Neutral Drow reviews: Kanon

To the half of the Escapist -not- fleeing from the art style, welcome!
To the half of the Escapist -not- fleeing from the art style, welcome!

Line Break.

A dream.
When did these things of which I dream take place?
The distant, distant past?
Or just a few minutes ago?
Within the dream, even that is obscure.
I cannot even tell whether the time I feel is passing...
As I dream of the day when I might wake.

Line break.

"Just my luck, running straight into a tree in the middle of an emotional reunion after seven years..."
- Ayu

______________________________________________

For Yuichi Aizawa, his parents moving overseas for work-related reasons was ultimately only a minor setback in his life. After all, they didn't require him to go with them and leave his high school education incomplete, and he was graciously taken in by his mother's younger sister Akiko Minase and her daughter Nayuki. On the other hand, it's January, and this required moving to a town on the opposite end of Japan, where the phrase "dead of winter" really means something. Not to mention that it's been seven years since Yuichi has been to this town, and his memory is full of holes on several details, like the location of his new house...so Nayuki being two hours late to pick him up in the driving snow is somewhat inconvenient.

Come to think of it, though, Yuichi's memory is astoundingly spotty when it comes to seven years ago. Even besides not remembering much about his own cousin, Nayuki, this becomes increasingly obvious as Yuichi meets other people. There's Shiori Misaka, the schoolgirl near-permanently off school due to illness. Mai Kawasumi, who sets camp in the school after hours, hunting evil spirits. Makoto Sawatari, an amnesiac whose only memory is an unexplained grudge against Yuichi. And Ayu Tsukimiya, a taiyaki-loving tomboy searching for something she can barely even recall. Most disturbingly, most of these girls seem to remember Yuichi well enough from all those years ago.

Just what happened seven years past? And why has Yuichi so totally forgotten? His dreams can sometimes offer tantalizing hints of the events of that winter, and why the snow fills him with dread.

And in fact, he might not be the only one dreaming from back then...

__________________________________________________________
Line Break

Kanon

Merry Christmas! Wow...a Christmas posting, and the Escapist having a snowy background? That's as close to perfect as I can imagine...anyway, Key Visual Arts. Game company of a million tears, going by their reputation. And given their big three titles (Kanon, Clannad, and Air), it's easy to see how that reputation was earned.

What we have here, though, is a unique occurrence of me going into a game as a completely blank slate. All I knew of Kanon was that it had been made into an anime twice, and it was apparently the source of that "sad girls in snow" shtick usually associated with Megatokyo. I knew nothing about the story, no anime episodes, no reviews, not even a back cover to read off of to get an impression. It was trust in luck and very vague ideas, this playthrough was.

Did it hold up? Let's get started and find out.

Line Break.

Gameplay

Kanon is a pure visual novel. You read the story, and make occasional choices as they pop up. Said choices affect your relationship with other characters, determine the presence or order of events in the story, and occasionally get a headstart in wrenching out your soul. These lead ultimately to one of five endings, each focusing on a particular girl (or two, depending on how you interpret Mai's route).

Not much else to say, besides that. The game sticks to the visual novel format in both letter and spirit. While the choices one is required to make don't present any undue difficulty to get on or complete a given route...let's just say it's still a good idea that the game gives so many save slots (99 total). Much like in life, certain choices don't always have the result you expect, and in this case, some choices require you to think like the main character, instead. There are "bad ends," so to speak, but I actually only encountered one, when I accidentally passed up a chance to see Ayu 3/4 of the way through her route.

For some asides, the game actually lets you choose a name for its protagonist, but I finally went with the default "Yuichi Aizawa" after realizing that the novelty of playing as "Gakuto Kamui" would wear off quick (and it turns out that the voice patch ensured that). The CG gallery and music list are considered "Extras," and are only unlocked after finishing the game once. Oh, and occasionally pieces of dialogue are highlighted with blue text. After finishing the game, I still don't know if they mean anything.

Update: according to someone on GameFAQs, they're clickable translation notes.  I approve.
What are you saying, game?! What are you trying to tell me?!

Line Break.

