By Chris Melchin / September 21st, 2016
|Title||Tomoyo After ~It’s a Wonderful Life~ English Edition|
|Release Date||July 1, 2016|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Romance, Nakige, Slice of Life|
|Age Rating||N/A (all-ages)|
Over the last few years, the visual novel genre has been gaining more and more footing in the West, mostly through Steam but also independently on PC. The main driving forces behind the growth has been publishers Sekai Project and MangaGamer, who have each published a large number of visual novels in English. There’s also JAST USA, which has been working in the area for longer. However, major Japanese companies have clearly seen the genre’s popularity surge in the West, and are starting to take their own first steps onto Steam. One such company is the renowned VisualArt’s, publisher of games such as CLANNAD, Little Busters!, and several other well-known games. They self-published one of their games on Steam for the first time, with Tomoyo After ~It’s a Wonderful Life~ English Edition, the Tomoyo Sakagami-centric follow-up to CLANNAD. It was initially an eroge, but the English version is based on the all-ages Memorial Edition. Prior to the official announcement, a fan translation was in the works from Doki Fansubs, which has been used by VisualArt’s as the base for the Steam release.
Tomoyo After serves as the sequel to the Tomoyo route in CLANNAD, picking up on Tomoya and Tomoyo’s life together. They are frequently visited by Tomoyo’s younger brother Takafumi, before taking in Tomoyo’s father’s illegitimate daughter Tomo and Takafumi’s runaway ex-girlfriend Kanako. It takes place pretty directly after the end of Tomoyo’s route, with Tomoyo still in high school and Tomoya having just graduated and working as a garbage collector, picking up old appliances and mechanical devices, and either repairing them or stripping them for useful parts. And so the story of Tomoyo After begins.
Needing to be a direct follow-up to a game like CLANNAD isn’t exactly a favorable position for any game to find itself in. CLANNAD is virtually universally considered to be a masterpiece, and at least for me it’s not only one of the best visual novels, but also generally one of the best love stories I’ve ever read. Having been written by Jun Maeda like CLANNAD, Tomoyo After does pick some of that up from its older brother, but ultimately I find it lacks something fundamental that its precursor has, but it’s hard to put my finger on what exactly. Ultimately I think that while CLANNAD has Tomoya helping each of the girls through their respective insecurities and personal issues, ultimately helping both himself and the girls grow personally through his actions, Tomoyo After starts from after that’s already done, needing to add new factors to destabilize an already happy, comfortable situation. The story can be relatively cleanly divided into arcs, each of which seems fairly arbitrary and independent until much later on where you see how everything all comes together in a meaningful way. Well, sort of. Everything except the After Story section, which is something that I have a lot to say about, but I need to be careful to avoid spoilers.
The art style is much the same as in CLANNAD, as one might expect. Ultimately it comes down to taste – as I mentioned in that review, I am fond of the character designs and style, but I do know people who don’t like it as much. The backgrounds are also done in the same style; a few even come directly from CLANNAD, while the others share a similar level of detail. The CGs are absolutely beautiful, and not just the ones from early in the game with Tomoyo in a variety of different outfits.
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