A blog for reviews… that's really not much of a blog

Foreword: Okay I’ll admit that Whirlpool games have given me quite the fatigue so it was about time I finished some other games like this one.

Definitely a very interesting concept, when it comes to games by Key it’s rather unfortunate that like other companies they have a general set pattern of how they formulate their story. This means that while the story is pretty impactful the first time around (like how I created rivers while watching Clannad), when it becomes repeated often especially in later titles the same story elements become stale and at least in this title that same feature allowed many more holes than really necessary.

While I definitely think Summer Pockets was a good game, and will make effort to emphasize why it was good, I think it’s just as important to point out its bad parts (some which are relatively objective, mind you) which would question 90%+ of the scores for this game on fucking VNDB/EGS.

Please note that due to discussing both the goods and bads of this title relatively more extensively, this review will contain spoilers! I will make all efforts to refrain from disclosing route summaries but please be warned!

Title: Summer Pockets
Producers: Key
Release Date: June 29, 2018
VNDB Link: https://vndb.org/v20424
Getchu Link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=989183
Game Type: Slice of Life game based on a rural summer setting with themes of nostalgia

Summary: Hairi is invited by his aunt to come to the Torishijima Island after some events which have frankly left him tired. His trauma regarding swimming definitely didn’t contribute well to that recipe, and he just needed some time off for himself, and feeling some form of nostalgia brings him to accept his aunt’s invitation.

His arrival is uneventful except he causes some misunderstandings with the locals in the first hour about his existence… but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he is here to really look back on himself and have some time of healing, though he’ll soon find out that he’ll be involved in a lot more than rest-and-relax as he reminiscences on various aspects of life which includes his own.

Story Length: Moderately Long (30 hours)
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Easy
Comments: Very easy clearing difficulty which is actually quite surprising considering the games from Key I’ve played (which were Clannad and Little Busters) were extraordinarily hard when it comes to actually getting to complete game completion. As it stands I had no trouble with progressing in Summer Pockets which was actually favorable because this was meant to be that game that you should take lightly at least until you get to the last parts of the game.

Four heroines in total, though for some STRANGE reason the right side of the title screen is left blank *COUGH COUGH COUGH* (Like seriously it was so conspicuous that even I noticed it). Routes ALKA and Pockets open up after clearing all heroine routes and is considered the true route.

Character Design Rating: 6/10
Story Rating: 7/10
Protagonist Rating: 3/10
Game Quality: High
Overall Rating: 6/10
Rating Comments: Scores are unusually low especially considering it is a game from Key, I generally have the opinion that I liked the game; I just really hated small bits of it throughout which is why I need to rate it lower than it would normally be.

Character Design is splendid, unique, and memorable, but it’s just like other Key games where subcharacters are only placed for the humor and had that phenomenon where they suddenly serious/act as supporting characters in the climax. The relationships between them and Hairi (basically an outsider) was rather poorly developed since it was done through one or two scenes and this trait includes that for the heroines as well which is generally not favorable.

It’s really the problem with any story nowadays (especially with VNs) is that they fail to properly develop character relationships

Similarly, the story is really fine standalone; it’s just that as a whole game you can definitely tell there’s been different writers who never collaborated with each other because there’s a lot of missing links between routes with each route (which includes Shiroha’s, surprisingly) not relating to the true ending. It’s really nice to see all these decent scenarios, but if they have nothing to do with the grand finale what was the whole point of going through them in the first place?

Protagonist is the lowest of the group despite some good efforts into making him a character purely because he doesn’t actually do anything in the entire game.  Sure he does have his trauma that he eventually overcomes as well as participating in humor, but that was it; even in the true routes he doesn’t really do anything extraordinary and what do you know; in the Pockets route he doesn’t even show up. Not a good way to go about a protagonist design

Other Comments:

