Show me a wonderful day!
When I was 16 years old my great grandmother passed away of natural causes. It was my first experience with losing a family member I felt close to. It’s a harrowing emotional experience, one that can be all the more impactful if it happens when you’re still a teenager. Losing somebody like that when you’re already having to deal with a world and life that is also rapidly changing around you can be extremely difficult. Looking back, maybe that’s what drew me to Sumire upon watching the trailer for the first time. I am always looking for games that can get an emotional rise out of me and Sumire seemed like it might fit the bill, and boy does it feel like I made a good judgement call on that one.
In Sumire you take control of a young girl named Sumire, whose home life has been thrown into disarray by the death of her grandmother and her parents’ recent separation. As a result she has become depressed, lost, and emotionally distant from her friends in the rural Japanese community in which she lives. One night she awakes with a start, having dreamt of her grandma trying to whisper something in her ear. When she gets up to check on her grandma’s memorial a glowing seed flies through her window. Curious, Sumire plants the seed and falls asleep at the table. When she awakens the seed has sprouted into a flower, and that flower is somehow talking. Flower reveals that he has one day to live in the human world, and he will have to return to his world at sunset. All he asks is for Sumire to show him the perfect day. So, Sumire makes a list of things she’d like to do that could potentially change her life with the potential promise that she may be able to see her grandmother one more time.
Sumire is a 2.5D adventure game that doesn’t necessarily do anything special in terms of gameplay. You control Sumire herself as she explores the area around her, she can speak to people, animals, or objects - something the overall clever writing makes sure you know that she could not do before. I mean it when I say she can now talk to objects, whether it be a plant in her house or a scarecrow, and these things can also give her side quests that usually lead to a small minigame of sorts. For instance, the scarecrow is having a problem with the crows whispering hurtful comments into its ears, and Sumire helps him by playing a game in which she has to flip parts of encouraging comments around to complete them and counter the crows. Most of these games are rather simple, but every once in a awhile the game throws a surprisingly interesting one such as a trading card game you can play with one of Sumire’s fellow students. This keeps the gameplay relatively fresh for the two to three hours a full playthrough will take you, though admittedly the game is overall still a lot of revisiting places you’ve already been over and over.
Throughout the game’s narrative you will be faced with making choices for how Sumire will act towards certain people, such as her former best friend Chie. These are usually pretty binary options, are you mean to them or are you nice, but these choices almost always have the potential to change the opportunities or choices you will have to make later on in the story. All of this is wrapped up in what I consider to be Sumire’s most impressive feature: the gorgeous artwork that portrays this small Japanese town. Every character and environment is rendered in a way that makes this game one of the most visually striking experiences I have had so far this year. This beautiful art is accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack full of acoustic guitar and piano, and even features a vocal piece at one point, already having potentially earned a spot on my favorite soundtracks of the year.
All of this, the emotional narrative, the beautiful art, and the memorable soundtrack, comes together into a package that I am not sure I’m going to forget for a while. If I had to nitpick for issues, some areas of the game take a little long to load which can potentially take you out of the experience. Likewise there are also a few typos here and there in the game’s localization (I guess I should go get that frog a “juice fly”) which I found distracting, but these problems are few and far between. Even then I found myself sitting on the title screen after the credits rolled, listening to the music for a good twenty minutes before I finally turned off my Switch, spending that entire time processing the story I had just experienced. When a game can do that to me, I know that it’s an experience I want to recommend. If you enjoy emotional stories with admittedly shallow gameplay, you absolutely should be giving Sumire a try.