Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hourglass of Summer

Genre: Bishoujo Game
Platform: DVD Player / Playstation 2 / XBox / PC (DVD-ROM)
2002 PrincessSoft, 2004 Hirameki International Group, Inc. Illustrated by Suigun Murakami.

Hourglass of Summer DVD Game
Other products related to Hourglass of Summer
Cover Description:
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 had "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 31. 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 his terrible fate awaiting the girl of his dreams.

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

AnimePlay ruins a perfectly good story. >>> by skysenshi

I will never ever request for an AnimePlay DVD ever again.

My greatest regret is that I still have 2 more AnimePlay DVDs to "play" and review. Don't get me wrong. I have been a bishoujo gamer for years so I have nothing against b-games in general. Thing is, with AnimePlay, you just wish it were hentai so you'd have something raunchy to look forward to in the middle of a soon-to-be-snoozefest. Let's face it, b-games can get pretty boring because of the lack of activity going on in there. They're basically digital novels. When developers insert some hentai scenarios in them, you elicit a truckload of reactions—from shock to disgust to horniness. When you remove all that from a b-game, you may find yourself falling asleep in the middle of a decent storyline.

That being said, I must reiterate that Hourglass of Summer is an interesting read. The male protagonist, Kotaro, suddenly finds himself jumping back and forth in time. It's not the type of time traveling experience where one stays a long time in the past or future. Kotaro slides between close dates! Like, today he'd be experiencing tomorrow, and tomorrow he'd be experiencing yesterday. Confused? I know I was. I could certainly imagine how befuddled the poor dude must be, which is excellently portrayed in the game. Despite the numerous leaps between close dates, the plot is cohesive and you definitely could tell that the writer is a master of pre-destination paradoxes. The longest path has the deepest storyline because you also form bonds with all of the other girls. The best ending isn't just the best because it's the true path; it's the best because you get to familiarize yourself with everyone's complexities on a very emotionally intimate level.

There are five girls to choose from: Kaho, the sweet girl-next-door; Ai, Kotaro's extremely annoying childhood friend; Mana, the swimmer; Tomomi, the science professor; and Lee Jane, the time cop. In case you can't tell, Kaho is the "right" girl. I find her a bit too default, though her route is endearing and rich in content. She's the type of girl who will not tell you that you're being a jerk, but will just give you the cold shoulder. The other girls that definitely struck me were Tomomi and Lee Jane. I love Tomomi's path because you see very little of Ai, although I figure there's a lot more to her story than is being told. Still, it manages to come off as something similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Lee Jane, on the other hand, is perky and lovely. Unfortunately, her ending feels as if she were given to Kotaro as a consolation prize for ruining his chances with Kaho.

Kotaro, like many other anime/b-game heroes, has a signature best friend (SBF) named Takeshi. The great thing about it is that he isn't like most SBFs. Takeshi is funny and reliable, which is a rarity. SBFs are usually just props. Takeshi shone.

Graphics-wise, the artwork is beautiful. Kaho and Lee Jane are exceptionally gorgeous, albeit there are times when Kaho looks bigger than her supposedly overbearing dad. The voices, except for Ai's screeching, are usually pleasant and convincing.

I have one major gripe that definitely turned me off AnimePlay DVDs forever. Remember that I complained about Amusement Park? Hourglass of Summer's interface isn't as friendly as Amusement Park's. There's an 8-letter password that would serve as your "save point" and each letter has to be inputed individually. When you retrieve your password, it doesn't show you the entire thing. You have to press the arrow keys to uncover the rest of it. I don't understand why they can't just show everything in one go. I find that violates every rule of Human-Computer Interaction, because you are using a remote control—not a keyboard. It also takes quite a while for each letter to register, so you're in danger of hanging in the middle of your password session. Furthermore, I had problems figuring out when to get my password. Unlike Amusement Park, where your password is automatically displayed, you have to fetch your Hourglass of Summer password by pressing the triangle button on the PS2. When I used a normal DVD player, I could barely figure out how to do that without being thrown back to the beginning of the game. The only upside I could name here is that Hourglass has a password per chapter, not per story branch, so you can just fetch "save point" anytime you want to take a break. They don't tell you that in the manual.

One more thing I wish they'd come up with when developing bisjoujo games, especially AnimePlay DVDs: English audio. This way, you can actually do other things while listening to the story. It's the reason why podcasting is so hot. It cuts your errands time in half because you can multitask. I notice that I do tend to waste time on AnimePlay; I end up sleeping during the long dialogues—something that only Xenosaga made me do.

Overall, I think you're better off waiting for the anime version of this game...if you can even call it a game. I believe they wasted money on designers/programmers who could do a lot better if they were given real games to work with.

RATINGS: Gameplay 3; Battle -; Story 9; Visuals 8; Characters 9; Sounds 8; Replay Value 1

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