Warning: The following article discusses a scene of implied sexual assault.
When I started Wadanohara and the Great Blue Sea, I went into it fully aware that it contained blood, violence, and a sequence of sexual assault. I kept this knowledge in mind while I played through the game, and braced myself for what was inevitably coming. I thought I was prepared.
While I was prepared for the sequence in question, I was not prepared for the game to take away the player’s options to avoid it.
(Wadanohara and the Great Blue Sea spoilers ahead)
The premise of the game is simple: You are Wadanohara, a sea witch, entrusted with protecting the sea kingdom from invasion. To do this, you have to visit and repair six barrier stones, meeting opposition along the way. A simple premise about simple characters, hiding a much darker story within.
Wadanohara is, at its core, all about defying your expectations. The game has several twists along the way, some of which are easy to see coming, but others which genuinely took me by surprise. Even when the game drops the facade and reveals its darker side, however, it still maintains a sense of charm and optimism.
At least, until the ending.
There are five different endings in Wadanohara. Two bad endings, two normal endings, and one true ending. Which ending you get is determined by a choice offered to you at the end of the game, to trust or not trust the main villain. Only… it doesn’t give you all the options right off the bat. In order to unlock the true ending, players must sit through the second normal ending. In order to unlock the second normal ending, players must sit through the first normal ending.
Said ending consists of a horrific, drawn-out, and unnecessary sexual assault scene.
Unfathomable, baffling, and confounding are all words which could describe how I feel about this decision. The decision to offer the players a choice, a choice to not have to sit through a rape sequence, and then to lock this option behind sitting through said rape sequence. Why have the option there if it doesn’t actually mean anything? Why relegate this to a single ending and then force the player to sit through it anyways? When I first got to this section I just sat there, dumbfounded, unable to process the idea that any game developer would do a thing like this.
This would not have upset me nearly as much if the scene was skippable or avoidable, but the fact that it’s not tells me that the developer considered it important enough to disregard the player’s personal discomfort over it. That the shock value of it was an integral, necessary part of the game.
It is not.
Sexual assault has been played up for shock value many times in the past, and Wadanohara will not be the first or last time it is used. But this stuck with me due to how jarring, how blatant, and how unnecessary it all was. From the false choice to the way the game rubs your face in the character’s suffering, it felt like the game was punishing the player for the crime of enjoying the game up to that point.
Even at its most violent and gruesome, I would characterize Wadanohara as a cute, fun game. It has its own charm and style which shines through the darker parts of the game. The other two endings reinforced this in my mind, and I found myself genuinely a bit emotional at the true ending. Despite all of that, the first ending left me incredibly bitter and annoyed. It is needless, tasteless, and overall shouldn’t have been there.
If you have the option of letting the player skip something like that, please, do not force them into it.
An English version of Wadanohara and the Great Blue Sea can be downloaded from here. A manga adaptation is currently being worked on, with an English Language version available on pixiv. You can buy a physical copy of the manga (Japanese-only) at Amazon Japan.
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…Hey there, how’d you like to play a little game? The rules are simple: Anyone who can record themselves saying “Wadanohara” 15 times fast without messing up will be included in a bonus segment of the March 2016 Patreon thank-you post! Simply send me a tweet with the recording and the name you’d like me to use by 10 PM PST on March 31st to enter!