I’ve got 11 hours to read all of Refrain and make this post, lets see how long it takes.
We open up with a spooky image, and a spooky noise, all of the theorywankers are probably throwing there hands in the air in excitement at seeing this. While the first line of the route makes it seem like it’s the start of common, ‘A World Where Nothing Happened’ playing immediately after as Riki recalls this disturbing image makes it very apparent that no, no this is not common. Masato and Kengo’s fight being way more serious further hammers this in, as Riki tries to create the Battle Rules he is shot down, enforcing something Rin 2 had hammered in ‘Riki is not even close to Kyousuke’s level’.
And the pretense that this is common is shattered(like Kengo’s arm), Rin is B R O K E N(like Kengo’s arm), that wonderful scene where Kyousuke forms the baseball team is replaced with Riki, alone, looking at a baseball given an unflattering description. Another parallel comes along where instead of Riki staring at Kyousuke and admiring his childish charm as he reads Manga, he instead confronts him as Kyousuke looks at him with an intimidating glare. Thin Chronicle plays during silly banter between Kengo/Riki/Masato instead of any of the usual themes from Common. Everything is off, and it’s O M I N O U S~
Kengo trying to be Kyousuke, lots of it, for Riki, meanwhile, the real Kyousuke replacement takes his first step.
Born into this World! Plays for the first(?) time outside the title screen as Masato kills off the Little Busters, the song makes you think of the title screen with all the friends running along in joy, yet it’s playing for all the friends walking apart instead.
And heeeeeere we are, the secret of the world rears its head again, this time, for the first time, Riki takes it seriously, he questions what the secret is and at long last, it becomes central to the plot. Riki also makes a decision that will help drive the story, he becomes the leader of the Little Busters, the first step to his endgoal: matching Kyousuke.
And so Refrain begins. Riki speaks, the voiceless (not really)faceless protagonist appears before the player, this shit blows my mind, it’s the start of the real focus of the route, the boys. We see Masato’s thoughts gently reassuring Riki despite his words at the time doing the opposite before it transitions into the insanity that befalls him, The World Where Nothing Happens plays the entire time. Overall the Riki/Rin vs Masato isn’t too much to write home about, it’s crazy to see Masato, well, crazy, and hulling that statue around like a boss and the parallel to the old battle with Kyousuke is great, one might say Kyousuke went too hard on triggering Masato, like me, I’d say that, but I do understand he needed to be completely gone to make it a true battle.
So lets start this off with Kengo spoiling the by now obvious time loops. Also dropping all the hints about Kyousuke’s control over the world, this episode spends most of it’s time answering a lot of questions. Already this episode starts off much more striking than the last because of this. This part has a lot of mirrors to Rin2, Kengo telling Riki to rely on him like in Rin2, but with Riki rejecting him, the baseball match against Kengo is a retread of the one in Rin2 with far less villainy involved.
The start of this is like a montage, a montage of all the fun ideas in common, a montage of all the shitty villainy in Rin2. It really sets the stage for the ending to truly begin. Huge shoutouts to both Riki and Kyousuke thinking ‘fuck I want to hug him right now’ in the same scene while being unable too.
Also fuck all the crawling scenes, fuck em, I don’t want any of that shit.
I’m already losing it at Kyousuke calling Kengo a crybaby and admiring Masato in his thoughts. I’m also gonna throw out here that all the voice acting is 12/10 so I don’t end up repeating myself.
Masato’s farewell is the most simple, after he kept his role ironclad this entire time, he makes one small stumble at the end as he says his goodbyes.
“I’m so happy…”
In the end he’s truly the strongest, he’s the one who made it though this without crying, he’s the one who stepped up and said goodbye first.
Speaking of crybabies.
KENGO MY SON, BOYS DON’T CRY. BOYS BE SMILE.
I can’t deal with this, after he has appeared so strong this entire time he can’t even catch the ball he’s so upset over it, to see him like this is simply too much, fortunately after having a little cry he does manage a smile right at the end.
“Little Busters are forever…”
After Kengo butters you up, it’s time for Kyousuke.
The Homerun of symbolism is here to tell you what the true ending is. As Kyousuke can’t even catch it, he turns away to hide his sadness, he tries to leave. Riki doesn’t let him, Riki starts crying, he tells Kyousuke that the plot can shove it and he just wants to be with his friends.
