Review: Clannad

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Developer: Key
Publisher: Visual Art’s
Localization: Sekai Project
Platform: Windows(main), PS2, XBOX 360, PSP, PS3, PS Vita
Price: $49.99 USD
Release Date(Steam): November 23rd, 2015
Release Date: April 28, 2004(Japan)

Widely known in the west by its anime adaptation, Clannad is also one of the most popular VNs among the enthusiast circles of the genre. Developed by KEY, Clannad is often considered by some as their magnum opus.

To anyone who’s wondering whether it’s worth playing the game when one has already watched the anime adaptation, the answer is YES. The anime covers a lot of content, but I feel like it tells less than half of the story the game has to offer. The 50 dollars price tag might push some people away, but I am confident is saying Clannad has 50 dollars worth of content, easily.

Story

Clannad is a melancholic tearjerker. The writing and the music will immediately strike the player with a depressing atmosphere right away, at the prolog. The mood of the game only ever increases when Tomoya, the protagonist, is interacting with one or the girls, or working for their sake.

we're all alone now

The usual dating sim approach does not work on this game. Maximizing contact with a girl while rejecting all others will certinly lead you to a game over. This is because major events for almost all the girls require more than one person to be present. For instance, Kotomi’s route requires that you push Nagisa towards creating the drama club, or else you’ll never get the scenes where Tomoyo, Nagisa, Ryou and Kyou gather in the clubroom.

Other than the girl’s main routes, there are several for-fun routes in the game that do not end in romance. Getting those scenes intentionally is quite hard, because it requires you to trigger quite a few character’s events, but not enough to get into their romantic routes.

Gameplay

Clannad is an old game. However, the UI doesn’t show it at all. The Steam version is the definite version of the game. The UI has been completely repolished to accomodate English Text, an encyclopedia -like page was added, and all of the sprites were properly upscaled.

2015-11-29_00010

The Steam overlay works with Clannad, but not without issues. You cannot open the overlay if a choice is being prompted to the player, and it’s also not possible to take a screenshot through Steam while the rolling back text. You CAN select your preferred resolution, which wasn’t available in the original Japanese game.

options

The game has the option to force widescreen, but I would STRONGLY recommend against it. Keep reading so you understand.

Sound

Usually one of the main remarks I’d make about a VN’s music is whether it’s memorable. That is, whether listening to the song will bring back the surge of emotions one felt while playing the game. In Clannad’s case, it’s safe to say that the entire soundtrack of the game is very memorable, but for a different reason. Not because it’s particularly good or catchy, but rather it is because the game is so memorable and leaves such a deep impression on the player, that you cannot help but recollect your emotions and feeling whenever listening to the soundtrack.

Unfortunately, the game has no SFX sounds. There are no sounds for the school chime, for steps, for the wind and the breeze. They were never there in the original game, either. It’s not part of the game’s design, unfortunately. It is the sole issue I find with sound-related aspects of this game.

Graphics

Here lies one of the aspects, I believe, that will turn players away from the game: The Graphical Style. It looks VERY dated, and it is dated. The shapes, proportions, and distances between all the face elements looks very odd, specially for a public that’s used to modern-style anime designs.

In particular, I was absolutely horrified when I attempted to play while forcing a widescreen ratio onto the game. It looked awful. I recommend using Full Screen with the original aspect ratio(4:3).

The backgrounds aren’t particularly pretty and there are no fancy effects on-screen, but I do feel that a considerable amount of thought went into the art of this game. It might look for us now, but it’s most definitely not lazy or ugly. It also does not feel that there is a disconnection between the character’s personalities and their portraits.

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Even if it looks weird and off-putting at first, keep playing and you’ll come to love it soon enough.

Downsides

Other than the dated style and the simplicity of effects(both sound and visual), Clannad is particularly brutal for being a very long game. After 26 hours, I have only finished 2 romantic routes, and 2 for-fun routes. The game has dozens of endings, mand you need to get almost every single one of them in order to get the true ending to the story. It’s not to be taken lightly.

Overall

Clannad is an absolute must-play for anyone who’s starting to get into Visual Novels. It is also one of the best and most important titles to have been localized to English. The steep pricetag is quite salty, but you can be certain you’re getting your money’s worth in content.

Pros:

-Excellent Story and Plot
-Must-play for the fans of the anime adaptation
-Wide cast of characters

Cons:

-Very Long
-Art style might not be for everyone.
-100% text, no gameplay
-“Hard” as far as VNs go, but most people use guides/walkthroughs anyway