If you are familiar with Key and some of their titles beforehand, then you should not be surprised to see how Little Busters rolls. However, I dare to say this is Key's finest work so far. Yep, it's better than the esteemed Clannad, though not like the gap is that big.
Story & World-building
That is not to say this game is flawless by all means. On the contrary, it's downright juvenile, and, ironically, despite "Little" being part of the title, they tend to blow things out of proportion for some seriously ridiculous or trivial reasons. But you know what, it just works, at least to me.
I'm way past the point of getting mad or sweating the small details, and if you just let those little bumps slide along the way, the whole story is a lot more enjoyable and entertaining than how it looks.
The core theme of LB is rather simple (friendship), yet the tradeoff is the fact that it remained consistent from the start till the end.
That said, I'm still most impressed at the direction taken at Haruka's route since it was an oddly bold decision of Key to derail from their usual pure and innocent "image". I did go out of my way to write a post about that route, so not going to dive deep into it here.
On a different note, world-building (routing system included) is a bit ambitious, and I legit find this aspect to be the most wasted potential as it does have room for further expansion and maybe even epic showdowns, but that's probably too much to fit in Key's mindset.
The cast, on the other hand, is a rag-tag bunch ranging from being dumb fun (glaring at Haruka), down-to-earth wholesome-ish, and straight-up raw swag kino (Kanata supremacy, period).
What's more, the character interactions feel organic and dynamic, not just from the usual suspects but also those who are deceptively out of the loop, which is a plus to me.
As a heads-up, though, there will be plenty of casual slice-of-life and, bluntly put, non-sensical segments when you get started with the story. Still, as mentioned above, this is pretty much a tradition of Key, so it's most likely inevitable 🤷. In other words, be prepared for the worst if you're not a fan of this kind of content (glad I didn't have to 😂)
Next up, the sound design is solid overall, and the OSTs featured throughout the game are pretty lit (the OP is the best). But damn, some of the ambient tracks just seamlessly blend in with the atmosphere of certain scenes that almost tricked me into thinking that I was reading a fantasy story.
Almost forgot though. The voice acting in LB is pretty superb, be it male or female characters, since they all suffered near-zero performance issues, which is just something.
Nevertheless, my bias view is inclined to believe that Suzuki Keiko, the VA of Futaki Kanata and Saigusa Haruka, deserves a gold medal for her extraordinary effort, as she totally killed it by capturing the emotions, demeanors, and nuances of the twin sisters, thus further accentuate the dramatic revelation at the climax of their story. How should I put this, it feels, oddly enough, very real, genuine, and transparent as the conversations or monologues persisted.
Apart from that, the CGs are decent, I guess . However, some shots felt a bit redundant or instead could have used a different angle to make full use of their purpose but whatever.
The only complaint I have in this regard is the awkwardly huge eye design for the characters because they feel ludicrous and even distracting lol (which is, again, a Key's specialty so 🤷)
Gameplay-wise, LB does offer some wacky mini-game in between the storyline, which can be hit-or-miss from how I see it. Personally, while I don't find this element to be that very engaging, it does slightly contribute to polishing character interactivity in general, so yeah, not too terrible if I have to be honest.
In a nutshell, Little Busters is a solid VN for those who don't mind SoL and dumb-fun stuff. And even if it might not live up to your expectation, you sure as hell can expect some good laugh or wholesome moments out of it.
P/S: though there are 3 EX routes left to finish, I figured they are not going to affect my opinion on the game as a whole much so I just went ahead and wrote a quick review for Little Busters right after the end credit of Refrain.