While I am not an expert on the intricacies of game development, I have noticed that video games put out by indie developers tend to take some rather unique routes and even introduce new concepts. It is one of my favorite things about the genre because it truly feels like developers have been able to tell the stories they want to tell in the way they want. This observation seems to hold true with Sumire, a story-driven narrative adventure game developed and published by the Japanese publisher GameTomo.
Sumire was released on May 27th, 2021, for both the Nintendo Switch and PC (via Steam). The Switch version was played for this review.
A Perfect Day
GameTomo describes Sumire as a “game about choice and regret” and that is essentially the premise of the story. Our lead character, who the game is titled after, wakes up after dreaming about her dead grandmother. After not having been able to make out her grandmother’s words in her dream, she finds a seed on the floor of her house, which she promptly plants in a pot on her coffee table. The seed immediately sprouts into a flower, who tells Sumire she’d get to see her grandmother again if she shows it a “perfect” day.
What follows is a lot of errand-running for the inhabitants of Sumire’s world (this includes townspeople and animals alike), but the themes behind the requests are what make the story so rich. Each character has a need and that need is tied to an emotion, whether it be wanting acceptance or to be with their true love. This makes what you’re doing feel more wholesome, and it has an effect on Sumire as a person as well.
Speaking of Sumire, the game does a good job of giving her a personality. While you are allowed to mold it a bit, it’s clear she has her own thoughts and feelings and isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind, which is something I found quite nice when going through the dialogue.
I do have to be honest and say that at first, I found the game to be a little bit childish, which is interesting because the themes it deals with are actually rather dark. The issues Sumire is facing range from her father’s abandonment and her mother’s depression, to bullying and much more, but because the game is seen through her perspective, there is not a lot of depth there besides the fact that the problems exists.
What I mean is, while Sumire’s age is never officially stated, she seems like a little girl who is dealing with problems she doesn’t quite understand or know how to tackle. So the game has you deal with it in certain ways that can feel a bit dismissive when you think about the severity of the themes you’re dealing with. For example, one of the ways you can address Sumire’s feelings towards the people who have wronged her is to write a letter, but the content of the letters were rather shallow compared to how the game is claiming she feels. In other instances where we have to tackle Sumire’s problems head on, we are given the option to be nice and “heal” our bullies, or leave them in a spirit world where they will disappear for your “perfect” day but then come back tomorrow unchanged.
While I understand the game was meant to be wholesome, it felt very weird to be introduced to such realistically dark themes only for them to be handled in immature/supernatural ways. I’m not sure if the developers over at GameTomo were trying to create issues that the players could connect with, but it fell a little flat because obviously anyone facing these sorts of issues in real life don’t have the same kind of options as Sumire.
I suppose if the story was trying to get one thing across, it’s that you sometimes only get one chance to deal with your problems or say what you need to say, which is a valuable lesson both in this game and in life.
Request Granter Extraordinaire
The gameplay in Sumire is exactly what you’d expect from a text-based adventure game. Most of the time you’re responding to the talking flower that follows you around or the characters that Sumire interacts with throughout her journey. This is usually done by picking between two dialogue options, one option yields good karma and one option yields bad karma, which does affect which ending you get so there is some thinking to do there.
Sometimes, instead of just dialogue, the game presents you with random mini-games to play as a response to an event. Among them are: A card game where you battle the other person using whatever ability the cards have, a board game where you roll a die and move pieces around, and a game where you have to stop Sumire from walking every time an evil crow looks at her. These side-games were probably the most enjoyable part of the gameplay for me and provided a nice break from some pretty cliché dialogue options.
One other thing I really liked about Sumire’s gameplay is that it encourages the exploration of your surroundings (which are beautiful), as most characters have fetch quests and you have to run around looking for the items they asked for in order to complete them. The game does introduce fast travel at a certain point which does make doing this much easier, but the maps aren’t particularly large so I had a good time manually exploring all the rooms and corners of wherever the story took me.
Overall, I wouldn’t categorize the gameplay in Sumire as unique or ground breaking, but it doesn’t harm its genre or feel like a chore in any way so it’s not one of the game’s cons.
A Vibrant Flower
The visuals and music in Sumire are one of its biggest highlights. The game is rendered in a beautiful watercolor style and the relaxing soundtrack was created by the Japanese duo TOW. I found myself excited every time I reached a new area, as the vibrancy in the colors was a treat to take in. I also liked how the background music changed depending on what was happening on screen; it made the events feel that much more immersive.
I will be honest and say that the world felt a little limited and small given the emphasis placed on exploration, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying what was there. Aside from this one minor gripe, there were no glaring issues that I noticed when playing on the switch. The load times were pretty fast and there were some nice visual details added in, like when Sumire ate food or put on her shoes.
A Beautiful Place
While Sumire was a short game, I truly enjoyed what it had to offer. The themes and characters were interesting, some of the minigames were fun, and the ending I got was pretty wholesome.
It does have some minor flaws, among them its limited world and the nature of how some of the darker themes were handled, but for the low price-point and engaging experience, I wouldn’t let those things keep you from giving it a try. I am certainly glad I did, and look forward to future titles from GameTomo.
Review copy provided by GameTomo for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of GameTomo.