After a few delays, Nitro+chiral’s much anticipated boys love visual novel, Slow Damage has made its English language debut—and it was worth the wait! Slow Damage tells the story of Towa, a hedonistic artist living in a yakuza-controlled city of the near future. Intent on painting people’s darkest desires, Towa seeks out extreme sensation and seedy underworld connections. But in exposing the truths of those around him, Towa may have uncovered more than he bargained for…
- Boys Love | Mature | 18+
- Price: $24.99
- Rating: M (18+) (explicit, uncensored adult content)
- Where to play: Digital | Physical
- Similar Games: Room No. 9 | Togainu no Chi | Hashihime of the Old Book Town
The year is 20XX, and the declining nation of Japan has built the ultimate casino resort: Shinkoumi. This “special administrative region,” once known as Tokyo Waterfront City, is functionally its own separate country under the complete control of a private managing organization known as the Takasato-gumi.
With the economy in turmoil, the masses flock to Shinkoumi with the hope of getting rich quick, or at the very least, venting the stress of their overworked, underpaid lives. With no restriction on who can enter, crime has flourished, and entire districts have decayed.
Our protagonist, Towa, lives a life of indolence on the third floor of a small neighborhood clinic. For you see, he has a hobby: painting human desire. Specifically, the moment before those suppressed urges break free from their constraints. And to do so, naturally, he must experience it himself firsthand.
In the art world, he is known as “euphoria”.
It can be dangerous to grant people’s darkest desires – sometimes, even deadly. But in the spirit of avant-garde, Towa is willing to die for his art…Official Synopsis
Slow Damage Review
Nitro+chiral games are known for being intense experiences and fans of the publisher will not be disappointed by this latest title, Slow Damage. Set in the yakuza run city of Shinkoumi, follow listless artist Towa as he scratches out a living in a city always on the brink. Known in the art world as “euphoria”, Towa has a unique ability to see people’s aura, Smoke, which he uses to paint a person’s deepest darkest desires. With his powers of persuasion he is able to coax his subjects into giving in to their desires. But, unleashing a person’s depraved thoughts can be dangerous, even deadly. However, being the true artist that he is, Towa willingly gives himself over to the carnal pleasures of his unique human subjects, to create beautiful and captivating artistic pieces.
This game is a RIDE! I have played some freaky-deaky BL games over the years, from the twisted omegaverse-esque Sweet Pool to the torture porn that is Hadaka Shitsuji – Naked Butlers to even, Room No. 9, which introduced me to the horrific enema scene from Hell. So, I thought I was ready for whatever Slow Damage had to throw at me, but nothing could prepare me for this experience. This is a game that gradually pulls you into its alluring and dangerous world and the complicated lives of its dynamic cast. Everyone has a secret desire just waiting to come out. Most people attempt to live “normal” lives by keeping their darker natures buried deep within. But, some like Towa let their carnal desires run free. And throughout the story you see him unlock the Id of those around him, for better or worse.
You come to know each of the characters fairly intimately as the story progresses, introducing a slew of side characters that not only fill out the world, but sometimes steal the spotlight from the main cast. Towa is an interesting protagonist, he’s a binge drinking, chain smoking artist, who is content with fucking and drinking his way through life. Honestly, the fact that he made it to 26 is the true achievement of the game. This man literally has no fucks left to give, not for others and especially not for himself. He has a close group of “friends” (a term I use loosely) and acquaintances that exist in that sweet, sweet moral grey area (and most of whom he has probably slept with). In fact, this whole game exists in shades of grey.
Slow Damage is about teasing out a person’s true nature and uncovering the beauty in the depraved by giving into the madness and discovering the euphoria of freedom. At first blush the extreme violence and depravity can be horrific, pushing things well beyond the point of comfort—I vividly remember a scene where two characters take turns slashing each other with a knife only to have it escalate to an almost orgasmic pseudo-sexual experience. And that isn’t even the worst of it. The content warnings are not a joke, read them carefully. But, if you can accept the intense subject matter, Slow Damage is a very satisfying experience.
While most BL games are concerned with, well the fucking, Slow Damage is much more thoughtful in its approach to sexual content. Exploring sexual experiences that in any other context would be seen as deviant, hell, borderline abusive. While the acts themselves are violent, there is for the most part this understood and pervasive sense of consent, which is often lacking in other BL media (so kudos to Nitro+chiral).
But, if you’re expecting soft kisses and slow passionate love making, look elsewhere, because this is not the game for you. Sex kinda isn’t the focus, rather the emotional interactions between the character is, and I’ll be honest some of the “sexiest” scenes didn’t involve actual penetration. The snappy banter and the almost poetic writing in Slow Damage breathe new life into every interaction. But, if you want sexy times, Slow Damage has you covered, though in most routes you’ll have to wait for it (and trust it is worth the wait).
However, I think the most interesting aspect of the game is how immersive it is. Slow Damage really pushes beyond the limits of a traditional visual novel by integrating a unique interactive gameplay style. In the vein of Ace Attorney, you can explore various locations around Shinkoumi and interact with other characters to unlock key phrases and “clues” referred to as Inspiration, that can be used to confront characters during psychological interrogations.
During the interrogation you present targets with the collected information to raise/decrease their madness or euphoria, concluding in you literally ripping open their emotional scars for your desired outcome (usually getting them to give into their desires). There’s a delicate balance between madness and euphoria, and sometimes giving into the madness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The mechanic is cool, overly complicated and a bit daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really fun. It can be a bit repetitive for subsequent playthroughs, but overall the gimmick works.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say Slow Damage is a gorgeous game. In contrast to its darker elements, many of the character designs and UI are overly saturated in bright vibrant colors. It can be a little surreal, like an acid trip gone awry, but the inviting colors are meant to lull you into a sense of unease in ways the dark gritty cityscapes don’t. Of course because this is a game about art, there is a rough, sketchy hand-drawn style that is used for the clues and intermission scenes between chapters, that I really enjoyed.
So the verdict: Is Slow Damage Worth Playing?
Slow Damage is a must play! It can get pretty dark at times and the heavy subject matter will be a bit too much for some folks, but in spite of that Slow Damage does a lot of things right. The intense, gritty storytelling and characters will have you ready to dive headfirst into the madness and immerse yourself in every single seductively dangerous experience. Nitro+chiral is like a fine wine, they just keep getting better with every new game. Molly Lee’s translation is spot on and despite the numerous delays, JAST Blue definitely delivered something truly remarkable to Western BL fans! Don’t wait, snap Slow Damage us right now, you won’t be disappointed!
Thank you to JAST BLUE for providing me with a copy of Slow Damage for this review.