Following the recent anime adaptation by J.C. Staff, I found myself suddenly interested in playing the Little Busters! visual novel. After finally finishing it over the course of the past few weeks… I gotta say: it was quite something. I’m not usually one to tear up/cry, but gosh darn, by the time it was all said and done—I just couldn’t help it. And so, here we are. As they say, one thing leads to another and what we have today is a quick retrospective on what turned out to be a superb experience.


Which route will you choose?

Starting out with the gameplay elements, Little Busters! is mechanically similar to your average typical novel. Assuming the role of the main character, Naoe Riki, most of the game is spent reading dialogue from text boxes. Character sprites are used to represent the characters, whom are put on top of various pre-drawn backgrounds. Occasional CG scenes are mixed within each story route, of which there are seven—one corresponding to each of the six heroines and a final “Refrain” route that unlocks after the completion of all the main routes. Depending on the decisions you make throughout the game, the story branches off into one of these routes, of which multiple endings (one good and one bad) can be attained. Notably, in Little Busters! Ecstasy, three more heroines routes are added along with adult content.

Various mini-games are also available, but are optional. You don’t hinder or affect story progression should you choose “No” when asked whether or not you wish to activate them, but—at least to me—they complement the story nicely. These mini-games include:

  • Batting Practice – a baseball mini-game.
  • Battle System – a fighting game-isque sequence where Little Busters! members fight using random weapons. No interaction is necessary by the player and the outcomes are based on the statistics of various attributes (unique to each character) and the accessories they have—both of which can be influenced by the player via batting practice and accessory trading respectively. Defeating members of a higher ranking will cause a rise in your own ranking corresponding to the rank of the one you defeat, and reaching Rank 1 at certain points of the game will unlock additional scenes and mini-games.
  • In terms of length, the story takes about 30-50 hours to finish, and is divided up among the common route (May 14 to May 28) and additional route specific scenes (varying lengths after May 28th). A generally spoiler-free walkthrough can be found here, listing the routes you should do in the order that maximizes the experience (as doing some routes will end up locking scenes in others) and the decisions needed for each route. Skip previous text is available as an option to skip through previously read text to reduce the time necessary to complete the game.

      Story Summary / Characters List:

    Story-wise, Little Busters! focuses on high school student Naoe Riki. Having lost his parents when he was a child, he was rescued from depression by a group of three boys and girls. Known as the Little Busters—a group dedicated to fighting evil and maintaining justice—the group consisted of the Natsume siblings (Kyousuke and Rin), Inohara Masato, and Miyazawa Kengo. Riki would inevitably join the group, ending up at the same high school with the rest of the Little Busters. It’s here where Riki ends up being assigned two special missions: to find members for the baseball team they’re trying to form… and to reveal the “secret of the world”—something he must accomplish while overcoming his narcolepsy and his own shy personality.

    Rounding out the cast is the always cheerful Kamikita Komari, the independent Kurugaya Yuiko, the calm and collected Nishizono Mio, the exceptionally cute, foreign-born Kud, and the endlessly energetic Saigusa Haruka.


    What do you mean you don’t like cats!?

    Here we are. After much ado, the question is: was Little Busters! worth playing? Was it worth the exceptional ratings it’s received over on VNDB? Having played through all the routes, I gotta say—it sure was. And while the major theme—that is, the power of friendship—wasn’t particularly novel, Little Busters! manages to hit all the right notes…

    …courtesy of a great cast of characters, each equipped with their own unique circumstances and stories that’ll pull on your heartstrings. Granted, you likely won’t find yourself liking every character this series gives you—to each their own, as they say—but the bottom line remains the same. No matter whose route you end up undertaking and how you feel about a particular character, once you reach the end of their respective route, you’ll end up at least somewhat emotional regardless. And really, that’s what the Little Busters! experience ends up being about. It’s something that delivers an emotional payoff each and every time you go through it—especially so when you finally reach Refrain and find out the “secret of the world”—and something that leaves you just sitting there in awe at how things ending up developing.