Story

This is a very character-driven game, so most of the major themes are surprisingly route-specific. Nonetheless, the main gist of the story is that Yuichi hasn't visited the (unnamed as far as I can tell) town he now lives in for seven years, and that at some point in those seven years, he's forgotten essentially everything about it. Therefore, a major part of most scenarios is how much he eventually remembers...but even that is very character-specific. Only one route, Shiori's, has basically no rememberance at all (what with her being, ultimately, the girl Yuichi's never met before), while Mai's has a vastly different story. The remaining three, Makoto, Nayuki, and Ayu, all have memories relevant to the "main" story, if you will, but again to very different extents.

Like many visual novels of this sort, the game gets its kicks early on (and sometimes throughout) with lighthearted comedy, but really comes into its own with its dramatic twists and turns. In fact, Kanon shines in this regard; oftentimes, it seems that all but the most trivial of scenes has some foreshadowed meaning. One girl might have been holding a candle in her heart for seven years, while another might have been laboring all that time under self-inflicted, self-destructive delusion. And more than once does the game deal with the theme of impending mortality, and from several angles; how do you console someone in the throes of grief over another? Or relate to someone who might not have long to live? Or deal with someone who is quite clearly dying slowly in front of your very eyes?

Yes, she does relate to one of the aforementioned scenarios.  Naturally, I'm not saying which.
In spite of this, the game is happier than you might expect...except when it isn't.

The extent to which the game's supernatural elements reach also varies per route, but in most cases they're a surprisingly major aspect of the story. No route is untouched by them; at the most obvious is Mai's ostensible demon hunting, and the least...well, that's the single biggest spoiler in the game.

If I had to sum up the overall theme of the game...snow. Imagine a meaning for snow, and it's probably represented here. Snow of love, snow of purity, snow of death, snow of childlike wonder, snow of supernatural mystery, snow of rememberance past, snow of the cycle of seasons...

The predominantly female cast is, naturally, unsympathetic.
And, of course, snow of testicle-shriveling cold.

Kanon doesn't have an enforced play order for its routes (nor even a recomended one, like in Tsukihime). Aside from a very short Sayuri story (unlocked by finishing Mai's), the player is free to choose which stories to play first. For my part, I wound up doing Ayu, Shiori, Makoto, Mai/Sayuri, and Nayuki, in that order.

Line Break.

Characters

You probably only have to glance at the character list to see why I bring that up. There is no argument that Kanon's heroines are all moe characters. Even aside from all of them fitting a certain definition of "cute," they're all...quirky, to say the least. Nayuki loves cats despite being allergic, loves strawberry-flavored foods, and can barely function on less than 12 hours of sleep. Makoto is an amnesiac with a love of pranks, nikuman (meat-filled buns), and manga. Shiori is an ill girl who willingly eats vanilla ice cream in below-freezing weather. Mai is an emotionless girl and a swordsman who has an odd fixation on rabbits. Sayuri always uses polite speech and refers to herself in the third-person. Ayu is a tomboy (and even refers to herself with the masculine personal pronoun "boku") with a cutesy verbal tic and a passion for taiyaki (fish-shaped, cream-filled waffles, basically).

I will admit, I find some of these things cute, but the thing I like most is that I don't have to. Kanon's character quirks are just that: quirks, that only scratch the surface of the characters...and that's not counting those quirks which have hidden, ominous meanings. No main character lacks for depth, let alone the five/six* main girls. Kanon's heroines are moe characters; they aren't moe archetypes.

It's like the game realized I was putting it off while reading Kodomo no Jikan.  Creepy...
I'd comment on this image, but I'm still trying to figure out why that sign back there says "Lolicon."

As for the protagonist...I'm not sure I can describe Gackt Yuichi and still do him justice. Suffice to say, he certainly doesn't lack for personality. While he does mature over time (in different directions depending on love interest), typically at his mildest, he's rather snarky; at his strongest, there's little he loves more than getting a rise out of people. With stuff like bonking a sleepwalking Nayuki on the head to wake her (and half-convincing her that she woke with a hangover), or responding to Makoto's request that he name her pet cat with a little creative misinterpretation, he actually carries a rather large chunk of the game's humor singlehanded. In fact, it's another large expression of character depth just to see how each of the girls react to him, ranging from Ayu's utter gullibility to Shiori's unique ability to genuinely throw him for a loop.

