A Summer’s End: Hong Kong 1986 is a really unique take on a classic “Forbidden Love” story. Everything from the art, to the setting, the music, and the female protagonist is a very fresh attempt at the typical cliché. A Summer’s End is a rather concise but very meaningful story and is definitely an experience that will stick with me for a while.
The game is portrayed through the perspectives of the two female protagonists, Michelle and Sam. Michelle is a hardworking independent 23 year old who has rather traditional views for a woman residing in Hong Kong, at that time. Through a few lucky coincidences she meets Sam, a 27 year old who is very progressive and an unconventional free spirit. The two are polar opposites but their chance encounter can change their lives.
This game does so many things right, for example the art is jaw-dropping and beautiful. There is a lot of emotion showcased through the images. Not only do the characters look great, but the backgrounds are just as stunning. The game encapsulates the feeling of being on the busy streets of Hong Kong perfectly. The nightlife is so vibrant and the art features a ton of flashy neon lights, which when combined with the upbeat and retro music fully immersed me into the setting. Only a handful of games manage to create such a lively setting so it really impressed me. The art and the music are easily my favorite parts of the game, I can’t get enough of it. Even after finishing two play-throughs I find myself scrolling through the gallery and perusing through the story just by looking at the backgrounds. I feel spoiled by the utter beauty of the art.
Not only is the art phenomenal, the story and the writing are exceptional as well. The game does a great job at portraying deep emotions in the characters, far beyond just within the story. The story gets quite poignant at times and I couldn’t help but let out a few tears. That being said, the writing and dialogue could have easily been expanded and I often felt like more needed to be said. The characters commonly found themselves at a loss for words and couldn’t really utter more than just repeating the name of the person they’re talking to. Although it is meant to exemplify how hard it was for the characters to speak their mind at times, I really believe these parts could have been done better. The game is a perfect example of saying more with less, to the point where it was almost frustrating how little dialogue there was at times. Although because of this, the conversations benefited by being more concentrated and meaningful. Each sentence carried a lot more weight than you would expect. I think the story and the emotion ellevate it from just being a simple game. The ideals held by the protagonists are ones people have struggled with for a long time. Society pressures people to feel a certain way and the non-conformists are often punished, this game does a great job at showing this in practice. The two main routes of the game are based around this. Conform to the pressures of society (which still provides a touching, albeit more bittersweet, ending) or be brave and embrace being your true self. The courage it takes to do this is immense and it sends across a powerful message. I think the story can really resonate with the player and make them think, as it certainly did with me.
The game is really polished. All the art was clean, the UI is unique and innovative, and there were very few noticeable mistakes anywhere. It’s always a pleasure when a game feels complete and this game definitely delivered on this aspect. The only error worth noting is that the skip feature used in most Ren’Py games has trouble working during some scenes, which can be annoying if you are trying to skip to a certain point, or are replaying the game. The inclusion of a gallery with unlockable high-quality images acquired during the game is also a great addition to the game. Considering how highly I think of the art, it is amazing to be able to access any major scene and images so easily.
All in all, this game was extremely impressive. It doesn’t have the scale and choices of a lot of similar games, but sometimes a hyper-focused more kinetic game is exactly what you’re looking for. As I mentioned before, this game is the type that sticks with you after you finish it. I can’t really stop thinking about certain parts of it. It is well worth the $14.99 asking price. There’s a reason why archetypes exist; they often times create a very engaging story and when done well can make a game feel unique and not just a re-skin of another game or story. A Summer’s End does a fantastic job of this.
Did you enjoy this game? What stood out to you or fell short? Let us know in the comments below.