Seven years, 10 months, 10 weeks and 10 Days to the moment I first watched the Anime on Netflix, I finally got my hands on the original medium where it all began, the Visual Novel in December.
For those who don’t know, a visual novel is basically an interactive audio/visual story. They’ve been around in the U.S. for about 30 years–The Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney games are a textbook example. You simply pick from a series of choices to move the story along. In short, Visual Novels have little to no actual gameplay.
The one thing I noticed about Clannad’s Visual Novel (henceforth VN for short) compared to the Anime version is the VN has more sexual innuendos and is a bit more lewd compared to the Anime. It’s definitelty not as approachable compared to its Anime counterpart for what a western audience might be used to. I also noticed that obviously, scenes that are trunicated or done differently in the Anime version you see more of in the VN. More on this in a bit.
As of this week I have seen the endings for Koumura, Miyazawa, Nagisa, Fuko, Kyou, Kotomi, Ryou, Mei and Sunohara. Like the Anime, those last two are together. If not for the Anime version, I doubt I would have known how to get Fuko, Kotomi and Miyazawa’s routes: You can easily miss all of them early on. Unlike the Anime version, Nagisa is not there for all of the routes: Like their episode on the Anime, she is not present for The Twins’ Route (which locks into one or the other based on certain choices).
Speaking of the twins: It took me two days to correctly get Kyou’s ending. Although I had the Anime episode as a reference, there was a choice that wasn’t referenced in the Anime that ended up playing a huge role in determining if you got Kyou’s ending or not: A necklace. Buy the first one, Amethyst (Ryou wanted the second one, Tanzite) and accept Kyou’s offer to kiss her. You should also choose to jump out when you see a certain kissing scene about to happen. Those should lock you into Kyou’s ending. For Ryou’s, pick the Tanzite necklace and turn down Kyou’s offer to kiss her.
You definitely need to befriend Nagisa to get locked into Kotomi, Misae and Fuko’s Routes. Be careful, though: Nagisa is the canon pairing after all. I got Fuko’s ending by agreeing to help her but declining to move into her house while picking all of the Fuko interactions. For Kotomi, you need to avoid meeting Fuko at all and see Kotomi’s first 3 interactions. Upon seeing the third one, you will be on her Route.
I’m struggling a bit more than I expected in getting Misae and Tomoyo’s Routes. In the case of Tomoyo’s I kept ending up going for someone else’s route instead. With Misae’s, I’m trying to figure out how far into Tomoyo and Nagisa’s choices I should go to get Misae’s route as well. I figure Miase’s is similar to Kotomi’s: You could still not get the ending if you don’t pick the right choices along the way.
…According to the credits, The After Story Route IS in the game. Presumably you will need to have seen everyone’s endings first. It is also worth mentioning in the Manga adaptation, the storyline follows the VN’s version of Nagisa’s Route, not the anime version’s. It goes without saying I rate the VN a 10/10. If you loved the anime, you owe it to yourself to play the Visual Novel where it all began. It will give you a deeper appreciation for the cast as well.
Note that the Steam version is $50 but if you consider yourself a fan, it’s well worth the price tag plus you can download it on multiple computers of course. The audio is Japanese while the text is in English. When I did my Clannad panel this year, a lucky member of the audience got to try the VN during the panel. For just about everyone in the audience who watched, it was their first time seeing the VN at all =O