planetarian

Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume

, is a Japanese post-apocalyptic visual novel centering around a middle-aged man who comes across a malfunctioning robot in a dead city. The man, known simply as "the junker", stays with this robot for a time and attempts to fix the projector of the planetarium where the story takes place.

Planetarian was first released on the Internet in 2004 by Key, a Japanese software studio whose previous works include Kanon and Air. Unlike those two games, Planetarian did not contain adult content, and was the second of Key's products to do this, the first being Clannad. It was later re-released on April 28, 2006 on CD-ROM with full voice acting for the female lead. A limited edition version was sold for pre-orders and early buyers; in it included a 243-page book of short stories set in the world of Planetarian and some included a bonus shitajiki, or pencil board. A PlayStation 2 port and a mobile phone version of the game were published by Prototype and both released in 2006. The mobile version was used on FOMA and SoftBank 3G cellular phones. A drama CD based on the "Snow Globe" short story from the promotional book was released at the end of 2006, and two more went on sale in July 2007.

Key defines Planetarian as a "kinetic novel", since it offers no choices or alternate endings. Instead, the player proceeds through the story solely by reading. In that sense, Planetarian, unlike Key's past works, is not a game. In addition, Planetarian is the only Key production not to have Itaru Hinoue as an artist, using Eeji Komatsu instead. Key's signature musical composers Shinji Orito and Magome Togoshi arranged the music on the game's original soundtrack.

Gameplay

Unlike traditional visual novels, no choices are given to the player in Planetarian to advance the story in alternate directions, and there is only one possible ending; this is what Key referred to as a kinetic novel. The player can choose when to go to the next dialogue screen or put the game on autoplay. In this respect, the player does not play the game as if it were a video game but plays it rather more like one would play a music track on a CD or play a DVD movie. During gameplay, the player can choose to hide the text from view, and go back to any previous lines. Another option includes choosing to save at any time, but there are only five save slots available. A load option is available where the player can load any of the automatically-saved chapter markers, or choose to load any of the manually saved games. The length of Planetarian's story is shorter than typical visual novels and is the shortest of Key's games. Excluding the opening and ending sequences, there are sixteen parts to the story; the first half of the story is set within the planetarium while the latter half is set outside in the ruined city where the planetarium resides. The entire novel takes four hours and forty minutes to complete on auto-play. After the game has been completed at least once, two new options appear on the title screen. The first is a feature that allows the player to view CG artwork observed in the game, totaling twenty separate images. The second option allows the player to replay eight out of the nine music tracks played in the game.

Plot

Setting

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is said that due to the depletion of natural resources, overpopulation, and the failure of the Space Exploration Project, mankind has virtually eradicated itself through biological and nuclear warfare, turning a once prosperous civilization into complete ruin, cast in darkness and poisoned by constant rain from nuclear fallout. One such military invasion in the past history was at Mare Nectaris. Thirty years later, machines manufactured during the war have taken over, continuing the bloodshed in a dystopic world, killing any remaining humans who trespass on their territory. Of the surviving humans, there are those known as "junkers" who go around scavenging for anything in order to survive; the protagonist in the story is one such junker.

The main location where most of the story takes place is the fictional Flowercrest Department Store in a derelict city. It is based on the real Matsubishi Department Store of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka in Japan, though the planetarium on the rooftop is purely fictional. The onset of the story takes place within the planetarium which is where the junker first meets Yumemi. The room is filled with seats which are slightly inclined back to give the customers a better view of the ceiling during a show. The most prominent feature in the room when a show is not taking place is the large black planetarium projector called "Miss Jena", which is placed on a stage in front of the seats. The planetarium has electricity when the junker arrives, but only for a short time. Once a year for 168 hours, electricity in the planetarium is operational, but the projector is broken. The rest of the floors in the department store are run-down; mold and rats run rampant.