So definitely a game I thought was enjoyable, I was rather surprised that Nijima Yuu wrote some parts of this game but it didn’t completely disgust me like other games that he wrote did. On the other hand, when I was discussing this game with some other folks one of them asked a satirical question: “So how many girls have some stupid disease or magical plot point?” to which I hesitated to respond but eventually said “all of them” and I think that’s the biggest problem with this game; it uses these poor elements to progress its story so it just leaves a bad taste in the mouth except if you go full retard and just let the bad writing slide. It’s one of those games where the conflict is artificial and so is the resolution which results in scenario where you really have a hard time sympathizing with the characters

Ao: I went through her route first because Kotori Yuuka and Izumi Tsubasu, and it turns out that you should go through this route before Kamome’s at least due to this route explaining the Rainbow Butterfly in a bit more detail. Her route involves her twin sister who is in a coma and Ao finds herself at fault for this due to previous events, but there’s a blatant contradiction in her route already of how Rainbow Butterflies are described as someone’s memories after they’ve passed yet Ao’s sister is still alive. The fact that touching these butterflies also lets you reminiscence these memories but also makes you sleep more often (and also release a butterfly of your own eventually) was so artificial and a poor choice for going about for a story especially because it doesn’t apply to Hairi in routes like Kamome’s route for example, creating another contradiction.

Shiroha: Really what I would consider a very unfortunate route, despite being the main and central heroine Shiroha definitely doesn’t seem as such and even with how she’s pretty much the center of the true route I would have to say her own main route didn’t do a good job explaining things or even foreshadowing the events; the game only gives you that one fact that she distances herself due to what she believes is a curse, but doesn’t give any origins to what this is and its relationship with the Rainbow Butterflies at all. The true route does also make heavy implications on how she came about with this “curse” but this was just another wtf moment because the game threw all the logic out the window and incorporated the utmost convenient fantasy elements instead. Shiroha’s route in the main game can essentially be eliminated completely because the true route repeats very similar events with minute differences.

Kamome: Probably what I would consider the better route of all these four, Kamome’s route starts out with how this girl knows Hairi’s name which is strange because this is the first time he’s been on this island and definitely the first time seeing this girl. This girl invites him to an adventure of treasure hunting, and most closely follows the common route’s theme of “enjoying the summer vacation” compared to other routes which is why I would probably rate it higher. The plot twist at the end was actually quite decent since it was foreshadowed often and meticulously enough; it’s just that with every other route in this game Kamome’s route seems incoherent with the true route while Kamome herself only makes brief appearances as well.

Tsumugi: A strange character that seems to always be at the lighthouse all the time, Hairi’s interaction with this character involves collecting Pringles tubes so she can use it to build a veranda for herself. Tsumugi’s route also involves a subcharacter named Shizuku, and frankly the thing I hated most about this route was how the three of them become “inseparable friends” in just a few days (see how I’ve already talked about this game’s flaw being that poor development of character relationships). The entire route is based on this in addition to how strange things are happening to Tsumugi and they eventually find out something terrifying about this girl. This route tries to explain the “Other World” in greatest detail but fails because of too much focus on the heroine (though to be fair it IS Tsumugi’s route), so the ending became your very typical “Key” route which was definitely touching, but not something I want to scream about for the next 3 days.

Umi (ALKA and Pockets): I absolutely knew that there would be another route and Umi would be involved in it because the game was so obvious about it; having this character interact so extensively with Hairi yet at the end of each routes making her disappear unnaturally was the deal-sealer for me in recognizing that Umi was either going to be a heroine (though I was doubtful) or at least going to be described in a bit more detail in said true route.

My general impression of this true route is that Key just dumped EVERYTHING they built until this point and flat out tried to make a new game using the same settings and characters

While I don’t think this is a bad idea per se (strangely enough, because if you think about it the difference of each route is exactly that), the problem is that this “new game” is also not that great. Starting with Shiroha becoming Umi’s pretend mom and doing all these parent-child activities was really cute and all–I appreciated this fully plus the general warm atmosphere which did some extreme critical 999,999,999,999 damage to my cold frozen heart, and how Umi can somehow predict the future got me excited for what the game will present, but… then the game decides to say Umi was Hairi and Shiroha’s daughter that came from the future and that was when I knew it was too much fantasy.