    Needless to say, I won’t go into details as to the latter—you’ll have to play to see for yourself!—but let’s just say I found myself bawlin’ when it was all said and done. And I gotta say, I don’t usually bawl for things like this—especially when I have an idea of what to expect, having watched the Little Busters! anime (which adapted things quite faithfully) and been previously exposed to other works by Key (and Maeda Jun). So, it’s quite the accomplishment—a testament to just how well things are done. Maeda Jun’s magical realism technique just crafts a great experience…

    Friendship at its best.

    …an experience further heightened by important themes Little Busters! ends up commenting on. As mentioned before, the power of friendship is one such theme, but there’s more here as well—ranging from a focus on growing up (through adolescence) to the importance of remembering and cherishing the friends and family (and thus the experiences you have with them) as well. So what we get with this visual novel ends up not being so much as a great story about the aforementioned as it is a challenge to those playing the game—a challenge to see if you’re making the most out of life and to see if you’re prepared for whatever the future may throw at you. It’s saying that at some point, you’re going to need to grow up and get out there into the real world—a world where separation inevitably awaits due to pure circumstance and the peaceful days you grew up with may be far in the past.

    It’s just powerful stuff—and something that ended up resonating especially with me on a personal level. With the recent passing away of a friend of mine, in addition to my impending college graduation in the coming weeks, the themes here in Little Busters! hit close to home, and it made the experience that much more as a result. I guess though, it’s like that quote: “timing is everything.” For me, I guess I just so happened to play Little Busters! when it could’ve made the biggest impact on my life, and I loved the experience as a result. Admittedly, I’m probably going to end up a bit higher on this than many others as a result, but it doesn’t change the fact that Little Busters! is a superb visual novel that’s well worth the 30-50 hour investment…

    …one whose worth was also in large part due to the superb soundtrack included within as well. With catchy, upbeat songs such as Rita’s Little Busters! (OP Theme) and Alicemagic (ED Theme) paving the way along with other great background themes (most often piano compositions), there aren’t enough words to describe how apt the songs were in reflecting either the scene they were used in or the character for which they played for. The execution—that is, the placement of the respective songs throughout the novel was just exceptionally well done too, and contributed greatly to the emotional payoff that I got with this series. You don’t have to take my word for it though, because lo’ and behold—I’ve included some samples below:

    RING RING RING! (Disc 1: #01)
    [flv:LBVN_RingRingRing.mp3 350 0]

    Slow Curve (Disc 1: #13)
    [flv:LBVN_SlowCurve.mp3 350 0]

    Day Game (Disc 1: #15)
    [flv:LBVN_DayGame.mp3 350 0]

    In the Town of Incessant Rain (Disc 2: #07)
    [flv:LBVN_InTheTownOfRain.mp3 350 0]

    Parting of the Boys ~piano only~ (Disc 2: #16)
    [flv:LBVN_Parting.mp3 350 0]

    Clear Weather After the Rain ~Short Ver~ (Disc 3: #08)
    [flv:LBVN_ClearWeatherShort.mp3 350 0]

    The Verdict: Overall, If you’re looking for a story that’ll really pull at the heartstrings, Little Busters! is the way to go. The feelings you get at the end of the day are well worth the time, and it’s quite deserving of the accolades it receives among the visual novel community. Suffice to say, it’s definitely something to play if you can get your hands on it.

       Re: Anime Adaptation

    Ending things off here today, I’d just like to spend a few moments discussing the anime adaptation. Having both watched the entirety of the anime and now completed the visual novel it was based on, I feel as though I’m just obligated to say here that it seems to be that J.C. Staff was undeserving of the flak it seemed to receive before, during, and after the airing of the adaptation. Granted, the visual novel is still the superior version of the two—not surprising, considering it was the original source material after all—but from what I’ve seen, the adaptation does a pretty faithful job in its conversion of the source material to anime form. Some things are shuffled around, added, deleted, or not executed that well, but given the difference in mediums—visual novels being word heavy in content—it feels at least to me that J.C. Staff did a pretty good job with its adaptation.

    That’s not to say that an alternative studio like Kyoani wouldn’t have done a better job on say backgrounds and animation, but I feel that the important parts—that is, the general story and the concepts—carried over fairly well considering both the medium difference and the fact that the Little Busters! story format (with its sole common route and multiple branch off points) makes it difficult to adapt properly in the first place. Basically, I don’t think having another studio would’ve made the story execution that much better, and I’m admittedly quite interested to see how the adaptation of Refrain ends up. Because gosh darn, if it’s done well… it’ll be quite something.