Characters

The junker is a nameless middle-aged human soldier, living the life of a "junker", scavenging useful items among the ruins to survive. He enters a derelict city searching for undamaged goods, and goes into hiding after fleeing from an encounter with dangerous mobile war machines. Rather than retreating and resupplying himself, he heads deeper into the ruins and enters an old abandoned planetarium on the roof of an abandoned building he first thought was a military facility. There, he meets Yumemi Hoshino, a robot designed to look like a young girl who annoys him greatly due to her constant talking.

The junker has a tough personality that comes from trying to survive in a dystopic world. To survive, he carries a grenade launcher with him and covers his person with a water-proof coat to protect his skin from the toxic rain. For water, he has a canteen with a water-purifier that can purify the rain. He is constantly searching for rarer substances such as cigarettes and alcohol which fetch a big price if sold.
Yumemi is a good-natured but extremely talkative robot attendant of an abandoned planetarium; she is designed to look like a young female human. Yumemi is slightly damaged and completely unaware of the changes that have occurred in the past thirty years, as none of the facilities and databases that she connects to exist anymore. Therefore, she treats the junker like a regular guest by calling him , speaks of the world as it was before the war, and fails to understand any information he tells her, other than things related to her job at the planetarium. The name "Hoshino Yumemi" itself is a pun — "hoshi" means star or planetary body; "no" is a possessive particle; "yume" is a dream or a reverie; "mi" means see. Yumemi is the only character shown to the audience of the game.

Yumemi is very adamant about protecting humans and is happiest when she is in the care of the beloved humans she serves. When she is unable to help someone who asks needs it, she gets terribly worried that she is incapable of offering assistance and must instead indirectly help a customer by directing him or her to someone who can. Protecting humans is her top priority and will even ignore previous orders to make sure no human is harmed when in her care.
The planetarium director is the manager of the planetarium that Yumemi works at. He is spoken of by Yumemi throughout most of the story and only appears near the ending in a hazy holographic video which is projected from Yumemi's own memories; only a silhouette is visible as he stands among four other coworkers. He is depicted as a man who treated Yumemi well, and more as a coworker than a robot.
The elder junker is an older man in the same situation as the protagonist, but is never shown; he is only spoken of by the junker. He died prior to the story from injuries sustained from a booby trap. The elder junker told the protagonist about when he once happened across a dead city and found a talkative robot; it is never explicitly stated whether the robot he met was Yumemi or not. The elder junker told the junker that if he were to ever enter the same city he had to not talk to the robot he met under any circumstance. The junker later is reminded of the elder junker's warning after he finds out how talkative Yumemi can be.

Story

While dodging detection from killer machines, the junker enters a building with a dome on the roof to search for usable supplies. Inside the dome, he meets Yumemi, who offers to show him a special commemorative projection especially reserved for the 2,500,000th customer, although he is in fact the 2,497,290th customer. Despite his aggravation with her, he agrees to attend her show. However, the projector device, "Miss Jena", has broken down and is in need of repair. Curiously, he tries to repair it himself, and in the process, understands that the planetarium is not a military building but an amusement attraction. It turns out that his arrival is of sheer coincidence, as the place runs on an old power generator somewhere in the city still giving minimal power, which is only enough to recharge Yumemi to operate for exactly one week every year. After Miss Jena is repaired enough to function mechanically, Yumemi plugs herself in to start the show, and presents an amazing projection of the starry sky, something missing from the outside world because of the polluted skies. Unfortunately, the power finally goes out in the midst of the show, but Yumemi proceeds through the rest of the event with no visuals at the request of the protagonist.