I mean seriously. Along with the fact that this kinda seems like Clannad (in the sense the After-Story was really all about Ushio who is the child of Tomoya and Nagisa), there are also some direct copy-pastes of scenes from games like Clannad so that was just flat out bad; like does Key not understand they can’t use the same gimmicks that they used for heroines for previous games because we still remember them?

This scene also seemed oddly familiar, and it’s not because their hair colors are similar *HINT HINT*

Definitely a lot of plus points in this true route however, including that slow and steady progression of story (which was weird because it was lacking in the rest of the game), plus involvement of all characters and the adorable presentation of how happy this family was (and oh god I’m so lonely), I just wish the relationship between Hairi and Shiroha was elaborated much more in detail because the romance between them was essentially non-existent even in the True Route. In addition, the time traveling, paradox-resolution, curses, and basically everything fantasy (plus the beginning portion of the Pockets route) was frankly out of place and unwanted in a storyline that gave first impressions to be about childhood nostalgia.

Even after the game was over, the readers can also question why Shiroha and Umi were essentially in the exact same situation and also acted similarly, but Shiroha gained this “curse” while Umi slowly reversed into being a baby and eventually choosing to sacrifice her existence. That’s another inconsistency I found while playing.

I really wish Umi was given more meaningful interaction with Hairi too; as it stands the fact that Hairi is her dad is still rather awkward to me

Okay, I talked about the story a bit, so let’s talk about some other things:

First thing’s first; The fact that Summer Pockets is an “All-ages title” title. Key has definitely made some R-18 games (though opinion exists on how they botch it up severely and quite frankly I agree), and I said it was weird that this game was all-ages, but this was because it had “service scenes” for each heroines and a rather excessive amount of sexual innuendos not really fit for “children”. That originally gave me the idea that they might release an R-18 version of the game later on, but after completing the game completely, I can’t see it turning into an R-18 game purely because of how much “family oriented” the story was and obviously games like Clannad wasn’t ever made into an adult game. How three of the heroine CVs are completely new to this industry in the first place kinda points to that as well; I can only imagine how bad it would turn out if they were suddenly asked to do voice acting for H-scenes, so my educated hypothesis is that I HIGHLY doubt Summer Pockets will get R-18 additions… and it really shouldn’t. Please don’t make this into an adult game Key

Or else these girls won’t be able to play it kek

One other thing was that the protagonist was extremely weak this time around. At least in the other Key titles that I know more extensively from Key (Clannad, Little Busters, Angel Beats), the protagonists are relatively more prevalent in the story but in Summer Pockets they almost literally get rid of Hairi in the true routes which was definitely something that bothered me; I mean why? It was as if the game just switched protagonists to Umi instead of Hairi and switching protagonists is never a good idea regardless of the situation, and while I can only make theories of the reasoning this feature is an objectively bad thing.

I genuinely do not understand the reasoning for this; it’s not like he’s unfitting to be placed in the true route, he just needed SOME relevance to it instead of being just one of the sideline characters

The next thing I really wanted to point out is the number of deus ex machinas. Sure, you kinda need to have some of this especially when it comes to resolving fantasy elements in an otherwise slice-of-life based setting, but the game took it a bit too far especially to forcefully create a happy ending for characters or even to just progress the damn story. These include convenient dreams, random reviving of characters that are supposed to be dead/not real, time paradoxing in the true routes, and etc etc. It just kills all that tension and excitement built up for each route because the scenario writers were just plain bad at writing and didn’t know of any better ways.

The last thing I need to reiterate is how the game doesn’t have any form of relevance across routes. Character design remains consistent but quite frankly that’s not hard to do, the true route pretty much throws the logic of the rainbow butterfly out the window (and also never fully explains what the hecky they are), and heroines given an appearance in other routes were done in a rather forced manner plus Shiroha who’s supposed to be the main and central heroine missing for like half the entire game. Each route felt like its own world and own story, which never relates back to any of the other routes.

