At A-Kon 26 this year, I had the chance to meet the fine folks of sakevisual at their table. It was quite a fangirl moment for me, although I did my best not to gush too much. (We chatted a bit about Backstage Pass and how it got pushed back by the studio in favor of some little indie b-film for some Dragon Ball franchise.) And while I pray that Backstage Pass goes down a bit in price on the Steam Summer Sale, I thought I'd pay some tribute to the first sakevisual game that I played, the one that is still my favorite: [Text] A Summer Story.
The story follows a girl named Maya who goes to visit her uncle one summer. She attempts to text her uncle informing him that she has arrived, only to discover that her uncle gave his phone away to a boy named Takeshi. The two teens strike up a friendship that ends up giving way to a dark mystery that only Maya can solve.
The game bills itself as a "sound novel", a visual novel without voice acting that uses background music and sound effects to convey the story. Sure enough, the soundtrack is top notch. It's upbeat when things seem normal and creepy when things start to show what they really are. The background art is nicely done, despite being constantly taken up by the ever-present cell phone (although I can forgive it since it's so central to the plot).
We only get to meet a few characters, all of them related to Maya in some way. Maya herself is a pretty typical teenage girl, glued to her phone and trying to be more independent than her mother will allow. Maya's mother is a bit overprotective; the uncle that Maya stays with on vacation seems a bit drifty and forgetful with something vaguely implied to be dementia. Takeshi seems like a normal teenage boy at first, if a bit forward with Maya...but like everything else in this game, he turns out to be quite different than his first impression.
The game has seven different endings depending on the choices you make. Getting one ending takes about fifteen minutes, so 100% completion won't take you too long. I feel like the short length fits it, though; if this game were longer, it would probably wear itself out on me pretty quickly by way of needing filler to keep things going. As it is, the story keeps itself to the necessities, and performs better for it.
It's a short game, yes. But it's also free. And I think it showcases the talents at sakevisual in a great way. I can't call the soundtrack the best in the world or anything, but I think it's one of the best at bringing out the inner horrors of its game. The mystery is well-done; you don't solve it in all the endings, but you don't actually need to get all of them to solve it, only a certain few. But sakevisual kindly provides a walkthrough for the game on the download page, and like I said earlier, getting all the content in the game won't take you too long. So if you have a spare hour or two, check this game out. And as the developer recommends: listen to the sound.
[Text] A Summer Story is available for free download directly from the developer.
Final verdict: A quick and engaging read with a good mystery and a phenomenal soundtrack that really helps the game live up to its title of "sound novel."
[Text] A Summer Story is developed by sakevisual. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.