Both of them eventually leave the planetarium, as Yumemi insists on escorting her customer back to his vehicle outside the city walls. It is during this time that he devises a plan to quietly transport Yumemi out of the city when her battery completely runs out, and later find a way to re-activate her and obtain a portable projector so that they can travel to various refugee encampments together and show the remaining humans her presentation. When they reach the city walls, he spots a machine he calls a fiddler crab due to its design guarding the entrance in which he came from, and he tells Yumemi to stay put while he leaves to destroy it. Armed with only a grenade launcher, he tries to take down the machine with his remaining high explosive squash head rounds covertly, but a dud blows his cover and he is forced to face the machine front on, and thus is completely outmatched by it, breaking his right leg while evading its gunfire. Programmed with the directive to protect human life before performing all other orders, Yumemi ignores the earlier request to stand still and approaches the machine to try and electronically command it to retreat. Before the protagonist can capitalize on the distraction and finish the machine off, Yumemi is literally blown in half by its machine guns, destroying her main battery.

Irreparably damaged from the attack and being further destroyed by the toxic rain shorting her now exposed internals, she attempts one last time to send a distress call to the no longer existent support center. She spends her emergency battery life replaying her pre-war memories to him using a tiny hologram projector on her ear. She visually recollects the day she was activated, cheerful experiences with past customers, and the day the entire city was evacuated as war broke out, with the other planetarium workers unwillingly leaving her behind. When the video fades, she reveals that she had known that the planetarium would never have more customers during the thirty years she was alone, despite her apparent infinite optimism up to this point. She prays to the stars and wishes to serve humans forevermore in heaven as she "dies" in front of him. To comfort her, he lies and makes up a story that he was specifically sent by her human coworkers to pull her from the city and take her to her new place of work, indirectly referring to his own earlier plans to rescue her. In her final moment, she ejects the memory card from her artificial brain for his safekeeping. Touched and completely shaken by the loss of the beautiful world she left in his mind, he throws away his gun and puts the memory card in his coat, before wandering off with a broken leg as the fallen war machine's automated backup close in on the scene.

Development

Planetarian had a small staff at merely three main people that did the majority of the work for the game's first release. The first notable difference than the games Key produced before Planetarian is that the art director position was given to Eeji Komatsu instead of Itaru Hinoue who had held the position for the three previous games. Furthermore, Jun Maeda, Key's main scenario writer and project planner, was left out of the project, and Yūichi Suzumoto was given the position of planning and scenario. The music, excluding a single piece composed by Shinji Orito, was arranged or composed entirely by Magome Togoshi, one of Key's signature composers.

In the original version, Yumemi is only voiced during the beginning and ending scenes, while other characters are not voiced. When Planetarian was released for the PC playable as a CD-ROM, Yumemi had full voice acting. The PlayStation 2 version offers full voice acting for the entire cast. Other changes to the PS2 version include a higher resolution for the computer graphics and an extended soundtrack.

Release history

Planetarian was released via download over the Internet on November 29, 2004, first made available only to Yahoo! Japan Broadband users and opened up for general sale a week later on December 6. The game is still available on the KineticNovel website for download. The visual novel was later re-released playable on the PC as a CD-ROM on April 28, 2006 in limited and regular editions. On August 24, 2006, Planetarian was ported to the PlayStation 2 by Prototype. A portable version, playable on FOMA and SoftBank 3G cellular phones, was produced by Prototype through Visual Art's Motto on November 28, 2006. This version included full voice acting for the version on FOMA phones.

