A Summer with the Shiba Inu is a visual novel by Quill Game Studios and Ratalaika Games. It’s about a Shiba Inu named Syd, who left Shiba Island for Canine-da to seek greener pastures. She comes back after 15 years to visit her friend Max and to find that while the island hadn’t changed much, some dogs there still harboured hatred for her and wanted vengeance. Yeah, this wasn’t the cute and cuddly visual novel I thought it would be once I started getting into the core of A Summer with the Shiba Inu. In fact, it gets darker and takes some interesting, but tiresome twists.
Shiba Island is an island, mostly inhabited by Shiba Inu except for a yellow Labrador retriever. The story takes place on the island and it surrounds one Shiba by the name of Syd and her pendant known as the Feather of Reality. The Allocated Reality Institute or ARI is an ambiguous entity that controls the social hierarchy of the island’s canine residents by creating these alternate reality survival death matches known as the ARInas that are mandatory for every dog that lives on the island. The higher your rankings in these death matches, the better your social life and freedoms on the island will be. The purpose of the ARIna is to separate good dogs from bad and the good with getting a better allocated reality while the bad do not.
It feels like the Matrix with some Hunger Games elements tied in. It is understood that these ‘games’ are held to determine who gets to be a top dog on the island by virtually crushing the pendants these dogs wear around their necks. The dogs are taught early on that these pendants are important, and when they are separated from the dog, the dog will die. This is later disproven towards the end of the game by a key character.
A Summer with the Shiba Inu is a visual novel, so other than choices, you don’t have to click on much. You have save menus, extras, secret, and a preference menu that has a bark button. The music is as generic as it gets and the same goes with the sound effects. The barking was realistic enough that my dog reacted and growled at my tv. A Summer with the Shiba Inu reuses many of the background splash art seen around the game. Some way more than others. The dog depictions are cute mostly. Although when I downloaded the game and saw the cute splash art for the game, that was kind of what I was expecting to see. No realistic paintings of dogs with human clothes.
This gauntlet type survival death match event called the ARIna is never explained early on, and while the devs may have been trying to build up suspense, the utter confusion I experienced didn’t do the plot any favors. In short, Syd is a white dot Shiba Inu (white dot seems to be a breed thing where it represents a lower class of Inu? I don’t know, but that’s what it felt like) who is the best of the best and won so many of these mandatory ARInas, that she got the highest reward which is the Feather of Reality. It’s a pendant that allows Syd to alter reality directly. It’s bizarre, but the purpose of the feather is explained later on by another key character.
This feather seems to be the reason dogs that Syd eliminated throughout her ARIna career have come back for vengeance and a shot at getting the feather for themselves because the one who holds the feather has the power to lead the ARI. The chronology is all over the place though. There is a lot of back and forth between past and present that it is difficult to understand what is happening. Some elements of the story make little sense because the story jumps around and gives you a bunch of names and entities that you’ll just have to wait to understand when the story comes full circle. I felt confused for a lot of the middle portion of the game because I couldn’t understand why a particular event was taking place in the present or why it took place in the past.
A Summer with the Shiba Inu is definitely a game worth playing a few more times because of the many endings. The endings are all different, but some parts drag on for longer than necessary. I tentatively recommend this game only because it’s bizarre, but in a way that will make you want to play more, to unravel some other element of the twisting story.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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A Summer with the Shiba Inu Review
Gameplay - 5/10
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 5/10
Replay Value - 7/10
A Summer with the Shiba Inu is definitely worth playing. With multiple endings, and bizarre story twists. Join the cute dogs on the Island of Shiba, and unravel the mysteries.
- Dog images are cute.
- Decent replay value.
- Dog puns.
- Disjointed background animations.
- Story is convoluted at times.