Friday, April 22, 2016

CLANNAD: Happy Families and Shiny Lights

My first ever exposure to CLANNAD was many Nekocons again, early in my time as a karaoke judge. Someone sang the ending, which I had never heard before. Ya gotta admit... it's a bit weird without context.

I heard about CLANNAD in passing during the intervening years, and then discovered that it initially came from a visual novel -- and I'd be working on it. Along with several other editors. Normally I don't work with multiple editors, but this game is a monster length-wise. So Sekai Project built its great big team and got ready to roll things out.

Now, you know you've got a visual novel project on your hands when someone who isn't even a fan goes 'Oh, I've heard of that.' CLANNAD does have an incredibly wide reach, largely because of the anime version. So it was a little daunting knowing I'd have my hands on something with a massive faithful fan base.

The game was divided up by routes. Each translator and editor took a different girl's route (though usually more than one). So I ended up with Tomoyo, Fuko, Yukine, and the side story odds and ends. Fortunately, I did take the time to verse myself on what the heck was up with the story before I got rolling. Because, erm, all I really knew of CLANNAD beyond the song was that there was some sort of epilogue with a little girl and a robot, and I had no idea how it fit into anything but I was willing to find out.

So I was unsurprised to see that CLANNAD has all the earmarks of a dating sim (because, well, that's what it is largely), but the more I worked on it, the more I discovered that it's also the story of an entire town in its own way. Yeah, you pick a girl, but there are side stories with teachers and day laborers and bakery owners depending on which girl's story you pick. There are all sorts of intricate side stories, and the fascinating thing as an editor was having full access to the knowledge of where the stories intersected and branched. For example, you might be given a scene that could read seven different ways based on who you've talked to. Yeah, that's part of what a visual novel can be, but when there are so many characters and there's so much plot, there are branches in directions you wouldn't imagine.

There's just something very entertaining about editing a scene with a seemingly throwaway character just after working on the chapter that gives their whole back story. Or working on a scene in one route where characters wonder what another character is up to... and knowing because you just worked on the parallel scene the night before.

You get the idea.

CLANNAD is a massive game with massive replay value -- not just because there's a lot to see, but because playing it multiple times moves you closer to a major end result. I do recommend it. Just set aside a lot of time.

Buy CLANNAD on Steam.