      Extra Screenshots:


    1. As with any post of this nature, I ask that commenters refrain from spoilers past the point covered by the anime adapatation. This applies especially to the events in Refrain. If you need to discuss any of the above, please use both the spoiler tag AND label with a few quick words what kind of spoiler is within.

        1. Hm? No, I didn’t. o-o

          And lol, yeah latter part is quite true. ML is well worth it though (if you’re looking for a more apocalyptic setting w/ mech/sci-fi/action). Generally I’d say ML was better, even despite how much I ended up enjoying LB!, but eh, they’re really different games so… not quite a real good thing to do a straight forward comparison with. Either way, both are worth playing for sure.

        2. I agree with Zephyr. MuvLuv is better than Little Busters!. And to be honest, I was mind fuck with MuvLuv Alternative(not eclipse) with every terms they throw along the story.
          I also agree with Zephyr in this post. You really have to play the game to go more into details.

          My very honest words.
          Although for me, I really didn’t like the Anime, I really would say that there are some parts of the anime that was much better than the Visual Novel. That part was the Haruka route part.

          All in all:
          Both are good in their way of expressing their friendship feelings though they are both different in some way in terms of comedy and art, both aimed the same way what Little Busters really is.

          D-d-don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not like I’m in love with Little Busters or anything. I just saying it as a fan.

    2. To me the best selling point of the VN was the comedy scenes, the sound track, and the characters themselves. So when the anime came out I was so hyped out about it and to my dismay it did not live up to my expectations. However that may change depending on how J.C. Staff will do with Kuragaya’s arc Rin 2 as well as refrain arcs.
      Side note I find it a bit funny that commenters must refrain from talking about refrain 😛

      1. I totally agree about the comedy, music and characters.
        In fact I found the comedic sections on Common Route and (some) Heroine Routes to be more “enjoyable” than the dramatic bits. ‘cept Refrain coz that was awesome plot + character development.

      2. Optimistic as I am, I am wary that Refrain simply does not stand alone without the Common route. If an anime viewer did not enjoy the first season, then even if he or she watches Refrain the experience will ultimately be diminished. All the comedy and minigames build empathy and connection with the characters, which really are the important parts going into Rin 2 and Refrain.

        1. However you need to note that the only characters involved in those arcs are the main ones and with the exception of one of girl, the others however will be axed out of those arcs. Meaning there is a chance that the whole refrain arc can pass off as a stand alone.

        2. Not exactly my point, but I’ll bite.

          Plot-wise, it is true that the continuum of Common–>Rin–>Refrain is not linked overmuch to the other character routes. Indeed, as I have noted elsewhere, the character routes can be considered almost side stories to the main arc of Little Busters. That is not to say, however, that they add nothing to the overall narrative of Little Busters (the narrative being, notably, more than just series of events that lead to the conclusion). Much like in Clannad, we are reminded in Refrain that the side-routes are still part of the protagonist’s experiences and both build character and layer the narrative. In fact, they are required reading before unlocking Refrain.

          In the anime adaptation the character routes are more or less rolled in with the Common route, and colour the experience. This, arguably, increases their significance in the grand scheme. At the very least, if they are done well, viewers will identify more positively with the Common route, and the opposite is also true. And I would say that it is fairly important that viewers respond positively with the Common route prior to entering Refrain, or they will simply get less out of it.

    3. “refrain” from spoilers, oh you. While I have already read through the game as well it’s nice to see the emphasis on no spoilers for those not in the know. By the way did you play through the full EX/ME or just the original game routes?

      About the anime I personally felt that the comedy just didn’t seem to flow as well, and some of the soundtracks which I’d already heard many times in the game just felt weird to hear during their anime scenes even if I’d liked them during the VN for some reason. On the other hand I felt that they did do a good job with mixing all the routes they could together. I also liked how they brought friendship to the front even more during the route resolutions compared to how it had been mostly Riki in the VN to make up for all the small parts they cut out which would have shown how the Little Busters grew closer.