And then we get to see Kyousuke’s face and OOPS I BREAK.
“I like you guys so much more than you like me!!”
I can’t really deal with this, seeing Kyousuke bawling his eyes out, frustrated not at how he’s going to die, but at how he won’t be able to be with those he loves. And Faraway ISN’T HELPING.
As Riki and Rin escape Kyousuke makes one last walk though the school with The Boys Farewell to play him off and the dream world ends.
And then after getting you all emotional about that that cunt Maeda makes you run away from everyone and leave them to die.
OH YEAH THERE WAS GIRLS IN THIS VN.
Honestly Rin’s friendship with them is, well it’s dubious at best, it’s told, not shown. Even for Komari, the only one I can actually get behind believing. That said, Komari’s goodbye is a perfectly fine scene, I mean, it’s nothing compared to my sons goodbyes, but it’s alright, can’t knock it.
After that is the short scene in the hospital as this beautiful yet bitter ending draws to a close HAHA FUCK YOU KYOUSUKE IT’S NOT ENOUGH.
Let me tell you a story of a younger me who got to this choice, I don’t know what to push to finish the game proper, all I saw is Kyousuke telling me that all of them dying was enough, and I didn’t push this choice out of any sense to see what was going to happen. I HAMMERED THE SHIT OUT OF IT’S NOT ENOUGH BECAUSE IT’S NOT FUCKING ENOUGH.
I have never pushed a dialogue option with such sheer passion and meaning before or since.
Good lord this CG is literally the title screen but from Riki’s perspective MMMMMMMMMMMHMMHMHMHMMMHM.
And then Riki went back in time and rewrote the narcolepsy out of his fetus I think? Ignore that, the narcolepsy is probably just symbolic of his fears and losing is shows him overcoming them.
After some tense ass bus fun, where you get to get your revenge on Maeda for maknig you run away, we get to see what that Homerun symbolism was about. Riki went above and beyond Kyousuke’s expectations, he saved everyone.
After a nice slice of Common again, the long awaited return of Kyousuke and THE VAN, we get the best god damn ending credits ever, first of all Little Jumper is the BEST version of Little Busters, it’s even still got that amazing intro thing that isn’t present in the Ecstasy version. The van animations are amazing, the idiots falling off the van, running after it, seeing the girls inside, the girls jumping the baseball being homeran E V E R Y T H I N G FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD.(ps read bokura no asa).
So with that over, let me introduce you to my sons.
The greatest of fools, better than Sunohara, more complex than Kitagawa, Masato plays his part perfectly, he’s funny, endearing and most of all, the strongest god damn guy ever, I spoke of it during his farewell. It can’t be understated how much he trusts Riki either, Kyousuke wanted to force them to grow, Kengo wanted to protect them forever, in the middle of all this chaos, Masato always trusted Riki to make the right choice. He is a dear friend and I love him.
The character who changes the most in the VN, he goes for the ultra serious no nonsense guy, to the ultra stupid full nonsense guy, to the most consistent and reliable friend, to a great obstacle, and finally he ends up as a crybaby in the end. All of these Kengo’s have charm and are all worth loving. He might not be as strong as Masato, but he is my precious child who needs to be protected.
I can’t do him justice with words.
Riki is an underrated little scamp, he tries to hide behind the camera, pretend he’s not a character(we’ll call it symbolism for hiding behind Kyousuke), but he is so much more than a pair of eyes and a dick to be your window into the world, this is never more apparent than in Refrain where he steps out in full view of the boys. He’s not as amazing as any of them, but he’s worth a hell of a lot of respect and admiration.
Overall? Yeah I like Refrain a lot. It’s the story of my beautiful boys going though and overcoming hardship, a story of how the bonds of friendship have no limit, how the past should be cherished but you should always look forward, how you shouldn’t just stand back and admire your idols, you should push on and be someone to idolize. how the encounter is more important than the goodbye, and to accept loss, you know, all that good shit, all that GOOOOOOOOOOD shit.
Ok fine. The ending. I love it, it’s not enough is the only true path, I understand those who think it should have ended in the hospital, but FUCK YOU, my beloved Little Busters deserve their happy god damn ending, I won’t let anyone say they didn’t.