Related media

Short stories

A collection of four illustrated short stories, including a prologue and an epilogue, based on Planetarian's story were written by Japanese author Yūichi Suzumoto, and illustrated by Eeji Komatsu. The stories were bound in a 243-page book which was originally bundled with the limited edition of the CD version of Planetarian, and was included in the limited edition of the PlayStation 2 version. The book will be re-published as a commercial release by Visual Art's under their VA Bunko light novel imprint on October 31, 2008. The first two stories presented occur before the events of the kinetic novel, and the last two occur during its aftermath. The front matter of the book reads: "Constellations. Words. God. Robots. A collection of short stories in the key of these four themes."
This story occurs before the events of the Great War that brought the world to ruin; at this point, Yumemi has been working at the Flowercrest Department Store's rooftop planetarium for about ten years. One day, Yumemi begins to act strangely, culminating in her simply walking out and wandering around the town. The staff of the planetarium are bewildered, and one of the workers — a woman named Satomi Kurahashi — is ordered to go follow Yumemi and bring her back. Before long, Yumemi begins to run out of battery power.
This story occurs as the Great War reaches its height. The South American Unification Army receives reports of a rogue sniper operating deep in the jungles of Patagonia, and sends a platoon under the command of Master Sergeant Murdock to neutralize the threat. However, the entire platoon is killed off one by one by the sniper, until only Murdock is left. All alone, Murdock catches a glimpse of this mysterious sniper through his binoculars — and is shocked to find that he gazes upon the figure of a beautiful nun.
This story occurs some time after the events of the kinetic novel, as the human civilizations struggle in a losing battle against the poisonous rain. Three of the last inhabitants of a nearly-abandoned underground fallout shelter — named Levi, Ruth, and Job — find a quaint old man collapsed in the snow outside the bunker. When they bring him down, they are surprised to hear the adults of the shelter calling him "Man of the Stars". The children grow quite interested about this strange nickname, as well as the fact that they have never seen a visitor from the outside world. The old man recovers a bit, and then has the children help him in putting together a certain device. It is only after this that the story that began in the kinetic novel comes full circle.
Tircis and Aminte, identical twins, study alone in a world of their own. However, suddenly a thought comes to Tircis: "What am I studying for? How long will this go on?" This is the story of how the answer reveals itself to Tircis and Aminte.

Audio CDs

The visual novel has one main theme song, the ending theme sung by Mell of I've Sound. On August 11, 2006, during Comiket 70, the original soundtrack for Planetarian was released, and was re-released on December 28, 2006. Aside from the songs in the game like "Gentle Jena" and , the soundtrack included new songs such as the vocal version of "Song of Circling Stars". A majority of the soundtrack was composed or rearranged by Magome Togoshi, who also worked on Key's previous games, Air, and Clannad. The musical tracks played at the beginning and the end of the game (track one and eight in the original soundtrack) are rearrangements of the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" by Charles Crozat Converse, and their titles reflect this as well: the original title "Hoshi no Sekai ~Opening~" refers to the Japanese version of the hymn named "Hoshinoyo", and "Itsukushimi Fukaki" is the Japanese translation of the hymn's original title.

The first drama CD entitled A Snow Globe was released on December 29, 2006 during Comiket 71, and was re-released on May 25, 2007. As its name suggests, the CD covers the "Snow Globe" story from the limited edition book. The opening track takes place one year before the junker arrives at the planetarium and the "Snow Globe" story is told as a flashback. The end of the drama CD is where the kinetic novel begins. A second drama CD entitled Jerusalem was released on July 27, 2007 and covers the "Jerusalem" story from the limited edition book. The final drama CD entitled Hoshi no Hito was released on the same day as the second drama CD and covers the "Hoshi no Hito" and "Tircis and Aminte" stories from the limited edition book. The "Hoshi no Hito" story plays like a regular drama CD with several different voice actors acting out the parts, but "Tircis and Aminte" is just a recited story by Keiko Suzuki, the voice actress who plays Yumemi Hoshino.

Reception

Planetarian was the first game under the brand name KineticNovel to be described by the term "kinetic novel", and is one of only two kinetic novels to be featured in the Lycèe Trading Card Game, the other being Fushigi no Kuni no Kanojo. The PC version of the visual novel was positively reviewed by the visual novel-based website visual-novels.net. The reviewer commented, "You know that you are not able to change the story, the good things and the bad things which are going to happen. The reason I recommend Planetarian is because of it's interesting story, the bombastic soundtrack, and the lovely graphics. Though this game doesn't provide that much of content, I think it's still something which should appeal to everyone, not just a Key fan."

Notes and references

External links

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