And speaking of being thrown for a loop, there's Akiko. However, I'm once more running low on creativity, so I'll cut short. Not that that's hard, since while she's awesome, the woman baffles me. As a matter of fact, I wound up rather attached to both her and Nayuki, who really came off as the bedrock characters; they were always present (naturally, what with the protagonist living in their home), and one or both of them is always there for Yuichi in each of the routes, in small but important ways (which receives a dramatic turnaround in Nayuki's own route).

Line Break.

Technical

The artwork in this game measures up well. In particular, the CGs are rather good, and the backgrounds are quite often stunningly well-drawn. As well, this is the first visual novel I've played so far to have inhabited backgrounds...which contrasts with the rather unusual design style of having only one character sprite visible at a time (two being the more common standard). As for character design, I'm willing to admit that it's probably even more up to personal inclination than normal. This especially applies to that most obvious design aspect, associated quite strongly (albeit with mild inaccuracy) with anime: you can see peoples' eyebrows through their bangs.

Hint: this image directly follows the previous one.
One thing for it, it certainly makes faces more expressive.

Kanon's soundtrack is marvelous; of particular note to me were light, jazzy pieces like "Girl of the Snow" (which I think is Ayu's theme) and my personal favorite, "Pure Snows". Hard to say much more, aside from the preponderance of music that genuinely felt like they helped make the game, from character themes to dramatic pieces (often using motifs from the opening theme "Last Regrets")...

The voice acting was...interesting. Sure, there weren't all that many standout performances like in Yume Miru Kusuri or even Little My Maid, though neither were there any dull spots. It's just that, taken as a whole, I honestly can't imagine Kanon without the voices. Made almost every part of the game that much better. And I have to admit, quite often some of the characters (Akiko especially) are pretty soothing to listen to.

Funny note: the translation patch for this game is actually a fairly recent release. Non-Directional Translations finished the patch completely only last July. For the most part, it's really good. There weren't any typos that I saw, only one mistranslation that I noticed (involving, I suspect, the phrase "kusuri wo nomu"), and I think I may have found the answer to the mystery blue text. There are a couple of translation notes left in, and apparently, there was a rocky point at the beginning of the process which left its mark!*

Like many eroge protagonists, Yuichi is unvoiced, and his eyes are never visible. For both, you need to turn to the anime.

Line Break

Ero

Quite often, an eroge popular enough to be re-released gets one with the adult content replaced or removed. In Kanon's case, that probably didn't require much effort. I certainly wouldn't go so far as to say the sex scenes add nothing to the narrative, but neither would their absence be remarked. There are a total of five possible scenes (one for each girl), all of them astoundingly short, and none of which are ever brought up again afterward.

Fortunately, the ero does manage to feel like something more than an afterthought. In particular, Shiori's scene actually felt rather well set-up. Even aside from the circumstantial justification, it takes more than a single immediate choice to bring about; if Shiori hasn't had time to get used to the idea (by Yuichi avoiding the subject instead of denying it when she brings it up), she'll opt not to go further than some deep kissing.

She doesn't need to, though.  If Shiori wants to stop, he stops.
Akiko's one of the sweetest people imaginable. I still don't doubt she'd go Mama Bear on Yuichi's ass if it came to it.

Sadly, the other scenes don't measure up quite as well. Mai's actually manages to be a disturbing look into her psychology, but Ayu's and Nayuki's just have a "hey, why don't we try this" vibe, and Makoto's is even more abrupt (though far more justified by circumstance).

As for quality...well, aside from the art style really not lending itself to ero (not even considering the standard mosaic censoring), there's nothing wrong with Kanon's scenes. My three standards (minimally kinky, entirely consensual, and emotionally appropriate) are maintained, at least.

In any case, if sex is a deterrent, the translation patch can actually replace them (the accompanying readme document explains how), or you might find the All Ages version to begin with. Or, worst come to worst, the scenes themselves are all avoidable, and if you don't avoid them, you can hold down the fast-forward for 3-4 seconds (like I said, they're short).

Line Break.

Verdict

What did I think of Kanon? I liked it a lot. The characters were very fun, the technical quality was all right, and the story managed to be both tearjerking and heartwarming with equal deftness. Even the one route that confused me managed to provoke a strong emotional response, and another had me crying myself to sleep one night (the next day) and distracted for a while after that; ask any of the Visual Novels group members, I was near-inconsolable for a week. I still can't listen to "Plain of Frozen Snow," and "Sea of Mist" is almost as uncomfortable after-

Um...

