Did you have a friend or group of friends when you were a child that you were sure would always stick around? Despite our best wishes, it often seems that time has other plans for our formative friendships. A Sky Full of Stars shares the story of Akito, a young man living in a rural Japanese town. When he was a child, he made friends with two girls – Hikari and Saya. This friendship was actually incredibly challenging to form, as after losing both his parents to an accident, Akito had trouble forming bonds with others. The trio all fell in love with astronomy and quickly became inseparable. As they spent countless hours watching the skies they even put together a journal with their collective understanding of stars and space.
Yet, despite everything seeming to perfectly, one day Hikari quietly distanced herself from the group and basically disappeared. It left Akito and Saya in a precarious state to be without their precious friend. Since then, Akito made the difficult decision to never stargaze again. Everyone knew something about his background and even started calling him “the astronomer who never looks at the stars.” A Sky Full of Stars might sound like a downbeat visual novel, but this is just the introduction. As players read through they’ll discover all sorts of happy memories along the more bittersweet ones. In a smart move, the game alternates between time periods. You’ll often see the trio as children in elementary and middle school before warping up to their present high school days.
Some visual novels that go back and forth in their own timeline can be a bit confusing. This is rarely the case in A Sky Full of Stars thanks to the fact that it keeps its focus on three main characters. There’s also a handy note which pops up to explain which part of history you’re currently reading through. As the story evolves, more characters make their appearance, such as those of students at other schools who also adore astronomy. Two of these other characters have their own routes to explore. It’s best to save these endings after you’ve explored the first two with heroines Hikari and Saya. Of note, the common route should take folks anywhere from seven to twelve hours to complete before moving onto one of four character-specific routes.
Each character route clocks in somewhere around four to eight hours on top of the common route playthrough. In many ways, the themes of childhood friendship, loss and jealousy are handled surprisingly well. With that said, there are definitely some facets of the story which don’t quite add up if you really decide to analyse them. There’s also the matter of there being a decent amount of typos and various other errors in the text. It appears these issues are already being patched, however, and are fortunately not near the level of MoeNovel’s first release of Pulltop’s If My Heart Had Wings. As stated earlier, the underlying story is just fine. It might be a fairly slow for some, but the focus on astronomy helps keep this slice of life tale interesting.
It’s clear that Pulltop has an affinity for the sky. The starry sky is rendered crisply and often in CG scenes and animated sequences. Despite being 2D artwork it really manages to convey the awe of a star-filled sky at night. Of course, the rest of the artwork also holds up well. The anime characters are of similarly high quality, though certainly not nearly as awe-inspiring. A few “animated” sequences are repeated throughout the visual novel. They aren’t too common to become annoying, at least. The same holds true for the music. Each track is simple and pleasant in keeping with the story’s themes.
There are not many choices to make throughout a playthrough of A Sky Full of Stars. As such, it’s not too difficult to figure out the route paths. The slow story could have certainly used more dynamic aspects, such as inconsequential dialogue choices, as to keep players from getting a bit sleepy. It seems that’s just the kind of storytelling that the developer enjoys to present to people. There’s one other strange aspect to the game in its current incarnation.
Why is it that A Sky Full of Stars features 18+ content in Japan but not for its English language debut? MoeNovel is a bit infamous in the visual novel community for suggesting they were localizing games for fourteen year olds, as apparently they aren’t interested in adult content. It seemed that things were changing with MoeNovel then published two LoveKami titles, their answer of sorts to the Sakura series. Unfortunately for fans of complete visual novels, they still seem to be unwilling to budge on the matter of 18+ content.
Visual novel readers who enjoy relaxing with a slow-paced, sweet tale may find A Sky Full of Stars a worthy next read. Its astronomy-focused tale provides an unique take on the slice of life genre and provides characters who care about something other than the protagonist. Those opposed to censorship, however, will likely need to skip the game entirely to get their message across. With so many of MoeNovel’s peers taking the route of optional restoration patches, it’s becoming increasingly tougher for MoeNovel to justify their stance.