Do you have a passion for the tutoring business? Have you ever dreamed to spend you summer while passing your knowledge to someone else? Do you like VR experiences? Are you a “slice of life” games freak?
If you answered YES to one of these questions you’ll find this review interesting. If your answered NO to all of them, you may possibily find something interesting as well, so … keep reading!
“Summer Lesson: Hikari Miyamoto is all about a young girl’s troubles in academics, and a tutor’s ability to help her. Players take on the role of both a mentor and a tutor and must guide her through the subjects she’s having trouble with.” [quoted from Play Asia]
Summer Lesson is one of those software that tries to fill the gap of the lack of games available for PS VR and, even though it is more an experience than a real game, it actually succeeded in what it promised to do.
You start the “game” at a nearby cafè, when you receive a phone call by your Headquarter in Tokyo offering you a job as tutor for young Hikari.
Next thing you know is that you are in her room for a brief introduction before starting an intense week of studies.
The first few minutes of the game are reported in the video below (my actual gameplay). Clip and images won’t really give you the idea of how strong the “sence of presence” in this game is, where you really feel in very close proximity of another human being that reacts to (some of) your inputs.
After this first encounter you are back in the cafè, where you need to prepare the next day lesson by carefully choosing the main subject (reading, logic, exercise …), a chat topic (needed to improve empathy) and a “lucky item” which enables for some additional activities.
Choosing “Exercise“, for example, will take you to a splendid location (a Shinto Shrine before the seacoast) where you can watch Hikari working out and you can provide her your personal advice by selecting one of three teaching strategies.
The outcome of your actions will be recorded in the daily log and will improve your student’s skills. When lesson ends it’s chit-chat time, and you can ask Hikari how she feels about education, entertainment, friends and other stuff by selecting the appropriate icon.
If you elected to use a lucky item you will also have the chance to watch additional scenes before the day ends, like Hikari acting as a maid at the cafè or dressing her yukata for the fireworks by the Shrine.
At the end of the week Hikari will let you know how her final exam turned out (your lesson outcome). At that point the “game” is already finished (it will take an hour or so to do it) and you are ready for a new playthrough.
Everytime you start over Hikari’s statistics will go back to zero, but the level achieved by the main topics will keep increasing according to how much you used it in the previous run(e.g.: Reading Lvl 2, Exercise Lvl 4, Logic Lvl 3 …). Each following playthroughs will have new topics/extra scenes added to your lesson plan and, as a reward, you will acquire new outfits and stuff.
As I said before, this software is not “really” a game: it sports very little interaction and features blurry and low-resolution textures, but it is a true VR experience. The following pictures will not be able to render how incredibly realistic it feels to have Hikari around you and how realistic the enviroments are despite the low-res. When I first saw the Shrine it was like being back to Japan again and I was already tempted to go to the nearest travel agency to buy a new plane ticket …
There is, of course, no way to talk to Hikari, but she feels real and she reacts to some of your actions, getting mad at you if you get too close to her or if accidentaly you drop things, like a cake slice on her room’s floor.
The only complain I have from my peculiar point of view is that I bought the english version to be able to understand the mechanics, hoping in the possibility to switch to japanese subtitles in order to learn the language. Sadly, the english version does sport only japanese audio but only english subs, so I will have to improve the language in other ways. Nonetheless, it’s fun to hear Hikari greeting you at lesson’s start (先生 おはよう , “Sensei, ohayou”) or praising for your qualified help (よろしくおねがいします, “Yoroshiku onegai shimasu”).
I wish I could already tell her “私は日本語がわかります” (“I understand japanese”), but this will have to wait a little longer even though it is a fact that I start to grasp simple phrases, like when she dismisses me at lesson’s end with a “今日はよろしくね” (“Kyo wa yoroshiku ne”). The more you play and the more Hikari will start interacting with you, chatting on the smarphone or sharing a few peaceful moments, like listening to music together.
I found controversial opinions on this game over the Internet, with critiques ranging from 80% (and claiming it to be best PS4 VR title out there) to barely 60%. My opinion is that this is a difficult product to define (not really a game but much more than a plain and simple simulation) therefore a mere score would not really be fair. In any case, there is no doubt that this is a great VR experience. The sense of presence it’s really at its best, despite its blurry and low-res objects. Grab it if you have the chance, especially if you have a PS4 PRO, that could possibily increase the textures quality.
Many thanks for their invaluable support with the japanese language to Meteosnow and the staff at Hanami Blog.