Planetarian was one game I never thought I'd ever see get a release here on Steam, much less an actual official English release. So, consider my surprise when Sekai Project announced they actually got a Key/VisualArt's game licensed for a US release. They practically pulled off the impossible and showed they aren't messing around in trying to get Visual Novels to a wider audience. The only question that remains is this: Was Planetarian a smart move on their end? Well, let's just say despite how clear it is that Planetarian hasn't aged well as a VN in some places, it excels in so many other aspects that make this safe bet a smart one to start this newly founded relationship between VisualArt's and Sekai Project.
The story of Planetarian centers around two characters, a robot girl named Hoshino Yumemi, who has spent her whole existence catering to a Planetarian and it's customers. The second character, a nameless wandering man who roams the war-torn Earth wasteland, that struggles with just getting though the every day alive. I won't spoil much more beyond that since most of what makes Planetarian great is it's story. It especially helps that the writing quality knows when to kick it up a notch to suck you into it's story with some absolutely beautifully written pieces. Outside of these key moments, the writing is alright and the dialogue exchanges between the man and Yumemi are quite amusing.
Visually speaking is where we run into a few problems and the game starts to show it's age. Art wise the game held up surprisingly well with some well drawn CG that were still quite impressive despite the games age. Although there isn't a ton of CG screens here, what's here is great and that's what mostly counts. Especially the ending shot which did a great job of piling up everything for one last huge emotional sendoff.
So what's the problem here? Well, it mostly comes from how ugly looking the text box and the borders surrounding everything looks. The text box takes up almost half the screen, if not more, though nearly the entirety of the game. While the borders are distracting and something that really wasn't needed. Would've liked the option to remove them.
The length of the game is another problem as it will probably only take most people around 3-5 hours. Possibility being even shorter if you just turn on auto mode and let the game do the work for you. That reminds me, and this may be a turnoff for some, there is no gameplay besides clicking and reading text. In fact it kind of feels like reading a book rather than playing a game. It also dosen't help it's $10 asking price as there is almost no replay value in Planetarian. Once you play though the story that's it. Sure you unlock Music and CG modes but honestly, they'll keep most of you entertained for maybe ten minutes tops.
You may be asking, 'With all these faults what's there besides this good story you claim it has?'. Well one thing is just that the soundtrack is pretty great and does a great job complimenting each scene, even if it has a tendency to repeat and loop too often. Sekai Project also did a great job of cleaning up the old fan translation, which they used as a base translation. While I ran into a few typos they were pretty minor and didn't detract me from the overall experience and hopefully will be patched up soon.
Was Planeterain basicallly Sekai Project's way of playing it safe? Yeah, pretty much. It's basically testing the waters for future Key releases on Steam, but I think it was a good call. Planetarian is a great introductory game for those interested in Visual Novels and worth a play for those veterans that somehow have not played this masterpiece. A great visual novel is when great music, quality writing, and eye catching art all come together to evoke emotions into the story. That is something Planetarian does well. It may not have “real gameplay” but it does have s story that is certainly worth your time to at least read once.
Planetarian is still a quality Visual Novel many years after it's original release. Some aspects haven't aged well but the same quality story will always be intact. While Visual Novel's are understandably not everyone’s cup of tea, especially since all you do is read text for 3-5 hours, it's still worth a look if your interested. Especially if you snag this on sale sometime in the future.
+Great Story With Some Standout Moments
+CG Art Still Holds Up
+Some Fantastic Writing
-Defiantly Not For Everyone
-No Replay Value
-Only 3-5 Hours Long
-Borders And Text Box Are Hideous