Key is a world renowned Japanese developer known for their visual novels: Kanon, Air, Clannad and Little Busters. Clannad was originally released in 2004 and is one of the most notable series in the company’s lineup of visual novels. Working with publisher Sekai Project, this long awaited Key visual novel has finally made its way to Western shores on Steam for the visual novel community to treasure and enjoy. On launch day, Clannad secured a spot on Steam’s top five sellers list – an impressive feat and a true testament to Key’s reputation for making some of the best visual novels in the world.

The story follows Tomoya Okazaki, a student who tragically lost his mother as a child who lives with his abusive, alcoholic father. After a chance meeting with a young girl named Nagisa Furukawa, he is asked to help revive the struggling drama club at Hikarizaka Private High School. As he agrees to help the club in his spare time, Tomoya grows closer to his peers as he learns about their tough pasts and challenges and does everything to help them overcome it as he gradually grows to become a stronger and more supportive person. In his school life, he meets other interesting characters like Kyou, Ryou, Kotomi, Tomoyo and Fuko. With respect to his classroom friend, Sunohara will often be tagging along with Tomoya as the energetic but somewhat delinquent friend who proves to be quite the comic relief in this visual novel. As the story progresses, you will make many decisions that affect the direction and outcome of the game from how you respond to a specific person to where you decide to go on a given day. Saving is highly recommend at different points in the game so you can try again or rethink your options if you suddenly receive a bad ending. There is a lot of depth behind everyone you meet as your dialogue with them only scratches the surface about who they really are and why they act the way they do. The story reminds players not to judge a person by their initial appearances as there is more to the cast of characters than meets the eye.

Key is legendary for their intricate plots and masterful storytelling. You can expect to be surprised by the events that unfold in the game simply by the choices you make. Kyou tends to be brash and outspoken with her twin sister Ryou being the more reserved sister. Fuko is very energetic with her obsession for star fish and her knee-jerk reaction of calling Tomoya a strange person. As for Kotomi, she is very shy and reserved but a girl who is a genius in the academic world. Clannad fans will know exactly what to expect while those new to the series will find the characters to be rather unique and charming in their own quirky ways. True to the company’s legendary reputation, Clannad delves deep into the themes of trust, loyalty, friendship, family, romance, faith and forgiveness.

New features found in the Clannad version on Steam includes upgraded visuals, achievements and a “Dangopedia”, a reference tool for all things Clannad that is exclusive to the English version release. Eager fans looking to unlock all achievements can utilize the in-game menu to review their progress. The soundtrack is one of the highlights of this Key visual novel that is beautiful and emotionally moving as you find yourself drawn into the world and relating to different characters on a personal level. Key is known for their soundtracks that are deeply touching in their various anime series and the music in the Clannad visual novel is no exception. Visuals have been improved to a smooth running 1280 x 960 screen resolution. The user interface has been polished and made easier to use in direct comparison to the original release over a decade ago.

Fans playing the series for the first time may wish to consider watching Clannad and Clannad: After Story to enrich their understanding of the Clannad timeline. Together with the anime, this Key visual novel is both thought provoking and captivating as you learn the history behind each of the beloved characters. Many decisions are made that affect the direction of the game as Clannad boasts an impressive 50+ hours of storytelling.

Clannad is a Key masterpiece that combines character development, enhanced visuals, grand storytelling and a spectacular soundtrack into a single visual novel. The Steam version of Clannad is the definitive version of one of the best visual novels ever made that deserves your time and commitment. You will be drawn into the world and the endearing cast of characters will evoke emotions similar to those felt for one’s closest family members and friends. Clannad is touching, sad, beautiful and compelling – everything that devoted fans expect from Key and more.

SCORE – 9.0/10

This review is based on a digital copy of CLANNAD on Steam provided by Sekai Project.

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