Slow Damage

Content warnings: This game is 18+ and intended for adults only. It contains explicit sexual content, self-harm, child abuse, human trafficking, rape, suicide, medical malpractice, substance abuse, and gender dysphoria (all listed in the content warnings when booting up the game), as well as disordered eating, and other potentially dark themes that I will list as appropriate when talking about certain chapters.


Slow Damage is the newest game by Nitro+Chiral, the company behind sweet pool, Dramatical Murder, Togainu no Chi, and Lamento: Beyond the Void. I mentioned it on this site over a year or so ago after watching the trailer for the first time, and I said that if the game was less than $40 when it came out, I would buy it. It turned out to be a steal at only $25 USD on Jast Blue, so I snapped it up and have been playing it periodically. It's quite a bit different than what I expected, but it's really excellent so far!

Slow Damage centers around Towa, a man devoid of nearly all emotion. He has no empathy for others, finds little interest in anything in his day to day life, and barely even has the desire to eat to keep himself alive. The only thing that excites him is his artwork. Working under the pseudonym 'euphoria,' Towa seeks out people with twisted, hidden desires, and breaks them apart to see the darkness inside their heart - then, he paints it. His raw, visceral works are quite popular in the slums of Shinkoumi, an area of Japan where street violence and suicides run rampant.

Throughout the game, there are 'Free Exploration' sections, where Towa can travel around to different areas of Shinkoumi and have short conversations with different characters. Depending on the dialogue options you choose, you can gain 'Inspiration' - pieces of dialogue that can be re-used later in the game, during interrogation scenes that move the plot forward. It's a very cool mechanic, although it did take me quite a while to get used to it. Slow Damage's choice and dialogue system is very inventive and unique, at least compared to the few other VNs that I've played. I like that it ties elements of the gameplay in with Towa's manipulative tendencies.

The game is split into eleven chapters. At the time of this writing, I've only finished two. I was shocked at how slow the game seemed to be progressing - it's kept me interested the entire time, but I've played for a decent number of hours and haven't even met all of the love interests yet. (It looks like two routes are locked until the first two are completed; I just looked it up.) It turns out that Slow Damage takes a whopping 60 hours of gameplay on average to finish, so, I will definitely be working my way through it for a while.

So far, the two characters with routes that have been introduced are Rei and Taku, both close friends of Towa's. Rei and Towa are both part-timers at Murase Clinic, and have known each other since they were in middle school. Rei also works as a bartender at a trendy bar called Roost, and moonlights as a body modification artist as well. He's generally cheerful and good-natured, always trying to take care of Towa and make sure that he feeds himself, but will also snap at him and call him out when he's acting obnoxious. He loves sweets and can be a bit of a flirt as well. Rei is also a skilled fighter, and participates in Deathmatches, street fights that take place in a designated area for residents of Shinkoumi to vent out their anger and frustrations.

Murase Clinic is run by Taku, another of Towa's acquaintances. Taku is a somewhat gruff, older man, who still has a very good heart. He lets Towa stay in the apartment attached to the clinic, and will even wake him up for work and clean his room every other week, knowing full well that Towa would not take care of it on his own. He takes care of his clients quickly and effectively, even members of the yakuza who stumble in bleeding from violent street fights. He also tries to look out for Towa, though not to the more flighty extent that Rei does.

So far, the game is really fascinating! Towa is twisted, in more ways than one, and he doesn't care who knows it or who tries to protect him from his own bad decisions. He makes for a really interesting protagonist. Scenes that are necessary to the plot in the first two chapters are things that would be relegated to bad ends in other games. I was honestly shocked by how brutal the very first chapter was - it just made me scared and excited to see what this game actually consider to be dark enough to constitute a "bad ending". I will probably be making separate pages for each chapter eventually so I can talk more about the gritty details of what goes on! I'm having a blast playing it so far and can't wait to see what horrors will be inflicted on me as I get deeper into the plot, lol.

Rei's Route

I am veeeeeery slow at playing games sometimes. God knows why! Anyway, I took a whole bunch of huge breaks during Rei's route, so I'm not sure that I really experienced it properly. I do plan on replaying it at some point in the future.

All that being said, I adore Rei as a character. He's kind and sweet and also really, really funny, especially in his interactions with Towa. His route is very emotionally taxing at times, especially when he starts talking more about his past and his insecurities. However, I found myself disappointed overall with the writing in his route. Like I said, I'm sure it's partially because I played it very sporadically, but there was just... something about it. I want to play it again to see what I think for sure. His bad ending was very abrupt, which disappointed me, because I feel like the plot and writing up to that point didn't fully connect the ideas in the bad ending to Rei's actual personality. I do think I cried at his good ending though, lol.

Taku's Route

Compared to Rei's route, the writing in Taku's route felt insanely engaging. I was worried before playing the game that Taku would suffer from 'wholesome but boring' syndrome, and I was absolutely shocked as I played it. It actually made me really, really upset, and viscerally uncomfortable at times - this was really surprising to me. Trying to put myself in Taku's mental position during a lot of the route felt confusing and hearbreaking.

I haven't done his good ending yet, but his bad ending was a lot more grounded in his actual personality than Rei's was. It was very satisfying from a thematic and storytelling standpoint, and also extremely upsetting. It was really, really good! I'm excited to play his good ending to get some emotional healing.

Madarame's Route

Fujieda's Route

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