Why don’t you come to the planetarium?
The beautiful twinkling of eternity that will never fade, no matter what.
All the stars in the sky are waiting for you.
planetarian is a Kinetic Novel by Key. I was actually surprised to learn that Sekai Project had localized this and brought it to Steam in the rest of the world because it is one of Key’s works I don’t hear many people talk about. I have a feeling this is due to it being one of the few that didn’t receive an anime adaptation or go by the name “Rewrite”, but is that truly it? Despite releasing in 2004 in Japan (same year as their Clannad Visual Novel) could it just be a lower quality? Keep in mind at the time of writing the only Visual Novel I have completed by Key is Clannad so I will be unable to compare directly, however I have done some reading and while I won’t be comparing it often I will be able to make some. Let’s get in and check this thing out!
First thing you may notice is I called planetarian a “Kinetic Novel” but referred to Clannad as a “Visual Novel” the reason for this is in Clannad you get prompted every so often to make choices on how the rest of the story plays out, these can make it so Tomoya meets Nagisa twice using the required times and never again. planetarian on the other hand has no choices. This basically makes it a novel with moving pictures and backgrounds as well as having music play, hence Kinetic Novel.
The controls are very simple, Left Click, Mouse Scroll and Enter will all advance the story or you can set it to Auto Mode and just sit back as it uses math to figure out exactly how long you want the text on the screen. I preferred to just click myself as I liked hearing the voices and would often pause for the music. The controls work perfectly but then again, if they didn’t we’d have a serious problem.
Now the part that is obviously going to take the most. Story. When you’re playing a game like this, the story will quite literally, make it or break it. If the story is bad what’s the point? There’s no rewarding gameplay unless you just like clicking but I have some better suggestions if that’s what you enjoy. Anyway planetarian’s story is quite good. It follows an unnamed man that is referred to as The Junker. He is going through an abandoned city which, as we find out, is abandoned due to a war that broke out after the failure of a Space Colonization Project. The human race is now basically extinct with robots terrorizing those remaining. The Junker stumbles upon a planetarium and meets the only other character we have this entire story Hoshino Yumemi. She is a companion robot that sleeps for a long time and believes the workers have all gone on an extended vacation and planetariums have just gone out of style. The Junker then decides to see a show but it is revealed the Ms. Jena the projector is broken (the employees did a bunch of stuff to preserve her in case they were able to return) and The Junker decides to fix it.
I’m going to stop here as that gives a basic gist without really spoiling anything late or major but I still have a few things to touch on. For one, I was worried when I found out there were so few character’s that the character development would be low (especially with one being a robot). If you have this worry too cast it aside. Despite only The Junker and Yumemi being here I still felt Key developed both perfectly with each other in a way you could only do with such few characters. Another worry I had, which I have no idea where it came from, was the story would be a little lackluster. As I mentioned earlier this is not a worry and my tear ducts got yet another workout at the ending scene. I’m not exactly sure what even makes the ending so sad but I don’t want to spoil it so I’m not going to go any further!
Graphics are another important part of this kind of game. I really like how the User Interface was organized with the main options you’ll be using down along the bottom and the half-and-half split of text box and background image. There are also animated background (which Clannad was lacking). They weren’t super advanced just had rain or smoke effects but I feel they still added to the atmosphere. The background images were also well done and I wish I could show more but unfortunately to avoid spoilers I have to stick to scenes that stay in the planetarium.
As much as I’m praising the graphics I did have some issues with them. For one because this game is from 2004 (although they did translated a version that was released in 2010 and I’m not sure what the differences are) the game only plays 3:4 ratio. This can make the right side look a little awkward as Yumemi’s hair gets cut-off by the black bars (as you can see in the pictures). If you have a 3:4 monitor this wouldn’t really be an issue but as most people probably don’t I have to bring it up.
Another issue is text. Check out the text in this picture
Yeah that’s what almost any font looks like. This specific one is Arial which is what I used for the unofficial Clannad translation and it worked fine. They suggest you use MS Gothic and that is what the other two pictures use and I had no complaints with it there. I have to wonder what the point of allowing you to use any font but have only one actually look decent. Neither of these issues ruin the game but they still kind of suck.
I feel if Key isn’t known for their writing they should be for their soundtracks. I have experienced almost all of their works now, either in anime or visual novel form, and no matter how I felt about anything else the music was always amazing. planetarian is another example of this. The songs are perfect at setting the tone that is meant to be set at that time. Are we supposed to feel alone? Happy? Sad? Angry? The music does this perfectly. Once you complete the novel you also have the choice to listen to any song from the novel you want at any point from the menu. My only problem is the soundtrack didn’t get an official release here!