Natsuiro no Sunadokei (first impression)

Diego dips his toes into the hitherto unexplored world of Japanese visual novels.

(Unexplored for him, that is.)

HOW THE HECK DID I GET INTO THIS

I was out shopping for reference works on Amazon.com. After getting what I needed – Lintott’s The Constitution of the Roman Republic and Cooley’s Pompeii: A Sourcebook – I browsed around for new anime titles (as I always do) and, one way or another, ended up at this product page. My curiosity was piqued, I did some research (i.e., dug up reviews and articles and so forth), learned that it was free of explicit imagery (no eroge for me, thanks), decided that it was worth trying and added the item to my shopping cart. All in the space of a few minutes. Classic impulse buy, Diego style.

In any case, the 2002 game Hourglass of Summer represents my very first foray into the world of Japanese visual novels. Or bishoujo games. Or renai games. Whatever category (or categories) this title belongs to, it will be the first time I play something of this kind.

I’ve only worked my way through a small portion of the main storyline, so I can’t offer anything more than a sketchy first impressions post at this point.

STORY

Tagline (from the back of the DVD case):

From that first moment
I wanted to protect you…
A love story spanning time.

Plot introduction (also from the back of the DVD case):

The main character is living the normal life of a High School student.

Right before Summer Vacation he makes up his mind to ask out beautiful Kaho Serizawa, but the very next day he wakes up to realize that Summer Vacation is over and he has “Day Dropped”, or time-slipped, to September 1st.

Going to school in a state of confusion, the main character finds his grief-stricken classmates, who tell him that his girlfriend Kaho has died in a tragic accident on August 31st. How did he start dating Kaho, when he doesn’t remember asking her out? And what were the tragic events that lead up to her death?

Day dropping back and forth into time, the main character grapples with the problem of how to overcome this terrible fate awaiting the girl of his dreams.

A summer vacation that crosses the boundaries of space and time.

PRODUCT CONTENTS

Originally released as a PS2 game, the U.S. version of Hourglass of Summer is formatted as a Region 1 video DVD. The original Japanese voice recordings have been retained. No English dub is provided, but English subs are available (along with Japanese subs).

The slipcase (above) features the same cover image used on the DVD jacket.

The game comes with a 22-page artbook (above) that contains images and brief profiles of the five main female characters – one of whom is the spitting image of Nagato Yuki (with a different hairstyle). Described as “stoic”, “hard to approach” and “[a] serious elder student of few words”, she even has a personality to match. I can’t wait to meet that one.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS (and some screencaps)

Until now, my exposure to visual novels has been limited to anime adaptations (e.g., Kanon and Clannad). As a noob, I can attest that the format takes some getting used to – not because of any inherent complexity, but precisely because there’s so little complexity involved. The term “visual novel” is a highly appropriate label for this class of game: for the most part, one sits back and “reads” through the story, with interaction limited to the occasional two-choice question. Some of the questions are critical insofar as they affect the course of future gameplay, but beyond determining what course the story will take the player’s inputs count for very little. I found this set-up a trifle boring at first, but I warmed up to the game in due course as the story began to draw me in.

The voice acting is quite excellent, with veteran seiyuu performing all of the lead roles. The game has some impressive visuals, although its age does show in places (and the backgrounds aren’t quite as rich as those I’ve seen in screencaps of Kanon and Clannad).

I’ll leave you with a few screencaps showing the characters I’ve encountered so far.

Okay, back to the game. (Well, back to my Japanese homework first. Then the game. I say, these things can be very disruptive to one’s schedule.)

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6 Responses

  1. Wait, if it’s in DVD format, that means… I can play it on the mac?! Until now I had no idea there were any visual novels for mac. If that’s true, then I too might begin playing visual novels…

  2. @smashingmelons: According to the compatibility specs on the back of the box, this game can be played on a DVD player, a PC (with a DVD drive and DVD software), a PS2 or an XBox – in short, pretty much anything that can read a video disc. It should work just fine on a Mac with DVD playing capabilities, but having never used a Mac I can’t speak with any certainty.

    Be very careful when purchasing visual novels, though: a lot of these games are formatted for specific platforms (such as Windows PCs and consoles like the PS2) and won’t work on devices they weren’t designed for. Not all of them are formatted as regular video discs like this one. As always, it’s worth reading all of the info on the box before buying.

  3. Thanks!

  4. Your descent into darkness begins, Sir Diego. Once you’re done with Hourglass of Summer, check out One ~ Kagayaku no Kisetsu e (To the Radiant Season). For all purpose and intent, it’s the spiritual precursor to Kanon.

  5. @Yamcha: Descent into darkness is right. Ever since I started with this game, I’ve been looking up other titles that might be worth playing. (I just wish I had the time to try them out.)

  6. I’m absolutely in love with this game, I’ve skipped a lot of school just to play it almost non-stop. 😀

    And you have good taste, because you seem to have taken an interest in Mana Kawamura, who happens to be my favorite character. Props for that.

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