    4. Did anyone else who played the game feel Kyousuke was no where near as brotastic in the anime as he was in the game?
      I felt they missed a number of opportune moments in the anime to bring out Brosuke’s trollish leadership, like the bit in the game early on where he announces they’re going to make a baseball team, and then the next day says they’re going to make a band just because he’s now reading a manga about a band.

      1. Well, they did animate that. And many other similar scenes (think pretty much any of his scenes from ep15). Seeing how many people who haven’t read the VN and only seen the anime clearly see the powerful bro in Kyousuke, I don’t think it’s a problem.

      2. Mmmm, in general I feel like they did enough to touch upon that general part of Kyousuke and his role in leading the group. They did miss some parts yes, but at the same time with Refrain coming later (and thus a lot more content) there should be additional chances to really hammer it in… so it should work out generally.

        The question more so for me is whether or not they’ll give us more on Kurugaya’s route, which didn’t quite get much exposure this first go around (in the 26 episode adaptation we got last season).

    5. “05/04: Zephyr will be preoccupied with real-life priorities in the upcoming two weeks.”

      Is this what you were busy with? Well played, nothing like spending a week playing through a visual novel. Sanzenin Nagi would be proud.

      dat zephyr
      1. Heh.

        It was admittedly what I was doing with all my free time recently, but mostly to get my mind off things. Nothing like some batting practice (big baseball fan here)/battle mini games to get you out of a funk—though well, that’s what I meant up there when I said that circumstances played a big role in me enjoying this VN as much as I did. Lot of personal connection with the things that have happened recently to say the least. The whole thing about just savoring life and remembering experiences you’ve had with friends… just… yeah.

        Gotta say… if it wasn’t for me starting LB when I did… gosh darn, I don’t know if I would’ve been in any mood to return to blogging for a while.

    6. I actually started out by not liking LB as much as much of the other stuff from key. I was rather meh about the individual characters and their stories. Then refrain happened and I was all OH YOU GOT ME GOOD, oh you got me so good. The payoff from refrain was just that epic.

      Refrain caused my opinion of the game to change so completely it was amazing. It made the whole thing worth it.

      WARNING: Refrain impression/spoilers below:
      Show Spoiler ▼

      1. WARNING: Re: Refrain Impressions

        Show Spoiler ▼

    7. Mixed opinions about the anime are likely to stem from the complexity of the common route and the heroines’ routes. A bunch of stuff is spread out and there’s plenty of spoilers at each girl’s route, not to mention that some are romance oriented.
      Gags and other comedy material didn’t come off as well in the anime because those jokes were not made with the “adaptation to be” in mind. They could’ve thought up original material concerning that but, I digress.
      A whole different instance however is “refrain” Which should be adapted carefully and properly.

      not really a spoiler but I guess–> (mild spoiler)
      Show Spoiler ▼

      , so I hope J.C. keeps up the good job they’ve done so far.

      Helvetica Standard
        1. Haha, you know, I was playing G-Senjou no Maou myself but then put that aside to play LB! when the eng full patch came out.
          As a random comment, I think the CGs of LB! are good, but the ones in Maou are godly.

        2. Oh man G-senjou No Mao,you sure picked a masterpiece on a whim:P One that gets better & better as it goes.

          Show Spoiler ▼

          If you’ll really enjoy that and especially the type of protagonist from Mao you might wanna take a look into another Akabesoft2 popular VN,Sharin no Kuni.

        3. @Ukato – What a coincidence! 😀

          @MgMaster – Yeah. I’m admittedly quite enjoying the Maou experience. Brings a nice touch in terms of how different it is from the other VN’s I’ve played so far to say the least. But yeah, seems like my whim picking has ended up pretty good so far! Hopefully it continues, XD.

        4. I seconded the cheer for you to finish G-Senjou, Zephyr! As much as I like KEY+Jun Maeda combo or other god-tier VN such as MLA, Akabeisoft2 and Loose Boy (Akabeisoft2 flagship writer) is my personal most-favorite in VN industry. I love their trademarked badass protagonist, even more badass antagonist and a lot of plot+emotional twists that they tend to throw in their games (although looseboy tends to use a lot of coincidence in his plot as a bad habit).

          And of course, play Sharin no Kuni when you’re longing for more. It has one of the most BADASS antagonist in VN history, voiced by Norio Wakamoto-sama.

