Wednesday, March 6, 2013

[Visual Novel Review+Walkthrough] Train of Afterlife



You are riding on a train without a name, memory, or your own body. Along with you are five other passengers who will share their thoughts and various tales of their past life before reaching their destination. One of them is clearly different from the rest, as he or she is closely tied to your past - a past that will greatly change your destination. As you embark for the final stage of your life, what will you discover? What is waiting for you at the end of your journey?
Train of Afterlife is a mystery/horror visual novel made by Zeiva Inc. that explores the meaning of life and death and how people perceive them. The storyline is, as stated above, is an abstract one set in a train that something (similar to a Flying Dutchman??) which carries its passengers to their next stop after their death, but nobody knows how they got here or where they are headed to.


Story Overview (Spoiler free)



The passengers on the train cannot even recall who they are; and all of them, including the protagonist, are represented as nothing but shadows (whose identities are only revealed at the final end). Their journey is unsure but short, as everybody on this train is set to disappear and go to their destination after a time limit of 10 hours which can be only changed slightly but not broken. During this small trek, the protagonist who remembers only the name "Wind" about him/herself (yes, even the protagonist's gender is unclear) chooses to converse with the rest of the passengers, hears their different opinions about the meaning behind life and death, and finds a way to recover at least part of their own memories using a system of "tarot cards".

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Story: 10/10

I really loved the story, and the amount of enjoyment I felt after the whole story clicked in place is beyond the scope of my literary abilities to explain. Even then a few things are left open, but I liked that. The slow pacing of the story works pretty well with the slightly cryptic storytelling.



This is the first VN I read that tried to tackle such a deep subject like the meaning of life in so limited timespan and succeeded in that endeavor. "Wind" was a very interesting protagonist, and by the time of the ending I liked him/her (see I'm still confused lol) even more for the flaws that were revealed. The rest of the cast were all likable in their own way, and it was fascinating to see all of their different ideas and beliefs. I wish I could point out the things I loved most but they'd be BIG spoilers so I'll just stop here and rate the next topic.

Art+ Sound: 8/10



The art for Zeiva has always been very beautiful, and ToA is no different. What is different is the use of very dull, muted colors to suit the silent and often gloomy environment (which is emphasized even further with the very beautiful but solemn music playing on the background). Most of the CGs are abstract and rather than an event, it would more accurate to say that they represent the inner workings of the mind of the character whose POV we're seeing the story from. The music was not very varied, but they suited the mood of the scenes very well and didn't bore me even if I kept the game open for a long time.

Gameplay: 3/10 (6.5 if a save system is implemented later)

This is a straight out VN with small amount of stat requirements, you do nothing but select choices which may increase any one of your stats: Awareness, Enlightenment, Darkness. None of the choices are "right" or "wrong", you choose which stat you want higher depending on the ending you are aiming for.

There are a number of 9 endings in total. You play and get the even numbered endings (2,4,6,8) first in the default "Wind's path", and BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL to collect the letters that show up after every ending, like the picture below. If you don't you have to play the whole game and get the ending again, since this is a small game with no save system. I don't know if they have made a new version with a save system like they did with X-note by now, but this was TRULY ANNOYING. I saw only one in-depth review for this game so far which bashed it for this, and while I would say the pain is worth the fabulous story, it's a big sacrifice to make.



Then you use the password in the main menu's continue screen which starts the game normally again but this time, it's "Wing's Path" and here your stat gouges fill up two times faster so you can max them all out as the ends in this path have higher requirements. Wing's path has the odd numbered 1,3,5,7,9 endings of which End 1 is the "true end" that explains everything.These ends also form another password which unlocks a side story for one of the characters, and once you see that story, congrats! You are now finished with the game and can view the Extra Gallery containing all the beautiful art, music, explanations about the cast and the author's notes.

You can see that I wasn't amused to play the same thing over and over 9 times without any saves, hence the sudden drop in rating. Actually my friend bought this game but gave away because she wasn't patient enough to do all the endings. But if there was only a save system I'd give it a much higher score since the password hunt itself wasn't bad, it gives incentive to chase all the endings.


Replayability: Very high
But as I explained above, it gets a bit irritating after a while.


Walkthrough (for true end)

Okay, so people who are slowly edging away afraid of the effort to get the true end, I've made a walkthrough which will give you the true end in WING's path in one try.

I STRONGLY suggest you play at least once by yourself and actually play all the ends if you're on vacation. The Zeiva official guides are HERE.

But if you can't here's the choices you need to take to max out the Enlightenment and Darkness stats for the true end while seeing all the side characters story (If you do it wrong you might miss them and lose the chance to find their identity) in WING's path, the password to start which is HERE.  (For awareness, Playing Tarot Cards will automatically earn you a point. Also looking outside the window at any time will, but be careful to do that only 4 times since the 5th time will give you the bad end 8.)

- Zero Hour: Wing - Peaceful. 
- Zero Hour: Wing - I saw a shadow of a young boy. 
- Second Hour: I sense relief as Mary uttered those words.  (LITTLE MARY)
- Second Hour: Is that really the right answer?  (DIYU)
- Second Hour: Wing - I'm curious about my past. 
- Third Hour: Okay. (DARWIN) 
- Third Hour: Okay, I'm ready. (BLUEBIRD) 
- Fourth Hour: They are the essence of what we have left.  (LITTLE MARY)
- Fourth Hour: Talk to Darwin
- Fourth Hour: Talk to Diyu
- Fifth Hour: Talk to Little Mary
- Sixth Hour: Talk to Little Mary
- Sixth Hour: Normality doesn't exist. (DARWIN, Requirement: Little Mary's disappearance)
- Sixth Hour: Not really (BLUEBIRD) 
- Seventh Hour: Talk to Darwin
- Seventh Hour: Nurture  (DIYU, Requirement: Darwin's disappearance)
- Seventh Hour: Talk to Bluebird
- Eighth Hour: Wing - No, I don't 
- Ninth Hour: Talk to Diyu
- Tenth Hour: Talk to Bluebird

After the tenth hour you'll have to arrange the tarot cards in the correct sequence, which can be seen HERE.

The Side story password is HERE.

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I am very unskilled with proper diction that a proper review for this great VN deserves so I'll just be brief. Play IT! It's a beautiful VN which deserves more love. The demo can be found here if you want to check out if it suits your tastes first. (Which may be a wise thing since this is a story for those who like to spend their time thinking over and might not be for those who want a quick paced story).

GJ Zeiva and keep making awesome VNs! :D
 

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