*cough*

Anyway, yes, I'd daresay this game is a gem (considering the characters' eyes, probably an opal), and I certainly look forward to Key's other works. And I hope they aren't as difficult to find as this one, due to not only finding the game (which is ten years old, and never released outside Japan), but the specific version that works with the patch...

__________________________________________________________

Next Review

TYPE-MOON Reviews: Melty Blood
Tsukihime's fighting game spinoff.

Neutral Drow reviews: True Love
A very old game (1995), and possibly the first true dating sim I've gotten to. So yes, I'm finally getting to it, you who requested it.

And after that...something I'm not looking forward to. >_>

good review for a good game :)

I'm curious, "And after that...something I'm not looking forward to. >_>" which one ?

good review
ill need to give it a try.

About that first screenshot caption: you forgot the additional 3/4th (at least) who'd flee because it's a visual novel.

But from what I read of it, good review.

Mekado:
good review for a good game :)

I'm curious, "And after that...something I'm not looking forward to. >_>" which one ?

Thanks!

It's the one I mentioned the other day. That already had a review written well enough that I started tearing up. I guess it's a lie that I'm not looking forward to it...more like I'm afraid.

A random person:
About that first screenshot caption: you forgot the additional 3/4th (at least) who'd flee because it's a visual novel.

I'm eleven reviews in. I think I've trained people not to flee that particular thing!

NeutralDrow:

A random person:
About that first screenshot caption: you forgot the additional 3/4th (at least) who'd flee because it's a visual novel.

I'm eleven reviews in. I think I've trained people not to flee that particular thing!

I don't know, quite a few people still view visual novels as little more than means of bashing Japanese games. Still, you being able to bring up any respect for them here is an amazing achievement.

NeutralDrow:
Snip.

You talking about the one that you're afraid of reviewing thanks to that one old review of it on the 'Pist having attracted a massive troll? If so, I wouldn't worry about it.

Anyway, this line is borked:

Quite often, an eroge popular enough to be re-released gets one with the adult content replaced or removed.

There should be an "is" in there somewhere :D

Other than that, a solid review, keep it up, etc. You know that I enjoy your work Drow, does it really need to be said anymore?

scotth266:

NeutralDrow:
Snip.

You talking about the one that you're afraid of reviewing thanks to that one old review of it on the 'Pist having attracted a massive troll? If so, I wouldn't worry about it.

Close. It's that game, but I'm not worried about attracting trolls. I'm worried about playing it. It's got kind of a reputation for being emotionally draining, and if Makoto's route is any indication, I'm proving susceptible to such things.

Anyway, this line is borked:

Quite often, an eroge popular enough to be re-released gets one with the adult content replaced or removed.

There should be an "is" in there somewhere :D

If there's anything up with that sentence, it might be that the pronoun wasn't obvious.

"Quite often, an eroge popular enough to be re-released gets one [a re-release] with the adult content replaced or removed."

Other than that, a solid review, keep it up, etc. You know that I enjoy your work Drow, does it really need to be said anymore?

Thanks!

A random person:

NeutralDrow:

A random person:
About that first screenshot caption: you forgot the additional 3/4th (at least) who'd flee because it's a visual novel.

I'm eleven reviews in. I think I've trained people not to flee that particular thing!

I don't know, quite a few people still view visual novels as little more than means of bashing Japanese games. Still, you being able to bring up any respect for them here is an amazing achievement.

That would be sort of odd, especially since the first non-TYPE MOON eroge I reviewed (Xchange), I hated! Besides, the Escapist has actually been pretty good from the start. If I'd tried it elsewhere, on the other hand...I'm still laughing over that SA thing. ^_^

I have no illusions that these will be popular, but I've convinced some people to try them. It's definitely worth continuing.

EDIT: ...I guess I could have edited that in instead of posting. Shoot.

Does editing a quote into a post send a notification?

NeutralDrow:

A random person:

NeutralDrow:

A random person:
About that first screenshot caption: you forgot the additional 3/4th (at least) who'd flee because it's a visual novel.

I'm eleven reviews in. I think I've trained people not to flee that particular thing!

I don't know, quite a few people still view visual novels as little more than means of bashing Japanese games. Still, you being able to bring up any respect for them here is an amazing achievement.

