Harmonia is an absolutely beautiful and emotional kinetic visual novel that provides high levels of quality through its thought provoking story and vibrant graphics. The game was developed by popular visual novel studio Key in celebration of their fifteenth anniversary and shares a few common themes with their popular visual novel Planetarian. When the game was first announced English speaking Key fans were surprised by the news that the game would be available in English on Steam before the Japanese release. Translation of the game’s dialogue to English was handled by Active Gaming Media. The English version of Harmonia was published for Windows PC via Steam late September 2016. The game does not currently include any Steam cards but there are fourteen Steam achievements that are awarded upon completing the chapters of the game or viewing the gallery and music modes.
The story begins when a young male robot known only as a phiroid awakens in a desolate old factory years after a large scale war took place. He looks around the lonely factory and comes to the realization that he should have the ability to feel human emotions but it appears that the function is broken. Still unaware of the situation outside he desires to live alongside humans and make them happy. He leaves the factory in search of humans but quickly finds that the environment is difficult to survive in and that much of the land has been abandoned. After walking for so long he passes out and a young girl named Shiona finds him and brings him to her home so he can recover. Shiona names him Rei and lets him stay in her home and he later meets a grumpy store owner named Madd and a young girl at the library named Tipi. Rei quickly becomes a big part of the small community where he meets many people whose live he will change. He works hard to bring Shiona, Madd, and Tipi happiness in order to fulfill his purpose as a phiroid. The town appears to be growing more lively but peaceful as he remains there and begins playing music for the people of the town. But even as he works hard to make everyone happy he must still cover up the fact that he a phiroid without damaging himself. As you play through the story the characters will begin to open up to Rei more and more but their darker sides become more evident and things become more difficult for Rei as he learns that he can’t force people to be happy even if it is with the best of intentions. Harmonia has a great story but unlike Planetarian it lacks a more serious tone that felt kind of necessary due to the world’s condition.
As previously mentioned Harmonia is a kinetic visual novel meaning that there are no choices to make and in this case there is only one ending. Despite being among one of Key’s shorter visual novels it does take longer to complete than most of the other kinetic visual novels on Steam. Harmonia has a few differences in regards to the dialogue display that help it stand out from other visual novels. Unlike most others the text is often displayed in a dialogue box to the right rather than the bottom and the player can also choose the font of the text by selecting it from the text selection box that pops up when you start up the game each time. The game includes the typical auto play, save, and configuration options but it also has a few other options such as fast forward, chapter recap with the ability to load to previous dialogue, and you can also exit the text until your next click by simply clicking the x at the top right. In regards to only length and the number of available options Harmonia has far more to it than many other visual novels of its kind.
The graphics and soundtrack in the game are absolutely beautiful but they often did not fit into the setting of a damaged world where humans struggle to survive. The graphics were vibrant and cute but too much so for a game that is supposed to be more serious and emotional in nature. The art by Itaru Hinoue often looks amazing and regardless of that fact that it was not a strong fit with the story I still enjoyed much of Itaru’s art in the game. The characters facial expressions did well to convey each of the characters emotions and at times such as in Madd’s case they were a bit amusing. While playing through the game it appeared that the number of unique images as well as facial expressions was greater than most other kinetic visual novels. The soundtrack was also great and fit into the game better than the graphics but it occasionally felt like it could have had a darker tone to it during more serious points in the story. Overall the game’s graphics and soundtrack were wonderful and despite not being a perfect fit to the setting they didn’t negatively effect my interest in the game too noticeably.
The plot is very interesting and thought provoking exactly as you would expect from a visual novel developed by Key who is best known is North America for their high quality of storytelling. Despite some minor disconnects between the deep story, cute graphics, and post war setting Harmonia still managed to be somewhat emotional. The game’s greatest strengths were in its dialogue display, variety of options, high quality translation, and length of gameplay when compared to other kinetic visual novels. For anyone who was expecting and hoping for something more like Planetarian this game might not fit your expectations. Since the game still has many great qualities that make it stand out and the graphics, story, and soundtrack are still high quality on their own this game would be a great addition to any visual novel or Key fans Steam library.
Second Thoughts (Solomon Lee):
Harmonia is a captivating visual novel with a beautiful soundtrack that is reminiscent of a lot of Key’s past works. The character designs are bright and very colorful but I can’t help but feel that they appear to be at odds with the sad story revolving around Rei, Shiona and Tipi. This is not to say that the visual novel is lacking as Harmonia blends together the story, characters and soundtrack in a masterful and artistic manner. Though it may not have the same popularity as CLANNAD, this game is a solid kinetic novel that is engaging, heartwarming and filled to the brim with invoked emotions of happiness, love, sadness and anger. The post-apocalyptic setting is very similar to Planetarian that presents you with many questions and few answers that propels players to learn more about the characters and remain on the edge of their seats. The lack of choices in this kinetic novel does not detract from the game’s visual and storytelling appeal in celebration of the studio’s 15th anniversary. Described as the “Onion Cutting Simulator”, Harmonia does not disappoint with its high quality scenarios, empathy of characters and exceptional production values. With beautiful character designs and artwork by Itaru Hinoue, Harmonia is the latest and best addition to Key/VisualArts’ stellar lineup of visual novels that deserves your time and attention.
PROS (+): Endearing Story, Flawless Translation, Beautiful Artwork
CONS (-): Cliché Characters
This review is based on a digital copy of Harmonia on Steam provided by VisualArts/Key.