Back in 2005 or so, at Aniverse's #anime, one of my buddies, Matt "Mashu" Kern was much into Kanon, then in Toei anime release. He made me to suffer through some 5 episodes. When the KyoAni remake came about, I gave it a try too, but it was no better.
The excuse to look into the original VN, thus, had most to do with it being original. I watched Joshiraku raw, so there's little I cannot overcome, I thoght. I even imagined that it would be fun to pick a few new kanji along the way.
My mistake was that I forgot that it was a Key product. I chose Mai route because she seemed like the least damaged (about the same as the cousin, but this is not Louisiana). It rolled pretty smoothly until the end, when Mai confessed and immediately offed herself. Oops. It seemed making sense in the moment, but now I understand that I have no clue just what she was thinking, if anything. The epilogue was incomprehensible to me as the end of Evangelion. One key sequence (please pardon the pun) included a sick woman with her daughter... I thought it was future Sayuri.
The art in the game is period-appropriate, which is a polite way to say hideously ugly. The illustration is Mai being remembered, and it includes an eye covering a cheekbone. Anatomy of Kanon characters quickly resets the scale on arguments about deformed fingers in K-ON. If not for that, Mai's gentle smile would've moved me to tears. Think Key staff did it on purpose or just could not draw worth a Pixiv artist off the street?
Still, kanji and art aside, it wasn't a bad adventure. The best part of VN for me was that it had a solid story (in many branches), placed outside of what we now know as school romcom, where the backbone of the story is who gets whom, sprinkled by hijinks. I thought I burned out on that back before Toradora. It is funny to think that Kanon, made on the break of the century, is somehow "outside of the mold" for today, but if it didn't exist, and someone made an anime now, it would be a very watcheable show despite being based on romance in the school setting. It's like a great lost art. The only recipy still available to creators in 2014 is to dillute the romcom with mecha, and IS pretty much said everything in that area.
Now I am sort of wondering how many people came for the sex, and stayed for the story when the original game came out. The iPad version is neutered, but I could not put it down all the same.