Affection for the Characters: High

CG Score: 8/10. Visually beautiful, but I feel like at this day and age there could be some additional features like animated effects in CGs

Perfect for a Wallpaper methinks

Music Score: 9/10. If there’s one thing I can be bold to state is that they’re in the top 10, if not the absolute best, in soundtracks and auditory elements. I’m quite pleased that this is the norm for Key and definitely applaud them for putting in the effort.

Addictiveness: Low

Conclusion:

Pros

  • Visually a beautiful game with audio definitely complimenting such a design. It’s safe to say that Key has mastered the external components of a visual novel, so once they figure out the internal, they’ll be pumping out kamige regularly
  • Routes by itself presents the story and main heroine decently
  • True route has a lot of heartwarming moments and generally a good concept
  • Characters including subcharacters are memorable, and the humor is quite good
  • The mini-game feature is relatively fun

Cons

  • Routes are incoherent to each other and especially to the true route. Contradictions also exist, sometimes within a route which just displays poor writing in addition to lack of collaboration between writers.
  • The routes while decent themselves, aren’t original and can contain copy-pastes of different games from Key. This is especially visible in the true route and while it is still the same company’s style of writing, seeing the same story format reduces the impact and displays the company as being lazy.
  • The fantasy and convenient elements make conflicts seem very artificial and doesn’t allow for the sympathy to occur as it was needed to fully enjoy the story
  • Character relationships are typical in the sense it is not well developed

Overall, I somewhat enjoyed Summer Pockets. It’s not up to the hype that it had when it was first announced nor is it to the point people are screaming about it even now. I still think it’s better than the crap that’s been released recently but it’s far from receiving scores of 9 or 10; those are from people who obviously have MUCH lower standards or have never played another Key game in their life so all this “Key” Story Elements is a first to them

I wouldn’t be sure of how to fix this game for the better purely because both the normal routes and the true routes were good by themselves; the bad was that they didn’t have a correlation with each other and that’s only resolved through replanning the entire scenario (and they should also remove some blantant copy-pastes in the process), at which point you might as well just write a new game instead.

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Comments on: "The Unforgettable Summer Memories: Review of [180629] Summer Pockets" (12)

  1. […] it’s not like I hated the game but it’s the same with idiots screaming that games like Summer Pockets is the best game […]

  2. >Role of protagonist is weak
    But but, without him umi would even born on this world

    Aside from that, glad that you hold on to this game, and finally someone who talked about its none 18+ rating and yet its really not (no one agrees with me on this, sad)
    I agree, kamome’s route was the best out of the four
    ao was kinda a disappointment for me, and yeah now that you mention it the effects of the rainbow butterfly doesnt affect anyone else beside her
    Also the lack of heroine interaction in either routes was a bit of a downside for me, like dang it you guys are on a small island, how come you didnt see each other that often
    The final thing that really bothers me is that because they use multiple artist, the cg became awkward to look (like how ao and hari in the same cg actually had different coloring), perhaps thats why there are a lack in interaction between heroines

    not gonna comment much on the true route, perhaps its only problem was the lack of protagonist actions just like you said

  3. Nice review (and spoiler xD), even though I’m still not sure until now whether pick this game or not, still have backlogs ><"
    just saying, I laughed at dat Hairi and Shiroha CG *hint hint* because how similar this and "that"!

    well I actually thought… Kanade is Shiroha + Kamome but eh

    I'm tired with VN protagonists who have the same haircuts *coughhairiandotonashicough*, at least please design it more memorable :/

    Also, you said that the characters are hard to symphatize with, but affection for characters high? I don't get it, sorry ^^"

    • They’re definitely well designed and memorable. It’s just that the scenario the characters were placed in was rather poor so the character themselves are good, while their roles in the story were not

    • Kinda off-topic, if you have rating for protagonist then what if you play VN with multiple protagonists? Do you rate each of them?

    • That’s a very good question! If a game has multiple protagonists like Oretsuba or Sorcery Jokers (which are two titles I can think off the top of my head) I give a single protagonist score and go into detail about what I thought about each protagonist.

    • Oh, I thought your protagonist score mixed w/ character design score too… is that true?

