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Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet Review—Short And Sweet?

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Planetarian is a Visual Novel written and created by Key. Anyone familiar with the visual novel world will know Key. If you know anime, you know Key. They are responsible for Air, Kanon, Little Busters, and—of course—Clannad.

If you know their previous works, you’ll come into Planetarian expecting just about what you’ll get. However, there are a few small things anyone considering this title should know before they purchase it. It’s hard to say whether these small things are pros or cons. That will depend on the person.

Let’s start by talking story. It’s beautiful, and incredibly moving, which is very typical of Key. We open on a ‘Junker’ in a post-apocalyptic setting. He’s avoiding dangerous automatons in a rubbled city, and ends up taking cover in a large building that happens to have a planetarium at the top. There, he meets an android that is styled like a young girl, who helps run the planetarium, although it’s been practically destroyed for years now. The story progresses from there.

I would say more, but this visual novel is short. Very, very short. The run time, if you set it on auto read, is under 5 hours. I finished it in less than 4. It is kinetic, and very simple. It is not a masterpiece like many other Key novels that offer tons of routes and replay value. However, that’s not to say that Planetarian isn’t good.

The story, while short (and summarized in full in 3 paragraphs by Wikipedia), is absolutely touching and masterfully written. You never even know the protagonist’s name,  but it doesn’t matter. Planetarian has the power to leave a player in a sobbing mess at the end.

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After clearing the game once, you gain access to a CG gallery, and a music gallery. Unfortunately, due to the length, these are both small. There are 20 CGs, and 8 music tracks for you to listen to. Overall, however, the art is great and the music is pleasing.

There are some parts to the music loop that occasionally sounded off, but the music was very fitting for the game. Parallels can certainly drawn between the slightly disharmonious music and Yumemi, the slightly dysfunctional android.

Given what this game is, I have to offer a disclaimer. Planetarian is from 2004, and it shows. There is virtually no character animation to be found, and the age is apparent in many places. However, the story blew me away. As with the review I wrote for WORLD END ECONOMiCA episode.01, I find it hard to recommend Planetarian to someone not interested in visual novels. This is not a ‘game’, it is a visual novel, literally. If you want a touching story, look no further—Planetarian will scratch that itch.

However, I also must warn you that this story is not particularly happy. The ending is not full of hope. It will leave you moping the rest of the day. I’m not saying that’s bad, or to be avoided, but it’s something you should know going into it.  This one is a must-buy for Key supporters, and visual novel lovers, just be prepared.

Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet was reviewed using a code provided by Sekai Project. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

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Chris Gregoria

About

I'm a pretty chill guy. Huge video game fan, but a bigger anime fan. I also love to write - obviously.



5 comments
  1. patyos
    patyos
    October 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    That smile …. its its OVER 9000 !!!!!

  2. nonscpo
    nonscpo
    October 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Hmm there’s not much that can be done, kinectic novels rub people the wrong way; even I’m guilty of that. The problem is that as gamers we do expect some level of interaction and kinectic novels have the absolute smallest. I have my hope that well see more and more visual novels down the road, just hopping to get more choices and interactions from them.

    P.S. For anyone into visual novels, Sekai Project the localizer that brought this game is also working on bringing over the Grisiai trilogy plus a spinoff title. Anyone interested check there page before the kickstarter begins:

    http://prefundia.com/projects/view/lets-bring-the-grisaia-trilogy-to-the-west/2814/

  3. Kaijuu
    Kaijuu
    October 17, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks for the review. This title (and kinetic/visual in general) definitely do not get enough love in regards to Western releases, so any sort of coverage for them is great. I absolutely adored Planetarian when I first read it – it was one of my first visual novels – and am excited to give it a second look now that I’ve got quite a few more VNs under my belt.

    As visuals and kinetic novels start to gain traction in North America, I’d love to see a bit more distinction between them and traditional games on Steam and other software distributors. The Steam tag system does help, but oftentimes these tags may not mean anything to the average consumer. Perhaps a dedicated section for the genre, with page to assist people in understanding what differentiates visual and kinetic novels from traditional video games.

  4. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    October 18, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Definitely excited for Grisaia – that’ll be awesome.

    And, much like my review for World End Economica, I had some serious trouble reviewing this. It’s really tough in that, a kinetic novel will appeal to a very small fanbase. I am one of those people. I loved WEE, and I loved Planetarian. However, I find it difficult to give either game a 7 or higher when, in many ways, they aren’t much of a game at all, and don’t compare well against many visual novels, like Clannad or Fate/Stay for example.

    I honestly have no idea how to give a kinetic novel a fair number grade. Do I give it higher, with the caveat to people who may not be interested, or do I give it lower, with a recommendation to those who would like it? The balance is tough. Unfortunately, I’m inclined to the former, which is more like regarding it as a game, and less so a novel.

    Maybe next time I’ll give it two scores – a novel score and a visual novel score…

  5. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    October 18, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Planetarian was a treat. I went in expecting a great story, but it was old enough that Key hadn’t reached the point where they started writing VNs that made you cry but then had happy endings – there’s a term for them that I can’t recall right now.

    So, the ending of Planetarian left me feeling mostly like crap the rest of the day. I was moping around for a few hours before I could get myself to do anything substantial.

    But, just goes to show how well-written this gem was.