That would be sort of odd, especially since the first non-TYPE MOON eroge I reviewed (Xchange), I hated! Besides, the Escapist has actually been pretty good from the start. If I'd tried it elsewhere, on the other hand...I'm still laughing over that SA thing. ^_^

I have no illusions that these will be popular, but I've convinced some people to try them. It's definitely worth continuing.

EDIT: ...I guess I could have edited that in instead of posting. Shoot.

Does editing a quote into a post send a notification?

No it does not, I know from repeated experience.

But otherwise, I fully endorse your reviewing, and it actually is doing quite a bit for visual novels here. And as bad as the Escapist may be about visual novels and, for that matter, Japanese games period (someone, I think Mcface, said "I don't buy any of their [Japan's] shit because it's retarded imo," and that wasn't a freak case), we're still fundamentally civil (barring the periodic asshole like the above mentioned guy) and not anywhere near as bad as SA (from what I've heard, which from that incident is probably true).

A random person:

NeutralDrow:

A random person:

NeutralDrow:

A random person:
About that first screenshot caption: you forgot the additional 3/4th (at least) who'd flee because it's a visual novel.

I'm eleven reviews in. I think I've trained people not to flee that particular thing!

I don't know, quite a few people still view visual novels as little more than means of bashing Japanese games. Still, you being able to bring up any respect for them here is an amazing achievement.

That would be sort of odd, especially since the first non-TYPE MOON eroge I reviewed (Xchange), I hated! Besides, the Escapist has actually been pretty good from the start. If I'd tried it elsewhere, on the other hand...I'm still laughing over that SA thing. ^_^

I have no illusions that these will be popular, but I've convinced some people to try them. It's definitely worth continuing.

EDIT: ...I guess I could have edited that in instead of posting. Shoot.

Does editing a quote into a post send a notification?

No it does not, I know from repeated experience.

I've been wondering that for a while. I've just never known for certain until now.

But otherwise, I fully endorse your reviewing, and it actually is doing quite a bit for visual novels here. And as bad as the Escapist may be about visual novels and, for that matter, Japanese games period (someone, I think Mcface, said "I don't buy any of their [Japan's] shit because it's retarded imo," and that wasn't a freak case), we're still fundamentally civil (barring the periodic asshole like the above mentioned guy) and not anywhere near as bad as SA (from what I've heard, which from that incident is probably true).

I guess. To be honest, the subject comes up so rarely here I haven't noticed much of a trend (for Japanese stuff as a whole, yes, same with anime).

I wonder if I should review something like Do You Like Horny Bunnies? Just for a laugh.

An excellent review I must say, I love the detail you've gone into about all the aspects of it, and that you even managed to make sure the review wasn't boring (which quite a lot fail to achieve in my eyes), so good job there.

I watched the 2006 version of the anime and absolutely loved it and have been considering trying the Visual Novel for some time now, this review has made my decision, I'll definitely be getting this in the next few days, thanks :)

Oh, and if you want to review something just for a laugh, may I suggest Wanko to Kurasou? :P
Hehehe...

Where would one find this VN if one wanted it?
I looked online and was hit with a big fat nothing.
Excellent review by the way.

Biri:
An excellent review I must say, I love the detail you've gone into about all the aspects of it, and that you even managed to make sure the review wasn't boring (which quite a lot fail to achieve in my eyes), so good job there.

I watched the 2006 version of the anime and absolutely loved it and have been considering trying the Visual Novel for some time now, this review has made my decision, I'll definitely be getting this in the next few days, thanks :)

Thanks!. It took me four tries to find the right version for the patch, but luckily, the place I found (it's on Hongfire) also had the patch right there, as well as the voice patch.

And if you've seen the anime, you can probably guess which route I was talking about there, in the verdict. Haven't seen it, myself, but from what I understand, it focused mainly on two of them (though only one in detail).

Oh, and if you want to review something just for a laugh, may I suggest Wanko to Kurasou? :P
Hehehe...

I've heard that name, before. Someone in the group (open membership, if you're interested) brought it up at one point. There doesn't seem to be a review on the site I usually check, but there's a Wikipedia...

page...

...

