Review: Tomoyo After: It’s a Wonderful Life

I’m back this week with another visual novel review. This one is a spin-off of the popular VN Clannad, and it’s called Tomoyo After: It’s a Wonderful Life, and it has recently received an English translation patch. Unlike Clannad, which gives you multiple heroines to choose from, this game is smaller and shorter, and features only one heroine, which is Tomoyo. This game, like Clannad, is done by Key and again features the writing talents of Maeda Jun, who does a lot of the popular Key works such as Kanon and Little Busters. So if you’re familiar with any of those, Tomoyo After will be a somewhat similar experience in terms of themes. So let’s jump into what this game’s all about, shall we?

This game is actually a sequel of sorts to the original Clannad. The way the original game worked was that you’d do all the routes, and collect these spheres of light and then proceed on to the After Story, which would be a sequel to the main game that featured Nagisa as the main character. So in some sense it kind of “route-locked” you into one girl to receive the very best ending in the game (though I would say that most of the girls had fairly well-resolved story lines). Moreover, After Story featured a fully complete story, so it was kind of like getting two games in one, which was nice. Tomoyo After is kind of another After Story for another of the heroines. Essentially, it’s a sequel to Clannad minus the original After Story, and features Tomoyo a the main heroine. As for why Tomoyo was the only character to get an after story and not any of the others, I would guess that she was just the most popular character. Anyway, this game takes place a month after the Tomoyo Route has ended, so we catch Tomoya out of high school and working as an apprentice electrician with his own apartment, and having a fulfilling life with Tomoyo, who is still in high school.

You’d think this game is all about Tomoyo, but… It’s not. She’s still a big part though!

So, unlike a lot of VNs, which kind of follow a “choose a heroine, see their story” mold for gameplay, Tomoyo After is much simpler. The game instead features a single story, broken up into arcs. Most of the choices either continue the story, or “bad end” you so to speak. By that I mean it prematurely ends the story without a positive resolution. There are two actual endings to the game, the normal ending and the good ending. But I’ll touch on those later. Like I mentioned, the story of this game is split into several arcs. Since this game introduces several “new” (not exactly new people, they are explored more in-depth) characters, each arc focuses on these characters, who you have to help find a meaningful resolution to whatever trauma plagues them.

The main characters of this game are Okazaki Tomoya, and Sakagami Tomoyo. Interestingly, their plot arc does not take place until the very end of the game, though they stay very involved in the events of the game. You play through the game in the point of view of Tomoya after all. The characters whose stories you explore are Tomo, Takafumi, and Kanako. The first couple of arcs of the game resolve each of these characters’ personal traumas. Tomo is actually Tomoyo’s half-sister, abandoned by her mother to Tomoyo. Your goal for her is to reunite her with her mother. Takafumi is Tomoyo’s brother, and Kanako is his ex-girlfriend. He has an issue involving his and Kanako’s past, and your goal is to resolve that issue and bring the two of them together. Of course I say “goal” but it’s fairly simple since all you have to do is pick the right series of choices when they come up, which isn’t all that difficult.

From left to right, Tomo, Tomoya, Tomoyo, Takafumi, and Kanako.

As far as the quality of the stories, I have to say that the game is not that compelling up until the end. The problem I had was that the characters weren’t terribly interesting, and I couldn’t get invested in them. This wasn’t a problem for Tomoyo and Tomoya, as I had already invested in them a good deal during playing Clannad. The other characters on the other hand had uninteresting plot lines and the way their issues resolved wasn’t as touching as a Key finishing scene generally is. On that note, I did play Clannad before I played this, so I was already invested in Tomoyo and Tomoya. While it isn’t necessary, I would strongly recommend playing Clannad first since I don’t believe this game does a great job of characterizing Tomoyo and Tomoya for the reader. It’s not bad, but Clannad explores a lot of subtleties of their character that makes what they go through in this game much more enjoyable.

I’ve been hating on the characters and story arcs in this game a fair bit, but despite what I say I did very much enjoy the end of the game. It’s actually a little odd because after you go through each of the character arcs, you’re kind of greeted with a whole new story, as if what you just played was a sort of prologue. The ending story between Tomoya and Tomoyo is actually very touching, and interesting. I’m usually a fan of the tearjerker story lines Key (and by extension, Maeda Jun) comes up with, so of course I’d enjoy this last story between Tomoya and Tomoyo. I felt that it was well-done and the normal ending had a very satisfying conclusion. I don’t like the “good” ending as much, and in some ways it offers less closure than the normal ending, though I won’t go into any more details.

As ridiculous as this looks, this is one of the more touching moments in the game. When a bear can bring a tear to your eye, you can tell Key was behind it.

All that being said, would I suggest the game based off the fact that the ending story is actually quite good? I would. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the earlier character arcs, which would comprise about sixty to seventy percent of the game, I don’t think they’re bad. Compared to what I’m used to receive in terms of compelling characters and dramatic story lines, I didn’t quite get that feeling here. A big part of that I would say is that because this game is short and as a result can’t develop the characters as well, which would explain why Tomoya and Tomoyo’s arc felt better, since they had a full game’s worth of development behind them already.

One last point I’d like to make is that the music for this game is very very good. The stellar soundtrack was part of the reason I kept playing; the music fit very well with the situations they were used. I’m a little biased since I’m a fan of that acoustic guitar and piano soft and slow song thing that’s popular in dramatic moments which this game has by the truck load, so of course I’d like the music. If you’re interested in that kind of music, you’ll definitely enjoy this game’s soundtrack. There are a few other different tracks in the game too, though I don’t like them as much.

Pros:

— The final story arc is very well-done and almost makes the game worth playing just by itself.

— The music is quite good.

Cons:

— The other story arcs (aka about 60% of the game) are not as well-done on account of the characters not being as fleshed-out.

—  Doesn’t expressly require you to play Clannad first, but the game is definitely not as good unless you’ve played Clannad first.

Rating: 3/5

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Kaushik

I write about anime and stuff. Giant robots are pretty cool, too.

Kaushik

I write about anime and stuff. Giant robots are pretty cool, too.

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