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Hey everyone. Klebs here and today, I’ll talk about a game I stumbled upon while browsing on social media. That game is titled A Summer’s End – Hong Kong 1986 by Oracle & Bone, a Canadian indie studio. I don’t usually review and rate games so I’ll take a different approach. My goal is to describe the effect it had on me. Before I proceed, know that it deals with LBGT-related issues and contains rather explicit adult content so viewer discretion is advised.
What initially drew me to this game
While always keeping a close eye on Linux gaming-related news, I came across this article from Linux Gaming Consortium. While my experience with visual novel is limited to Capcom’s Phoenix Wright series on Nintendo handhelds, Konami’s Snatcher on Sega CD/Mega CD and MoaCube’s Cinders on Windows via Wine, a few elements got my attention.
The art style
First, the art alone from the talented Tida Kietsungden set it apart from other visual novels by its sheer quality. While the majority of these games use an average anime-like feel, this particular one doesn’t strike me as one to follow the herd. Instead, the characters’ faces have more realistic features, they’re anatomically more accurate in terms of body proportion and the color choices veering towards neon gives a distinct 80s retro feel. This last aspect brings me to my next point: the setting.
Being born during the 80s, this is a decade I closely link to a more innocent and nostalgic period of my life despite my memory of it being kind of fuzzy. I especially cherish this era where most of my grandparents were still alive and a lot of my uncles and aunts were either teenagers or young adults entering the real world. Going back to the 80s even for a short while is an opportunity I just couldn’t miss.
When a game interests me, I usually wait for it to be heavily discounted and for positive reviews to come in before I make the jump. In that case, why would I buy it full price and day one without waiting for the first reviews? The answers lies within this trailer.
The last piece of that sweet 80s nostalgia puzzle is obviously the music. New wave, city pop, synthpop… these genres represent that decade so well that the first musical notes in the trailer made me push aside my habit and commit to buy that game as soon as it hits digital stores, be it Steam or Itch.
What’s it about and how does it play
As the title suggests, A Summer’s End – Hong Kong 1986 takes place in Hong Kong during the Summer of 1986. The story centers around two radically different women: Michelle Cheung and Sam Wong. Michelle lives with her mother, works in an office and leads a squeaky clean but repetitive and boring life which adheres to Hong Kong society expectations at the time. In contrast, Sam lives alone in a small apartment, runs her own video store and leads a fulfilling albeit less conventional life. She and Michelle cross paths by chance and despite their differences, see their lives changed forever and the conclusion of their story is left up to the player.
If you enjoy love stories but steamier scenes make you blush, the uncensored version is optional and available as a patch that has to be enabled manually (see Passion Patch in the settings menu).
Like a typical visual novel, there’s a lot of reading involved and fairly few player input save for a few choices in order to guide the storyline. Where the game sets itself apart from its romance-centric peers is the facts that it involves two women and that the main protagonist (Michelle) can end up with one potential partner (Sam) hence only two possible endings. From my understanding, there’s an invisible system of points that add up depending on the player’s choices which will unlock either one or two possible endings depending on the player’s score.
What I got out of this game
LGBT rights in Asia during the 80s
I know a few homosexual people but when they tell me their story, it’s always in today’s society which treats them better than in the past. That’s why seeing it from more than 30 years in the past make me realize that while the world has changed in certains aspects, it has also remained the same in others. We live in a society where we’re expected to live a certain way and within a rigid set of rules. While Michelle lived by these rules, Sam didn’t and chose instead to live solely on her terms which was unheard of at the time.
To better understand the differences, unlocking both endings is necessary. One is the desirable one while the other is the realistic one. Also, one is longer and more vague while the other is shorter but also clearer. I’ll stop here before I spoil the story any further.
The years leading up to the handover of Hong Kong to China
I remember watching the movie A Better Tomorrow by John Woo which, by pure coincidence, was released in Summer 1986. The characters briefly mentioned the upcoming handover of Hong Kong to China. That’s when I understood the Hong Kong people were already thinking about their future way before the fateful day of July 1st 1997. In A Summer’s End – Hong Kong 1986, even if that wasn’t the main subject of the story, it was discussed at one point by Michelle and Sam where each gave her opinion and what such an event could mean for the future of the Hong Kong people. Now that more than 20 years have passed since the handover, we can see there are still two camps: those content with the status quo and those that desire change.
Should you play this game?
If you wish to revisit a pre-Internet era, love music from the 80s or believe that love between two individuals is universal regardless of their identity, I highly recommend this game. Also, if like me, you tend to wait for that 75% discount before buying it, maybe this song from Timecop1983 will encourage you to buy it sooner:
The developers at Oracle & Bone have already expressed in this article their desire to add Cantonese voice acting in the future for a more immersive experience. If enough people buy it, this may come sonner than later. If you do play it, please share your thoughts with the world.
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Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you soon. Laters.
Oracle & Bone (studio) : site web
Tida Kietsungden (art direction) : site web
Timecop1983 (music) : Bandcamp
Stevia Sphere (music) : Bandcamp
Crystal Cola (music) : Bandcamp