Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

This visual novel revolves around high school student and self-proclaimed dissident Tomoya Okazaki, who (due to suffering from several traumas) has given up on making something of his life. This changes, however, when he meets the mysterious girl Nagisa Furukawa at the beginning of the new school year. This encounter is the beginning of several (potential) new friendships, which will change his life forever.

Clannad… How do I describe this game, other than to say that it has a very special place in my heart?

Let’s start this review with the caveat that I believe this game lies on the fringes of what most people would consider ‘fantasy’. Magic realism plays an instrumental role in the story, but both plot and characters are actually very mundane. Mundane as in ‘earthly’ and ‘human’, that is.

On that note – for those who are not familiar with the concept of visual novels – Clannad is more of an interactive novel than a video game with mind-blowing gameplay. Apart from the occasional choice, the story evolves without much of the player’s intervention. To explore all storylines, you’d have to replay the game several times, which includes rereading text that you have previously read, though the game also offers a convenient skip funtion for this.

As Clannad was my first experience with a visual novel, the above things were something I first had to get accustomed to. Though I now appreciate the medium, I can imagine it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

With all of that out of the way, I want to emphasize Clannad is one of the best character-driven stories I have ever encountered. The writing is exceptionally good, evoking the whole range of human emotions. Some storylines are still haunting my thoughts years after I last played them (I’m looking at you Kotomi).

At first glance, Clannad appears to be a high school romance story, but that would be much too misleading a description. Though romance is necessary to progress some of the storylines, the core themes revolve around finding meaningful connections, as well as family and the accessory complex trapfalls of such relations. At times these themes involve heavy subjects, but the game always manages to balance such moments with light-hearted humor sprinkled in between. Each of these stories is so masterfully crafted, that afterwards I often need a long break from playing, simply to process it all. And each time I return, I’m glad to be reunited with Clannad‘s soft-hearted though complex characters.

Another thing this game definitely excels in, is its soundtrack. I would recognize it everywhere (this is a proven fact; it seems Clannad‘s music has a way of making its way into YouTube videos and real-life television). In combination with the beautiful anime-style art, the music succeeds in delivering an experience unlike any other visual novel I have played since.

I should probably note that Key is a Japanese studio. Clannad takes place in Japan and, as such, the game presents Japanese culture, providing explanations when necessary. The humour and art of Clannad are similar to what you find in anime. If Japanese anime isn’t your cup of tea, Clannad might not work for you.

Should you want to give Clannad a try (and you have no experience with visual novels), I would recommend looking up a spoiler free walkthrough/guide online to see how each characters’ ‘route’ can be achieved. This helps to streamline the playing process,and prevents unnecessary repetition later on.

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