Title: Tomoyo After -It's a Wonderful Life-
Release Date: September 10, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Visual Novel
Sequels for romance visual novels are a tough sale because you don’t want to throw out your previously existing cast of fleshed-out characters. The continuation of the story would need instead focus on the ending for one specific love interest or create its own canon route that didn’t occur in the original game.
The joy of fandiscs is that all of that can be ignored, and instead, writers get to put in whatever the hell they want. This approach also allows them to reuse all those assets from the base game without feeling obliged to make a whole new set of portraits.
However, this isn’t a fandisc, this Key developed visual novel recently released on the Nintendo Switch, Tomoyo After ~ It’s a Wonderful Life~, is just a full sequel/spinoff to a route of the titular character, Tomoyo, in the Key property you’ve most likely to have consumed already, Clannad.
Tomoyo After: It’s a Wonderful Life takes place approximately a month after Tomoyo Sakagami’s route in Clannad. The story begins with our protagonist, Tomoya Okazaki, celebrating with Tomoyo over the fact he’s practically an independent and functional human being since graduating high school due to the progress he’s made at his job at a waste collection company. The two have been dating and would like to do more personal things in Tomoya’s apartment, but they keep getting interrupted. Initially by Tomoyo’s younger brother, Takafumi, and then by Tomo, a young girl who is their half-sister and their father’s illegitimate child who their mother allegedly doesn’t know exists.
So in an incredibly baffling maneuver to keep their mother from finding out that their father cheated, Takafumi convinces his sister, Tomoyo, and our protagonist Tomoya, to pretend that they are Tomo’s father and step-mother for a bit to fulfill Tomo’s wish of meeting her father.
Yeah, I’m confused too. Don’t question it; you’ll just get a headache.
Anyway, the trio ends up looking after the kid, and then Takafumi’s ex-girlfriend turns up to crash with them as well because she’s angry that her mother remarried. At this point, this story is all just hijinks ensue, the visual novel sequel spinoff to Clannad.
Remember earlier how I mentioned that you could just reuse all your assets in a fandisc? Well, you could do that in a sequel too, but Key chose not to and not only replaced the entire soundtrack with a new series of great songs, but a new artist was hired as well to give this title’s cast a glow up.
At the cost of 80% of the original game’s characters, since Tomoyo After seems to exist in a universe where none of Clannad’s other heroines existed, bar one who is given a passing mention 90% of the way through the story. So you could theoretically play this without Clannad first, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Honestly, this is a good thing because the smaller cast members partake in a more grounded story with fewer missed opportunities for plot elements. This title has some significant interactions, and the smaller cast allows them to bounce off each other really well.
The keywords there, however, are can, and some, because the story presented in Tomoya After is nothing short of consistently messy. Events occur merely for the sake of having plot beats, which is fine when it’s for the sake of comedy. But when the plot’s more serious moments happen entirely based upon a whim, there’s nothing to get out of them. And then the plot gets angsty and depressing, for the sake of getting angsty and depressing, missing almost every opportunity for depth. If that’s not all when you’ve finally finished, you’re left to wonder, “What was the point of all of this?” The story seems like it’s trying to say something positive about making a family but instead ends up saying, “If you want your loved ones to be happy, just sweep everything you don’t want them to know under the rug.”
In the event that you wish to make it to the true ending, you’ll need to select all the correct dialogue choices, but they’re relatively rational for the most part. However, you need to trigger the plot point in which our protagonist becomes incredibly insecure about his girlfriend, Tomoyo, being stronger than he is. This leads to him fighting a bunch of people night after night, with some incredibly poorly written conflict, as he tries to make himself stronger so he can be the one to protect his partner. It’s a contrived mess that goes exactly how you’d expect as it to and achieves nothing. These scenes, in particular, waste your time as the status quo remains unchanged.
Once you’ve completed the game, you’ll unlock the minigame “Dungeons and Takafumi’s,” a sprite-based tile RPG game where you punch in a few commands for your characters to kill goblins and golems. Whilst visually pleasing as you can learn cool skills and level up your characters, it quickly outstays its welcome, becoming a massive grindfest for little reward.
Tomoyo After ~ It’s a wonderful life~ ends up being anything other than wonderful. It may be aesthetically fantastic and audibly great, but it falters in delivering a message that it came so close to executing on, only to get lost in its numerous plot distractions. Hardcore Clannad fans will feel right at home with this story delivery, but there are some missed opportunities here for the casual player.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.