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I bought the game two days ago and about about 3-4 hours, I'm already done with it. I don't regret the purchase, but at the same time, I can't say I recommend the game.
It does a lot of things really well: the music is fantastic, the sound of the ciccadas evoke summer perfectly, the scenery is beautiful. The dialog is really clever and really good at simultaneously feeling like they're things that a 4th grader would say, while being funny to adults who know better. For instance, a little girl says that she "gets her self-esteem through doing good deeds" and when a boy asks her what self-esteem is, she responds that it's the steam that inflates you when you do good things. I dunno. It's cute. The story also plays on this as the kids misinterpret things they read or what's going on generally. But we know better. Or we think we do...
Sadly, the whole "game" aspect to it is really basic and not very fun. You've got an "always on" map on the bottom screen showing you exactly where you need to go at all times, so there never is a need to explore by yourself. And the game requires you to play a simplistic card game against the other kids before you can progress through certain sections of the game. It's a rock/paper/scissor kind of thing, so there is a little strategy and a lot of luck to it.
And that basically covers the gameplay.
So yeah. I feel like this would have made a better movie than it is a game. Simultaneously, it makes me wish that we had gotten one of those "My Summer Vacation" games from this game's director over here. I'd play a more fleshed out version of what we got here.
The entire story is from the viewpoint of a little boy living in a Tokyo suburb in the 70s, where monsters appear on Friday. You don't play as the monsters, you don't fight them. It's an adventure game of sorts, where the kid tries to find out where the monsters come from by exploring and talking to people. But you're pretty much told where to go at all times. There's not much to it.
I'm playing it now, put in maybe an hour or so? Two? Can't really disagree with your assessment, although I think I'm enjoying it more than it sounds like you did. It captures the whole mystery of youth thing pretty well, so it gives me a nice boost of nostalgia. And then it also adds some real? mystery to the mix to keep you pushing forward to try and figure out what is going on. Still, it would be nice if there were compelling gameplay (or like... any real gameplay) to go along with the "feel" of it.
Also, the way the game handles episodes is a bit confusing to me. It's mostly a linear game, I think? But you're doing one episode and end up opening up a bunch more episodes and then it's unclear to me if you actually have choices what to do next at that point or not? The map will have numbers on it corresponding to how to progress in any given episode (like, a 7 on the map for something related to episode 7), but usually there will only be one number at any given time, even if you're already up to like episode 13 and haven't finished half of the ones before. The game doesn't explain very well how you should handle older unfinished episodes.
I agree entirely. Even though you're guided every step of the way, it manages to be confusing. Without spoiling anything, there are "episodes" (really, they're just objectives) that you start early and don't complete until the end.
I don't know how I feel about the game, to be honest. I did enjoy the nostalgia and the atmosphere of the game immensely.
It's exactly as I said: I don't if I can recommend it, but I don't regret the purchase, and I feel it would have been better as an animated movie.
I don't think the game is a failure. I think it did exactly what it set out to do. It could have just been a bit more ambitious with its gameplay.
As someone who has lived in California almost my entire life (with a brief 7 month stint in Iowa) cicadas in games always sound weird as fuck to me. There's NEVER cicadas around here, so they just sound like obnoxious background noise. I have no comment about the game, but when you said cicadas invoked the feeling of Summer perfectly, I was like "Whaaa?"
Although during my stint in Iowa there were indeed cicadas and they were annoying as all unholy hell. Such noise!
...Is what I'd like to say. I did beat the game and completed every episode but the 4th one, which requires getting every card. That is simply too much of a grind, and was ruining my experience with the game, so I had to quit.
That minor frustraion aside, I loved this game. It's not terribly good as a game, but the overall experience was wonderful. Sometimes, a game can deliver on the experience it provides rather than the strength of its gameplay. A highligh is the excellent cast of characters. They're all interesting, and most of them are well rounded and have great arcs. I'm not entirely sure why I enjoyed the game so much and it may be based purely on the games emotional impact on me, but I found this to be among the best the system has to offer (I'd put it in my top 10).
I just played through this game and really, really enjoyed it. I love how off-the-rails the story got to be towards the end, and how the game didn't go out of it's way to blatantly answer the questions it raised. The scenes where you're talking to Frank and it cuts between you in space to you sitting in the cafe were perfect. I love that sort of mysticism.
I could have done without the card battles, but they didn't really detract from the game. Looking at the card collection and reading about the monsters was kind of cool. I would have much rather had that effort go into polishing the game's story and dialogue a little bit more though.