    8. I have said similar things in previous commentary during the series, but while I do not think that JC Staff’s adaptation can be considered “bad”, it certainly had areas where I feel could potentially be improved. Ambition was, ultimately, constrained by budget and we must settle for decent rather than superb.

      That is not saying that adaptation of Little Busters isn’t an innately difficult task; the text count is titanic, the route structure inflexible and the minigames are abstract and untransferrable, just to name a few obstacles. JC Staff went for the tried and true ‘cram everything into one common route and make every relationship platonic’ method of adapting VNs, which I do not think is always ideal for Little Busters. Time is an issue, and certain routes lose substance if you remove romantic overtones. Even Kyoto Animation, lauded by some as being a superior alternative to JC Staff, ultimately failed to adhere to this approach in Clannad, skipping some routes entirely in the main series and basically extending the non-After Story to about 32 episodes.

      JC Staff, though, seemed to have a lot more of a checklist approach to narrative planning. Evidently, they felt like they had to, within the first 24 episodes, cover X amount of routes and Y amount of major events, making sure to have dropped Z amount of clues for Refrain. They have met their quota, but perhaps at the expense of the actual substance. I would say that some routes fared poorer than others, the underlying mystery lost nist subtlety, and the baseball metaphor ultimately diminished. At the same time, though, JC Staff got a lot of important things done, and they are well established for Refrain.

      While I look forward to how JC Staff does Kurugaya’s route (if they do, and i have some ideas about what they might have in store), I think Rin’s route and Refrain are going to be deal breakers. Every other route are, ultimately, side dishes to the main story thread. Fortunately, Refrain is a rather straightforward story in its beauty. I hope it comes out well.

    9. And so I must ask the one question: What was the highest batting chain you got? ^_^;

      Also, my personal contribution to the awesome music list (Barring the goldly refrain stuff); “Little Melody” and “Lamplight”

      Really, if there’s one thing I laud the adaptation for, it’s the great use of the game’s full breadth of music. There’s something about Key’s music I just can’t get enough of; I was pretty into Rewrite’s OST as well.

      1. Hmmm if I remember correctly, I got up to… 12-ish? XD How bout ya?

        And ah Rewrite, gotta get to that soon too, but didn’t wanna play two Key VN’s in a row… so playing G-Senjou no Maou instead. Lol.

        1. Rewrite is markedly different from Key’s previous fare (different lead writer and all), so I don’t think you’ll have to worry too much about that. But G-Senjou no Maou is very good. Enjoy.

      2. The only thing Jun Maeda contributed to Rewrite was one of the music pieces. Nevertheless while it is not that sad compared to previous works its pretty epic.

        BTW Ghost_Zephyr have you played Planetarium?
        Show Spoiler ▼

        1. Na. The ones I have finished so far are the Muv-Luv Trilogy, Chaos;Head, and Little Busters! I’ve peeked a bit at Cross Channel, Katawa Shoujo, Saya no Uta, Steins;Gate, and Muv-Luv Altered Fable, but have yet to go play them for real yet. Decided on a whim to go G-Senjou for now.

    10. Little Busters! was, without question IMHO, Key’s very best work to date; and an appropriate end to Maeda Jun’s career at Key, one might say.

      And Refrain was just… words fail to describe. I’ve never been much for crying for much of anything, but that end just had me breaking down from near start to finish. Damn, I wish I could experience it for the first time all over again… >_<

      Truly a gem of a VN, no doubt. One can only hope to see such an epitome of awesome and win again someday.

        1. He is, but if I remember properly, it was more of a unplanned thing after receiving a lot of requests for one (and after Angel Beats did a lot better than expected)… so he’s not quite working “full-time” with Key I believe.

        2. Officially, Maeda transferred to VisualArt’s music division, so he’s technically a composer now instead of a writer.

          That doesn’t mean he won’t contribute to future visual novels. However, his time as a lead writer and visionary is over. Supposedly, he had to force himself to work on Little Busters (retirement project) and Angel Beats (unplanned).

    11. Is there any shop I can get Little Busters! Ecstasy from? Can only find the perfect edition and versions for the PS3 or Vita (which reminds me again to probably get one..^^).

