One of the best things about visual novels are the branching pathways. While a lot of titles nowadays make a point to have more than one ending for the players, the visual novels really lend a ton of potential futures, most of them less-than-ideal in the classic sense. Sure, you might get the happy ending and fall in love with the person of your dreams, or you might decide to kill them and eat them over the course of several days while conversing with their ghost in your head. Again, that example is a real freaking ending from a real visual novel, specifically from the company we are currently speaking about, Kogado Studio. Having finished Yumeutsutsu RE:Master, it stood out as a fantastic work that was complex, memorable, and full of fully flushed out characters that found dramatic new ways to be hurt and hurt each other. I think even the devs knew that players might need something to help put a better bow on things, if only because true endings are sometimes hard to find and even harder to enjoy. So they created this wonderful little sidepiece to help everyone get over what eventually became of Ai, Kokoro, Nana, Saki and the others. This is Yumeutsutsu RE:After.
Rather than a visual novel, I would consider this a visual short story collection, and it’s essential that you play through Yumeutsutsu RE:Master before jumping into this set. All spoilers aside, there is zero purpose in trying to pick this up if you haven’t at least gone through one route in RE:Master. There’s zero setup or introduction to anyone, and the short stories therein are incredibly short, clocking in at an hour or less for each. They exist as epilogue snapshots to help represent the very best that could be waiting for Ai had she chosen a life with each of the five women she encounters in her main story. Interestingly, four of them are labelled as “Story,” while Honoka alone gets an “Episode.” I suppose that’s due to the nature of things and how Honoka’s particular yarn is more like a quick tale that you’d see in the anime that is their life than anything specifically about just the two women, but I digress. The point is, none of this will have any gravitas or importance if you don’t know who they are and what they (hypothetically) went through, so don’t bother grabbing this until you’ve gotten RE:Master and decided you want more.
It could have been incredibly easy for Kogado Studio to simply punch the clock and throw together something that resembled the extra stories that came with Rune Factory 4, but Yumeutsutsu RE:After makes a point to deliver on two different levels that should satisfy fans. The first and probably most important is that even these mini episodes are sculpted out with detail, dialogue and ideas to keep them replayable even in their microcosm-esque presentations. They aren’t static novels, but limited branching paths that do, eventually, conclude in the same manner but offer different insight to the workings of how this after party might play out. Kokoro and Ai, for example, run a new project within the studio, but they carry different roles in the game, meaning that Ai will make new decisions about design that she’s unfamiliar with. Saki needs to figure out what the new scenario is for the upcoming game, which requires her to tap into an emotional wellspring that she isn’t exactly open about utilizing. Even Maria has her own share of struggles, though one of them is deciding whether to dominate Ai in bed or be dominated by her. Everything is still off camera and suggested, though, so don’t get nosebleeds already.
Additionally, there’s a ton of work and love into Yumeutsutsu RE:After that shows a dedication to continuing the story for the fans. The artwork and style has evolved a bit from the original game’s release, but nothing jarring or drastic that throws you out of the world. Rather, it’s like the technique and the lines of the character’s designs have been given a slight flair to help accentuate everyone’s personalities. Saki’s lines are a little sharper than the others. Nana has a small, chaotic flair that draws the eye without being too noticeable in terms of misappropriation or really pinpointing anything “wrong.” Maria has neat, orderly angles, but has obviously relaxed a bit due to married life. In short, there’s evolution that reflects what could and should have happened at the conclusions of each woman’s story, and how it better represents them moving forward into the smaller, slotted storyline of after madness. The fact that the original voice actresses all were able to return and reprise their roles is essential to keeping to the immersion of the entire journey, and I really appreciate the dedication to keeping the elements in vein with how they originally presented. In short, if you loved RE:Master, then, on paper, RE:After should be exactly your taste and your dessert.
The key word, however, is should, and that’s based off of what you got from the original. Yumeutsutsu RE:After is here to basically paint everyone in a better light at the conclusion of the original game, and it’s complicated to say if it’s a better or worse movement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy and love the way that we’ve played out these roles, but it adds this layer that wasn’t there before and is now canonically established, so the overall effect could be taken one way or another. Maria is the example that I lean towards the most. In the main game, we got a chance to see her slowly come down from the tower she was in, gradually unfolding and showing more of her personality while still, understandably, keeping everything close to the vest. She’s probably the most complicated character in RE:Master, and it was a personal mission of mine to find a way to get to a good ending for her, which took a bit of trial and error (and reliving a particularly bad ending when I was unsuccessful). RE:After picks up from there, and continues to show Maria in a different, softer light that was cute to see but not necessarily what I needed. It almost portrayed her as weak in some moments, and now we’ve hit the nail on the head with fan service coming from content creators. When the story ends, fans and players have the option to create canon, usually headcanon, about what comes next. RE:After is more deliberate, and reminded me that the fate of these women is not in my own hands, but in Kogado Studio’s. It was actually pretty refreshing to be reminded of that, and helped to shake out some of the dust gathering from being on the Internet too long. These are the real happy endings that the designers envisioned, and they were cool enough to share them with the fans. I can appreciate that.
Once again, if you haven’t played Yumeutsutsu RE:Master, or didn’t enjoy it, you’ll get nothing, perhaps less than nothing, from Yumeutsutsu RE:After. However, if you were left wanting just a bit more from everyone, and even just wanted to see a fantastic side story involving Ai, Honoka and Banako (I love that dog!), it’s worth the price of admission. The women of Yumeutsutsu have never been one dimensional, simple characters, and their happy endings are still far from straightforward and pure fan service. It’s still a new set of journeys, however shorter, and will still give you some fantastic satisfaction.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Yumeutsutsu Re:After Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
It’s like if the very best “what if” endings came forward, agreed to co-exist in different realities, and presented themselves, ready made, for fans to enjoy.