      Well if it’s about multiple protagonists I can think about oretsuba and ef… since recently I’m currently playing ef… (why some protags in ef are punchable sigh is this a good thing -_-“)

    • The sole reason why I started rating protagonists was because some games had really shitty protagonists but good character design (heroines/subcharacters). The game that made me do this is Hatsuyuki Sakura, and it’s been working out very well for me.

      ef definitely does have some protagonists that made you want to punch something. Then again, that’s the case for a lot of minori games so you’ll just have to get used to it LOL

    • Really? I heard ppl were like “Ooh Hatsuyuki badass protag!” or something like that… haven’t finished it though I hold it in backlog

      In my case ef protags that made me want to punch something are Kuze and Renji… but strangely enough I can’t hate Renji! Maybe since he got better in Kuze/Mizuki route… :/ but Kuze… quite opposite of Renji he’s better in Renji/Chihiro route and Yuu/Yuuko route… (that said he’s better in the past lol)
      I also don’t care about Kuze/Mizuki romance not because the age gap (most of ppl complaint it), I’m actually fine with their age gap but it should have good transition… tch

      Again, this is minori games which bad at romance transition, well… I think Ryou is one of the best protag from minori games? Hmm… I don’t have any favoritism to him tho

  4. Good review, I disagree with some of your finer points but overall I agree with you that the game was good but a little disjointed, as it tends to happen when routes are written by entirely different people.

    I wouldn’t put too much credits on VNDB or EGS reviews being what they are for this game and others. Games tend to be either grossly overrated or underrated but rarely, very rarely does the average score reflect the actual quality of the game.

    I’m surprised you found this one easier to clear than previous Key games. I haven’t played Clannad but from the other games I played (Rewrite, Little Busters, Angel Beats, Tomoyo After) I didn’t feel any particular difficulty either. Unless you count Little Busters Ecstasy’s additional routes, or you’re just unused to routes being locked (how many times did I try to get into Rin’s route in Little Busters before understanding I needed to clear the others first…) or simply inexistent despite many choices hinting at the possibility (Yuri in Angel Beats…). I haven’t yet completed any of the mini-games in Summer Pockets but they did feel easier than the usual (the minigames in Little Busters I remember being really tough). Gathering all the records seems very difficult and time consuming without a walkthough.

    I think you’re a little harsh with the protagonist when you say he doesn’t do anything in the game. I wager that that impression comes from the trio of Shiroha-ALKA-Pockets routes, in which his image takes several serious hits (especially the future father thing), and he can be quite annoying especially in Shiroha’s route, what with his past reveals and the way he doesn’t seem to care at all about the ‘wedding’. In the other routes though he behaved pretty proactively, taking up the restoration project in Kamome even when knowing the circumstances, actively pursuing Ao despite her not wanting to, and trying to unravel the mystery surrounding Tsumugi.

    I liked Ao’s story, I didn’t feel that it had that many contradictions. Remember the sisters have a special relationship with the butterflies so it’s not that shocking that they would have different effects on them. It is the most standard Key route with the given plot developments that you can see coming a mile away but it was still very nice to see the protagonist try his best at saving her.

    I’m surprised you rated Kamome’s route so highly since it is the route Nijiima Yuu wrote and you seem to hate him. Her route itself is also my favorite but her appearance in the other routes (especially Shiroha/ALKA) is one of the biggest contraditcions of the game since she really shouldn’t. I really liked the bittersweet ending that didn’t try to turn into a happy end (interpretating the last CG as being all in the protagonist’s mind). This is the only route that managed to make me cry a little.

    Tsumugi was okay. I also had a bit of trouble with Shizuku, but I was okay with them turning best friends for the time of a summer because that’s just how summer relationships tend to be : intense but fleeting. In that case there’s even a clear time limit so there’s not time to waste before the party begins. The ending was obvious when you approach the route with this mindset, and so it didn’t have as much of an impact as it could have had on me. Circumstances outside the game also weren’t too favorable for me to get emotional (people in the house/extremely uncomfortable heat wave/etc…).

