Game Info:

Developed By: VisualArts/Key
Published By: Sekai Project
Release Date: November 23, 2015
Available On: Windows
ESRB Rating: N/A
Genre: Visual Novel
Mode: Single Player
MSRP: $49.99

Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

CLANNAD is a visual novel (VN) originally released back in 2004 in Japan, that ended up spawning several sequels as well as anime adaptations.  Given the quality of this source material, it’s easy to see why – contained herein is quite a moving tale of friendship, love, and hardships – and how we can get through it all by supporting each other.  There are also many times the game will bring you to tears – both from laughing, and immense sadness.

Like a massive percentage of all Japanese media exports, this takes place in and around a local high school.  Tomoya Okazaki is a third year student (out of three) who is at a highly regarded prep school, but has long ago lost any desire to go to college, so he slacks off in a major way with his close buddy Youhei Sunohara, who finds himself in a similar situation.  So rather than study and prepare for entrance exams, they skip class, mess around, have fun, and talk to girls.  Like many other visual novels, what conversation choices you make impact everything from which girl you go out with (if any) to various school activities.  

Despite being labeled as a delinquent and having a sharp tongue, Okazaki has a very good heart, and it really comes through in the way he treats the people he loves when it matters.  He tends to say exactly what he thinks, and can be a little rough at times, but he always cares and his friends know it.  His mother died before he could remember, and his relationship with his father is very strained, so he looks for deep relations outside of home.  Depending on the choices you make, you can get to know many of the people in your life quite well, and form deep connections with the girls you date.



Strong Points: Incredibly well written story; excellent Japanese voice acting; very nice art and music; lots of routes which deeply explore each character; many laugh out loud moments, along with some so sad that tears are virtually guaranteed; takes a deep look at the hardships in life
Weak Points: No controller support; 4:3 resolution
Moral Warnings: Alcohol and tobacco consumed by several characters, including player; fortune telling present, including tarot cards and astrology; magic spells can be cast in story on a certain route; many jokes border on inappropriate, including some that joke about homosexual things; a girl gets love letters from other girls; one ending has a character going gay (it’s a joke ending); one male character looks like a girl at first, and makes many jokes of this fact, including a guy falling for him even though he finds out (it’s played for laughs); several students skip school on a regular basis; porn and masturbation talked about, including as part of jokes; sexual fantasies explored in some routes; one relationship becomes sexually active before marriage; in one route, they move in before they get married, but it appears sex does at least wait until after marriage for them, and the girl’s father encourages him to bring some dirty books home until she opens up to him; most foul words are used, including ‘b*st*rd’, ‘*ss’, ‘hell’, ‘d*mn’ and variations, ‘sh*t’, ‘b*tch’, and one noted use of ‘f*ck’

With a few exceptions, most of Tomoya’s circle of friends suffer with some kind of loss or disadvantage compared with the expected norm.  Many have lost parents, siblings, loved ones, or suffer from some kind of physical malady.  Part of the richness of the story is seeing how these problems not only hold them back in some ways, but it also matures them and draws them closer to each other for support.  

There are many character routes to choose from, and almost all of them must be completed in order to unlock the After Story, which leads to the true ending after gathering a couple of endings there as well.  The After Story is around half of the game, and takes the story in a much different, deeper, and more mature direction than the mostly silly school scenarios.

The writing in CLANNAD is legendary in that even the creator said that he reached heights that he is not sure he will be able to reach again.  And the translation, as done by Sekai Project, is simply masterful.  Rather than trying to translate out some of the Japanese terminology, they added a 'Dangopedia', which translates and explains each cultural reference to keep the readers in the loop.  They also show up as red words, to make them even easier to refer to.  And the voice acting, despite being in Japanese, is simply amazing.  Each character is clearly discernible, and some of them make me laugh or smile just thinking about those voices.  (My favorites are probably Fuko, Akio, and Kyou, though I could just as easily name any of the rest as also great.)

What surprised me is how each route, even the ones that are not canon (i.e. do not lead to the true ending) are extremely well developed, and could easily be expanded to whole new stories by themselves.  Incidentally, one of the routes was expanded on as its own VN, and it has just been released on Steam.  In some ways, I kind of prefer some of the other girls, though I still appreciate the main heroine, Nagisa.

Despite all of this praise, it’s fair to say that there are still some faults.  The true ending feels forced, and not nearly as interesting or fleshed out as some of the bad endings.  Most of the characters follow some kind of anime trope, though that doesn’t actually bother me.  But if you dislike that, you may want to reconsider, or just watch the anime (which I have not seen yet at the time of this writing).  After all, this VN took me over seventy(!) hours to complete, so it is a pretty significant investment to see everything.  And another thing – it’s practically impossible to see everything without a walkthrough.  There is a very good one on Steam that should cover most needs.  The game does not support controllers.

There is also the issue of appropriateness.  Visually, this novel has no graphics that are inappropriate in any way.  That is a relief, as I haven’t played one like that so far.  The only problems visually are some of the pranks that have Sunohara flying across the hallway.  They are funny though.

Thematically, there are some moral points to be aware of with the story.  There is spirituality, as though there is some spirit watching over the city that takes care of people.  There is some mention of God as someone to be prayed to, and Christ is used as a curse word a small number of times.  Language wise, most common curse words are used to varying degrees.  They aren’t too common, but all present. Even the word ‘f*ck’ is used once.  ‘B*tch’, ‘b*st*rd’, and ‘sh*t’ are used a few times, and ‘hell’, ‘*ss’, and ‘d*mn’ in its various forms are used more often.  

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 70%
Violence - 9/10
Language - 0/10
Sexual Content - 6/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

Bonus points:
Promotes the importance of family: +3
Delivers a good moral lesson: +3

A fair amount of written sexual content is present, with much of it for laughs. Sometimes Okazaki or Sunohara will say something stupid or try to get someone else in trouble, and hilarity ensues.  One joke revolves around trying to clear up a misunderstanding about one’s sexual orientation (no one in the story is actually homosexual, though misunderstandings in that way are used to comedic effect).  In another, the girlfriend’s father is trying to get the main character to bring home dirty magazines, even though he doesn’t want them, since she is a rather modest girl.  Porn and masturbation are mentioned a few times, and appears to be considered normal by most guys where discussed, though the main character seems to rarely indulge in that, as he seems to display self control.  The words ‘jerking off’ is used in that context.  There is also the occasional reference to breasts of various sizes.

* spoilers *

Most of the relationships with the girls are thankfully pure, with notable exceptions.  One of the couples live together before marriage, though it appears that they do save sex for after they get married.  Another relationship is quite the opposite – they have sex quite early and often.  It clearly changes how the main character looks at her, as he has (humorous) sexual fantasies about her as well, and he occasionally makes his desires known to her.  The rest of the potential girlfriends do not cross that line in the time those relationships are given in the story.  

* end spoilers *

CLANNAD is a highly celebrated visual novel, that spawned two sequels as well as various other media, like manga and anime.  It is this way for a very good reason – it's very well written, has a compelling story to tell, and it brings on the feels train – keep those tissues handy.  This grown man had cried at least twice.  It has a great soundtrack, and nice art.  There is its fair share of appropriateness issues, and should be kept away from children despite its all ages appearance.  If you enjoy slice of life anime, and similar relationship stories, there is a lot to like in CLANNAD.  It's a story that has great moral lessons woven throughout, and really made me think about life and value my family a lot more.  And thank God for my many great blessings, and may I have more compassion on those who don't.


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Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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