Visual novels are a big thing in Asia, they are a very popular genre. However, the visual novel genre is very niche, generally it’s just a series of static pictures and you are given a few choices to progress the story a certain way. Ratalaika Games have had a greater focus on releasing visual novels recently, and the latest entry is A Summer with the Shiba Inu. What is a Shiba Inu you may ask? Well, it’s a kind of dog breed, yes, this is a visual novel that is solely about dogs.
A Summer with the Shiba Inu generally concerns itself about Syd the Shiba Inu. She reminisces about the past with her friend Max, a lot has changed since she has been away and now she must acclimatise back into society. Syd spent time in Canine-da (yes, there are a lot of dog puns in A Summer with the Shiba Inu) and has returned to Tai-paw (yes another one). Syd and Max come across a dog which Syd thinks she recognises, this dog challenges her to an ARIna. An ARIna is effectively a virtual dog arena fighting simulation. Dogs must eliminate as dogs and when they do, they will move up the social standing in the real world. Imagine beating someone at FIFA and finding you now become more important and influential in the real world. This is what the result of a successful ARIna. The plot of A Summer with the Shiba Inu jumps forward and back quite a lot and there are two main themes, one is to do with Syd’s brother and the other is her time in Canine-da.
Just like most visual novels, A Summer with the Shiba Inu is full of dialogue. The story itself can be a little confusing, so it is important to read what’s on the screen and not fast forward (there are options to skip dialogue between choices which speed up the time to complete A Summer with the Shiba Inu, but you’ll have no idea what’s happening). There are quite a lot of Syd monologues which don’t really add much to A Summer with the Shiba Inu so if you do want to skip something they are the kind of thing you could probably skip without affecting your understanding of the story too much. Your only interaction in A Summer with the Shiba Inu is picking from a series of choices that are presented every now and again. There are different endings ranging from the usual ‘Good’ to ‘Bad’ endings. Whether you want to go through the dialogue again to see a different ending is up to personal preference, but I think most will just skip it.
Visual novels can live or die by their visuals, in A Summer with the Shiba Inu is full of reasonably detailed backdrops although one or two seem a little out of place. The dog visuals and sound effects are the best part of A Summer with the Shiba Inu. Realistic dog visuals portray various emotions and actions you would expect a dog to replicate. It adds to the overall cuteness of the visuals and dog lovers will recognise the many faces that a dog will make depending on how they are feeling. The music in A Summer with the Shiba Inu is pretty standard fare. The constant barking and growling might get annoying after several hours though.
A Summer with the Shiba Inu is a reasonable entry into the visual novel library. If you like the genre then you’ll get several hours if you play it how it should be played. A Summer with the Shiba Inu doesn’t do anything new and the plot twists are nothing out of the ordinary, but the dog visuals are very good, if you like visual novels and dogs then A Summer with the Shiba Inu will give you a few hours of enjoyment. For everyone else there isn’t anything in A Summer with the Shiba Inu that would change your mind, if you don’t think visual novels are your cup of tea then you want to play A Summer with the Shiba Inu.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A Summer with the Shiba Inu Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
A reasonable entry into the visual novel genre, but doesn’t add more than its peers.