Summer Pockets Review

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#1 by tyrog
2018-07-05 at 13:58
"All children, except one, grow up," begins Peter Pan, and the opening sentence of J. M. Barrie's novel is an appropriate tag line for Key's latest title, Summer Pockets.

The game opens with the protagonist, Takahara Hairi, aboard a boat approaching the small provincial island Torishirojima, trying to come to grips with the reasons for his being there when he first sees a certain girl who may become an important part of his life . . .

There are various people to interact with: Mitani Ryouichi, a friendly, carefree guy with a penchant for exhibitionism; Kanou Tenzen, a sporty fellow dedicated to ping-pong, with whom you can play the addicting ping-pong mini-game (there are three different types to practice and various milestones and high scores to strive for); the four romanceable heroines, Tsumugi, Ao, Kamome, and Shiroha; Umi, Hairi's young second cousin; other friends and relatives.

The common route follows a familiar structure: choosing whom to spend time with, goofing out, pursuing achievements—called "records" in this game; obtaining all two hundred records would take multiple playthroughs. As is usual for Key's VNs, there is a healthy dose of comedy early on that serves as a cushion for the heavy drama to come later.

Recommended route order: Tsumugi - Ao - Kamome - Shiroha

Tsumugi Wenders is a blonde girl of foreign extraction who spends most of her time at the island's abandoned lighthouse. Her route is easily the weakest part of the game, full of the type of gratuitous moe that has been the bane of this industry for the last several years. Cutesy speech patterns and infantile behavior cannot substitute for character development and good writing—a lesson that too many VN writers are unable or unwilling to learn. I suggest reading this route first and then forgetting it existed. Alternatively, you can leave it for last and ctrl skip through it. Thankfully, Tsumugi and her annoying breast-obsessed friend Shizuku appear only briefly elsewhere, and the rest of the game is much better.

Sorakado Ao is an attractive girl with a mercurial temperament given to daydreaming. Her route shows her in a new light, with Hairi playing an active supporting role through a trying ordeal. It is more in line with what I was expecting of a Key novel and is pretty good overall, although its themes felt a bit too familiar, and I was left with the nagging feeling that I wanted something more.

Kushima Kamome is a vivacious girl with a taste for adventure who drags along a mysterious suitcase wherever she goes. Hers is a sweet Peter-and-Wendy tale of going back to the halcyon summer of one's childhood, of refusing to grow up in a world that is all too eager to forget the magic of looking through a child's eyes. I found it charming and moving, and it was the most enjoyable part of the VN for me.

Naruse Shiroha, a shy, beautiful white-haired girl, is the main heroine of Summer Pockets—a fact that becomes apparent only later. In contrast to Kamome's, her route is a story of overcoming one's hangups, letting go of the past and moving on. I thought it was quite satisfying.

After finishing these four routes, an additional chapter, ALKA, becomes available. It explores much more thoroughly the relationship between Hairi and Umi, and at the same time elaborates on Shiroha's route. The notion of the nuclear family as indispensable in the life of the individual once again takes a prominent position, as it did in Clannad. I feel this is the part of the novel that will divide its readers. Some will, perhaps, be moved to tears by the expression of love that transcends time and space to bring a family together; as for me, it took the story in an unwanted direction and was ultimately too melodramatic and boring.

The short final chapter, Pocket, does not depart significantly from the tone and themes of the previous one and brings the story to a more or less satisfying conclusion.

My overall impressions of Summer Pockets are somewhat conflicted. Although I do think it is a solid visual novel, I felt the writers were staking too much on Key's signature "crying game" formula at times and overemphasized parent–child relationships at the expense of romance or story in the last two chapters. I think they were successful in what they set out to achieve, but it was not quite what I had been hoping for. Still, some parts of the VN stood out for me, and I am glad that I read it. What about you, dear reader?

Final Score: 8
#2 by kiru
2018-07-05 at 14:18
I'd like to chime in and mention that this VN does not actually have a real common route. A common route implies common events to all routes, but the only ones that exist in "common" are completely unrelated to the heroines with extremely minor exceptions. And this HURTS the game SO MUCH. The prologue doesn't help either, as it offers no more than a short (read 2-3 Minutes) introduction of each heroine, while the other ~90% does not involve them.

