Review: Planetarian (PC)

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planetarian logoDeveloper: Visual Art’s/Key
Publisher: Sekai Project
Platform: PC (Steam)
Price: $7.49us
Release Date: November 22th, 2004 (Japan), September 12th, 2014 (Steam)

When I recently heard of all those new Visual Novel games that would be soon coming to Steam, Planetarian was the one that pleased me the most. The game was part of almost every single recommendation chart for VNs, and
because of that, most Visual Novel players were already familiar with the game. Thanks to its official western release, more people than ever before can fully appreciate it.

Planetarian is one of those short and sweet stories that will have you thinking about the story and characters for a very long time after you’ve finished playing. More than once I have read reviews and opinions from people
saying the game is nothing short of a Masterpiece. Though I agree it’s an exceptionally captivating story, I’d be hesitant to label it a Masterpiece simply because it’s just way too short: the Game can easily be completed
within 2 hours of gameplay. Maybe 3 if you’re a slow reader.

Though short, the story is complete without any loose ends or unexplored tangents. It is also completely different from anything ever released by Key, which was a pleasant surprise the first time I played it.

Story
The game’s plot happens in a universe far into the future. A lonely traveller is walking through a city on a long abandoned planet when he comes across a planetarium. As he enters it, he’s surprised to find out he’s not
the only one present, as he initially though. Inside the building there was a humanoid robot waiting for him to arrive. The planetarium’s receptionist robot had been waiting untold ages for any visitors to show up for the
planetarium’s next presentation, completely unaware that the planet had war torn, and that all the people she had ever met and was expecting to return were, in all likelihood, already long dead.

Planetarian 01
Gameplay
There are no choices in Planetarian. The plot progresses independent of player input. The user interface is well built, as you’d expect from an experienced Visual Novel developer. It has save/load features, but the game is
so short you might end up not using it at all.

Sound
The game is fully voiced, though the only character that talks is Hoshino(the robot). It’s the norm for the first person character in Visual Novels not to be voiced, so there’s nothing to point out here.

Very good soundtrack. Like every other technical aspect of the game, Key put the entire weight of their experience creating Visual Novels into this small creation. While the OST is not as memorable as Clannad’s, or
Little Buster’s, it fits the story’s theme and atmosphere.

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Graphics
Key’s usual art style is a bit toned down in Planetarian, which fits the story. The only two characters in the game are the protagonist and Hoshino, and everything is very well drawn. The game does a very good job
of portraying the destruction and abandonment of the city/planet the plot takes place.

Furthermore, it’s impossible to talk about the graphics without mentioning Hoshino’s ribbons. The robot-character wears large ribbons on her hair, and those ribbons will change color depending on the mood and subject is
currently being discussed on screen. While it helps painting her as otherworldly and inhuman, it also displays her ability to understand abstract emotions that you wouldn’t expect a receptionist robot to possess. One of
Planetarian’s main topics is trying to determine exactly how far can Hoshino be considered a person. At some points she’s obviously a broken machine unaware of the world she lives in, while sometimes she will also display
a level of insight unfitting of a robot, as if conscious of her situation and merely unable to escape it.

Planetarian 02
Downsides
The game’s obvious flaws are two: No player input, which makes the game a Kinetic Novel rather than a Visual Novel, and also the very short length of the game. Perhaps being such a short story is also one of the game’s charms, but
it’s rather painful that such great storytelling potential is left untapped. I’d like to find out what happens to the characters after the story ends, but nothing has ever been released related to this story since. I wish
Visual Art’s would love this series a little more.

Reverie
Overall
Interesting story and concept, and phenomenal execution. Weren’t for the aforementioned issues, the game would easily 10/10 in my book. If you want to get a friend of yours with no experience with Visual Novels, gifting/recommending
this game will most certainly do the trick.

The Reviewer has given this game a Final Grade of 8 out of 10 !!

Pros:
– Great Art and Music
– Outstanding Storytelling and Themes
– Easy to get immersed in
Cons:
– Too short
– No choices/player input