Title: Slow Damage
Release Date: November 14, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: JAST Blue
You know, a long time ago, I heard that as you go through your reviewing career, there is always that one game that throws your comfort zones out of the window, either because of its genre or its theme. And I guess my time has arrived for me now. So, after twiddling my thumbs in absolute curiosity, I decided to review Slow Damage, a BL visual novel game from none other than Nitro+Chiral, which has been stuck in delay traffic since 2020 and has finally been released in the west by JAST Blue.
Slow Damage occurs during 20XX Japan in a small piece of land known as Shinkoumi. Shortly after the country’s economy in the 2020s took a massive nosedive due to the Olympic Games ending in record-breaking failure, a yakuza group known as the Takasato-gumi bought the rights to the land. Then, after the region received an immense surge in tourism, they expanded their influence. Following some “negotiating” (read: threatening), it was established as a special administrative region where the group has complete control.
Because of the massive investment in the casino industry at that time, the future looked bright! And then, it wasn’t, because a few years later, the bubble burst spectacularly, leading to it becoming one of the most dangerous places to live, riddled with all sorts of shady and aggressive types. I’m talking about “dead bodies” being considered a common occurrence.
You play as Towa, a hedonistic artist who is very emotionless and doesn’t really care much about anything besides painting. However, he can also see other people’s “colors,” or Smoke, as he calls it, and he’s able to perceive other people’s emotions just by how those colors change. Also, you’ll immediately notice that Towa has scars all over his body, and without going too deep into spoiler territory, let’s just say he enjoys…near-death experiences. Yeah, that’s the best way to say it.
In addition to adding the colors of people’s responses to your Pallete, you’ll also go around the outskirts and main streets of Shinkoumi and partake in a segment known as Exploration, where Towa freely wanders around. In each place, a person will ask you a question, to which you must give either a positive or negative response, depending on the text clues given to you. And it is vital that you choose your words carefully because this will allow you to gain Inspiration, a sort of sketch that gets added to Towa’s notebook. This mechanic sort of reminded me of the Truth Bullets in Danganronpa because of how they disappear at the end of the Chapter.
When it comes to the story structure, it feels somewhat linear at first, but when I got to the second Chapter, that’s when it really started to branch out and feel immersive. Before, I thought it would take a significant amount of time to get through each of the chapters, and this is perhaps the longest visual novel I have ever tackled in my entire life. But because of how much I was mesmerized by how the story branched after Chapter 2, it just made me want to play it more and more, wanting to know what would happen.
Furthermore, just a few hours in were enough for me to see that there is a bit more to that 18+ rating than meets the eye, and while there are sexual terms and other foul-mouthed swears thrown around vulgarly, by the time I got to the game’s first “sex scene,” not only I was pretty far in the story, but it wasn’t as bad as I was expected. Though again, that is relative to how tolerant you are with things like blood and what your limit is on uncomfortableness.
Arguably the most stressful parts of Slow Damage are the Interrogation segments, where Towa will directly confront someone and, through the power of communication, drag out their deepest desires. You’ll be asked several questions, one after the other, and after answering, you must present one of the colors of your Pallette to proceed…or not.
As the tutorial stated, “sometimes it is best to stay quiet,” and sure enough, some questions will require you to do so in order to progress in the segment. I strongly recommend saving often because these are by far the parts where I had to reset and load the most. Failing can result in a game over.
Regarding the translation, I have nothing but the highest praise for it. It manages to bring out each and every character’s personality eloquently in English, such as Rei’s friendly and somewhat energetic attitude and Towa’s apathetic and “unfeeling” side. If I’m being honest, however, the only thing I disliked, though? The font.
It doesn’t do this translation justice because although it is fairly readable, it looks somewhat blurry on some resolutions under some specific scenarios and sometimes (though rarely) goes out of bounds when it comes to particularly long location names, despite the best efforts to abbreviate them when possible.
Don’t get me wrong, the art style combines with the atmosphere the game wants to bring, and in fact, one of the things I most liked about the artwork was how all of the characters, including side ones, have a wide array of expressions that change and evolve as the in-game days pass. But because it felt that higher resolutions aren’t correctly scaled, the UI suffers from it, and it shows. I’m usually the last person to care about graphics, but I can’t help but wish it looked just a tad better.
Slow Damage is a game that I would absolutely not recommend for the faint of heart or if you’re not a fan of extreme violence and blood. Still, I can definitely see just how it shines as one of Nitro Plus’ best visual novels in the BL genre, even as someone who isn’t very familiar with it.
The great translation combined with a story that packs a solid thematic punch and, quite frankly, a shockingly good soundtrack all made the wait totally worth it, even though I had my gripes with the typography and UI. I truly cannot truly describe the “feeling” I had when playing it, but if I had to pick two words for it, I would say it was “truly euphoric.”
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