When Our Journey Ends – A Visual Novel
Gameplay 5
Graphics 7
Sound 8

When Our Journey Ends follows the adventure of Mariko, a high school student who ends up stranded at an unfamiliar train station on her way home one day. She quickly discovers that it is not an ordinary place and learns about the spirits that dwell there. This visual novel features a unique graphical style, with lovely animated backgrounds, but it is rather short and the main story is not as fleshed out as much as we would have liked. It does feature a number of side stories that take place after the main story, but even with these the game is over way too soon.

Gameplay: Short and lacking in meaningful choices.

Graphics: Interesting character spirits and beautiful animated backgrounds.

Sound: English voice acting for all the characters and a very decent soundtrack

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When Our Journey Ends – A Visual Novel

Developer: Afterthought Studios | Publisher: Afterthought Studios | Release Date: 2017 | Genre: Casual / Visual  Novel / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

When Our Journey Ends is the story of a young girl named Mariko, who commutes to school every day via train. This is not exactly unusual in Japan, except for the fact that Mariko is the only passenger on the train. In fact, the only reason why the train is still active on its route between her remote home town and the station near the school is for the sake of Mariko. This has garnered Mariko quite a bit of attention, which she is not entirely comfortable with as she would much rather have preferred that her parents simply move closer to the city. Unfortunately, their jobs did not allow for this which, means Mariko was stuck being known as the girl who takes her own private train to school. The game opens with Mariko about to graduate from high school, which would mean she can finally move to the city to attend university. This also means that the station will close as the train service ends.

While it might sound far fetched for a train service to remain active solely for the benefit of a single high school student, the story actually has some roots in reality. In Japan, there really was a teen girl, named Kana Harada, who made use of the Kyu-Shirataka station that remained active for her sake. However, the game deviates from reality when Mariko returns from school one day only for the train to come to a halt at an unfamiliar station. Mariko knows that it is impossible because there are no other stations and when she begins exploring her surroundings, she discovers that she has ended up in a completely different world that is inhabited by spirits. We won’t spoil the reason for this event, but suffice to say that the whole visual novel has a very Studio Ghibli kind of feel to its story.

Although the story for When Our Journey Ends is rather neat, the game itself is extremely short. It basically covers how Mariko arrives in the spirit world and then uncover the reason for her arrival. Although players get to make a couple of choices, these appear to have very little influence on the story and only one of the choices towards the very end actually influences which of the two endings are shown. These endings are also so similar that it hardly matters. This means that When Our Journey Ends is pretty much a kinetic novel, which is a pity as there are a few instances where giving players actually choices could have made things more interesting. To make up for the length of the main story, the game also features a couple of side stories that depict what happens after the events of the game. All of these are very brief and are basically just a series of short vignettes, but they at least pad out the game a bit.

In addition to Mariko, When Our Journey Ends feature a few other characters, such as the aging stationmaster who will retire when the station closes. Then there are a few of the spirit inhabitants of the other world who crosses paths with Mariko. A few of them have interesting back-stories, but there are also others, such as the “Radiant Woman” who only appears briefly without any real bearing on the story. It’s a pity as there is a lot more that could have been done with such an interesting set up, but instead the story just feels like a short tale that one might read to a child before bedtime. Not that this is a bad thing, but players who are used to lengthier and more in-depth visual novels might find that this one is a bit too shallow.

When it comes to the visual side of things, When Our Journey Ends looks a little different from other titles in the genre. This appears to have been a conscious decision by the developers in order to make the game more appealing to mainstream audiences who might not appreciate the typical manga style. It appears that initially there were plans to include two different types of sprites in the game, but unfortunately this idea was later shelved, which is a pity. The sprites in the game look decent enough, although the style of the spirits appears to be a little too cartoony compared to the human characters. One area where the game definitely excels is the beautiful backgrounds, most of which feature some nice animations too. We would have liked to see a few more of them, but the ones that are featured in the game look great. Strangely enough, the game makes use of normal size text boxes for when characters talk to each other, but then expand the text box to cover the entire screen when describing scenes. This looks a little out of place and while the text boxes are transparent enough to still view the backgrounds, the text could easily have been displayed in the smaller boxes.

The audio in When Our Journey Ends is also really good, which should come as no surprise as the game actually had a very successful Kickstarter to acquire the funds for a decent soundtrack and professional voice acting. The results are pretty good and having English voice acting for all the characters definitely makes the game feel more polished. The soundtrack itself is also very good and features plenty of mellow tracks. However, neither the soundtrack or art gallery is included with the game, but can be purchased separately as an OST and art book. From a technical standpoint, the only issue that we encountered is that an update appears to have broken the achievements in the game. This required us to jump through some hoops to download an older version of the game on Steam in order to get the achievements, which is obviously not ideal and not something that most casual players will bother attempting.

Overall, When Our Journey Ends is a decent enough visual novel, but its short length definitely counts against it. The lack of meaningful choices also robs the game of a lot of depth and while the story starts out very promising, it doesn’t really go anywhere. The inclusion of side stories that show what happens after the main story is a nice touch, though, and something we would like to see in more visual novels. At the end of the day, When Our Journey Ends is a nice enough visual novel and the price is very reasonable, but there isn’t much to make it stand out from the crowd. If you are looking for a short visual novel with an all ages story that doesn’t contain any fan service, then it will do perfectly, but there are many other titles in the genre that are longer, more engaging and more unique.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP or above
  • Processor: 1.0 Ghz or above
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Any DirectX 9.0 supported card
  • Storage: 400 MB available space
  • Sound Card: Any
  • OS: 10.6+
  • Processor: Any 64 bit processor
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL compatible card
  • Storage: 410 MB available space
  • OS: x86/x86_64
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz Pentium 4
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL compatible card
  • Storage: 400 MB available space

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