By Chris Melchin / June 9th, 2016
|Title||CLANNAD Side Stories|
|Release Date||June 2, 2016|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Kinetic Novel|
Most of the visual novels I’ve read have a fairly consistent presentation: 1 to 3 sprites over a background, with either a full-screen text box or one just at the bottom of the screen. The player advances the text manually and reads at their own pace, or you can usually set it to auto-scroll and read it as it comes. It’s the standard, used in the vast majority of visual novels.
But, sometimes you find a visual novel that has a different kind of presentation. CLANNAD Side Stories is one such visual novel.
CLANNAD Side Stories is a visual novel developed by Key, and published in Japan by Prototype. It was originally released in two volumes for the PSP, with the first releasing on June 3, 2010, and the second releasing a month later on July 15. Between the two volumes, they have a total of 16 short stories set around the plot of CLANNAD, each told by a different character. Originally titled CLANNAD – Hikari Mimamoru Sakamichi de, all 16 stories were translated and released in a single package on Steam by Sekai Project as CLANNAD Side Stories.
CLANNAD Side Stories is a visual novel with a somewhat different presentation. The text auto-scrolls by default, with no way of turning it off, no backlog, and no way to save. Not that you’ll really need to, since each story is relatively short, clocking in at roughly 15-30 minutes apiece. There are no normal sprites, either, with the story told by voices over a background while occasionally showing CG art. It’s a kind of story where you can just sit back and listen to the music and voices, watch the backgrounds and art, and read the text. It’s actually quite relaxing, and the charming stories themselves definitely help. It’s not much of a game, with even less player input than most other visual novels, as a kinetic novel, but the stories, art and music make it plenty enjoyable nonetheless.
There’s really not much to be said about the stories themselves. When I say they’re set around the main plot, I mean each one takes place at a different time. Some take place before, and provide backstory for the characters, while others take place during the story or after specific routes. They teach us more about the characters, and provide a new perspective on events since the stories are not fixed to Tomoya’s perspective. You’ll get good at identifying different characters by voice alone, since no names are given for speakers and even the narration is voiced. In that sense, the voice work is well done, since each character has a distinctive sound and can be readily identified once you hear them once.
The music is mostly taken from CLANNAD. It’s noticeably lower sound quality, probably a combination of coming from a PSP game with limited storage space and because of the remastered sound in Sekai Project’s release of the main game. A few different songs appear here, such as an alternate version of Fuko Ibuki’s theme “Hurry, Starfish” used in Botan’s story, instrumental arrangements of some Christmas music in Akio Furukawa’s story, and an instrumental version of a part of “Stand By Me” in Misae Sagara’s story.
One thing fans of CLANNAD and other works by Key may notice with CLANNAD Side Stories is the different art style in the CGs. The art here is done by GotoP, character designer for Da Capo II, as opposed to the usual Hinoue Itaru. It has a different feel to it, while still retaining the general style of CLANNAD and staying true to the characters’ designs. It also has a look that’s more conventional, as opposed to the more exaggerated designs in CLANNAD. The new 1280 x 720 aspect ratio looks great, too.
The short stories in CLANNAD Side Stories are really nothing more than a way for fans of CLANNAD to delve into the characters and learn more about them. To get through all of them will take roughly 6-7 hours, so there’s a decent amount here, but it’s really only going to appeal to people who are already fans of CLANNAD, and know the story, characters and setting. It doesn’t hit as hard emotionally as CLANNAD, but makes up for it with a series of cute, heartwarming stories, with its share of sad parts nonetheless. It’s not a terrible amount of content for $20 USD, even if the format is a bit on the strange side. I recommend it to fans of CLANNAD who want to spend more time in that world, and who want to learn a bit more about the characters that live in it. Having a part narrated by a boar piglet is always a plus, too.
Review copy provided by publisher
Clannadclannad side storiesKeysekai projectvisual novelVisualArt's