Title: A Summer’s End: Hong Kong 1986
Developer: Oracle and Bone
Release Date: April 23, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Oracle and Bone
Genre: Visual Novel
Visual novels are good at showing us overdramatized or dream-like scenarios that take us out of reality, if only for a few hours. However, there are times where I don’t mind relating to a character’s situation or at least understand that the predicament the characters are in could actually exist. The Oracle and Bone-developed visual novel, A Summer’s End: Hong Kong 1986, tells a story of two girls guided by what can only be fate. Readers are then taken on a journey through the phases of their relationship and all the emotional confusion that comes with it. What comes from this is a very down to earth narrative that I couldn’t put down.
A Summer’s End: Hong Kong 1986 introduces us to Michelle, a straight-laced girl who was raised by her sheltering mother in China. Every day, she wakes up, heads into the city, goes to work, and goes back home. She is pretty much on a schedule that is never broken, and she is okay with it. However, one day, she breaks a heel while walking to work and needs to make a stop at a cobbler to fix it on her way home. That’s when she meets the cobbler’s daughter, Sam, who ultimately breaks her out of her repetitive daily cycle.
Michelle and Sam begin the friendship over a late-night dinner while Michelle’s heel is being fixed. The two get to know each other over small talk and learn that they have very little in common. However, it’s slowly revealed the little pieces that one girl is missing the other has and they build their relationship off of that. The rest of the story follows the two as they turn a chance encounter into an opportunity of love. Still, everything doesn’t come that easy.
The setting of the game brings with it its own conflicts as the two learn that their love isn’t wholly accepted by society. Michelle is also struggling to break free of her cycle and open up to a stranger that she knows nothing about. At first, you think that Sam is being a little too forward with Michelle as she continually takes her out of her comfort zone.
It’s a glaring issue in the early parts of their relationship until you learn more about Michelle and how she is also curious about this unique way of living. Everything is brand new for her, the freedom, the randomness, the lack of structure, it’s all so exciting, but she isn’t completely willing to give up who she is just for one person. Sam also takes bits of advice from Michelle and I couldn’t help but be a total fan of their love.
The best thing about this visual novel is how the entire story is set up. In the beginning, the repetitive lifestyle of Michelle is enhanced by the short looped music that makes you feel like you are stuck in the same revolving door as her. Furthermore, Sam is not the only new person that Michelle meets, but it’s easy to see the difference in how she carries a conversation with everyone else when compared to Sam. It’s some amazing writing with great delivery, even with the absence of voiced dialogue.
One other aspect of the story that deserves praise is how naturally the writing builds on these character’s relationships. Their early encounters are full of easily relatable instances, which shows us exactly the type of person that each of these girls are. We get to see all sides of them too, from their past to their inner thoughts. It isn’t over-the-top or comical, the best way I can describe it is saying that it’s just “real.”
Much of the five-hour story we see the world through the mind of Michelle. Because of this, I wish the developer went for large text box overlays that take up the whole screen instead of using the bottom fourth as a text box for thoughts and character dialogue. This is mainly because there are long portions of the story where you are just looking at an empty background and I feel like this other method of text would have fit a bit better in this situation. Also, I felt that the conclusion wrapped up too cleanly and I think it could have been drawn out for another few hours to enhance a particular situation.
The music in A Summer’s End: Hong Kong 1986 is awesome and fits every mood that this story has to offer. Furthermore, there are tons of background animations and different areas that the characters visit. However, it doesn’t stop there, the character designs resemble early anime illustrations that fit the era that the narrative takes place in. They also have numerous outfit changes and are featured in some of the prettiest and most passionate CGs that I have ever seen.
A Summer’s End: Hong Kong 1986 is a must-read visual novel that connects with readers in several ways. This visual novel is pure art and shows a level of creativity that’s missing in other higher budget games available. There’s a clear focus on the emotions that the writers wanted to convey and they did it beautifully. The character illustrations are brilliant and the pacing is amazing, even though the conclusion does feel a bit rushed. Still, I’d keep an eye on anything coming from this developer in the future.
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