I haven't beaten the game, but the two routes I've finished so far (blondie and suitcase girl) were definitely not good. Blondie's is probably barely fine, while the other one was just completely bad. And while that wasn't only because there not being a common route, it's a very big reason. After all you essentially get on a route before you even remotely know the heroine in question. In the worst case it's after a single 2 minute scene involving her before.

The game also has several other issues, where I wonder how drunk the designers must've been. One of the worst offenders is definitely the shimamon minigame. It's so utterly bad. And the way common works doesn't help it either. Almost as if this is meant to make you hate the dev.
#3 by bossybear11
2018-07-05 at 16:03
Yeah I don't think there is any common route at all in this game. Only 1 scene with every heroine (except Shiroha) from meeting time with the MC and then you already have to choose your path with the heroine.

The lack of the introduction in the opening of the game made many character become obselete or unused.

Still I can't say it's bad because i've only finished 2 route for now.
#4 by fuukanou
2018-07-05 at 17:15
Do you all have any idea of roughly how long the game is? Could you liken it the length to any other Key VN?
#5 by tyrog
2018-07-05 at 18:11
It is much shorter than Clannad or Little Busters. I'd say around 30 hours, maybe slightly more for most nonnative readers.
#6 by diabloryuzaki
2018-07-06 at 21:53
clannad + little buster + Air + an old legend = summer pockets
#7 by bdawg
2018-08-03 at 10:20
I thought they overdid it with trying to make crying scenes for ALKA and Pockets. Kind of used the same theme for cry scene twice.
Ao, Tsumugi and Kamome was ok in that perspect. Tsumugi's so incomplete I have no idea of its purpose in the story. Kamome's I really have no idea what even happened in the end. Sounded to me like MC lost his mind at the end Stealing the ship that was meant to be a tourist attraction and setting sail for the sea with no preparations lol[spoiler]

By the way, anyone know what does ALKA suppose to mean here? Or does it have no special meaning.
Last modified on 2018-08-03 at 10:23
#8 by myopius
2018-08-03 at 13:05
@7 ALKA seems to be derived from Alcor, which means "forgotten" or "neglected". WikipediaLast modified on 2018-08-03 at 13:06
#9 by diabloryuzaki
2018-08-09 at 06:16
@7 it's like you read rewrite and encounter moon route before terra route. Alka in this vn have same meaning like that
#10 by august99us
2018-08-14 at 05:52
@7 there is an arrange album included with the box that is called Swallow Tale, which might possibly be referencing or have some relation to the main theme alkateiru; I like @8 's interpretation though. for thought, suzuki konomi did post something on her blog talking about arukateiru here, although it's not very helpful determining the meaning, I haven't been able to find any other information on alka other than that though.

edit: i'm dumb, there's actually a bgm called Twinkle of Alcor in the game, there's the answer Last modified on 2018-08-21 at 05:50
#11 by styr
2018-08-24 at 12:36
Hot Pockets is the most overrated VN this year.
#12 by kominara
2018-08-24 at 13:04
#11 Kari Gurashi Ren'ai and Riddle Joker also came out this year though.
#13 by crusader325
2018-08-27 at 15:40
Just finished reading. Great read solid 8/10 for me.
But just like #1 Said quite conflicted in general
#14 by bunny1ov3r
2018-09-30 at 02:50
Overall, the four heroines route were pretty banal. They are exactly why I don't like a "typical" galgame. There is nothing really interesting happening. They don't connect that well together either other than toward the end of each route a supernatural phenomenon occurs that set the tone for the true route

Alka and Pocket does bring closure to the story. Don't get me wrong. I thought it is a pretty decent conclusion to a well thought out story. But it alone doesn't save the majority of the game though. It really didn't have to be this long.

6/10Last modified on 2018-09-30 at 03:06
#15 by lanxey
2019-01-11 at 11:42
Tsumugi is my wife !


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