Note: Review Code provided by Oracle and Bone
The following Visual Novel does what it sets out to do in a way that is difficult to describe but I shall give my best effort to convey how it made me feel. What it does is so simple on the surface yet there is so much more to it. Find out what I am trying to say as we take a look at A Summer’s End -Hong Kong 1986- by Oracle and Bone.
Genres: Drama, Romance, Urban, Visual Novel, Yuri, 1980’s
Length: 5-10 Hours (Depends on reading speed)
Plot Summary: Set in Hong Kong in the year 1986, the story follows Michelle, a woman raised in a loving family. Unfortunately tragedy struck in her high school years. Since then in order to bring honor to her family Michelle focused solely on her studies, graduating college and getting a respectable high paying job. Things went well until one day she had “one of those days”. It all began with a broken shoe. Following her boss’ recommendation she looked up a cobbler. Said cobbler had a daughter named Sam. Thus Michelle’s life would forever change. Yup. Definitely “one of those days”…
Right then. The two key components on what make this an amazing Visual Novel are the writing and presentation. Let us go over presentation first. There is definitely a 1980’s vibe going on in the setting, soundtrack and the visuals. I have yet to visit Hong Kong as of this writing but the game gave me a pretty good idea of what it was like in this time period visually. Continuing with visuals it looked like what a modern Remaster of the game Snatcher could look like in 2020. It felt like every location had its own story to tell, which they did, in great detail. From the bustling district of Mong Kok right down to the apartment Michelle and her mother live in. Then we have an (I think) 80’s neo-urban like soundtrack. In fact, almost every scene has their own background music. Rarely is the same tune repeated. I think I heard two songs played twice at most. Every other scene had their own music. Let us not forget the few but very nice TV, VHS and cassette tape filter effects. It all comes together to help create a perfect immersive experience. Speaking of different tunes Michelle and Sam, like the soundtrack, wear different clothes in almost every scene. Rarely are they seen wearing the same clothes. The sole exception being the clothes Michelle wears to work. Sam is quoted having a celebrity’s closet despite the size of her apartment.
That brings us to the writing. Usually in Visual Novels I am more focused on seeing the main story unfold and how the ladies fall in love with each other. Not saying the writing is not important (IT ABSOLUTELY IS) but in most cases I am more engrossed in the transpiring events, mainly because the stakes are often ramped up to impeccable heights from saving the universe and falling in love, coming back from purgatory to stop a dark witch from poisoning the planet…and falling in love. A Summer’s End has a more grounded and straightforward story. There are no great threats to stop or treasure to be found. It is simply a tale of the relationship between a super serious by the books woman and a more bodacious woman who is more open with her feelings and seems to have her life figured out…on the surface.
Here is the thing. Most of the story has Sam and Michelle having many conversations with each other. What about? Whatever comes to mind, be it hobbies, work, family, the economy, movies, Hong Kong culture and history, the state of Hong Kong at that point in time etc. It is a story where “plreaders” (play-read) see how Michelle and Sam’s worldview, outlook life and feelings for each other change the more time they spend together getting to know each other. The answers given, the thoughts constantly going through Michelle’s (and later Sam at one point) mind, all of it written ever so eloquently and brilliantly making something simple sounding on the surface all the more deep. Of course a story like this is deep. After all, it is about women experiencing and confronting feelings they never knew they could possibly have and all going through all the questions and ramifications of such feelings. Not to mention they have interpersonal and intrapersonal obstacles to think about. That and the choices “plreaders” make during the game. So this story is grounded in the sense that you see our heroines facing more grounded obstacles and not so much overcoming supernatural, over the top or insane forces to find the answers they seek…though there is that one scene…Point is the way they express these thoughts is incredibly enthralling, leading to the second half of the aforementioned perfect immersive experience.
Going back to the interpersonal stuff I alluded to the setting plays as big of a role in the story as the side-characters (One who you think would be an obstacle actually serves a reflective purpose). The year 1986 in Hong Kong a lot was happening at that point in time over there, bringing us back to the writing which puts it all into words so very well. The past, present and future at the time all playing a role in the mindset of our heroines. That and the various references, both Eastern and Western, mentioned. Some of them (or maybe all. I am not certain) having a connection to Sam and Michelle’s relationship. my jaw dropped when they referenced THAT MOVIE. I was like, well played.
This being a Visual Novels of course there will be choices that affect the outcome of the story. For the most part the Good End choices are easy to spot though there are some specific choices that reward “plreaders” with an extra scene and CG at the end. The hint I will give for the first extra scene is “What is the favorite animal of the internet?“. There is a Good End, Bad End and a few extra stuff for those who made all the right choices.
Let us briefly touch on the romance should all the right choices be made. Put simply, the 18+ Patch is worth downloading for readers who do not mind sexual content. Like in the OshiRabu 18+ Extra Chapter DLC the love scenes here serve a purpose in the story. Let us leave it at that.
Overall A Summer’s End -Hong Kong 1986- is an incredible experience. Not only is Sam and Michelle’s relationship enthralling but the setting and music all come together to make a perfect immersive experience. Highly recommended to yuri visual novel fans looking for a great story with adult women.