto the bus (as a third year he was not allowed to go), managed to block the leak hole on the gas tank to delay the explosion, despite his injuries being far greater than anyone else. Everyone in the bus recovers from their injuries, although Kyousuke's recovery takes longer due to extensive injuries. Finally, after Kyousuke returns, he rents a minibus, and the members of the Little Busters set out for a trip to the ocean.

Little Busters! Gameplay

Little Busters! is a romance visual novel in which the player assumes the role of Riki Naoe. Much of its gameplay is spent on reading the story's narrative and dialogue. The text in the game is accompanied by character sprites, which represent who Riki is talking to, over background art. Throughout the game, the player encounters CG artwork at certain points in the story, which take the place of the background art and character sprites. When the game is completed at least once, a gallery of the viewed CGs and played background music becomes available on the game's title screen. Little Busters! follows a branching plot line with multiple endings, and depending on the decisions that the player makes during the game, the plot will progress in a specific direction.

There are seven main plot lines that the player will have the chance to experience. Throughout gameplay, the player is given multiple options to choose from, and text progression pauses at these points until a choice is made. To view all plot lines in their entirety, the player will have to replay the game multiple times and choose different choices to further the plot to an alternate direction. When first playing the game, the scenarios for all six heroines are available. Once a scenario for any one heroine is completed, that scenario will be unavailable in the next play through because the last choice that will ultimately lead to that heroine's scenario becomes unavailable for players to choose. After the completion of these six routes, the final scenario called Refrain is made available, which serves to bring everything to a definite conclusion and answers questions brought up throughout the normal gameplay. Completing Refrain makes available all the heroine's scenarios that were previously made inaccessible during gameplay so that the player can revisit the scenarios again, along with some extra decision points that were previously unavailable.

An example of the fighting mode in Little Busters! featuring Rin fighting Masato.

Throughout gameplay, the player encounters various minigames, which range from simple to more complex. The first type of minigame encountered is a battle sequence that resembles a fighting game, but no interaction from the player is required to fight. These recurring battle sequences represent when the members of the Little Busters get into physical fights with either each other or with others. Each member of the fight has a set of statistics attributed to them (which includes strength, stamina, agility, reflex, concentration, judgment, and luck) along with a life bar to keep track of how many hit points a fighter has left. The maximum number of hit points is determined by the given fighter's stamina rating. Weapons may be used along with any accessories the fighter has in their possession, and these items may be exchanged with other characters. Another recurring minigame involves the player being able to play baseball batting practice with members of the Little Busters. The player, as Riki, controls his position and when to swing the bat.

The Little Busters will also participate in missions to accomplish some goal, and a mission will either be completed or failed depending on the choices of the player. These missions are connected with the battle sequences and batting practice in that they serve to give the characters experience, obtain accessories to use during fights, and improve their statistics. However, these missions do not affect the main plot in any way—the player even has the choice to turn off most of the minigames so that the player may focus on the main plot, including the battle sequences and batting practice. The first time that the game is played, Rin's statistics are weak compared to other characters. However, when the player completes several heroine's routes, Rin's and Riki's statistics will start out higher than before when the player starts a new game, allowing Rin and Riki to stand a better chance against opponents with higher statistics. The statistics of the Little Busters members are shown in a ranking system from highest to lowest in overall statistics.

Despite Little Busters! having a rating for all ages, there is an ample amount of CG artwork featuring the female characters in risqué situations, though never to the point to be considered sexual in nature. This is in stark contrast to Key's previous titles Clannad and Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume that also have ratings for all ages, but those titles contain no such risqué situations or even any fan service.

In Little Busters! Ecstasy, adult elements were added to the gameplay in the form of sexual CGs depicting Riki and a given heroine having sex. Ecstasy extends the story for the scenarios of the heroines in Little Busters!, as well as increasing the number of heroine routes from six to nine. These three heroine routes include scenarios for Kanata Futaki and Sasami Sasasegawa—two supporting characters from Little Busters!—and a new heroine named Saya Tokido who is only featured in Ecstasy. The first time the game is played, these three heroine routes are unavailable to the player until after the Refrain scenario is completed, though the player is given the option make them immediately available. Ecstasy has several minor additions and changes to the minigames as well, including the addition of weapons available for use in the battle sequences. Also, Ecstasy features the addition of two recurring minigames related to Saya: a shooting game with pistols and navigating a labyrinth.

SettingThe main part of the story takes place at a high school in Japan. There is a "secret of this world" that Kyousuke speaks of; Kengo and Masato are also aware of this. The characters live in either the male or female dormitories on the school grounds which are across to each other. Beside the dorms is the main school building where classes take place, which also houses the cafeteria on the ground floor. The school is four stories and the roof is normally restricted from access. Beyond the main school building is the large schoolyard, with the pool area adjacent to the yard. On the other side of the field is the baseball field, with the gymnasium and tennis court beyond it, which are closer to the main school building.

Childhood and adolescence are two important themes in Little Busters!. The opening video of the visual novel starts with two lines written in English: "What 'Adolescence' do you have?" and "Do you remember 'Childhood'?". Riki Naoe, the male protagonist, has four childhood friends whom he grew up together with through adolescence and still hangs out with when the story begins. Thus, friendship is another theme presented in the form of Riki's relationships with his friends in high school, and is thought to be irreplaceable. The opening video of the original visual novel contains a third line written in English, "The irreplaceable one existed there," though another line was added into the opening video of Little Busters! Ecstasy: "This will remind you that you have to recollect 'Adolescence'."


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