By Joseph Puntschart / October 7th, 2016
|Genre||Visual Novel (Kinetic)|
|Platform||PC (via Steam)|
One of the drawbacks of being engaged within any hobby is that no matter how hard you try, there will always be a few companies whose products you fully intend to check out that for some reason or another, you don’t get around to. One such example of a brand I’ve been meaning to check out in the games industry is Key, whom are regarded as one of the most well-known and experienced VN producers in the industry. When the opportunity came up to review Harmonia, I took the chance to see for myself what the hubbub was about with Key and their reputation for creating tear-jerkers. Their parent company, VisualArts, is taking the steps into publishing their products themselves in English. Harmonia is their second release following the Clannad spinoff Tomoyo After ~It’s a Wonderful Life~, and will also release in the West via Steam before its Japanese release. This won’t be the last release either, as Rewrite+ and Little Busters ~Perfect Edition!~ are also in the works, with a release of Angel Beats planned.
The world of Harmonia is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where humans and Phiriods (human-like robots originally designed to coexist with humans) are in a state of conflict with each other for resources and survival after a war broke out, destroying the planet and forcing humans and Phiroids alike to huddle together in order to survive. One such Phiriod wakes up in an abandoned facility and seeks to find humans for company due to an innate desire within him. He then leaves this facility, only to eventually be discovered and taken in by Shiona, one of the game’s heroines. The twist is that this Phiroid has no emotions at first, and he must undergo the process of learning what emotions are both on himself and others as the story progresses. It’s an interesting setup for 8 chapters of reading.
Without going into too much detail, the story development is interesting and there’s a good amount of world building. For example, one mystery in the game is why Tipi, the blue girl in the library, is always sad. The plot is tied up nicely in the back-end in the game, and has its fair share of twists and turns (even though one particular plot twist is semi-predictable, I feel) and is engrossing reading. There are some tearful moments both of happiness and sadness within this title which helps to add a sense of depth and investment into the characters. The plot itself is also thoughtful, digging into a few themes which are well explored throughout the title. The English translation was of good quality and flowed well, with very few grammar or spelling errors to be found (and there has a been a patch as well). It was translated by Active Gaming Media (they are also working on The Silver Case HD among other projects) and is both enjoyable to read and helped engage me in Harmonia’s world. Hopefully this is the level of quality we can see in future VisualArts projects.
The visuals as well are very appealing to look at. I like the character drawings in particular. For example, Tipi has a really well-drawn pattern on her bear which makes it stand out against the background. There is also the option to press the ESC key and look at the background visuals in full at any time, save for the pause menu appearing around the mouse when you click it. A full in-game view would have been good, however there are CG and music galleries you can unlock when you clear Harmonia. The same can also be said of the CGs which capture the major moments in the game, however a few of them are recycled in the early stages of the game (particularly the ones that feature Shiona), so you don’t really get to see successive original drawings until the back-end of the game, which is a little disappointing. The music also helped to compliment the atmosphere well, and there are a mixture of emotional and daytime tones that do the game justice such as the happy, jingly melody that is called “Cantus”.
The voice acting also captures each character’s general personality well, such as Madd’s voice actor giving the sense of anger. As I don’t speak Japanese, I cannot really comment on the general quality of the voice acting, other than this. However, one thing I will say is that I would have liked to have seen more voice acting. Only three characters (Shiona, Tipi and Madd) are given voice actors, and I feel there was a missed opportunity to give voiceovers to some of the other characters, including the protagonist. Another thing is that a handful of the CGs are recycled throughout the game, such as Shiona singing at the kitchen table. Some variants would have been nice, however the majority are only seen once, particularly in the back-end of the game.
To conclude, Harmonia is a well-done kinetic novel. There is only one route, and this route won’t take too long to complete. It took me 4 hours, but VNDB has it labelled between 2-10 hours. Additionally there are 14 Steam achievements that are easy enough to unlock, likewise Steam Cloud support. At £6.99 ($9.99) it’s a fair price, though as mentioned already I would have liked to have seen a little bit more voice acting and CG for the price. It’s worth noting that the prequel, Planetarian ~the reverie of a little planet~, also has a similar price tag. I do recommend Harmonia if you’re into visual novels or just want a quick tear-jerker and hopefully we will get other Key titles in a timely manner. Now the dilemma I have since reading Harmonia is trying to find the time to read the rest of Key’s releases…
Review copy provided by publisher
HarmoniaKeyKinetic NovelPCPC reviewSteamvisual novelVisualArt's