This is a casual review of Air - standard edition, having played all 3 heroine routes plus "Summer", and "Air".
The translation I used is by Sheeta, and not Gao-gao translations (sorry).
I have seen the anime version a long time ago and I barely remember any details from it. I heard that the VN is better and so I tried it. After finishing the VN, I double down on that statement.
I want this summer to be the best I've ever had. Because this is the summer I met you. - Kamio Mizusu
Some background: Air is released by KEY after Kanon, and before Clannad. I'd classify the game a Nakige, much like Clannad After Story.
The game has the theme of Summer, compared to Kanon's winter. I'm not sure if Clannad had a season theme.
Art: Key style. I personally like KEY style. I cannot really comment on the intricacies of the art and the CGs. I do think the number of CGs are quite few but I'm just spoiled.
Music/Sound: It's ok. There are a couple of memorable and catchy tunes (Minagi's theme) but nothing too bad, nothing too fantastic.
Story: I don't like the fact that I'm forced to play the other two heroines to unlock Summer+Air. Kano's route felt like a massive filler. Minagi's route is decent, while Mizusu's route felt just like Little Buster's Rin route is when playing it for the first time --- stopped short of the climax. Overall the heroine routes suffer from an unbearably SLOW development. I drowned on slice-of-life with what seems like 80% of the game. Literally felt like only 3 sentences out of a day in Air contributes to the advancement of the plot. It's quite anachronistic to make this comparison but, Air feels like an unrefined Clannad. If you are a KEY fan, you will see elements of KEY style in Air. The humor is hit-or-miss, not as good as Clannad or LB. Tension build-up was way too slow in Air, which is something they vastly improved in Clannad in my opinion.
Stegosaurus. Gao. Gao - Yukito
The highlight of the whole game for me was Summer route. It contained tension from very early in the route and kept me hooked from start to finish. I'm not sure if going through two unrelated filler arcs was worth getting to Summer. But I would say this route even trumped the final route "Air", and is the main bone of the game. Summer is very impactful. Most of the final route "Air" was mostly a repeat of Misuzu's route and it's quite unpleasant to go through the slice-of-life elements again with barely any change on the narration... The story line outside of "Summer" arc only spikes in drama at the end. Tension in the mid-route is almost non-existent. The mysteries are so-so.
Beginnings always need a tiny bit of courage. Happiness can bloom from just a few words. -Yukito Narration (?)
As for themes, I'm not really good at analyzing but I will try. The setting takes place on a rural town, and as such cell-phones and modern technology doesn't exist as much. By playing Air, you get a sense of the laidback countryside, with its elderly. The setting is so simple there's nothing eyecatching or interesting. But simplicity in itself seems to be what the setting conveys. Sky and flying are the main aspects of the story and there are countless references to it in-game. There are some great quotes all throughout the game, but I wasn't engaged too much with any kind of philosophical stimulation. I'm sure there are countless other themes that the game conveyed but I won't bother brainstorming at this point.
Just another summer day. A mundane, typical day. Maybe that's all I wanted. -Yukito (Narration)
I'm used to spend everyday traveling. So now, living a life in one place is the start of a new adventure. -Yukito
Scores: I'm not going to try to come up with arbitrary number for every category but I will give this VN an overall score of 6-7; meaning I will put it in the AVERAGE category. I have played or watched so much slice-of-life stories that I'm just numbed to the majority of the scenes here. Usually at that point, if there are no main plot developments happening, then humor is the only one that keeps me going. Air's humor is spotty as I mentioned before.
Will I recommend this?
If you like other KEY titles and its narratives, and are a fan of drama --- then yes. If you are a beginner or new to the Visual Novel scene, play this one later. There are countless numerous other better VNs than Air. Part of the reason I have survived through this game was because I was already a huge fan of KEY (having replayed Clannad like 4 times). As a standalone game it's so-so, not a bad VN, but not superb.
And so I leave you with a few more quotes.
Is there any meaning in wings that can't fly? -Minagi Tohno
They're precious memories of when you used to fly through the sky. (???)