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Published August 20, 2011

Clannad.

The Key visual novel has spawned an animated series, a manga series as well as two OVAs (Original Video Animation) and a film. With that kind of popularity, it is only natural that there would be a mountain fan works on both sides of the globe.

That is the spirit behind Clannad: The Past Path by Scope Games. A fan-made prequel to the events of the first game, The Past Path focuses on the Father of the series protagonist: Naoyuki Okazaki. While it is an intriguing take on the series, the game cannot avoid the pitfalls that snare most fan works.

The main character of the story is Naoyuki Okazaki. Suffering abuse from his classmates after moving, Naoyuki’s family soon lose their recently born daughter. This, compounded with one extremely bad day, led him to become a shut in for a year. At the core of the game is a story about overcoming the cruelties of life and said cruelties stack up quickly…and often times it’s a little ridiculous. Save for a few moments of happiness, this guy gets crapped on continuously through the vast majority of his life.

Most of the game is obviously inspired from a scene in one of the anime series, specifically this one:

 

This is actually, at its core, an interesting and intimate portrait of human struggles; even when it is exaggerated. I am not the biggest fan of the character of Naoyuki and as someone who waited until I finished playing The Past Path to see how it tied into the canon, I was mostly impressed. The theories into the world of the game and philosophies of the characters manage to ring true from to time time. Unfortunately, some of the decisions made with the story simple don’t work.

Other paths are present here and you will have options to take the canon future away from him by putting Naoyuki with another woman. However, those options are so tightly controlled and short that it is more cosmetic than anything. Scope Games’ full attention (which they admit) is on Atsuko, his canon wife and mother of his son, and Naoyuki’s relationship and it made everything else in the game feel like more of a distraction than something that added to the overall game. To be honest, even if it had meant a shorter game, it didn’t need to be there.

With that being said, it isn’t like the True Path is spotless either. When it clicks, it leads to some tender moments and genuine concern for the lives of these two young people. When it doesn’t, it’s beyond redemption. Some sections of the story seem some determined to yank your emotions and those parts end up either cliché or annoying. For example, there is the in-game joke about Atsuko being a Mary-Sue character and at first you just kind of shrug it off. But about midway the writers consciously put in a scene that has no possible tie in to the canon whatsoever that makes that joke reality. In fact, it happens twice and both times it is neither necessary nor good.

Outside of its frustrating moments, this is a story that really digs into some of the basic questions of human nature and resolve. I ended up liking it in the end and it shows a lot of promise for any future works Scope Games decides to do.

 

This is a joke. Seriously.

Presentation and Gameplay
The art style of the game remains true to its inspiration. All of the character art is directly inspired by the art used in the Clannad story and most fans of Japanese animation have seen it before. Save for a few oddly drawn characters (Naoyuki’s Mom for example) usually it all checks out. The backgrounds are all done in the same art style and everything blends together well.

Outside of that, there isn’t anything to mix up what you see in front of you during the game and actually things go backward more than once. A lot of key moments of the game are just the background without any character sprites: even if the characters had sprites and are in the scene. On one hand, it makes you focus on reading whatever is going on in the story. On the other hand if an important scene happens like, for example, someone gets arrested or someone reports on a murder, to not have anything but a black screen or an empty background in front of you is disappointing.

I wish there was more to say here but it is pretty much what you see is what you get. The game’s presentation isn’t bad by any means, but it doesn’t get out of average.

As for Gameplay, this is a novel in the truest possible sense. Interaction within the story is kept to a minimum with pivotal choices popping up every now and then. Most of the time, you’ll be reading through the major events of the game without being able to interact with them.

This is what brings both the weaknesses and strengths of the story to light. There are moments you wish you had more options in what to do or a deeper ability to drive the story outside of when the creators let you do so. As it is, it works to deliver the story and at that point it’ll depend on your taste in fiction.

Like Presentation, I wish there was some more to say here but Gameplay is so straight forward that it pretty much wraps itself up. Moving on.

 

Ah the fuzzy memories of yesterday…that is what this is right?

Replay Value

This is a free game available for download from the Scope Games website and taking my time with it I knocked out the True Path in about four hours. To be fair, I was also watching reruns of Chopped so it might have gone quicker than that. And when the automatic text speed is on, it could go even faster.

Now, what does all of that mean? Honestly it means that one play through, at least for me, is enough. Unfortunately, the time invested into Atsuko and Naoyuki means that there isn’t really much else to come back to in this game. If you are a fan of Clannad, nostalgia could make you play through it just to combat Scope’s theories of the game’s world with your own. For the rest of us, when the final credits begin to roll, that will be it.

 

Scope Games has an interesting take on the Clannad universe, but it doesn’t come together is well as it probably did in their heads. An interesting but flawed story wrapped up in decent art keeps this one from reaching its full potential and deliver an truly unique take on a beloved franchise. Unable to step out of average, for fans of the original and everyday gamers alike, this will be either hit or miss.