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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
8.0
Visuals
5.5
Audio
9.0
Gameplay
8.5
Features
8.5
Replay
7.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PC
PUBLISHER:
G-Collections
DEVELOPER:
D.O.
GENRE: Adventure
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
July 17, 2009
ESRB RATING:
Not Rated
 Written by Jason Young  on September 21, 2009

Review:


Heralded as one of the top Bishoujo (literally "beautiful young girl") Games of All-Time in 2007, Kazoku Keikau (otherwise known as Family Project), was a very widely anticipated English release for fans of visual novels. Known for being KEY's inspiration for their grand project CLANNAD, Family Project can be essentially seen as the Citizen Kane for the genre as it established many recurring themes that would be borrowed from later games back in 2001.



Written by Yamada Hajime, the author of popular titles such as Kana: Little Sister and Yume Miru Kasuri, Family Project tells the story of a loner named Tsukasa who is reluctant to form any bonds with people lest they be shattered. Working at a Chinese restaurant to make ends meat, his destiny is changed one night when he finds an illegal immigrant laying asleep in the back of an alley. Deciding to take her in, it triggers a series of incidents that lead him to losing his apartment and becoming homeless on the streets. Finding a number of other people in similar situations, they decide to form a family in order to help each other out through solving their personal problems. From the street smart Jun to the young high school student Matsuri, each has his/her own problem that the protagonist solves as he slowly begins to open his heart to others.

Clocking in at around thirty hours, the game's plot is basically one long storyline with a whole slew of choices that eventually lead to the individual character arcs. While the primary storyline beginning from the time when Tsukasa finds the immigrant Chunhua, it lasts roughly twenty-five hours with many inconsistent bits of comedy sprinkled along the way. Although, I admit, I particularly enjoyed Hiroshi and his light use of breaking the fourth wall. While it's admittedly slow, everything is sort of redeemed through the individual arcs and epilogue which are filled with enough drama and tear-jerkers to make a grown man cry. Each one of these lasts about five hours on their own although they tend to seem a bit rushed.

Although the game relies on many anime stereotypes that can be found in almost any visual novel, it's important to remember that the game was originally released in Japan in 2001 and took nearly nine years to localize. At the time of its release, it was known as the best game of the genre with its mix of good artwork, a great soundtrack, and a very interpersonal story. Accompanied by Japanese pop-idol Kotoko's excellent opening theme "Under the Same Sky", who is coincidentally also responsible for BlazBlue's opening theme, the game has a very strong presentation despite the fact that it has slowly begun to show its age.

My main problem with the artwork though is the consistency between the amount of CG scenes and the fact that many of them are recycled. While there may only be a few scenes dedicated to secondary main characters like the tsundere character Aoba, there's a whole mess of them for both Chunhua and Matsuri. While it's not necessarily a bad thing, considering that I'm a huge fan of Matsuri, many people may find themselves annoyed with this issue. Also of note is the censoring of the localized version, which doesn't detract from the storyline in my opinion, but it has plenty of fanboys up in arms on the Internet.

Audibly however, the voice actors do a fine job conveying the necessary sincere emotions that the game's script requires. Along with the game's strong accompanying soundtrack, this is easily the best part of the game's presentation.

Bottom Line
So is Family Project the greatest visual novel of all time? No. It's not. It's not even the best English one available. However, that doesn't mean that it's bad either. On par with other visual novels such as Hourglass of Summer, Yume Miru Kasuri and Kana: Little Sister, Family Project provides the reader/player with an enjoyable story that begins with depression and ends in happiness as Tsukasa discovers the meaning of family. As a game that set up future trends for visual novels including the use of the family theme, establishing pro-valiant character types and not to mention showing the world the awesomeness that is Matsuri, the game is an easy recommendation for any fan of the genre. Just be sure to check your expectations at the door.


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