It marked the start of a massive franchise that would define Idea Factory for many years (both good & bad), & in 2004 would be given a label to call its own: IF Neverland.
Now one might wonder why I'd bother to do something like cover the IF Neverland franchise like this. Ask some people online, both in Japan & abroad, and you might get a common response that winds up being similar to how some felt about Idea Factory in general, especially during the 00s: They're all (or at least most of them are) "kusoge", i.e. abjectly terrible games. However, aside from the simple curiosity factor (& a feeling that their "crap factor" is likely overblown to varying extents due to online echo chambering, as I've played good & fun Idea Factory games, mainly from pre-2010), there's also just the sheer size & scale of this franchise. From 1996 to 2009, Idea Factory released 35 different games (plus another 10, if you include the various ports to other consoles with altered titles that included some sort of new content!) that took place in the fantasy world of Neverland, creating a massive timeline of events with over 1,000+ years of in-universe lore & an utterly enormous cast of characters, many of which would debut in one game or another, only to become recurring characters in various other games, sometimes as supporting cast & sometimes as major players in the plot. To just cast this franchise away as nothing special & not even try to understand even a basic level of everything that was put into this 13-year stretch of releases (most of which were only ever released in Japan) would be a disservice, I feel. Also, I don't think it'd be an exaggeration to say that, without IF Neverland, the Idea Factory that exists today (IF, IF International, Design Factory, Otomate, Compile Heart, etc.) would likely not even be around, especially since there were a couple of years in which IF released nothing but IF Neverland games.
Obviously, with so many titles to cover here, this won't be a series of traditional "reviews" but rather more of a general overview, though I'll still include my personal feelings on them when possible, & I can't guarantee any sort of consistency as to when all five parts of this series will come out; they'll come out when they're ready, essentially. Still, we might as well start with the easiest place there is: The Beginning.