...um, well, okay then. Sounds more interesting than Let's Meow Meow? I guess? I'll save it for when I'm desperate for material. o_O

Legna eno:
Where would one find this VN if one wanted it?
I looked online and was hit with a big fat nothing.
Excellent review by the way.

It took me a few days, myself. I kept getting the wrong version!

I'll send a PM. I don't feel bad about downloading this one (only way to find it, it's an old game), but forum rules keep me from linking it here. Considering the nature of most of my reviews, I prefer keeping on the mods' good sides. ^^;

DID SOMEONE SAY WANKO!?

Rather odd premise aside, it's okay. It's a two route VN, one of the routes is pretty good, the other is pretty bad.

Oh yeah and the VA is absolutely fantastic.

lordlee:
DID SOMEONE SAY WANKO!?

Rather odd premise aside, it's okay. It's a two route VN, one of the routes is pretty good, the other is pretty bad.

Oh yeah and the VA is absolutely fantastic.

Huh. Maybe I should overcome my reluctance, then.

I mean, after all, at least it's got anime-style animal people (ears and tail), rather than furry-style (full-blown).

NeutralDrow:

lordlee:
DID SOMEONE SAY WANKO!?

Rather odd premise aside, it's okay. It's a two route VN, one of the routes is pretty good, the other is pretty bad.

Oh yeah and the VA is absolutely fantastic.

Huh. Maybe I should overcome my reluctance, then.

I mean, after all, at least it's got anime-style animal people (ears and tail), rather than furry-style (full-blown).

The pets aren't the heroines. The heroines are a pet shop owner and the Tsundere cousin of Fujino from Hatsu Inu.

lordlee:

NeutralDrow:

lordlee:
DID SOMEONE SAY WANKO!?

Rather odd premise aside, it's okay. It's a two route VN, one of the routes is pretty good, the other is pretty bad.

Oh yeah and the VA is absolutely fantastic.

Huh. Maybe I should overcome my reluctance, then.

I mean, after all, at least it's got anime-style animal people (ears and tail), rather than furry-style (full-blown).

The pets aren't the heroines. The heroines are a pet shop owner and the Tsundere cousin of Fujino from Hatsu Inu.

...

O_O

Oh all right, I'll put it on the list. Curse you, manipulating my love of that adorable little nymphomaniac like that!

NeutralDrow:

lordlee:

NeutralDrow:

lordlee:
DID SOMEONE SAY WANKO!?

Rather odd premise aside, it's okay. It's a two route VN, one of the routes is pretty good, the other is pretty bad.

Oh yeah and the VA is absolutely fantastic.

Huh. Maybe I should overcome my reluctance, then.

I mean, after all, at least it's got anime-style animal people (ears and tail), rather than furry-style (full-blown).

The pets aren't the heroines. The heroines are a pet shop owner and the Tsundere cousin of Fujino from Hatsu Inu.

...

O_O

Oh all right, I'll put it on the list. Curse you, manipulating my love of that adorable little nymphomaniac like that!

I'm sure you will be unsurprised to know that said cousin gets the good route. The pet shop owner isn't a poor character exactly, it's more that the protagonist is a douche in that route. He's also kind of a douche most other times, but he gets better in the good route.

lordlee:

NeutralDrow:

lordlee:

NeutralDrow:

lordlee:
DID SOMEONE SAY WANKO!?

Rather odd premise aside, it's okay. It's a two route VN, one of the routes is pretty good, the other is pretty bad.

Oh yeah and the VA is absolutely fantastic.

Huh. Maybe I should overcome my reluctance, then.

I mean, after all, at least it's got anime-style animal people (ears and tail), rather than furry-style (full-blown).

The pets aren't the heroines. The heroines are a pet shop owner and the Tsundere cousin of Fujino from Hatsu Inu.

...

O_O

Oh all right, I'll put it on the list. Curse you, manipulating my love of that adorable little nymphomaniac like that!

I'm sure you will be unsurprised to know that said cousin gets the good route. The pet shop owner isn't a poor character exactly, it's more that the protagonist is a douche in that route. He's also kind of a douche most other times, but he gets better in the good route.

Heh. I've already played Little My Maid; I'm well-acquainted with douchebag protagonists. I will take this into consideration.

Wonder if I should find and buy Hatsu Inu. One of a handful of titles I wouldn't mind a physical copy of...

 

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