        1. Ah ok, thank you for the information. Would’ve thought, that they leave the EX Version as the final one as they’ve added also new characters and routes in it. I don’t really care about the hentai scenes, but the extra content.
          Could probably still try to get EX over Yahoo Japan.

      1. The visual novel has its own flaws but also has its own shinning points.
        That goes the same with the anime.

        Though as a Visual Novel player, I would say the game was a lot better.

        Everthing in the anime will be judge when they air the “Refrain” part of the story.

      2. In general I feel like the VN was better, but I don’t think the anime was bad at all. It’s just more so that the VN was the original source material (and medium), so there are things it has and does that the anime just can’t really do.

      3. I would also support reading the VN. As adaptations go, the anime, though not bad per se, does not really add all that much to the story experience, so unfortunately all we have left is to define it by how it detracts. The source material, I would consider, is a more ‘complete’ experience.

    12. Speaking of Little Busters! Anyone who played Ecstasy tell me if the extra routes and the extra scenes inserted into the vanilla routes worth playing? I only played the original LB 😡

      1. As an LB! EX! player I LOVED THE extra route. Specially Saya which has the same near attitude of Yurippe(Angel Beat). Not to mention Saya and Yurippe shares the same seiyuu(voice actress)
        Note that Jun Maeda is the one who wrote the scenario of the route and he also likes Saya as a character.

      1. Ah man favorite route… that’s a really tough one, haha.

        If you count Refrain as a “main” route, then I’d pick that without hesitation… but aside from that… it’s a really, really close choice between Kud, Kurugaya, and Rin for me. If you made me choose one though, I guess I’d chose Rin, but it’s darn close.

        In the end though, the basic thing is I feel like LB! is one of those games where no matter which route you choose, the ending and route specific developments make each route unique and nice in its own way (which contributes a lot to why I loved the game so much). I didn’t really dislike any of the routes in general, but I guess the aforementioned three had more impact on me just… due to personal preference eh.

        Re: Some reasons why I chose the above three

        Show Spoiler ▼

    13. Being faithful to the original is not always the best way to make an adaptation. Little Busters needed more than to make a good anime. Little Busters didn’t just need better animation and backgrounds. It needed a good director who could handle making the changes needed to turn Little Busters into good episode long segments.

    14. Out of all Key visual novels (minus Air which I didn’t read) I liked Little Busters the least, despite having much fun with the minigames.

      Just finished the first Route of Rewrite and I have to say that I like it much more so far.

    15. Since you’ve read the VN, I’ll tell you my standard list of “now do x” events. There’s only two big ones, and they’re easy to be vague about, so I won’t tag them.

      **EDITED: Vague yeah, but still gives off a bit regardless. I’ve added in the tag just to be thorough. Bit of Refrain stuff ahead for spoilers.

      Show Spoiler ▼

      That said, anime was bad. The writers for the adaptation didn’t understand the deeper aspects of the story, and they screwed up a lot of little aspects that relate to the greater mystery and the greater story arc. Just about every divergence from the VN was a mistake in some way, especially once they reached Haruka’s arc and beyond. It was kind of painful to watch.

      1. Ah yes, I did see those “now do x” events. They played a lot in adding to my opinion of the series to say the least.

        As for the anime… to each their own is the thing that comes to mind eh. I get what you’re talking about, but again, I feel like they did the general story of friendship quite well. The basic thing for me is that I feel like you can’t really blame JC Staff for how they went about it considering the nature of LB… and I honestly don’t think an alternative studio would’ve really been able to do everything you listed there correctly either.

        It’s just one of those things I suppose. If you really went at it, the way it seems to me is that it feels like only the guys that really could’ve given it the full touch would’ve been the guys at Key themselves. There’s a lot here that just can’t be done without an innate closeness to the material, its development, and the thoughts/intent to it… which is why I don’t think JC Staff should be blamed for the bits that didn’t quite turn out right, because I feel none of the other studios that were mentioned as potential alternatives could’ve captured it right either, no matter how good their track record.

        That being said, it’ll be interesting to see how Refrain ends up though. In many ways, we don’t have the full picture yet (in terms of JC Staff’s adaptation/version of LB!). Guess we’ll see how that works out.

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