    Shiroha/ALKA : Pretty obvious from the second route on that Umi will be featuring heavily, is that if you start the game from the beginning and skip the early chapters only her scenes are flagged as ‘not read yet’, and you can have a focused view on her furthering degradation before her route actually starts. I liked the route, it’s pretty cute but I preferred Umi in her more insolent teenager self than her younger one so that was kinda of a letdown. For me who haven’t read Clannad the whole family pretend thing was pretty cute. I agree that most of the fantasy stuff was pretty unnecessary, only serving to shatter the protagonist’s image by revealing what kind of father he turns out to be, and the whole curse thing didn’t make too much sense either.

    Pockets: pretty unnecessary route to be perfectly honest. I would have preferred to see a continuation of ALKA with the couple either remembering or taking steps to make sure the tragedy doesn’t happen, which seemingly would just mean preventing Shiroha from exhausting herself trying to find a happy future for Umi. It’s pretty ironic that her desire to save her daughter is what dooms them both and is the source of most of the family problems, the protagonist being a poor husband/father not paying attention to his loved ones being another. There was room for drama, character growth, even a nice little happy ending or a bitter reflection on how you can’t change yourself. But no, we go to the past, meet new (or not) characters for a while and everything is fixed, magic!

    I highly doubt the game will get a 18+ version, mostly because of the 6 routes in the game, only two actually involve romance to a larger degree (ALKA and Ao). The others are more focused on friendship (Tsumugi, Shiroha) or adventure (Kamome, Pockets), so there’s really not much to go on as far as potential sex scenes go. There is a lot of innuendo and a few underwear CG in the game but honestly, not that much more than in your average shounen manga. Nothing that will corrupt the minds of the younger audience, audience that isn’t even the target of the game given the nostalgia themes.

    • If my memory is intact, the only games I finished from Key were Clannad and Little Busters Ecstasy, and as you’ve mentioned it’s the Ecstasy’s additional routes that gave me quite the trouble. I also do agree that it also had some relatively more difficult minigames–in Summer Pockets the minigames aren’t as tough.

      You might be right that I’m harsh on the protagonist, but my analysis is that routes are generally designed to build things up for the true route, and thus that’s the place where the protagonist should be the most active. Looking at it from a very objective perspective, Hairi’s actions within Ao, Tsumugi, and Kamome’s route could have been fulfilled by essentially any other theoretical character but only he would be able to fill in the role of a protagonist in the true route, and thus it was weighted more heavily for me. It’s not like he does anything incredibly memorable in the other routes anyways; he was just there for the purposes of the story.

      It’s these “small exceptions” that really annoyed me about Ao’s route. If at all it should’ve been something like “Ao’s being doing this for a long time, thus she’s just used to it or instinctively knows how to deal with the side-effects” kind of design, not just she and Ai responds differently because the writers said so. There was just so many ways to go about her route without needing to resort to these convenient excuses (If I had to make a suggestion, what about how Ao misunderstood the concept of butterflies and returning Ai’s doesn’t actually wake her up -> leads to more conflict/scenario), so if I had to ultimately rate the routes for me Ao would be in the bottom two.

      Nijima Yuu I really have a love-hate relationship with (See Hatsuyuki Sakura, Koi kake Kanojo), which is why it’s also surprising for me to hear he wrote Kamome’s route. Go Figure

      I generally have the same opinions as you regarding Shiroha, ALKA, and Pockets routes. Definitely enjoyed the little pretend family, but as someone who DID play Clannad I’ll just repeat what I said and mention there are direct copy-pastes in these routes from its predecessor so that was just distasteful (even the anime has these scenes if memory serves). I think the whole point of Pockets was to present Umi as the “hero” who sacrifices her own existence (due to time paradox) to save her own mother from the curse (Shiroha cursed -> Distances herself from everyone -> this allows for Hairi to get closer to her -> Endless loop; thus removing that curse element cuts that loop), so I did gain a bit more value in the route than you in this sense, but I thoroughly agree the fantasy, unexplained curse, and how all of it relates to the rainbow butterflies was completely missing so that was just objectively bad.

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